I know the rule is that we can have 2 blogs, one serious, one goofy. So, lets just call the other one goofy because I'd like to keep this one separate. The theme?
Kids. They say the darndest things. One of my nieces who seems fascinated with my music, asked me what I was going to do with all these songs I recorded? I didn’t have an answer. In my youth I’d have burned CDs and toured, but now I just do it for the pleasure of doing it.
Still, she has a point. It is just sitting there, and don’t we create to share? What good is a song that isn’t heard? So I thought I’d try to spread it around, no matter how raw some of the tracks might be.
So that's what this is, my music blog. The first step to spread my noise all over the world (I'm joining songwriting forums and other music related sites tonight as well)
Post by Mighty Jack on Jan 16, 2010 2:58:28 GMT -5
Here a link to where you can hear this tune... Penny Dreadful - If you like this, save it, share it, burn it, whatever you’d like.
Note: This is my entry in this years John Lennon Songwriting contest.
Penny Dreadful I penned this on April 3rd of 2009. I wasn’t planning on writing a tune, I was sitting on my bed dinking around with the guitar when I started strumming and singing this little sliver that caught my interest.
There’s a part of me that wants to tell you everything about the song, another side that believes there should be some mystery. I think I’ll keep this a little hidden (though some of the lyrics make it pretty obvious what the subject matters about)
Penny Dreadfuls were cheap pulp stories printed in Britain in the 19th century, and early on they were about sensational subjects and adventures. I used the term to signify that the people in the song have lives that had become lurid and cheap.
Musically it’s slight but catchy. A different style for me, I kept it minimal - a simple drum - I played the bass and guitar, added a backing vocal. All told I think it only used up 5 to 6 tracks.
Lyrically I’m pretty happy about. I like the rhythm of the piece; I like the colorful use of language (Electra Glide to represent something other than the motorcycle, the ironical, "It's a Wonderful Life' quote)
Anyway, I’ve popped off enough. Give it a listen if you please and give me your 2 cents?.
Penny Dreadful Copyright by Shawn David 2009
Every time I break a leg, I have to sit and beg Before you’ll ever crawl down from your tree And put me out of my misery
Because if it interferes with your plans You wont deign to sully your hands You’re here - but I’m alone, because you’re living your own, Penny Dreadful
I once tried to lasso the moon, but 'yer too busy cooking lunch on a spoon To take heed to anything beyond the pale Unleashing drama on a global scale
You plead, “Wont you read, it was written in my blood, scratched like brail up and down my arm, it’s a part of its charm”
Every time I start to drown, you look at me with this odd little frown Like I’m such a thorn in your side I’m the guy harshing your electra glide
Post by Mighty Jack on Jan 17, 2010 2:00:04 GMT -5
I'm happy to say that after one day, and posting the song at only a handful of sites, Penny Dreadful has reached, uh, not quite gold (maybe paper?). I received this notice...
Penny Dreadful has charted # 597 in Rock out of 195,637 songs # 81 in Guitar Rock out of 20,007 songs
To anyone who gave it a listen and helped that happen. A sincere thanks.
On the bummer side of it, I tried to upload a song title Wonderful, but all I get when I play it is 1 second of noise. No Idea why, I tested it at Myspace and it works fine. Ah well, such is life. I'm going to hunting for other MP3 sites for bands and maybe blog about it then. Dreadful is pretty dark and I wanted to post some upbeat or more positive material so that y'all don't think I'm just a gloomy Gus.
Post by Mighty Jack on Jan 19, 2010 1:19:06 GMT -5
Empathy for the artist
There are so many musicians and songwriters out in the world. People struggling every day to get themselves heard. As I’ve been promoting my own music, I’ve also tried to listen to others and give encouragement or advice as well. I know where they are coming from; I know how hard they work -not only to hone their skills- but how they wrestle with confidence (That’s my personal demon, the thought that maybe I’m a joke. Like those tone deaf clowns on “American Idol” who are paraded out and mocked for the amusement of the television audience)
I can get overwhelmed; There’s only have so much I can give them without sacrificing time spent on my own material.
