I found myself with a little time on my hands yesterday (Really? A week before Christmas?!?), so I thought I’d sit down and write a song. It’s been a while since I cranked out a real foot-tapper. Some false starts lately: “A Recession In My Heart, A Depression In My Head,” “Nose Pickin’ Boogie,” and “She Won’t Get Under Me Till I Get Over You.” Not exactly chart-topping material.
So I sucked down some strong coffee to get the synapses firing hot, tuned up the acoustic, and jotted down some couplets. This is my favorite part of songwriting: coming up with some compelling rhymes. Occasionally I’ll paint myself into a corner with some word or phrase that’s just right, but then I can’t find a natural-sounding rhyme for it. If the rhymes don’t sound right together, the listener can tell right away. Here’s one I rejected for just that reason:
“Your love surrounds me like a sunrise in spring / Come on girl, get up off ‘o that thing.”
Of course, when you’re painted into a corner, sometimes it forces you to find a window. Here’s one I think will fit right into my new song “Brother-In-Law Waltz.”
“I’m hunting for geese with my brother-in-law, who’s a douche bag.
My shotgun went off accidentally, please hand me that goose rag.”
See? Sometimes the perfect rhyme just arrives out of nowhere. One trick I employ is to front-load the shaky rhyme, so the word you really want to use comes in at the end, where it has more impact. Dig:
“When the weather’s so hot it makes my sweat trickle
I cool down my junk with a cherry Popsicle
I sold my dog for a big pile of mutt cash
To buy some Gold Bond for my festering butt rash.”
Obviously, “Popsicle” and “festering butt rash” were the main ideas I wanted to get across. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not that hard to dream up a rhyming scheme that helps move the lyrics along. The hard part is to do it in a way that’s conversational. You have to make sure you use words that would show up in the speech of a normal person. This next example probably would not have universal appeal:
“Prison guard walkin’ on Cell Block 4 got splattered with a handful of convict jism.
As he laid down the law with his PR-24, he thought about the high rate of recidivism.”
Probably a better way to go would be to change the time signature to 2/4, and make the language a little more accessible. Like this:
“Carl didn’t like the prison guard / His attitude put him in a funk
So when the guard came strollin’ by his cell / He nailed him with a handful of spunk.”
Now doesn’t that paint a prettier picture? Of course it does. When it comes to songwriting, another objective of mine is to try to avoid clichés and trite expressions if I can find a workable alternative. There are so many obvious rhymes that are used all the time, and I think it’s kind of a lazy way out for songwriters. “All my love” with “stars above” is one I’ve heard dozens of times. “Heaven” seems to rhyme only with “seven” in the songwriting universe. “Knees” and “please.” The band Kiss alone has used that pair thousands of times, exactly in the way you’d imagine. And has anyone actually seen a turtle dove? I think it’s an invention. Like the blue raspberry.
Writing a song ain’t all that hard
Sometimes I do it while mowing the yard
Up in the tree, there’s a beautiful bird
Whoops, just ran over another dog turd
That took me, what, 30 seconds? It might not win any Grammys, but when you listen to some of the crap that’s topping the charts, this is Rogers and Hammerstein by comparison.[Bookmark NewWest.net/BobWire and check back every day if you know what’s good for you.]