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Writing Songs With – Charles Dickens: What Would Dickens Say?

With downloading we listen to everything in bits. Could you imagine what Charles Dickens would say if you said, ‘Could I just have one chapter?’ You’re creating a short story culture. What happened to narrative?

Tori Amos: Mojo Magazine May 2007

I love that quote from Tori. So wise. So perceptive. So wrong.

The truth is that one of the greatest English novelists did in fact publish full length novels like Hard Times, A Tale Of Two Cities and Great Expectations in weekly instalments. In his own way his creative strategy was a precursor to the digital downloads and the ethos of constantly releasing new ‘content’. In other words, if Dickens was a 21st century musician he’d be releasing his albums a song at a time as digital downloads.

Dickens’ example helps to confirm my belief that great art is often created by people who are not preoccupied with making great art. Think of Bach having to come up with a new piece every Sunday for the church service. Or the Beatles cranking out a new record every three months for Parlophone. Or Motown literally modelled on that shining beacon of creativity, the Detroit car manufacturing industry. Or Dickens (and Conan Doyle, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, not to mention Melville, Eliot, Hardy, Trollope, Thackeray and Beecher Stowe) producing the paper equivalent of a weekly soap opera.

But to say Dickens published in instalments doesn’t give us the full picture. Dickens didn’t just complete a novel and then drip feed it to the public. He wrote them as he went. It’s normal to read a novel not knowing how it’s going to end. It’s more unusual when you realise that the author might not know how it’s going to end either! But it gets better than that. When Dickens published The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist in monthly instalments, for ten months he was writing both at the same time! Three months after finishing The Pickwick Papers he started writing (and publishing) Nicholas Nickleby even though he was still working on Oliver. He only started to get ahead of schedule on Oliver after signing a publishing deal for the finished novel a few months before the serialisation was completed.

Publishing as you go has some benefits.

Deadlines are your friend

I’m a fan of deadlines . Dickens’ writing commitments kept him sharp and made him prolific.

Writing without “time to reconsider, to change [his] mind, to go back, to cancel, to rewrite” sometimes delivering the chapters to the printers at the very last minute, it killed any chance to second guess himself and succumb to the paralysis of analysis.

It was incredibly hard work. He pushed himself even harder than he needed to, working “furiously fast to give himself free time. He lived hard and took hard exercise. His day began with a cold shower, and he walked or rode every day if he could”. He was suspicious of taking too long a break from writing saying “I feel it better and wiser to keep near my oar”.

At the risk of stating the obvious, constantly working is the best way to improve at your craft. And nothing makes you work like a deadline.

In his biography of Paul McCartney Barry Miles writes

The speed of artistic creation varies enormously from artist to artist…but all would agree that the printer’s boy waiting in the hall, a one-man show in six months’ time or a block booking of a recording studio in three weeks’ time exert a powerful influence on the creation of art.

Miles is almost quoting composer Rossini who said

Nothing primes inspiration more than necessity, whether it be the presence of a copyist waiting for your work or for the prodding of an impresario tearing his hair… I wrote the overture to La Gazza Ladra the day of the opening in the theatre itself, where I was imprisoned by the director and under the surveillance of four stagehands who were instructed to throw my original text through the window, page by page, to the copyists waiting below to transcribe it. In default of pages, they were ordered to throw me out the window bodily….

Audience Feedback

Publishing as he wrote meant Dickens was in constant contact with his audience. The feedback from those reacting to his work allowing him to make adjustments ‘in real time’.

Stories changed shape in the process. The Old Curiosity Shop grew from a collection of short short stories into a full length novel due to financial pressures on the magazine Dickens was editing. Biographer Claire Tomalin says “[By April he was improvising] from week to week a novel he had not even thought about in January.”

In David Copperfield there is an unpleasant character called Miss Mowcher who is a dwarf and beauty specialist. Mrs Seymour Hill, a female dwarf and chiropodist (and neighbour of Dickens) threatened to sue for defamation. To escape a lawsuit Dickens offered to change the plot and transformed Mowcher into a sympathetic character.

Not everything we try will work and sometimes (especially with larger scale works) it might be a good idea not to spend three years working on something before you find out whether it’s any good…

Peer Feedback

Dickens also got feedback from reading chapters aloud to his friends which “lifted his spirits” and gave him intense pleasure “nourishing his belief in himself and helping to carry him through … pain and unhappiness.”