The digital age has made recording and distribution a breeze. One visit to a songwriter’s forum or to Myspace or CD Baby or Soundclicks and you are flooded with thousands of artist - some good, some weak, some so unbelievably talented it makes you shake your head and wonder how this person is ignored while the Britney’s and Madonna’s and Ga Ga’s are lavished with attention.
And all of them have an interesting story to share, a reason behind the lyrics, a song they are aching to have heard. It makes me wish my brain could process all their music at once, that I could find all of the artists who click for me and offer them all a pat on the back, a friendly word of encouragement and a big thank you for creating such a beautiful sound (Maybe I could borrow the use of Cerebro?)
Post by Mighty Jack on Jan 22, 2010 4:57:04 GMT -5
Woo ho, Packers won the Superboooow---er, sorry. I get a little carried away sometimes. I'm excited about this new site I found called Reverb Nation. It doesn't give me individual song pages like Soundclicks but it does look nicer and it uploads easier and with more success.
I put a few songs that I've already uploaded on others sites, with one exception. A tune titled Tracfone! and fans of Batman might think to themselves, "Hey, I wonder if that ending was inspired by a certain caped crusaders theme song?" You might very well ask George Harrison the same thing in regards to Taxman.... but then again, who wants to get sued. No comment.
If you've ever said to yourself, "Sure Shawn can write ballads and Beatles style pop, but can he do butt crunching rock?" Well, I'm not heavy metal by any means, but sometimes I do let my my hair down and rock!
I got me a Tracfone, but it don’t ring – Got hundreds of minutes, I’d like to use Got me a love song I wanna sing, got me a lonely heart I’m wanting to lose
I got me a Tracfone, collecting dust, it used to light up with 100s of messages a day Got me a motorized heart, fuel by lust, Got me valentine I need to give away
I Got me a rusty nail but no picture frame, Got me photograph that causes me no end of pain Got me a Tracfone waiting for your call, Oh It’s, driving me insane
Edit: Yes the lyrical rhyme scheme is all wonky on this. I originally had a different chord structure, but I felt it meandered and undercut the basic driving rock style I wanted. So I re-did it. Only now the rhyme scheme was off. The only part that really fits is the last part about picture frames and rusty nails... because I improvised that during recording. I probably should have re-written the whole thing, but I didn't and there it sits, wonky rhymes and all. ;D
Post by The Mad Plumber on Jan 22, 2010 19:20:12 GMT -5
When I saw that the blog forum's post count featured the Mark of the Beast, I saw there being no better time for me to chime in.
I listened to "The Beginning of the End" so far; the beginning reminded me a bit of Yes' "Roundabout". What I really appreciate is that the song doesn't do a complete 360. There are songs I would hear that would start off under the guise of being some bittersweet folk melody, but then they would quickly turn into a grunge rock blitzkrieg that would give me a headache. I'll have to keep an eye on this. I wondered if there was a forum for music artists as there was visual artists.
I noted in another thread my misery of getting dragged to North Carolina so that my sister could audition for American Idol. When you read biographies of bands like the Beatles or Pink Floyd, it never says that find instant success by playing on some dubious game show; their success came from hard work performing underground and building on their experience. Note the one "Astronomy Domine" video I featured that had Floyd's style being harshly criticized by the host.
Post by Mighty Jack on Jan 27, 2010 4:09:32 GMT -5
Thanks for the listen.
In the early days there used to be a lot of sites for indie musicians. MP3.com was the biggest. But then all the established acts moved in and buried us small fry and soon after everything went bust, even MP3.com went off line.
Slowly we’ve received some new places to upload our material. We still take a back seat to the big guns, but at least we have a sandbox to play in again.
I received a note on ReverbNation that “Wonderful” was my most engaging song? Engaging, hmm, that’s interesting. This was a home demo, I should probably go back and polish it up… but it’s proof that I can write something other than dark and depressing. It’s about summer love and first kisses.
I think I might enter it in the “Great American Song” contest this year, maybe they’ll find it engaging as well. This is a good contest because it’s exclusively for indie or unpublished artists. So that narrows the field.
You can listen to Wonderful at Soundclicks (though it won’t always play for me there) or again, at ReverbNation Wonderful
Oh, and there’s a new version of Penny Dreadful posted at Soundclicks…New Dreadful
A guy from Scotland actually helped me work out some ideas for this. There are a few lyric and vocal changes. Not a lot, but a few, which make it better I think. Collaboration is a wonderful thing. I think we all should find a Scottish collaborator.
