Behind The Song

New Song: John Lennon Blues

Pray for a man to put the ‘fist’ in ‘pacifist’
The good die young. Or they just die.
Download     mp3 demo

I’ve never really written a 12 bar blues I was happy with but John Lennon Blues is the closest I’ve got so far. At first it may seem like a pro-gun song but it’s anything but. I was trying to explore the paradox that those who promote peace are often the ones who die violent deaths and the resulting dilemma: if they hadn’t have been so committed to non-violence they’d have survived to preach peace another day, but then their message would have lost it’s potency. So would you rather the men (and women) survive at the cost of their message?

Verses 1 and 2 started with leftover lines from my song Guns. “The lone gunman is not alone” and “put the ‘fist’ in ‘pacifist'” came from my random lines folder and verse 4 borrowed a phrase from Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller“Hold our palms against the wound” (p.114).

“That coward Caulfield” is a reference to Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger‘s novel The Catcher In The Rye, a character that John Lennon’s killer Mark Chapman strongly identified with (in fact he read the book outside the Dakota Building whilst waiting for the police to arrest him after the murder). There are biblical references, Jesus refused to “call down fire from heaven” on those who didn’t welcome him (Luke 9:54), promised “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52) and said “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7). I also liked the ambiguity of juxtapositing the blues holler “whoa” with the biblical curse “woe”.

Musically it owes something (maybe an apology?) to The Beatles Yer Blues and Helter Skelter and Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe. When I wrote the track during FAWM I had a really heavy cold and knew my voice wouldn’t be up to multiple takes so I decided to record guitar and vocals at the same time. Sure enough by the end of the first take I started to cough uncontrollably (I managed to mute the mic but you can still hear it in places) and the coughing fit lasted another 10 minutes until I tore a muscle in my chest. And that’s why there’s no take 2.

Whoa If John Lennon had a gun
Whoa If John Lennon had a gun
He still be singing “all you need is love”

Oh if he’d given peace a chance
Oh and pulled a piece on each crazy fan
And shot that coward Caulfield in the back

Woe if Gandhi had a knife
Woe if Reverend King took a life
If Jesus Christ had enough and just rained down fire

If you live by the sword you’ll die by it – that’s gospel truth
But the sword of a sinner can pierce a righteous man too
And you’ll die holding innocent hands against the wound

Woe, the lone gunman is not alone
Woe, the lone gunman is not alone
And every man without sin has pockets full of stones

Woe that the world should come to this
Woe that the world should come to this
And pray for a man to put the ‘fist’ in ‘pacifist’

Whoa if John Lennon had a gun
Whoa if John Lennon had a gun
Those Dakota steps would have been stained with another man’s blood

Song Vault

Djimi Traore

He raised a half-full glass, a ghost of football past
A football hymn
mp3 demo     Chords (pdf)     Lyrics (pdf)     Behind The Song     Lyric Video

No one ever sang before the Beatles
Since the Beatles came we’ve never stopped
The players of renown, every villain, every clown
Has added to the sound that shook the Kop

I dreamt that we were drinking in the Sandon
A tall dark stranger sat across from me
He raised a half-full glass, a ghost of football past
Said his name was Djimi with silent D

Djimi Traore tell us the story
Those derby days on Merseyside
Djimi Traore, the grit and the glory
Of every European night
Remind us of our history
Remind us of our destiny
Djimi Traore

Shankly came from Huddersfield in winter
We’d been in division 2 for 5 long years
He claimed a little room where the players kept their boots
And turned Liverpool into a team to fear

The Gunners lost at Anfield 5 years later
April 18th 1964
Can’t Buy Me Love was on the charts and we sang with all our hearts
Cos the league was ours, together we’d walked through the storm

Djimi Traore tell us the story…

Oh you beauty, what a hit son, what a hit son
Oh you beauty, what a hit son, what a hit son
Now Steven Gerrard, now Steven Gerrard, now Steven Gerrard.

I woke with Djimi’s last words ringing through me
11 men can play, the 12th must sing
Could be a clearance off the line, a goal in extra time
You grab your chance to shine, your chance to lift the team

Djimi Traore tell us the story…


Horribly DeFAWMed (Slight Return)

Here’s 4 songs plus interviews from Sea Monster Eyes – a great band (featuring 3 former pupils) who have grown into amazing prolific songwriters

FAWM Report

Yesterday I finished FAWM 2014. Well actually I finished this morning at 2:25. Given the level of illness, physical injury and general mental imbalance that FAWM can generate I think I got off pretty lightly this year. I wrote, co-wrote or collaborated on 24 songs in 28 days. I’m going to spend March revising the demos (including an album full of songs co-written with young pupils) and rolling them out here on

I’m toying with a 3 month cycle of
writing like mad
demoing and releasing
going through old ideas editing and working on raw material.

We’ll see.


Over Feb I posted 28 songwriting tips derived from the Beatles on Beatles Songwriting Academyget them here

Aaron Krerowicz is a blogger musicologist who I have a strong suspicion is WAY SMARTER than me. He has a Beatles blog and another on the music of Star Wars. Did you know some of the most famous themes appear to be ‘borrowed’ from another film? Check it out.