In this he stands in a long tradition of mutually supportive schools, movements and artists collectives from the Inklings and the Bloomsbury Group to Jack Hardy’s Songwriter’s Exchange (the inspiration for First Tuesday).

Wizard Of Oz lyricist Yip Harburg was part of another New York artists group

Starting in the 1920’s, and continuing through the 1930’s] we got together almost every night, often at the Gershwins, where there were two pianos, and we could play everything we had written that week and see how it went over. The others gave you criticism or an idea – there was a real camaraderie. People took fire from each other. It was like the days of Samuel Johnson and Fleet Street. We all wrote for each other and inspired each other. You wanted to come up every week with something worthwhile. We were all interested in what the other fellas were doing. Sometimes you would hear the whole score of a show before it opened. We ate it up, analysed it, as the composer played it over and over at the piano.

There was a kind of healthy competition among us. You would not dare to write a bad rhyme or a cliched tune. We had such great respect for each other’s work, and the integrity of our music and lyrics. The give and take added to the creative impulse. It was an incentive, it opened up new ideas, and made it necessary to keep working.

Sources: Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin, Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now by Barry Miles and Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration Of George And Ira Gershwin by Deena Rosenberg

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

FAWM Songwriting

Why I Failed At FAWM

This year I only managed to write eight songs instead of fourteen. While the the usual suspects, hubris and illness, played a part, there were other aspects that tripped me up and I think they’re worth noting so I don’t make the same mistakes in future. I want to make a whole new set of mistakes!


I’m a big fan of Limitations. They can really help you “get on with it” and cut out one of the most insidious forms of distraction – ‘choice’. There’s lots studies that show that if a supermarket stocks 25 types of jam in the supermarket they won’t sell any because the customers can’t decide which to buy. Only stock 3 varieties and sales are much healthier. But for creativity there’s a tipping point where too many limitations make it harder to work.

FAWM has a massive limitation built in: you have to write a lot of songs in a short space of time. Adding any other artificial constraints could be asking for trouble. In my case I had chosen to ‘co-write with my younger self’, digging out old tapes and using the ideas to write new songs. Just consider how many other steps that assumes.

  • Digitise the tapes
  • Edit and label mp3s
  • Listen and evaluate which ideas are worth working on
  • Relearn old ideas (many of which were badly recorded and a quarter-tone sharp). Where there were mistakes, try to discern what my intention was. Try to work out if I had used a capo or an alternate tuning
  • Compile various versions of the idea scattered across different tapes

This is all work I had to do BEFORE I could get down to writing a song. As opposed to the FAWM-friendly approach of grabbing an instrument and strumming away till I come up with something.

One of my favourite FAWMers is American multi-instrumentalist, Izaak Wierman. He often sets himself narrow artificial limitations like writing a song in every key or every mode. But this year he was stranded in Australia with only a mandolin and a phone to make music with. So, wisely, he chose not to set impose any additional limitations on himself.


Secondly I was already out of my creative comfort zone. I had been ill before FAWM, seriously enough to make me cancel some work commitments. I also had some building work done at my studio which required changing the layout. Just like the Beatles during Let It Be, this was a signal that I should have just done the old familiar things rather than introduce some more chaos and variables. Maybe even spent time fixing the broken things in my system. Getting the room and recording space into a workable state?


Thirdly I failed because I didn’t really want to write. I’ve been on a kind of crusade for the last 5 years trying to make myself a better writer by writing a lot. Some 200 songs later I think that’s worked. But the natural by-product of that process is a bunch of good songs that I haven’t had the time to demo, let alone post online or release officially. So I’m feeling the drag of “what’s the point of writing another 14 songs that are never going to see the light of day?” Part of me wants to stop writing new songs, or at least slow down, so I can fix the next part of the supply chain – how to release music. And if part of you wants to write songs and part of you doesn’t, you’re going to have problems.


I really want to revisit my old music and see if there’s any way to absorb some of the more complex compositional approaches I’ve been neglecting. I’ve pursued a deliberate strategy to simplify and become truly melodic rather than churning out monotonal melodies over tracks constipated with chords and riffs. But I think I’ve got some kind of handle on that now and I need time to go back to the drawing board and explore. And leisurely exploration isn’t what FAWM is about.