"I'm not a man who approves of definitions. Labels belong on luggage as far as I'm concerned; they don't mean anything in art" - Fellini
Post by Mighty Jack on Jan 30, 2010 2:59:35 GMT -5
You know what's horrible, when you write something on the word for windows, go to paste it and instead it disappears. It's a sinking feeling, I wrote something and it's gone. I guess that's why you should always stick to pen and paper.
I like to try and write every day, today I hit a block that I couldn't jostle loose so I did some automatic writing. I should have hit save just to be safe, but I didn't and now it's lost and it was automatic so how the hell can I remember it?
Lets see if I can do it again...
Restless November We sought cover from your rains And found safety Tangled in each other limbs I number her freckles and blemishes I mark the gentle swell of her breast We breathe the same air I fear this will all crumble into nothingness Should I reach out to touch her So sad and beautiful Like a dream I tremble and awaken I knew her once No more
That's close, but something I think is missing or not the same. (* Edit - I remember writing something about "falling into the rift" but I don't know exactly how or where I used it)
Not everything I write becomes a song and this might lead to nothing.
Automatic writing is not a tool I pull from the box very often, but it is one that myself and other's do employ when needed. You gotta shuffle the deck to keep your brain from settling into comfort zones. Change how you write (I once wrote a bunch of songs starting with the drum first) - when I'm stuck on lyrics I'll use metaphor, simile or antithesis. Heck I'll even draw inspiration from a road sign or a sound that catches my ear (like a bird chirping or a jackhammers rumble) - I was reading how some folks will grab a book, newspaper etc, cut up the words and pull them from a hat and see what comes up.
John Lennon wrote a song around a poster (Mr. Kite), a Newspaper (A Day in the Life) and one day when he was completely frustrated and blocked and feeling like a nowhere man... he wrote a brilliant song about it.
You never know where the muse will strike next so it's always good to have a pen and paper nearby (just in case) -- course I've jotted down a few on restaurant napkins too. I even made mention of that in a song I wrote on a "beer stained napkin" at the Bluebird in Nashville.
Oh, and my re-write?
Restless November We sought cover from your rains And hid under tangled limbs I number her freckles and blemishes I note the gentle swell of her breast We breathe the same air And laugh at how serious we've become
I brush an errant lock of her hair And whisper something mawkish and trite She smiles and takes her eyes from mine This is ash and Earth This will crumble in my hand So sad and beautiful Like a dream
Hmm, I guess I'll sleep on it and see if it still interests me tomorrow - this might be too "mawkish and trite"
I remember in the olden days, before there were CDs and computers and digital home studios. Making a record was a dream --- a sweet unattainable dream. You could tape your band playing live but for real multi track action you either got a contract or ate nothing but Ramen, toast and drank water for 3 years to save up for studio time. An ADAT off the top cost about $300 (later during the CD era, an ADAT would cost $75, and in this digital age it’s zero), then there was studio time, mixing, mastering and the very expensive process of manufacturing the vinyl record. It was all that I wanted and never could achieve.
But look at the process today. I don’t have the state of the art equipment – people today have studio software through the computers, MIDI keyboards can produce full orchestration – I have none of that (The thought of investing in this stuff and learning it both excites and exhausts my brainpan) but my 16 track digital recorder does the job. And if I have a concern or question about a song? Iin a half hours time I can record, burn, upload and receive feedback from a songwriter’s forum… that’s miraculous to me. Considering where it started when I started out? Miraculous.
There are negatives: For one I’ve gotten sloppy, I don’t spend as much time rehearsing and working out a song. Now my impatient mindset can get immediate gratification. I used to be a master of double tracking. Studio guys loved me for this because believe it or not, not every singer can do it and it can be frustrating for them. I remember one engineer thanking me, “You nail it every time, every note... perfect timing”. But I go off track these days on my home recordings... not enough practice. Shame on me.
