Turn On Those Sad Songs

Way back in 1992 I wrote a song. Normally, ‘songs’ in our band came about through half-arsed jamming, with the ‘musicians’ supplying a loud ‘n loose back-beat ripped off from whoever we were listening to that week for the ‘singer’ to shout over while he shuffled the wee hand-scrawled bits of paper that he kept in his pocket into some sort of lyrical order. Sometimes it worked, but mostly it didn’t. In a rare fit of McCartney-esque creativity, I decided I was going to bring a fully-formed track to one rehearsal. It would have verses and choruses and a middle eight, the backing vocals would all be worked out and there’d be a bridge with a brass section (we’d add that part later in the stoodio) before the whole thing fizzed to a finish with grand guitar fireworks. 

I sat in my room, chewing on a pencil and bashing out chords on my acoustic guitar. This was what songwriters did, was it not? When it was done I was fairly happy with what I’d come up with, but it was plainly obvious that it didn’t fit in with the (cough) sound of the band I was in. We (liked to think we) played a frantic ramalama somewhere between the clatter of The Wedding Present and the more controlled energetic outpourings of the Pixies, even if (as I listen with the hindsight of 20+ years of experience) most of our stuff should have been consigned straight to Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and set on fire, along with Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. 

My untitled song was a funny sort of waltz time dirge that meandered nowhere for 3 or so minutes. It was a metaphor for a doomed relationship that featured the titles and occasionally the lyrics of the saddest Bob Dylan songs I knew. Yes, it sounded as awful as that appears. The opening couplet went like this:

What ever happened to Lay Lady Lay and The Girl From The North Country we always played?

There’s A Sad Eyed Lady, and I Threw It All Away

Ivor Novello would hardly raise an eyebrow at such an opener. Actually, on second thoughts, he most definitely would raise an eyebrow at such an opener, but with a bit of editing a total re-write my lyrics might’ve sounded presentable rather than plain old rubbish. 

I can’t remember many other words. Which is just as well. I doubt I’d be sharing many more of them if I did. Doomed relationship!?! What the fuckdiddlyuck did I know about doomed relationships at my age?!? When I think about it now, I’m absolutely thrilled I never shared it with the band. I would’ve been laughed out of the room and back up the road. It would still be mentioned whenever we met up in the present. In short, it would have been a right riddy. I thought it was quite the trick though, name-checking other songs in my own song. I’m sure it had been done before me, although I was genuinely unaware of any such instance.

suede v.2Bert from Suede and the poor man’s Bernard

Imagine then, my total jaw-dropping disbelief and mild rage in 1997, when Suede brought out their ‘Lazy‘ single. This was Suede v.2, the line-up that featured the Stars In Their Eyes Richard Oakes on doppleganger guitar in place of the departed Bernard Butler. Stuck on the b-side was a track called ‘These Are The Sad Songs‘, a mid-paced arty rocker that, get this! – name-checked other songs! The first line mentioned Lay Lady Lay! Come on! Not only were they carbon copying shit-hot guitar players from 5 years ago, they were carbon copying shit ideas from my head 5 years previously as well.

SuedeThese Are The Sad Songs

I suffered in silence. I wanted to tell anyone who’d listen that I’d written a song just like this. Except I hadn’t. Suede’s track wasn’t exactly a set-the-heather-on-fire chart smash, but it was, not surprisingly, a million times better than mine, even if it was hidden on the b-side of a 3rd-off-the-album single from the arse end of the band’s career. It mentioned cool songs though, like Venus In Furs and Lazyitis and Band Of Gold as well as a good half a dozen or so other tracks that if I’m being honest I’d still need to Google in order to find out who did the original. So perhaps not such a great idea after all.  


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