So with hindsight I should have attempted everything I wanted to do … in March through December. And let FAWM be a sandbox for my subconscious to play with whatever catches it’s eye.

Next year, whatever I’m feeling and whatever my plans are, I’m going to take February off and just play. And whatever happens, happens.

Lesson (hopefully) learned.

THE END … or is it …?

Why I DIDN’T fail at FAWM

I wrote 8 songs

Writing songs of any description is a victory. If you write bad songs, you may be a bad songwriter, but if you write no songs, you’re not a songwriter at all.

I wrote 3 or 4 songs I’m happy with

One popped right out of my subconscious with no warning. Another is an idea I’ve been trying to write for 2 years. I doubt any of these would have been written without FAWM kicking me in the pants.

I wrote 1 song I love

Other people seem to love it too. The fact that FAWM is so non-judgemental made it easy for me to write and record something so left field for me. The network of writers, musicians and producers meant I could easily hook up with people that had the skills to complete it. The positive response from feedback on the site encouraged me to go all the way and release the track.

A few old ideas have been turned into songs

Some revealed they weren’t worth much and can now be cleared out of my ‘song starts’ folder. Many more ideas didn’t even make it to the writing stage, so again FAWM prompted a kind of spring cleaning of ideas. Others, while not great songs, have proved that they’re good ideas worthy of shaping and developing in the future.

I learned a few things

About co-writing and myself as a co-writer. And of course I have learned some valuable lessons about the right and wrong ways to use limitations and about how I can self sabotage my work.

So did I fail to deliver 14 songs in Feb. Yes.
Did I fail FAWM? No.

Interviews Songwriting

Matt Blick: Creative Insights Interview

Creative Insights

Matt Blick interviewed by Henrique Fogli (originally published on

Being a beatlemaniac, an aficionado about the creative process and a music student for about 3 years now made me come across a wonderful jewel on the internet, Beatles Songwriting Academy by Matt Blick. On his outstanding blog, Matt dissects the creative job done by the Fab Four, analyzing their creative process, the music theory behind it, the sources of their inspiration and other aspects involved in their songwriting. I became a big fan of his blog.

And I got real lucky! I asked him if he could share a bit his view of the creative process involved in songwriting – not only from the fab four, but his as well, for Matt is not only a music teacher but also a songwriter. And he agreed! So here I’m sharing a piece of his insights about creativity and inspiration.

Henrique: Matt, let me ask you about Yesterday. Paul claims that he woke up one day with the tune in his head and found the notes and the melody on the piano. A moment of divine inspiration I would say. But as a songwriter yourself, do you think that this would have happened if he’d never touched an instrument before? I mean, would inspiration take place without technique and practice to back it up?

Matt: The story is true, though it’s worth pointing out that he only had the verse melody, not the bridge, lyrics, chords or string arrangement. Without Paul’s technique Yesterday would have only been completed through a massive amount of trial and error, which would have taken so much time, the original inspiration would probably have be lost.

Practically speaking we have Yesterday because Paul was a good enough piano player to roll out of bed and figure out what he had heard in his head quickly enough to keep it. Then he also had the skill to come up with a complimentary section (“why she had to go I don’t know”) and use his instinctive, but very developed, sense of harmony to come of with a chord progression that suits the melody. Not to mention the poetic ability to craft a simple, memorable lyrics (which he did over several months). So I would say inspiration happens to anyone, but it takes a lot of skill and practice to catch the inspiration and turn it into something that others can understand and appreciate.

Henrique: How does inspiration reveals itself to you?

Matt: When I go looking for it! I think for any artist it’s important to have some kind of capture system. The nature of creativity and the unconscious mind means the great or original ideas often come at times when you’re not thinking directly of creating something. So I write down lyrics which go in a folder and record musical ideas which go into a playlist. But it takes work to turn those inspired idea into songs, and it’s only at the end of the process that you can listen to a recording, or play a song for others and know whether it’s any good or not.

Just to be clear I believe you can be inspired in the ‘hard work stage’ too, but you can’t stop every two minutes to take your own ‘creative temperature’. Trying to figure out if what you’re doing is any good while your doing it shuts down the whole creative process.

Henrique: When writing a song, do you have a method you mostly use? Do you write the lyrics first? The harmony? The melody? Even if you don’t always use the same pattern, what do you think is the easiest one? Why?

