Tuesday, 29 June 2010


Rather than drawing a songwriting lesson from Lennon & McCartney’s songs today let's get an insight from an album cover.

When Robert Freeman was employed to do the artwork for Help! He had a bright idea. Get the Beatles to pose in the semaphore positions for the word ‘help.’

Four people - four letters. Genius.

The only problem is that when he tried it, it looked rubbish as a picture. So he went for what worked artistically rather than what worked conceptually. He abandoned the premise when it got in the way of the aesthetic. The Beatles are nearly, but not quite, spelling N-U-J-V.


It may mean something in Serbian, it may even be the name of a reasonably priced set of bunk beds in Ikea, but it has no connection with the album title. However, it does work as a piece of art in it’s own right.

Somewhere along the songwriting process we might have to abandon the concept that started the journey in the first place. It can be a wrench but a song has to stand on it’s own two (or three) feet.

My Father owned a timber business and was a gifted artist. Sometimes the wood he was carving had a knot in it. He had to work with, and round, the quirks of the material he was using or throw it away.

Sometimes the ideas or truths you want to convey have knots in them.

My daughter Groucho, from the age of two would always say “I can do it by my own self!” now 13, she is teaching herself to play (my) guitar using (my) Beatles songbooks, only occasionally seeking my input.

Sometimes songs have a mind of their own. They seem to know what they want to be when they grow up. You can help them, but squeezing them into your predetermined mould can end up being a frustrating experience for everyone concerned.

Take another look at that song of yours that been stuck for a while.
Are you trying to carve through a knot?
Maybe it’s time to let the song be what it wants to be.

Let me know how you get on…

Like to read another post? Blessed Are The Limited
Behind the song: Your Difficult Decision

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