And other stuff

Month: July 2021 (Page 1 of 2)

Climate Hero

Under Lyrics 2 you’ll find the song Climate Hero. I wrote these lyrics with tongue in cheek. In fact the original version was Greta Hero, and you’re welcome to substitute those words.

Verse 1
I used to be a jetsetter
Around the globe I’d trot
Now I do it virtually
On my super slim laptop

The whole song is at Lyrics 2, help yourself if you want to set it to music.

Zanzibar

Just added Zanzibar to Lyrics 2. This was a semi-finalist in UKSC2020.

I made a soundtrack for it; guitar, bongos, tropic bird noises, and sang it myself. Very exotic but, unfortunately I can’t sing for toffee. In fact, recordings of me singing My Way are preferred by MI5 and the CIA to waterboarding for extracting information from prisoners. Human rights activists have demanded the practice be banned.

I’m sure there are many musicians and vocalists out there who can make this into a really good song.

Seeking inspiration

Sometimes the song words just pop into my head but when they don’t, I go looking for them.

Where to look? Everywhere! Conversations, newspapers, TV, books. Inspiration is all around us, we just have to recognise it when it appears.

One of my first ports of call for ideas is the newspaper, but I’m not looking for a story to write about, I’m just looking for a line, a few words, that seem to go together in an unforgettable way. For instance, I saw a small feature in a Sunday paper telling the story of a photographer’s new project; taking pictures of small-town America at night. His collection was called Midnight on Main Street which, for me, became, almost instantly:

It was midnight on Main Street
And I could still feel the heat
She was standing on the boardwalk
And my heart skipped a beat

This begat two songs, one about parallel lives and one about a woman fighting alcoholism.

Conversations can sometimes reveal interesting ideas or word combinations. The idea for Procal Harem’s Whiter Shade of Pale apparently came from overheard chatter in a pub: “….she turned a whiter shade of pale….”. And one of the most successful songs of all time was born.

If I can’t wait around listening for an inspirational gem to appear, my first stop is Amazon. I go to the book section, pick a subject (Romance is a good one) and peruse hundreds of book titles. I always come away with several good ideas beginning to form.

If you’re waiting to catch a plane it doesn’t hurt to kill time checking out the titles in the book shop. Live near a public library? Same thing, peruse the titles.

Clever people have wracked their brains to come up with these words and you can use them to trigger a great idea for a song. (By the way, titles aren’t copyrightable).

Another source of inspiration is your own words. I sift through all my rejected and partly written songs to see if there’s a gem I’ve missed. Freddy Mercury once said Bohemian Rhapsody was an amalgamation of three hitherto unused songs. And if it worked for him?

As a writer, I have thousands of words of prose stored and I often plough through these looking for an idea. For me, a song is a piece of flash fiction set to music so it’s often a fruitful search.

Finally, there’s personal experience. My UK Song Contest 2020 winning song It’s Later Than You Think is basically a true story. I did see those lines written on a restroom wall in a Baltimore bar and I did spend the next three years sailing a small boat around the US and Caribbean. And I still offer young people the advice: Don’t ever let yourself regret the things you didn’t do.

So, that’s how I seek inspiration for my lyrics, I hope some of this helps you in your own quest for song words.

Louisiana Dawn

I’ve just added a couple of songs to the lyrics page, including Louisiana Dawn. The song is about Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola, which had a reputation for brutality. Gruesome Gertie was the mobile electric chair housed at the prison; back then it was required that a condemned man be executed in the county in which the crime was committed, hence the need for a mobile electric chair.

The Red House was a particularly unpleasant cell block which housed prisoners deemed troublesome, they wore red-painted hats so the warders could see them when they were working in the fields or the levees.

In the song, a prisoner dreams of his lost love but is then roused from his dream by the jailer’s baton on the bars, the bittersweet arrival of the Louisiana Dawn.

A little bit Country

Although I’m English I’ve spent a lot of time in the USA, worked there for seven years, and I enjoy country music. So, I tried my hand at some lyrics.

This, one, They Took Out The Bend, is performed here by Eric Butterfield:

https://alonetone.com/SaltyjohnAlty/tracks/they-took-out-the-bend

Here are the lyrics:

They Took Out the Bend
2020© by John Schofield

Verse 1
Through unwashed windows the sunlight streams
Onto empty bottles and broken dreams
Bar top and tables all covered in dust
Jukebox is silent, the light bulbs are bust

Verse 2
The baker next door doesn’t make any bread
The oven stays cold, the owner has fled
Same for the butcher, the fire house crew
Hotel’s boarded up, the gas station too

Chorus:
Route 66 was this town’s best friend
It brought in tourists with dollars to spend
Then one day it came to an end
They diverted the road, and
Took out the bend

Verse 3
In this ghostly bar I once sang and played
Happy folk drank, on the dance floor they swayed
But the bar stools and tables are no longer used
Dreams were broken when the highway was moved

Bridge:
Now tumbleweed rolls through these abandoned streets
In this forgotten town where nowhere and no place meet

Chorus:
Route 66 was this town’s best friend
It brought in tourists with dollars to spend
Then one day it came to an end
They diverted the road, and
Took out the bend

Yeh, they took out the bend
They took out the bend
They took out the bend

Welcome!

All the lyrics here are free-to-use, help yourself. If you produce a song using my lyrics please acknowledge the fact in your liner notes and send me a link or file so I can hear what you’ve done. If I like it, I’ll post your song on the songs page.

When you add music to lyrics, that’s when the magic happens and that’s why I hand out my lyrics.

A bit about me: My name is John Schofield. I’m also known as Salty John, a nickname from my days of small boat cruising, and as John S Alty, an anagram of my nickname. (Well, you want to be anonymous from time to time, don’t you?)

Anyway, for many years I’ve been a writer – magazine articles, short stories, memoir, sailing books – and a few years ago I turned my hand to song writing. I’ve done the courses, read the books and articles, and decided my strength is writing lyrics, leaving the music, production and performances to others. I do play guitar and sing, but only in the privacy of my own home.

I’ve had some success in song competitions, including the UK Song Contest (winner 2020, lyrics section) and some less well-known contests. I also made the top ten in the Commonwealth Resounds search for a new Commonwealth song to be sung by 54 choirs around the world to celebrate the Queens Platinum Jubilee in 2022. I’m particularly proud of that one.

I’m always happy to receive your comments and suggestions.

Cheers,
John Schofield

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