It also allows bad songs to get out there. Sometimes you know your struggling with a tune, you know it’s bad. Other times you get the equivalent of beer goggles. Ear goggles? You fall in love with something bad. Sometimes it can take years for the crush to die, after which it’s too late. You let it get out there on your bands Myspace page for people to hear. There’s are a few times where I’ve gone back and listened to an old song and wondered what the hell I was smoking!
Us oldsters do get frustrated. It changed so fast, so much. Our way of doing things has disappeared --- but in some ways it’s gone back. To those early ‘garage band’ days when it seemed anyone had an honest shot at getting air time. Today everyone, good or bad, can get Internet time - to be heard all across this world. Myself, I get residual checks from Apple Itunes, Rhapsody and the like and it’s strange and wonderful. I don’t know who these people are or where they are, but someone liked my song enough to buy it and download it.
Back in the days of vinyl that seemed such an impossibility… Ahh, what a dream come true.
I was working on another tune, and struggling with it... so to releave the pressure (and break the block) I started dinking around with this wee trifle.
It's about 40 seconds long and a fitting anthem to the holiday.
Edit - I also added a new song at that site titled "Shell Beach" - I was wondering what I could write that was different -subject wise- spotted a DVD by the TV and then start singing about something in the film. Ha, Ha, I've never done that before
Post by The Mad Plumber on Feb 6, 2010 16:46:32 GMT -5
"I Hate Valentines Day" might be my new anthem. Olé!
I also took a listen to "Shell Beach". For some reason, I seem to hear a little bit of John Fogerty, Johnny Cougar, R.E.M., and maybe even early Tom Petty in it. I have to admire your productivity and your creativity. You find creative means to break your block, where as I only manage to be frustrated when I lose interest in what I'm doing.
Post by Mighty Jack on Feb 17, 2010 6:31:53 GMT -5
32 years ago I wrote my very first song...
It was titled "And If I Should Be Alone" – it was a hook filled pop rock number. Slight, but catchy all told. After that I wrote the dry but pretty ballad, "Kelly’s Song" and was probably feeling pretty cocky at that time... So of course I then put together a string of about 50 something songs that ranged form fair to (and mostly) ungodly turd pellets.
Unless you’re a natural, most songwriters are created, not born. And it takes a lot of trail and error to smooth out the rough edges.
Somewhere I have stored dozens upon dozens of tapes that I need to go through. I’ve found a few dozen already and discovered a few golden snippets I could work with, as well as a handful of forgotten tunes that were good to wonderful.
I’d guestemate between the stuff I’ve forgotten or lost and the stuff I’d like to forget and lose, coupled with the stuff I like and recorded– I’ve written somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 to 500 songs in the 32 years since I penned that first one.
There are some I wish I could remember. I proposed to my first love with a song. She was all smiles, beaming and giggly and thrilled… and then she promptly said “no”. It was a pretty little tune. I once found it on an old tape that was in bad shape. I could barley hear it. Plus for the first 10 years of my musical life my guitar was never in tune so even what I could make out, I couldn’t duplicate. That tape has long since disappeared and there is no lyric sheet to be found. Sad, that was a wee gem I’d like to have preserved.
Post by Mighty Jack on Mar 10, 2010 4:13:54 GMT -5
So I was dicking around the other day and accidentally recorded my first ever instrumental number. It feels strange doing this, in truth it doesn't feel like a real song. I'm a lyricists (and not really a great lead guitar man).
I want words. I need words.
Though this one does have a small spoken word bit - and that wound up the problem.
The song was titled "727" only I F'ed up the chant I have in there. I chanted "747" by mistake - Damn it.
Now in most cases I'd just change the title. But the title came from the Boeing aircraft of the same name.
My father worked on jets on a Navy aircraft carrier, later he worked at Boeing and we lived on a hill, high above the company plant. My dad left Boeing before 747s were ever manufactured. He was around during the 727 era.
Also 727s were loud, they might be the loudest planes ever made. They currently violate noise laws so they are no longer manufactured. I remember how that sound would carry to our house on the hill. I'd sit there and watch the airplanes and the workers (small as ants) and wonder if one of them was my dad?
So the title was a tribute to my late father and, also because the song was loud. And by loud I mean really noisy. I even took some scissors and ran them down the strings (on a guitar plugged into a distortion box) to open the song. I was purposely making it ear piercing.
