Songs Fit the Occasion

How Long Has This Been Going On? (Ace, 1974)

Songs sometimes seem to fit the occasion so accurately that you wonder if the lyricist had prior knowledge of the forthcoming event. We all know that’s not true, but spookily, a song so apt for the moment will often come on the radio or TV just as an event is unfolding.

As a songwriter, almost anything can induce the inspiration to put pen to paper (though these days typing is more common). I wonder if, before the advent of correcting fluid and highlight-and-replace text, piles of screwed up pieces of paper surrounded the poets and writers of old, amidst endless tutting and sighs.

In this modern age of technology, autocorrect and autosave make the process of producing work easier, but potentially more sterile. I guess old-school writers would have rummaged through their discarded pages for a remembered line that they wanted to use later, whereas modern wordsmiths probably overtype and move on. Thankfully, the art of writing songs still seems to be a process driven by emotion and life experiences, with some of the current songs laying bare the inner thoughts, fears and desires of the composer.

During this trying time, with the cancellation of venues and performances, many have taken the opportunity to reflect not only on their work, but also on the reasoning behind why they continue to write material that won’t benefit from a significant moment for its first rendition. In terms of the artist’s best delivery and the impact on the listener, the therapeutic effect of music and lyrics that come from life experiences may be time-sensitive.

A performer’s current mindset can also influence their choice of set lists, as demonstrated by the number of Facebook lockdown live streams in which the artist belts out emotional renditions of classic cover songs to an unseen audience. There have also been many great original pieces, which I suspect, after this is over, may be assigned to the back catalogue of ‘songs that I wrote’, purely because the moment has been lost.

The ability to rhyme to a set tempo whilst retaining the feeling that the lyric is meant to deliver is an art that has kept audiences faithful over the years, and hopefully after this pandemic has eased will continue to so do again. 

Local open mic listings will be updated as soon as permitted. Find them here.  

Words David Bailey

Read last month’s article by David Bailey – Will You Won’t You?

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