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Improving Lyrics?

GUEST,Tunesmith 07 Sep 13 - 01:56 PM
mg 07 Sep 13 - 02:10 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 07 Sep 13 - 02:20 PM
Nigel Parsons 07 Sep 13 - 02:54 PM
Nigel Parsons 07 Sep 13 - 03:07 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 07 Sep 13 - 03:44 PM
Nigel Parsons 07 Sep 13 - 03:51 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 07 Sep 13 - 04:00 PM
GUEST,Grishka 07 Sep 13 - 04:32 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 07 Sep 13 - 04:50 PM
GUEST,Grishka 07 Sep 13 - 05:26 PM
GUEST,Stim 08 Sep 13 - 02:47 AM
DMcG 08 Sep 13 - 03:00 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 08 Sep 13 - 03:38 AM
GUEST,Grishka 08 Sep 13 - 04:20 AM
GUEST,DTM 08 Sep 13 - 05:23 AM
Joe_F 08 Sep 13 - 05:50 PM
GUEST,Grishka 08 Sep 13 - 06:48 PM
Nigel Parsons 08 Sep 13 - 08:29 PM
wysiwyg 08 Sep 13 - 08:37 PM
Ebbie 08 Sep 13 - 09:20 PM
mg 08 Sep 13 - 10:11 PM
GUEST,Stim 08 Sep 13 - 10:45 PM
mg 08 Sep 13 - 11:02 PM
mg 08 Sep 13 - 11:02 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 09 Sep 13 - 02:58 AM
mg 09 Sep 13 - 03:15 AM
johncharles 09 Sep 13 - 04:04 AM
gnomad 09 Sep 13 - 06:32 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 09 Sep 13 - 06:38 AM
gnomad 09 Sep 13 - 07:16 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 09 Sep 13 - 07:57 AM
johncharles 09 Sep 13 - 08:37 AM
mg 09 Sep 13 - 11:26 AM
Snuffy 09 Sep 13 - 12:28 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 09 Sep 13 - 12:53 PM
mg 09 Sep 13 - 01:13 PM
Stringsinger 09 Sep 13 - 01:57 PM
Commander Crabbe 09 Sep 13 - 02:35 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 09 Sep 13 - 02:55 PM
Commander Crabbe 09 Sep 13 - 03:48 PM
Joe_F 09 Sep 13 - 09:19 PM
Teribus 10 Sep 13 - 02:10 AM
Dave the Gnome 10 Sep 13 - 04:12 AM
Nigel Parsons 10 Sep 13 - 06:29 AM
GUEST,Grishka 10 Sep 13 - 08:00 AM
Sir Roger de Beverley 10 Sep 13 - 11:14 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 10 Sep 13 - 11:35 AM
GUEST,Don Wise 10 Sep 13 - 02:41 PM
Joe_F 10 Sep 13 - 11:08 PM
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Subject: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 07 Sep 13 - 01:56 PM

I'm a big fan of country singer Randy Travis and I have a soft spot for his country, story song "The Box".
However, I think some of the lyrics could be improved.
Now, you'll have to listen to the song (see link) to put all this into context, but I'd change the line:
         
          "But that was long before we found the box"

to   " But that was up until we found the box"

What do we think?


The Box video link


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: mg
Date: 07 Sep 13 - 02:10 PM

i can't see much difference. as long asthe rhythm is good and the lines rhyme easily and without forcing a strange accent on the words, it doesn't matter too much to me..plus i am of the belief it is best to leave songs alone and sing as is...exceptions being where the rhythm is off or there is something racist, offensive etc. being said.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 07 Sep 13 - 02:20 PM

mg, don't get distracted!
THINK! Which line is clearer, and makes more sense! And, for that matter, is more dramatic!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 07 Sep 13 - 02:54 PM

For the sake of informed discussion, from This site

Songwriters: MOORE, BUCK A. / TRAVIS, RANDY

On the top shelf in the closet
In the workshop where he spent his extra time
Was a dusty wooden box that I had never noticed 'til that night
Then we set it on the table and carefully we opened up the top
And stared into the memories Daddy kept inside the box