I had the mix down too. Ah well - Back to the drawing board, try to remix and balance it as best I can and re-record that spoken part.
Post by Mighty Jack on Mar 18, 2010 4:20:29 GMT -5
Well I’m bored tonight so I might as well write (hey, there’s a lyric)
Rocket Fuel was the title I gave to this 6-song demo I recorded, which was one of my mad experiments that began innocently enough.
I had this drum line I was interested in, but I wanted to see how it would work out. So I grabbed some abandoned lyric scraps and sat down to record. I just wanted to do a sound test, not a whole song. But when you do a new song the machine asks for a title first. You can’t bypass it. I had no title so I closed my eyes and hit a random key. The letter I hit was “Q”.
Hmm, I thought to myself, “What word starts with Q?” – So anyway, I’m improvising this guitar piece and liking it. Singing these scribbled down lyric and the drums come to a stop for a few seconds, and off the top of my head I shout, “QUAKE!” And there we have it, a title.
After I listened to I thought it was an unholy bunch of noise. But what a lot of fun it was to do a song on the quick… and to write it backwards (from how I usually write). It was such an exhilarating blast I wanted to do it again.
This was the formula for “Rocket Fuel” –
#1: Find a drum pattern and just blindly record it. #2: Find a scrap of discarded lyric, adapt and form a new song around it. #3. Randomly hit a key and the first letter I hit would be the first letter in the title. #4. Now try and structure the words and music around this skeleton #5. And be noisy; add lots of distortion on guitar and voice.
“Quake” was fun because I was just running up and down the guitar and if it went off key, it didn’t matter. Just let it explode.
Next came “Supersonic” – another noise fest. As the tune was winding down I felt it was too short, so I let the drum loop through one last cycle and I started playing again.
After that my natural songwriting instincts took over. While off the cuff, the songs slowly started to get more melodic. There was “Righteous Holly” – “Dawn” (originally titled Dawn of the Dead) – “Torch” and “Vertigo (Except For You)”
Though I loved recording these and I dig many of the songs, production wise they are pretty raw (an average song in this project was written and recorded in under 2 hours), even Holly -which I like- suffer from rough vocals (I was singing out of my range). The only one I’ve dared upload so far was Dawn, and that gets a little screechy at the chorus. But I’ll share a link to it. (BTW Rocket Fuel came from my cat, who was named Rocket. One day, while heading off to the pet store, I told my wife I was off to buy Rocket Fuel. She thought that was funny and that became the name of his food from then on)
Lyrically the song was an amalgam of two women I knew (one a Goth girl). The snippet of discarded lyric from which I drew the rest of the song, came from the first 2 lines. Click title to listen.
Dawn glides into the room, doesn't waste a smile I'll shutter the blinds and pretend for a while She takes my hand, her skin is like ice Three times I'll try to steal a kiss and she'll, pull away twice
Oh Dawn of the dead, you got inside my head Black lipstick and lace, silk sheets upon her bed Oh Dawn of the dead, you got inside my head You hardly speak a word but I sing everything you've said
She looks so sad, but she says she's happy to see me I suspect I'm nothing but smoke in her memory She pulls a draw from her cigarette and quotes existentialist lit I know she's going to ruin me but she's someone I can't quit
I feel her weight, the cool of her breath She gets a charge pretending she's the Angel of death
Feeling down the dumps tonight. Trying to figure out why, maybe it’s her. I still miss her. I miss a lot of things lately, I miss my cat, my father, I even miss my wife. But of the women I've loved, she's the one who lingers.
She was an artist and musician. I fell hard for her, lived with her and had great adventures with her. We were going to make beautiful music together, only she fell into the rabbit’s hole and I lost her. Actually, that's not correct... she lost herself.
I wrote her so many songs and they run the gamut from joyful to sad. I searched through the catalog for a track to post, before saying "To hell with sorrow. Let me post the first song, her favorite song". It’s a fun rocker (inspired a bit on the B-Movie "The Astounding She Monster") and was written at a time when she was bursting with life and shone like starlight. It was the first in a project we were going to work on together, but never finished.
She’d always tell her friends, “He wrote this about me” in excited tones. Of all the sentimental numbers I penned for her, it was this silly number -drenched in distortion- that she loved the most.