Matt: My usual method starts with lyrics. Once I have a rough idea of what the song is about, I can get lots of clues about what the structure and feel of a track needs to be. I have written every other way too, but I often have a clear idea of something I want to say and I want that to dictate the mood rather than whatever chord progression my finger landed on. I think for a beginner whatever’s easiest is the best method, but if you find your method is making all your songs sound the same then it’s time to try another approach.

Henrique: Do you believe that studying any other art form can help you write songs more easily? Like having experience writing poetry, for instance?

Matt: Most definitely. I’ve written posts on my blogs about what songwriters can learn from famous authorsfilm directorscomedians, even album artwork. You can learn a lot from poets and poetry so long as you understand that lyrics are not just poems stuck onto music.

Henrique: Do you try to communicate the same message with the music and the lyrics?

Matt: Yes. The only exception is where you’re trying to create a humorous effect from the two being mismatched.

Henrique: Most people tend to think that, in order to work with creativity, you must stay away from rules, patterns, organisation and schedules. What do you think?

Matt: I would say that most unsuccessful artists think like that! I’m a football (soccer) fan. When those guys train they spend hours passing balls to each other, running round cones, shooting from the penalty spot, taking corners and practicing different tactics or set pieces. They practice all these things so that when the game begins they can do them at the instinctive level. It’s the same with songwriting. That’s why I spend so much time analysing the Beatles songwriting techniques in order to ‘master the basics’. There’s a world of difference between ‘forgetting everything you’ve learned’ and never knowing it in the first place!


Matt Blick is a singer/songwriter from Nottingham, UK who is analysing the songwriting tips and trick from all 211 Beatles songs and sharing what he learns at Beatles Songwriting Academy

You can check out his own songs here and pick up more songwriting tips at

Best Posts Songwriting

Three Chords And The Truth: The Importance Of ‘Fact Checking’ Your Songs

Many years ago, I heard that legendary guitarist Ry Cooder was going to be doing a live taping at BBCs White City studios. As my sister lives nearby I felt we had a shot of getting a tape right into his hands. I had decided to write some old-timey lyrics to Joseph Spence‘s tune Great Dreams From Heaven, a tune Cooder had cut as an instrumental, and I was sure my lyrics would knock him out. They opened with the discovery of America, moved to Martin Luther King and finished with a heartwarming call to believe in your dreams. I recorded my vocals over an edit of Cooder’s track, typed up the lyrics and sent my sister to deliver the payload.

When my sister reported back she dropped a bomb of her own about my opening lines

Sailing in the Mayflower ‘cross oceans of blue
Came Mr Columbus and his merry crew

“You know the Mayflower wasn’t Christopher Columbus’ ship”.
“What! Tell me you didn’t give him the song!”

But she did. My imagination flipped between two scenarios. Ry opens the package, reads the lyrics, sneers and throws the tape (unlistened) into the bin. Or Ry opens the package, reads the lyrics, sneers and says “hey guys, get a load of this idiot!” The band all laugh as Ry throws the tape (unlistened) into the bin.

Over twenty years later and I still cringe. Should I ever get the chance to meet one of my heroes I’d be tempted to pass. I don’t think I could face hearing “Hey, weren’t you the guy who…”.

A song needs to be true.

Does that mean there’s no place for poetic license? Not at all. Generalisation and hyperbole are fine. The Beatles can sing All You Need Is Love without discussion on Maslow’s hierarchy. But a song should be factually true, true to the one singing it, and true to the metaphors and grammar of it’s genre.

Get Your Facts Straight

Stephen King in his book On Writing says that once he’s written a first draft he asks people who have expertise in a particular area to fact-check his manuscript. Types of guns, police procedure, geography etc… It’s important because glaring errors make you look dumb and take knowledgeable people right out of the book (or song). When you’re trying to make a serious point a ridiculous error can cause a mental trainwreck.

From This One Place by Sara Groves includes the lines

I was about to give up and that’s no lie
Cardinal landed outside my window
Threw his head back and sang a song
So beautiful it made me cry

Amazon reviewer K. Lacey said

The improbability of a cardinal moving way beyond its normal repertoire of a one-note chirp to improvise a beautiful song makes me wonder whether anybody tried to suggest a more appropriate species of bird before letting her go ahead and freight a decent song with unneeded controversy.

It would have been easy to check with a bird lover. Research shouldn’t interrupt the process – write what you like and check it afterwards (novelist Ann Patchett suggests this approach). Occasionally if it’s integral to the whole structure of the song do all you research first and then write the song.