There was a letter from Mamma, when she went out to Reno
To help her sister out in '62
And a flower from Hawaii, when they went on vacation
It was the first time that my Daddy ever flew

And the pocket knife I gave to him on Fathers day
Years ago I thought it had been lost
We all thought his heart was made of solid rock
But that was long before we found the box

I guess we always knew it, but "I love you" was hard for him to say
Some men show it easily and some just never seem to find the way
But that night I began to see the softer side of someone I had lost
I saw the love he kept inside the first time that we opened up the box

There was a picture that was taken when he and Mom were datin'
Standing by his 1940 Ford
And a faded leather Bible, he got when he was baptized
I guess no one understood him like the Lord

And a poem that he had written all about his wife and children
The tender words he wrote were quite a shock

We all thought his heart was made of solid rock
But that was long before we found the box
We all thought his heart was made of solid rock
But that was long before we found the box


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 07 Sep 13 - 03:07 PM

As to the original question:
Now, you'll have to listen to the song (see link) to put all this into context, but I'd change the line:
         
          "But that was long before we found the box"

to   " But that was up until we found the box"

What do we think?

I don't think either version really 'hits the spot'.
The singer's (previous) view of their father was formed before seeing the contents of the box of mementos. How 'long before' we don't know.
Finding the box (the alternate suggestion) doesn't change the view of the father, it is seeing the contents that evokes the change.

Possibly more suited (but more of a change to the lyric):
"That all changed when we looked inside the box."
or
"Our minds change when we looked into/inside the box"
or
"We knew him when we looked inside the box"

or, for the coda:
We all thought his heart was made of solid rock
But that changed when we looked inside the box
We all thought his heart was made of solid rock
We knew him when we looked inside the box.


Just thoughts.
The original author knew what he meant, and what he wanted to evoke.
Change for change's sake is not always a good idea. If the song has touched you enough to make you want to learn it & sing it, then surely it was the original words that so touched you. Possibly leave it as it is?

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 07 Sep 13 - 03:44 PM

Disagree!
The change that I suggest covers everything!
The second they opened the box their view of "the father" started to change, and by the time they had finished looking at the contents it had been radically changed. One could even talk about a "u turn" change.
So, "up until they found the box", they had a particular view, but after they found it, and studied the contents, their view was changed forever.
That dramatic revelation is enhanced by the lyrics that I suggest, but not by the original lyrics!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 07 Sep 13 - 03:51 PM

So, "up until they found the box", they had a particular view, but after they found it, and studied the contents, their view was changed forever.
Exactly, it's not 'finding the box' that brings about the change, which is why I suggested a further revision.

Cheers


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 07 Sep 13 - 04:00 PM

Oh dear!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 07 Sep 13 - 04:32 PM

I agree with Nigel, and with the OP in principle. However, RT is describing a mindset the family had while the father was still alive, long before they found the box. Between his death and the inspection of the box, the view on the father was of course the same, but did not matter that much.

In other words: the narrator primarily regrets his lack of judgment during the father's lifetime, that's why he mentions "long before". Something like "I wish we then had known about the box!" or "If only long ago we'd found that box!" would convey the "long before" aspect.

If I were to "cover" the song, I would not deem the flaw grave enough to justify such an incisive change. The whole song tells a powerful story, also very idiomatic of the genre - clearly above average.

Future lyricists can learn from RT and from this thread. Poetry is a tough job.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 07 Sep 13 - 04:50 PM

Disagree!
The opening of the box was the life-changing moment!
Between, getting up - on the day they found the box - and going to bed, on that same day, they, their father/husband, became a different person!
Yes, up until they found the box, they thought they knew the man.
That is the drama! That is the suddenness. That is the shock of the new!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 07 Sep 13 - 05:26 PM

No objection, Tunesmith. The question I tried to answer is: what may have been the idea behind RT's "long before", assuming it was not a temporary total blackout of poetic judgment. The line is repeated several times - ample opportunity for him to recognize the problem and solve it if he had wished so.

The narrator's regretful thoughts when inspecting the box wandered to the father's lifetime, which was "long before", when the knowledge would have been most valuable. The author did well to keep this time perspective throughout the chorus, leaving the shock aspect to the verses. (Switching aspects too quickly is a common mistake in rhetorics. For example, "A but B but C" makes less of a point than "A and C but B".)


