Saturday, February 13, 2010

Research I've read

"Written in my Soul: Rock's great songwriters talk about creating their music"
by Bill Flanagan (Comtemporary Books Inc., 1986)

Flanagan quotes Bob Dylan as saying that up until Eric Burdon recorded it, "House of The Rising Sun" was sung from a woman's point of view.

That's fascinating all by itself. Frankly, I've only ever heard Burdon's version, and couldn't think of the song any other way. Changing the gender of the POV person in a song like that changes the whole flavor of the piece. Makes you think about the words you choose.

Chuck Berry's interview was illuminating. He seems, at least at the time he spoke with Flanagan, to have been mostly after money (although Lonn Friend's book, discussed next, indicates Berry was also after women). Here I thought Berry was gonna be at least somewhat appreciative of the public's wild acceptance of the unique way he approached rock, but he says he just wanted commercial hits.

Maybe that shouldn't surprise me. Commercialism didn't arrive with the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Sting, Bono, Pete Townshend, Richards and Jagger, Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello and Van Morrison are also included. Keith Richards came across as being concerned with creating good songs, shattering my assumption that he was mostly interested in money.

I didn't learn much about "how to write songs" because the artists talked about ideas and generics, how insubstantial the whole process is - like fiction writing. Paul Simon, in particular, veered off into how he changed chords and got so technical, I was lost early in the conversation.

I like Flanagan's interview style. He kept it easy and friendly. The artists appeared to enjoy discussing their work and their lives with him. I'd love a second volume.

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