Nicholas Tozier my blogging buddy from Maine wrote a piece about songwriting so moving I almost cried. I love getting songwriting idea from unusual sources so his ‘Song Written‘ post on poet Sylvia Plath was right up my street. It covers points like There’s no romance in being a “tortured genius” and this brilliant quote about finishing the songs you start

By the time of her death, on 11 February 1963 Sylvia Plath had written a large bulk of poetry. To my knowledge, she never scrapped any of her poetic efforts. With one or two exceptions, she brought every piece she worked on to some final form acceptable to her, rejecting at most the odd verse, or a false head or a false tail. Her attitude to her verse was artisan-like: if she couldn’t get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair, or even a toy. (From Ted Hughes’s introduction to The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath)

Some of my FAWM songs might only end up being a chair or a toy (or even an opportunity to teach a young person how to ‘make a chair’) but I’m sure writing all these songs strengthens me as a writer.


FAWM Songwriting

Lennon’s Ladies


Been hard at work writing new songs, rerecording old ones and just generally making music, but here’s a very Beatles inspired collaboration with Scotland’s Stuart Kidd from last Feb’s FAWM called Sadie’s Sister.

And if you’re into Lennon style lady songs check out the posts I’m working on over at Beatles Songwriting Academy on John’s acoustic masterpiece Julia.

Song Vault

Sadie’s Sister

She won’t compare me to a pebble in her shoe
Matt & Stuart Kidd try on John Lennon’s white suit
Download     mp3

Sadie’s sister doesn’t love anyone
But I could be in love with her
I don’t want to look as if I’ve jumped the gun
But I just want to know, if she has even noticed me

Sadie’s sister doesn’t black my eyes
And leaves no trail of broken glass
She’ll spend the afternoon beneath a Sunday sky
Like it’s a test to pass, she’s in a different class from me

I’m feeling inside out
And she is turning me
Round and round
 and upside down
Round and round 
and upside down

Sadie’s sister knows that love is blind
She’s got nothing left to prove
Turns her face heavenwards and storm-clouds step aside
She won’t compare me to a pebble in her shoe
So why – should I be surprised

I’m feeling inside out
And she is turning me
Round and round
 and upside down
Round and round 
and upside down

Sadie’s sister said I had no right
To be left alone like this

(c) Matt Blick/Stuart Kidd 2012

Co-written with Stuart Kidd
Stuart Kidd – lead & backing vocals, acoustic guitar, bass, percussion
Matt Blick – electric guitars, piano, backing vocals


Best Posts Songwriting

A Classic Song Finishing Tool – The ‘To Do’ List

In the realm of personal management it doesn’t get any more basic than the humble to-do list. But for me this little fella has made all the difference between a song getting lost in development hell and actually making it across the finish line.

What I’ve come to realise is this –

First we get inspired. Then we have to work hard. Things that don’t work are big and obvious and we give it all we’ve got to find solutions. We work on song vision, we fit the parts together. Finally all that’s left is to tidy up & smooth the rough edges. And that’s where we can easily get bogged down.

When I’m inspired, I’m mostly writing ‘by feel’ – sensing this chord or that phrase feels right. And eventually what remains are the few minor parts that bug me. It’s tempting to wait for inspiration to strike again. But it probably won’t. I’ve come up with every alternative there is and I just have to pick one. The song is 98% there. Whatever I decide won’t affect the song that much. But waiting to lightening to strike a 3rd time will. I’ll get bored, lose interest, lose perspective and then lose my faith in the song completely.

That’s where to to-do list comes in. I’m learning to create an inventory of all the decisions left to make, and then one by one MAKE THEM. By a process of elimination, drawing straws, asking your people to vote, doing ‘eeny meeny miney mo’. Whatever. Just make a decision already!

For example, here was my to-do list for my song Brother Bull –

1) Stick with the original structure, drop the 5th verse or move the 5th verse and drop a chorus?

I just played the options through. I knew the original was too long – that’s what was bugging me. But I didn’t want to lose a verse I liked and the narrative shape was nice.

So I turned v5 into verse 3 and dropped a chorus. I played it all the way through and it felt OK.

*Update July 2013 – during the mixing of the Let’s Build An Airport EP I hit this issue again and for the sake of not letting the song drag I cut the verse 3 (aka the verse formerly known as verse 5 and another chorus). Read about the process here.

2) soft as her skin/cheek/face/neck/breast/thigh/back/arm/throat/smile?

I had brainstormed every possible body part for this line (plus a few others we won’t mention) and none were great. But I wasn’t going to come up with a better idea. So I sang the line with every possible word in turn.

The original line (soft as her skin) wasn’t very…well…original, but I liked the way it ‘sang’ and I figured that a song built on such a weird premise (A love song that consists of asking various animals to donate body parts) could stand one line that was too normal.

3) pockets are bursting with/pockets hold nothing but

The questions were “do I want to change the chorus the last time around?” & “will ‘bursting’ sing OK?”

Answer: Yes and yes.

4) Gm or Bb?


5) F or F/A?

all through the writing process I’d been switching back and forth between these chord versions in numerous places in the song. But now I was done and it was time to nail things down. Just make a decision already!

I was uncomfortable with singing a G over a Bb chord rather than a Gm, but, emboldened by the example of John Lennon I decided to go for it.

What’s preventing your current song from being finished? Try drawing up a list and working through it as cold bloodedly as if you were doing the laundry or servicing your car. Let me know how you get on.

Download my free single Let’s Build An Airport