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 08 Sep 13 - 02:47 AM

Not your song to change, Tunesmith. Even if it was, you're line doesn't flow like Randy's does. Thanks for starting the thread, though, I'd forgotten the song, and I like it.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: DMcG
Date: 08 Sep 13 - 03:00 AM

Maybe its because I'm less interested in contemporary songs in general, but to me with most songs - and this is one - you are really trying to get some sort of story across. And as a singer/performer you try to do that as best you can. So in my world, I swap lines, verses around, omit them or occasionally add them, so that the story is told in the best way *to me*. obviously, I am also thinking of the listeners, but if I'm not happy with it ....

Of course, there will be listeners who feel you have got the song wrong because you didn't stick to the original words. To me, it boils down to whether you trying to be a CD-player or an interpreter.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 08 Sep 13 - 03:38 AM

Well, interestingly songs have been lyrically - and melodically -revised even after they have been recorded.
I remember being shocked to hear Hugh Jones's changing some of the lines in his marvellous "Marco Polo".
Likewise, Bruce Springsteen's much loved song "Thunder Road" seems to have been completed in the recording studio as earlier versions of the song ( which can be heard on bootleg recordings) don't even contain the words thunder road.
My problem with the words, in the line in question, is that they suggest that the writer of the song didn't really get inside the heads of the characters that he created!

And as to the "it's not your song to change", well, if it's out there, it can and will be changed!
It's called the folk process, you know!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 08 Sep 13 - 04:20 AM

Cover versions with slightly changed lyrics do exist, presumably with the copyright holders' consent. If the implied attitude is "I corrected a blunder", it takes very strong arguments to convince the fans. -
My problem with the words, in the line in question, is that they suggest that the writer of the song didn't really get inside the heads of the characters that he created!
My impression is quite different, as I stated above. "We all had thought his heart was made of solid rocks; if only we had known the contents of the box long before, when he was still alive, we could have had a better relationship!" would sound perfectly understandable to me. (Like many people, I also inherited such boxes from deceased relatives. I was not shocked, but sometimes surprised, and my thoughts were "Why did s/he never talk about that? Some misunderstandings could have been avoided" - always related to the past.)

The problem I see is only of language and poetic rhetorics. If you sacrifice the latter in favour of the former, you may not achieve the overall improvement required to appease RT fans.

(Folk process must not be misunderstood as any kind of licence, but a justification from hindsight by an evolutionary process.)


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,DTM
Date: 08 Sep 13 - 05:23 AM

I change the lyrics of songs as I see fit however, being the hypocrite that I am, I would be really annoyed if someone changed the lyrics of one my own compositions ;-)


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Joe_F
Date: 08 Sep 13 - 05:50 PM

I am glad to see at last that, in agreement with its subject line, this thread is about more than one song.

I have no hesitation in emending Tom Paxton's "I Am Changing My Name to Chrysler", a song that deserves to survive, but on which he spent a little too little time. "What the dollar used to get us/Now won't buy a head of lettuce" is incoherent; it ought to be "What a day's work used to get us...". And "I will tell my power broker" would be funnier than "I will tell some power broker". (Of course I have one -- doesn't everybody?)


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 08 Sep 13 - 06:48 PM

"... The dollar is in sorry shape tonight;
What the dollar used to get us
Now won't buy a head of lettuce."

may be meant to mean: nowadays a dollar does not even buy a head of lettuce - not related to income, just inflation. If you wish to change it to be about income, it must run like "what a day's work nowadays gets us ...", which rhymes with lettsuce.

In many cases, making a new song is the best solution. Still, I am looking forward to reading from other "improvers" in this thread.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 08 Sep 13 - 08:29 PM

Tunesmith - PM
Date: 07 Sep 13 - 04:50 PM
Disagree!
The opening of the box was the life-changing moment!
Between, getting up - on the day they found the box - and going to bed, on that same day, they, their father/husband, became a different person!
Yes, up until they found the box, they thought they knew the man.
That is the drama! That is the suddenness. That is the shock of the new!

