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Saturday, November 30, 2013

What the would-be songwriter ought to be getting this Christmas

Leonard Cohen had an album called "Songs From A Room". Nick Lowe knew a pub in West London with a small function room attached and he used to go there to sing his songs aloud into the empty air. It's only that way he could be certain he'd got something.

In Daniel Rachel's new book "Isle Of Noises", Andy Partridge paints a vivid picture of how he came to write "Senses Working Overtime". His then-wife's family had a couple of rooms above a shop which he was given use of. "I found being in such an empty space was quite inspiring to fill with your own sonic pictures. I'd stand there staring out of the window or at the black wooden floor with a guitar, just trying to pull stuff out."

He was determined to write a hit (you would be if you'd just got married) and asked himself what was the easiest way to do that. Taking Manfred Mann's "5-4-3-2-1" as a starting point, he wondered what there were five of, which led him to senses, then he messed up a chord and ended up with an E-flat. He thought the chord change summoned up a picture of a medieval serf ploughing. This made him wonder what the serf would sing and he decided he would sing "Hey, hey, the clouds are whey...." That's the way the song came.

He goes into a lot more detail in the book. It's a perfect example of what a bastard craft songwriting is. I'll be talking to Daniel at Word In Your Ear at the Lexington tomorrow night. He'll be signing copies of the book for anyone who wants to give a special Christmas present to that would-be songwriter friend.  Tickets here.