Here are some of the things I’ve had to double check

At other times you just need to step back and think. The original line in Trees was “All of your dreams will be forgotten like Autumn leaves when Spring appears” I was so caught up in the clever double meaning of ‘autumn leaves’ that I forgot – Winter comes after Spring!

Get Your Imagery Straight

Factual goofs should always be fixed but a song also has to be true to it’s imagery and metaphors. Taylor Swift‘s I Knew You Were Trouble has

A new notch in your belt is all I’ll ever be

but the image of sexual conquest is a notch in your bedpost. A new notch in your belt just means your belt’s too big cos you’re losing weight.

Remember Who’s Singing

Songs should be true to the ‘character’ that is singing them. In My Fair Lady the song Show Me has the line

Don’t talk of June, don’t talk of Fall, Don’t talk at all! Show me!

but the song is sung to an upperclass Englishman by an uneducated English woman singing who is learning to speak ‘the Queen’s English’. And English people say Autumn. Americans say Fall.

Stephen Sondheim says complex rhymes imply thought and education. This is true even of songs that aren’t in musicals. An overly clever rhyme in a straight ahead pop song sticks out like a sore thumb

It’s no good. He sees her.
He starts to shake, he starts to cough.
Just like the old man
In that famous book by Nabokov

Just like a dumb rhyme sticks out in a clever song

Told me love was too Plebeian
Told me you were through with me an’
Now you say you’re sorry…

Get Your Grammar Right

A song needs to be true to the genre’s standard of grammatical correctness.

Double negatives like “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” are fine in folk and Frank Zappa can get away with “chances are they might not never find one no more” for comedic effect. The same goes for contractions. If you ‘got’ the blues you can “gonna, woulda, coulda” all you want. No one in their right mind thinks the Beatles would be better singing

“She Loves You. Yes, Yes, Emphatically Yes”

On the other hand, hymns requires correct english, but archaic language is fine and thou the syntax reverse thy canst entirely. But no genre allows you to mix and match approaches just to preserve the rhymes and scanning.

I say to thee
I’m aware that you’re cheatin’
But no one makes me feel like you do

You Killed My Song. Prepare To Die.

Sometimes a song is broken beyond repair. I had one which started “Beautiful Cross, strange contradiction”. My friend Steve pointed out that calling an instrument of torture ‘beautiful’ isn’t a contradiction, it’s an oxymoron. “Beautiful Cross, strange oxymoron”? The song was dead in the water – I scrapped it. No one wants to be Alanis Morrisette (I’m being ironic). Imagine having to spend your life justifying your misuse of a common word (“I was employing situational irony in a Kierkegaardian sense”) or put up with people ‘correcting’ lines like

“It’s like rain on your wedding day…”

“…to the Egyptian sun god Ra”

We all need Inigo Montoya‘s in our lives. People like Steve who will tell us, “You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”

Other stuff

Do You Have To Suffer To Produce Great Art?
Writing Songs With Stephen King
The Big Fat Lie Most Musicians Believe
Three Things Every Musician Should Be
The ‘To Do’ List – A Classic Songwriting Tool

Behind The Song

Behind The Song: Djimi Traore

Listen to Djimi Traore here

I Dreamed A Dream

Paul McCartney wrote Yesterday in a dream. Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan in a dream. I wouldn’t put myself in either of them but Djimi Traore came to me in a dream too. But as well as hearing the chorus playing over and over in my head I also dreamed about playing the finished song for lots of scousers (they hated it) and the ‘real’ Djimi Traore (who found it personally insulting). In my dream the ‘real’ Djimi was an elderly, overweight white scouser and living in a modest Liverpool home. When I woke up I wrote down the parts I could remember and wondered if Paul’s dream came with it’s own harbingers of doom.

No One Ever Sang Before The Beatles

The inspiration for the first verse was an article on the Anfield Wrap website that credited Liverpool FC with the birth of football terrace singing. Before 1963 the fans used to clap, cheer and chant players names, but when a new PA system was installed at Anfield DJ Stuart Bateman started to play the top 10 singles before the match to entertain the crowd and, as this coincided with the explosion of the Mersey-sound, many were by local bands and singers (one of the hits was You’ll Never Walk Alone which became the club anthem). The fans in the Kop stand sang along and when the matches started people carried on singing.