Sorry, Tunesmith; Just saying "Disagree!" cuts no ice. You started this thread requesting opinions. From the original lyrics it is quite clear that finding 'the box' is not the cause of changed perceptions. It is only the viewing of the (listed) contents which allow the singer to revisit their view of their father.

Anyway, in your quote which I just gave you say that "the opening of the box was the life-changing moment". Your re-wording of the song makes the finding of the box the life changer!

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 08 Sep 13 - 08:37 PM

The folk process is the folk process. Travis mightta beatcha to it.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Ebbie
Date: 08 Sep 13 - 09:20 PM

Frankly, I don't understand anyone feeling hesitant or guilty about changing words, phrases and the order of verses written by anyone. Now, if I were singing on a stage where everyone could hear my hubris that might be different, especially if the writer of the original lines was in the audience... :)

But if you are singing it with your friends or in your corner of the universe, I see no harm in it.

A wonderful song that I consider a classic, a literal anthem, written by a friend of mine is much improved by a small change I made. Whether or not she agrees with it. :)

She begins the song with the refrain, asking
Did I do what I came to do
Say what I want to say
Help to make this world a better place
To live and work and play
Did I feel your joy and heal your pain
And help you on your way
Did I forge a link in the holy chain
To build a brighter day

With her permission I begin the song with "Did YOU", etc. Confrontational and accusatory, yes, but after the verses lay the groundwork, the last refrain says "Did I.." and the audience readily joins in.

In some other songs I get the impression that they were released a tiny bit prematurely, or would perhaps have benefited by having a co-writer.

I know a songwriter who sang of the "tempetuous seas". There ain't no such animal; he obviously conflated impetuous and tempest.

I do NOT sing 'tempetuous'.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: mg
Date: 08 Sep 13 - 10:11 PM

I like, as I usually do, the original verses better...I think it is rare that a song is improved on, but whatever works is good...

there is a word called tempestuous..slight difference in spelling

Tempestuous | Define Tempestuous at Dictionary.com
dictionary.reference.com/browse/tempestuous   Cached
adjective 1. characterized by or subject to tempests : the tempestuous ocean. 2. of the nature of or resembling a tempest : a tempestuous wind. 3. tumultuous


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 08 Sep 13 - 10:45 PM

Here's the deal-when I say "It's not your song" I am not talking about the material ownership of the song, I am talking about creative ownership-you didn't create, and you don't understand how it works.
"Long before we found the box" is a beautiful, musical phrase, what you wrote isn't. When you make changes, make sure they are improvements.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: mg
Date: 08 Sep 13 - 11:02 PM

I think there is a danger of what the song looks like written vs. sung too. up until is harder to say than long before..which does not make it better or worse...the only way we can figure this out is with songs we are not familiar with and be presented with two or more variants and see which ones we like the most. Song lyrics go by really fast and our ears process them differently than spoken words or written words...

and if I could urge people to not change one thing it would be changing the gender back and forth...it hurts a song so much in my opinion..i will always change it back to the original if I can confirm anything.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: mg
Date: 08 Sep 13 - 11:02 PM

I think there is a danger of what the song looks like written vs. sung too. up until is harder to say than long before..which does not make it better or worse...the only way we can figure this out is with songs we are not familiar with and be presented with two or more variants and see which ones we like the most. Song lyrics go by really fast and our ears process them differently than spoken words or written words...

and if I could urge people to not change one thing it would be changing the gender back and forth...it hurts a song so much in my opinion..i will always change it back to the original if I can confirm anything.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 02:58 AM

So you're all saying we must accept songs as perfect? Not to be touched? Crazy!
Maybe you guys don't study songs like I do, but there are so many dodgy lyrics and poorly constructed parts of songs.
Randy Travis, for example, has "ruined" some of his potentially great songs by having awkward chord changes in his choruses.
I think this stems from the desire to do something different,
Different is fine...if it works1

And, by the way, I still say that "my line" adds to the drama of the story, and is not at all ambiguous!

