The Evolution of a Song, Part 2
(In Part 1, I explained that I’m writing a song for a local contest to benefit a no-kill cat shelter. Part 2 gives you a sneak peek at the process I used to write this song in one hour.)
Saturday, August 31
8:00 a.m.: I’m enjoying my morning cup of coffee out on the patio, thankful for a little down time, and I remember the contest. I admit, performing at a cat shelter isn’t quite my idea of stardom. But it IS for a good cause, I tell myself, and besides – here’s the real motivation – humorous songs are encouraged, and I do enjoy writing funny songs. I go inside, get some notebook paper and a pencil, and resume my spot at the patio table, one eye on the hummingbird feeder and the other eye on the lookout for my neighbor’s hundreds of cats. Well, not hundreds, but enough to make me wish somebody across town would adopt them. With my third eye, I concentrate on the essence of being a homeless cat.
8:07 a.m.: I begin to hear something like a mantra inside my head. “Cat … bat … fat … hat,” it drones. Too boring. The mantra changes to “claws … paws … jaws … gauze.” Ouch! How about a nicer cat? “Fur … her … purr … sir.” Nicer, but not even a little bit funny (or interesting). Maybe a melody will inspire me. I go inside and grab my guitar.
8:10 a.m.: Out on the patio again, I strum a few chords. That seems to unleash the John Denver in me, because I start to dwell on that line, "Country roads – take me home.” Hmmm. Take me home. This leads me to another mantra: “home … comb … dome … roam.” Well, cats do roam, especially Tom cats. How about a Tom cat named Romeo? And maybe Juliet? What rhymes with Juliet? Pet! Now maybe I’m getting somewhere.
8:18 a.m: I admit to myself that Romeo and Juliet has been done before. There’s the 1964 single “(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet” by the Reflections. Then there’s the 1980 hit song “Romeo and Juliet” by Mark Knopfler. Not to mention the song “Love Story” (about some characters named, predictably, Romeo and Juliet), written by Taylor Swift, probably before she reached puberty. Come to think of it, wasn’t there a play or something by some English guy named William? But never mind. My song will be about a cat, so I don’t think I’ll have to worry about anyone suing me for copyright infringement. At least not that William guy.
8:20 a.m.: I've got a little start -- four words, to be exact. Romeo, home, Juliet, and pet. Where will they lead me? I start strumming a few chords while singing, “My name is Romeo, take me home.” I stick with G and A chords, because they’re easy and in my range. The next thing I know, I’m singing these four lines, which sound like they could become a chorus:My name is Romeo Lookin’ for my Juliet Won’t ya take me home I would make a very good pet
I write these lines down on my paper, sing them again, and then change the word “good” to “fine,” because it sounds more like something a proud little cat might say.
OK, what’s next? I start thinking of other things having to do with cats, like cat food, treats, and … yes, litter. That would be funny, as long as I don’t get too graphic about it. And now, what rhymes with litter? Ah … “bitter.” A cat that wouldn’t be bitter if you would just adopt him, already. My little guy is starting to have a personality.
8:30 a.m.: Now I need some different chords for a verse. I don’t want the whole song to consist of just two chords (G and A), although I’d stand a much better chance of being able to play it without mistakes! But there’s a chord progression in Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” that I like, where the chords gradually move down the neck of the guitar, alternating from major to minor (A, C#m, G, Bm), and I try that out for size. It’s good, but I don’t want to steal both theme AND melody, so I make some changes. I try A, C#m, D, E … ahh, that’s more like it. And that E chord kind of makes me want to move on to another minor chord, so I follow it with an F#m, and then E, D, A, and back to E. If you don’t know music, don’t worry -- I’ll post a link to the song, eventually -- if I ever finish it.
Be sure to read Part 3, to be posted later this week, for the dramatic conclusion!