Song Stories

Song Stories

I’ve always been fascinated by how songs are created – their inception, gestation and birth, not to mention those subsequent revisions and rewrites. However, when I read interviews with my favourite songwriters in the music press, I’m often struck by how little the songs themselves get talked about. There’s plenty of rock star adventures, and usually interesting discussion about the overarching themes and ideas that motivate a musician or a wider body of work. But often there’s a dearth of details on the songs themselves – the interview usually stops just when it’s getting interesting.

Of course, a song should speak for itself. If a songwriter has to explain what it’s about, then surely it’s a failure? That’s certainly a valid point. Look at the big daddy of all songwriters – Bob Dylan who . . .

Never explains anything.

We only got to the second post before Dylan got a mention. Rather inevitable. We'll try and keep him in the shadows from here on in.
We only got to the second post before Dylan got a mention. Rather inevitable. We’ll try and keep him in the shadows from here on in.

Arguably the incredible mythology that’s developed around Dylan stems from his refusal to give us any clues to what he’s talking about. We’ve only got the songs themselves to explore and interpret in whatever ways we can.

Well, I’m not shy to admit I’m no Dylan. So what about us lesser mortals?

I’m fascinated by the process of songwriting – the long train of decisions, mutations, accidents and mistakes that bring a song to life. Thus it’s through the frame of these song stories that I want to present my own work on this blog – talking about the inspirations, describing how the songs came together, what I was aiming for, where I fell short. With luck, some other songwriters will join me in telling their own song stories. Ultimately, I hope that building a dialogue around the craft of songwriting will provide guidance for all and help goad our muses to life.

Sabah, Borneo

September 2015

Song Stories

2 thoughts on “Song Stories

  1. Interesting thing about Dylan is that he explains nothing but other people take the time to do it for him. There’s a fascinating discussion on Bob Dylan’s collage technique and whether it counts as plagiarism:

    It’s an interesting area. Knowing the folk song tradition, I am less shocked than others might be. It feels reasonably fair game in the songs, but somehow more duplicitous in the prose. I guess that it undermines the ‘realness’ of the prose if he is stealing descriptions of other things from other people for his uses. I do wonder if we give Dylan a free pass on things that would sink other’s reputations.


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