• Gareth Williams

Wish I could write a pop song!

I'll get back to the theme of inspiration soon, but today I thought I would write a bit about something I wish I could do! Related to writing that is.

I wish I could write a three minute pop song. Why? Because they are the haikus of My Generation (see what I did there!) The distillation of feeling and meaning in a constrained form. OK, I know three lines wouldn't make a three minute pop song. Before we get bogged down in semantics, I include any popular music from the 1950s to the present day in my definition of 'Pop'. Feel free to disagree with my eclectic tastes, but I'm not ruling out Rock, Country, Blues, Soul, Punk, Folk, Disco, Indie or Reggae to name a few.

Now the odd thing is this. Read the words to some of the most affecting songs on the page and you can be underwhelmed; but hear them set to the right music and they are transformed. It's not that the words are no good, quite the opposite. They are crafted to work in symbiosis with the music.

Now I can think of a few counter-arguments where the song's gestation was not like that. Bowie's cut and paste technique (but just listen to what he produced). Elton John and Bernie Taupin, with the latter providing the lyrics for the former to set to music (when the two parts come together the magic happens).

I can also think of song lyrics that stand as poetry even in silence. Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Here's another example from the incomparable Patti Smith (I really recommend reading anything she has written be it lyrics, autobiography, poetry or something else):


I was dreaming in my dreaming

Of an aspect bright and fair

And my sleeping it was broken

But my dream it lingered near

In the form of shining valleys

Where the pure air is recognized

And my senses newly opened

But I awakened to the cry

That the people have the power

To redeem the work of fools

From the meek the graces shower

It's decreed the people rule


Now that's a protest song! A defence of democracy. What does Patti Smith say about it? "It was really Fred's song - even though I wrote the words, he wrote the music: the concept was his..."


Anyway, I can't write three minute pop songs or pithy poetry - I feel a Clive James shout out coming on! I'll save that for another day.




14 views0 comments