h1

The Erroneous Assumption

June 9, 2010

I was in full swing as a professional songwriter, with chart records and cover versions of my songs coming at an alarming rate. I believed that I was functioning at the top of my game. My publisher believed the same and contributed to promote my songs  in a very aggressive manner. Many of my song writer friends asked me what was my secret. I just said that I was just lucky but deep inside I thought that my songs were better than everyone elses. I mean, How could that not be true, I was getting as many records as the rest of the entire publishing company including the Nashville office. I spent everyday doing nothing but write songs. I had heard a quote several years previous, by a well-known record guy named Kim Fowley http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Fowley  who said, ” always write around strong titles”. Nothing is truer than that statement as his production of a David Gates song called, “Popsicles and Icicles”, can attest to. My first succesful song is called

“Soul Drippin’s”.

I had never heard that title before and I even went as far as checking the song archives to make sure. I knew it was a strong title but I wanted to be certain that it was mine. It was  and it became a number one record in Chicago by a terrific group called, The Mauds. I tried to adhere to Fowley’s advice with every song. I kept adding to my list of records and it just seemed like would be no end. My biggest opportunity occurred when I had the opportunity to play my songs for Gordon Mills.    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Mills                                                  Gordon managed both Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck so this was a big deal. Gordon was a major player in the British scene as he had been in a group called,

The Viscounts

who had a string of hit records in England. He was a great song writer in his own right. When I went to the meeting, which was held in the office of my publishers, I was more than a little anxious. My publishers were certain that we were in for a successful meeting and when the formalities of introduction were over we began to play Gordon my songs. He didn’t say comment or say anything he just listened to one song after another. Just the fact that someone of his stature would sit and listen for over an hour to one songwriters songs was pretty amazing. The method of listening to songs that I was used to didn’t resemble anything like this. The usual was start the demo and almost immediately the listener would make a decision as if he had a divine gift to tell if something had potential or not, maybe just by the intro. Believe me this happened to me by a major record producer who shall remain unnamed. I had a particular song to play for one of his artists and when it started with an acoustic guitar he stopped the demo and informed me that he didn’t like songs that started with guitars. I guess Simon and Garfunkle didn’t get the memo. I asked him how could he tell if the song was good or not just by listening to the intro and maybe it was a number one song. He opened his desk drawer and said, he had a drawer full of number one songs. I’m sure he meant that only he and not I could judge song value but somehow I believed that he did have number one songs buried in the bottom of that drawer. This was not the case on this day. Every song, every note of melody and every lyric was played in its entirety. I could not believe that every one of my songs was so good as to hold Gordon Mills in rapt attention but that’s how it appeared to everyone in the room. After we finished playing the songs, Gordon turned to me and said,” You know Dick…” I finished the sentence in my head, after all what else could it be?, “You are the greatest songwriter in the world”. Well that is not what he said he said, “You know Dick, you don’t write songs with a melody”. The blood drained from my head and I just looked down and after I recovered I said thank you and left the office. I was followed by one of the partners in the firm and he was saying that I shouldn’t put any stock into what Gordon said and that he was just one guy. At that point I turned to him and said,” One guy, who has two of the hottest acts in the world and he himself wrote,”Its not unusual”, if I don’t listen to him, who should I listen to? That night, my wife and I listened to every one of my songs and we came to the conclusion that I didn’t write songs with a melody. This is a bad situation for a professional song writer. What was I going to do about this. My degree in Math taught me to analyze a predicament and solve it with theorems and laws that don’t need to be proved because they are already true. At this time I had access to many old-time song writers with credits like “La vie en rose” etc. so I told Mack David, who was Hal David’s brother, about my dilemma and he asked me how I wrote songs. I told him that first I got a strong title, (using the Fowley wisdom) and he approved. Then I would scope out an idea for the lyric, he said that was good and then I would go to the piano and he said stop!  I looked at him and he said are you the greatest piano player in the world? I said. no I can just play a little. So let me get this right, you want to write a great song with a great melody but you are going to limit yourself by your inability to play the piano. I said. but it’s the only instrument I can even make a sound with, what am I supposed to do? He pointed to his head, you write songs here, it’s limitless and unbounded, then and only then do you go to the piano, after the melody is set then find the changes to make it playable. I took his advice. I found that my songs were craftier and decidedly more singable. I also noticed that when you look at a written melody whether it be Mozart , Burt Bacharach or The Rolling Stones you will see a rising and falling, not unlike the ocean, and then the separation between songs become note selection and meter, both very important in creating something that will touch the masses. When you listen to a Souza March or a Bacharach melody you hear the pronounced note selection and the developed meter or the metrical pattern of the melody. This is also true in,”Mary had a little lamb” and “Happy Birthday”. I learned to do this and my songs changed again. I practiced every day and also decided to study the great lyricists. I wrote out, “The shadow of your smile”, a hundred times. “The shadow of your smile when you are gone will color my dreams and light the dawn”. I know that smiles don’t have shadows and dreams don’t light the dawn but I know exactly what that lyric means. I practiced until I was satisfied that I was writing at the top of my ability. I eventually won one of the top prizes in , The Japanese Song Festival and also The American Song Festival. The most important development was that I was given another chance to play my songs for Gordon Mills. Again he listened for the better part of an hour and he did three songs with Tom Jones and one with Englebert Humperdinck. I thought that ,the hottest artist in the world recording three of my song would catapult me into financial security but as luck would have it, Tom had a falling out with his label and two of the songs never came out but if you would like to hear two unreleased Tom Jones records just click on the player that I inserted right here.                                     

Tom Jones-Out in the cold again  Tom Jones- An unfinished song 

 Although I didn’t get the chance to find out if  T.J’s  records would have sold I did gain infinite knowledge on how to write a song from one of the greats. Gordon passed away at an early age but I want to thank him for the lesson he taught me and how a positive can be learned from an erroneous assumption.

Advertisements

6 comments

  1. Both Tom Jones songs show file not found – might try re-inserting


  2. try it again I re-inserted the files.thanks


  3. Kim Fowley conned me into picking him up at his house and driving him to Malibu. It was during this encounter that he advised me to write around a strong title. I remember sharing that with you, and so at the very least, you owe me half the gas money. ( gas was 31 cents a gallon)


  4. Kim Fowley conned me into picking him up at his house and driving him to Malibu. It was during this encounter that he advised me to write around a strong title. I remember sharing that with you, and so at the very least, you owe me half the gas money. ( gas was 31 cents a gallon)
    +1


  5. I liked the song Out In The cold Again! It could have been a hit!!!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: