Song Writing – A Challenging Art Form

Our second album.

Our second album.

No offense to those of you who like Journey, and I do know that “When the Lights Go Down In The City” is one of the most listened to songs on YouTube. However, I never really liked it. After all, how hard is it to rhyme “city” with “city”? And then several lines of “Whoa, whoa, yeah.” Sorry, there seems to be no craft in the lyrics, though the tune is catchy enough.

With that said, when Jon and I started writing songs together, he and I had our lists of ideas we kept about lyrics we wanted to write or what we thought were witty lines filled with alliteration or double meanings. (Example: “Can’t believe in you, cause you’ll be leaving me.)

One of us would come in with an idea of a tune or an almost completed song whereupon we would sit down and hash out the rest of it. I was never very good at completing lyrics and many times took the easy way out with “repeat first verse” or guitar solo! Maybe that’s why I dislike the Journey song so much. It reminds me of the shortcuts I used to take before I met Jon.

He was the more analytical of us. Jon had a notebook filled with lyric ideas which we worked into our compositions. We each also had song bits which we could eventually work into a song. He liked keeping lists and then lining each one out as completed. He did this on many subjects, not just song writing!

“Turn It down” from “Sailing on Fantasies” comes to mind. I had the verse tune and chord changes and Jon had a middle eight. We wove them together along with some great production to make it one of the better songs on the album; one of my favorites. It is more Raspberries than Beatles.

Though “Bad News” was mostly my tune and chord changes which were inspired by the group Little Feat, Jon and I feverishly worked some nifty lyrics into that song. The multiple rhyming within the lines (Example: “magical reaction didn’t bring you satisfaction”) as well as the recurring references to a newspaper (Example: “deadline” and “headline”) and occult stuff (Example: “potion”, “voodoo spell”, “magical reaction”) woven into the lyrics then tying the two together with “Evil headline” made it a well-planned song.

We would sit on the floor of our motel room and hammer out the details as much as we could with what we wanted to hear for harmonies and instrumentation thus arranging the song as much as possible. Then once we got into the studio all sorts of options came to mind. Some worked and some didn’t. I will probably write more on this later.

Mick Orton



Categories: History

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