The line "that was long before we found the box" is clearly ambiguous!
Indeed, I think all of you, who like the original line, like it for the wrong reason!
You like it because of the way it sounds!
You are dismissing the ambiguous nature of the line!
"up until we found the box" is not at all ambiguous, and it emphasises the sudden, dramatic change the family went through upon examining the contents of the box.

Again, here are the TWO lines in question:

"We all thought his heart was solid rock,
but that was long before we found the box"

That's just plainly confusing!

No,No,No! The family still thought his heart was solid rock five minutes before they found the box!

"We all thought his heart was solid rock
but that was up until we found the box"

Now, that isn't confusing! That covers everything

And, by the way Nigel. " FOUND THE BOX" in the context of the song, means " the contents of the box" Get it!

!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: mg
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 03:15 AM

that i s just what i was thinking..that for some people..and i am one..it is how the song sounds, how the words roll off the tongue..some kind of fit...i don't analyze songs and i don't try for the most part try to figure out the meaning although i might have a go at carricfergus some day. i am definitely in the how it sounds camp and alter my mental image to fit whatever the words are. i never get too upset with what the words should be unless they don't rhyme or accent is off.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: johncharles
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 04:04 AM

"Indeed, I think all of you, who like the original line, like it for the wrong reason!"
Not much point our offering an opinion then.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: gnomad
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 06:32 AM

Folks "improving" songs are often merely demonstrating their own failure to grasp the author's intention.

In some cases they improve things into utter nonsense (thinking here particularly of some changes to E Bogle's well-crafted works) other times they simply make the author out to be saying something other than what was meant.

Such changes are sometimes accidental, sometimes deliberate. I wouldn't dispute a singer's right to make them, though I believe that they should not be undertaken unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly. Nor would I question the public's right to say whether or not they are an improvement. In this case I think not as, like mg, I think the original sounds better. Ambiguities may be intentional, they give a listener more to think about, some like this.

If one is going to analyse exactly what any songwriter meant one should pay him the compliment of believing he knew his own mind.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 06:38 AM

gnomad said: "If one is going to analyse exactly what any songwriter meant one should pay him the compliment of believing he knew his own mind"

Yes, but maybe they rushed the song! Recording deadlines etc!
Maybe, they just missed something!

Remember, even very good novelists have editors who read their drafts and suggest improvements!

It's not unique! It goes on all the time!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: gnomad
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 07:16 AM

Yes, maybe, but most likely? Future performances/publications give ample opportunity to writers wishing to revise their works.

Editing goes on regularly (style and punctuation being particular targets) but usually with the author's consent and/or cooperation, and most editors are appointed by either a publisher or the author.

As I said, you have the right to make changes, but that right doesn't mean that just any change you make will be for the better.

Presumably that is why you asked "What do we think?" Sorry but at least some here feel you haven't improved the song. You are entitled to believe we are idiots (if you do, the rash of !!!!!!!!!!!!!!s suggests this) but that doesn't make you right.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 07:57 AM

If anyone has ever read anything on the art of song writing, they will be familiar with advice that says that clarity is very important.
Budding song writers are told even if they have a favourite line in a song, it must be cut if it doesn't do its job properly.

"That was long before we found the box" has a romantic quality to it BUT it is not a good line - being ambiguous and lacking clarity.

It has to go!!!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: johncharles
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 08:37 AM

Who exactly, said "clarity is very important".
The suggested revision, " But that was up until we found the box" seems rather clunky to me.
Maybe the original writer should be consulted for his opinion on this.
john


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: mg
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 11:26 AM

clarity is very important if you are writing documents for the irs..not so sure it applies to songwriting


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Snuffy
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 12:28 PM

Opacity in his lyrics doesn't seem to have done Richard Thompson much harm.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 12:53 PM

Ah, Richard Thompson! Now, where do we start!
"Don't Renege on our love"!
Now that sounds so artificial!
Could you ever imagine a man saying to his wife "don't renege on our love?"
I don't know anyone who would use the word renege in that situation.
But, I know exactly how Richard got there!
He looked at " don't give up on our love" . No, that won't do, it's been used before!
Then, he tried, "Don't go back on our love".
No, No! That's been used before!
And, so he carried on, and eventually - using a thesaurus ? - he came upon renege!
Yes, that hasn't been used before. Great!
However, as I said earlier, it sounds contrived and artificial!