He Just Can’t Control His Feet

The message of the song is that anyone can have a significant part to play. Djimi was a much loved figure of fun at the club, earning his place in the Kop songbook with a comedy own goal

Don’t blame it on the Biscan
Don’t blame it on the Haman
Don’t blame it on the Finnan
Blame it on Traore

He just can’t, he just can’t,
He just can’t control his feet.

But towards the end of the 2005 Champions League final Djimi made a clearance off the line that kept Liverpool in the game that they went on to win after penalties, claiming their 5th European title.

4 Fabs, 2 Goals And A Pub

With an opening verse like that I wanted to go full Beatard. The arrangement – poor and synthetic as it currently is, was a nod to Eleanor Rigby and the the first melody note, a 4th over a minor chord is a steal from Help. The Can’t Buy Me Love and I Want To Hold Your Hand nods were happy accidents.

The bridge was constructed from the commentary on two famous Steven Gerrard goals. I’d heard them over and over again on my son’s DVDs. I love working with ‘found lyrics’ like this.

The Sandon is the famous Merseyside pub where LFC was formed in 1892.

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…

Former Pupils Let's Build An Airport EP Nottingham Sounds Showing Up

I Am Studio Face!

Did two cool musical things today (apart from teaching and buying Billy Joel CD’s from Fopp!).

First – I launched a facebook forum for Beatles Songwriting Academy. If you’d like to help me with questions, advice, links or opinions as I blog through all 211 Beatles songs please head over there and join up!

Second – I had an evening session with Deeper Than Forever recording a ‘live in the studio’ track which should be out tomorrow. I was blown away with this band of one-take wonders most of whom are still at school/college.

Here’s a vid of their first ever live performance last month.

A little while ago I noticed Let’s Build An Airport had gotten a review on iTunes! By a complete stranger! And he liked it! “Beautifully understated soundscapes with lovely melodies and chords that might just crumble at any minute” indeed!

Get Let’s Build An Airport here

Music Biz 2.0 Quotes

Signing The Great To Attract The Successful

Derek Sivers has an interesting insight into Elektra records founder Jac Holzman. After recounting a story where Jac was able to get permission from the Beatles to license something because he signed an artist they respected…

“[He] told me that it was actually a long-term strategy of Elektra. That sometimes he’d release records by amazing artists, knowing they’d probably lose money, because not only was it the right thing to do, but other successful artists would later choose to sign with Elektra instead of another label, because he had proven that Elektra would support their artistic exploration”.

If only more labels would take this bigger picture view…

Read Derek’s article

A Blog's Life Top 10 Totally Off Topic

10 Things I Loved In 2013

Releasing my first ever solo EP Let’s Build An Airport was the major milestone for me but here’s 10 other highlights of the year.

The Rise of LFC

The massive turnaround in all areas of Liverpool Football Club, but especially the performance of SAS, the blossoming of Suarez into one of the best players in the world and of course the fall of Man Utd.

Discovering Cormac McCarthy

6 books 2 plays and 3 films so far. His lean style, profound dialogue, dark subject matter and old testament overtones create books that sink deep into your psyche.

Nottingham Music Thrives

Though posterboy Jake Bugg and new signings Indiana and Saint Raymond grab the headlines, they really are the tip of the iceberg. Nottingham continues to thrive and newer bands like Sea Monster Eyes, Privateers, Field Studies and Injured Birds excite me the most.


Mysterious Mostar is the partron saint of the Skyless LFC fan and the underground prophet of the match highlights videos. Thank you – whoever you are!

Bill Bailey does Billy Bragg for Billy Bragg

Brain Pickings

Addictive and profound – sign up for Maria Popova’s newsletter

Whole Lotta Helter Skelter

I interviewed Soundhog here. His mashup and video are both things of beauty.

Bad Lip Reading

Along with Honest Trailers and How It Should Have Ended, BLR supplied the lols.

Carragher & Neville Double Act

Sky turned MUFC’s most hated player into a universally respected pundit a few seasons ago. This year they did it again with LFC’s Jamie Carragher and created an entertaining and knowledgable double act.

Arctic Monkeys Regain Their Mojo

After two classic albums and two dour and miserable affairs it seems like the clouds are lifting and the Monkeys have a spring in their step once more.

Click on the links for my top 10 music, books and films of 2013