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: mg
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 01:13 PM

I suspect that don't renege on our love are the first words that came to him.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 01:57 PM

"On the top shelf in the closet
In the workshop where he spent his extra time
Was a dusty wooden box that I had never noticed 'til that night
Then we set it on the table and carefully we opened up the top
And stared into the memories Daddy kept inside the box"

The stanza has no rhyme scheme. "time and night" are consonant words but are not rhymes. The same with "top" and "box".

"There was a letter from Mamma, when she went out to Reno
To help her sister out in '62
And a flower from Hawaii, when they went on vacation
It was the first time that my Daddy ever flew"

Now this stanza does have a masculine rhyme on lines two and four.
This doesn't feel like a chorus, though.

" And the pocket knife I gave to him on Fathers day
Years ago I thought it had been lost"

This is broken syntax. It should read "Years ago, on Father's day,
I gave him this pocket knife." Then another line to indicate that he
thought it was lost. Otherwise, the crammed information in the lines
are jumbled and confusing.

"We all thought his heart was made of solid rock
But that was long before we found the box"

Again, "rock" and "box" don't rhyme. If they thought his heart
was made of solid rock, then the opening of the box doesn't make
any difference whatever on that point.

"I guess we always knew it, but "I love you" was hard for him to say
Some men show it easily and some just never seem to find the way"

Now this is inconsistent since he rhymes "say" and "way" but not in the
other stanzas. He does it here but not in the others which indicate a
laziness in the craft.


"But that night I began to see the softer side of someone I had lost
I saw the love he kept inside the first time that we opened up the box "

"lost" and "box" is an imperfect attempt at rhyme. The love was the revelatory
moment in opening the box, not the "hard heart".


There was a picture that was taken when he and Mom were datin'
Standing by his 1940 Ford
And a faded leather Bible, he got when he was baptized
I guess no one understood him like the Lord

Here, there is a rhyme on the second and fourth line that match the stanza
about Momma and Reno.

But throughout the song, there is a notable inconsistency in the rhyme patterns
and those lines without rhymes but an attempt to use false rhymes such as
"rock" and "box".

"And a poem that he had written all about his wife and children
The tender words he wrote were quite a shock

We all thought his heart was made of solid rock
But that was long before we found the box
We all thought his heart was made of solid rock
But that was long before we found the box"

It's a sentimental piece of writing to indicate that the father really was
a loving father which I doubt very much. That's not convincing.
It's an appeal to an authoritarian father, a John Wayne who probably treated
his family like shit, but then is absolved by a letter in a box. I don't buy it
as sincere.

The song is lazy songwriting in my opinion. It's not constructed well due to its inconsistencies and It doesn't make me feel any sympathy for any of the people in the song.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Commander Crabbe
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 02:35 PM

You think what you think and we'll think what we think.

If you are looking for approval for your change why don't you ask Randy himself? I'm sure he would be happy to explain his context behind the words that were written.

Personally I don't care if you change it to suit your idea of how it should be at all. However, if you do, don't be too surprised if people don't agree with you!

Chris


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 02:55 PM

Commander Crabbe said:
"If you are looking for approval for your change why don't you ask Randy himself? I'm sure he would be happy to explain his context behind the words that were written"

Well, that's not going to happen!

Randy is not very well at the moment; indeed, it seems it's just a matter of time - a short time - until he's no longer with us.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Commander Crabbe
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 03:48 PM

It might be possible!

www.cbsnews.com/8301-207.../randy-travis-to-release-an-album-this-fall/

Chris


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Joe_F
Date: 09 Sep 13 - 09:19 PM

Grishka: I indeed supposed the lines to refer to inflation. I simply cannot get the meaning you mention from the lines you quote. "What a dollar used to get us" is not a sum of money, but some commodity; saying it "won't buy a head of lettuce" is incoherent. What a day's work used to get us *is* a sum of money, and saying it won't buy a head of lettuce *is* to say that inflation has occurred.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Teribus
Date: 10 Sep 13 - 02:10 AM

"Folks "improving" songs are often merely demonstrating their own failure to grasp the author's intention.

In some cases they improve things into utter nonsense (thinking here particularly of some changes to E Bogle's well-crafted works)"


No Mans Land - absolute howler crafted by Eric:

"But here in this graveyard that's still No Man's Land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand"


No British and Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery has "white crosses" - they intentionally went for non-denominational square headstones upon which a cross, Star of David or Crescent could be carved. The only WWI Cemeteries that have crosses are those honouring the German dead and that would have made the subject of the song Wilhelm.

As for "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda"

"They gave me a tin hat they gave me a gun
and they sent me away to the war"

Not in 1915 they didn't Eric - It would have been a Slouch Hat - "Tin Bowlers" were not issued as standard part of every man's kit until 1916, prior to that they were issued to those moving into the trenches in France and the soldiers then handed them over to their reliefs at the end of their stint.

"And how in that hell they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter"

A couple of points here for Eric - there were no Australian troops landed at Suvla Bay, and the landing there was largely unopposed.

If you are going to the trouble to write a song in retrospect then you should at least pay your subject the respect to get things right.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 10 Sep 13 - 04:12 AM

An untouched photograph is an accurate and often beautiful picture. A painting can be beautiful but can also be inaccurate. Same with songs. If you want accuracy, use text books. If you are more concerned with how it looks or sounds than how accurate it is leave the artist to it.

Nothing wrong with providing your own interpretation of course, everyone does it, but remember that your interpretation may not have the same meaning that the songwriter intended.

Just my 2p.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 10 Sep 13 - 06:29 AM

Oh, to hell with it!

Let's just change the line to:

"That was 'fore we put him in a box."


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 10 Sep 13 - 08:00 AM

Joe, What a day's work used to get us *is* a sum of money - not in my understanding, but I cannot speak for the whole English-listening community. In fact the song "complains" about loss of wealth by inflation, which means it assumes savings in dollars. "A day's work" is from a different branch of economics, so it forms awkward poetry even if we concede it to be correct. In fact the whole song reflects the sort of economics discussed in pubs after a pint or two, so correct theory is not the point at all - that's the fun of it.

Generally, I agree that many successful songs are of questionable craftsmanship, in their lyrics and in their music. Discussing the problems is a good idea, but the main benefit should be to make better songs oneself, rather than doctoring on existing ones.

A "serious" Song Challenge, starting from the complete contents in prose, might bring about such benefits. See my proposal in Jokes turned into songs.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Sir Roger de Beverley
Date: 10 Sep 13 - 11:14 AM

My hearing isn't great so I have probably altered many songs by mishearing. However, one that I have altered deliberately is "Still Got the Fever" by Ian McNabb former leader of the "Icicle Works" and sometime member of the Waterboys.

He has a line in there which goes "I still get excited at the silliest things, I can't keep from smiling when the birdies sing." which I wouldn't class as one of his best. Everyone who knows me is aware that I'm a big Buddy Holly fan so I have altered that line to "I can't keep from smiling when Buddy sings"

It makes me happy and most people who hear me sing the song wouldn't know the original anyway.


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 10 Sep 13 - 11:35 AM

I've mentioned this before, I think.
I was once asked to teach "Jamaican Farewell" to a bunch of kids, but on scanning the lyrics I realised that the opening line, " Far away where the nights are gay" would lead to silly reactions from some of the children.
I changed it to " Far away where the warm winds play".


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 10 Sep 13 - 02:41 PM

The wind of arrogance blows through this thread........

Accidentally changing parts of the text because of hearing problems of one kind or another is normal and we all do it. The main thing is that the story is unchanged.

Whether a song is good or bad is a personal decision. Whether a song is historically correct or not, and how this may or may not affect the story being told as a whole depends upon how pedantic you feel you need to be.

Changing the text because you think that your 'improvement' is what the composer actually had in mind because it suits your linguistic hang-ups smacks, I hate to say, of arrogance. Or have you had the politeness to get in touch with the composer(s) concerned over the matter? I have, in the course of the last 40 years or so, written a few songs and I have, now and again, excercised my right to make changes to them. I know of some people who changed some lyrics because they were trying to transcribe from old cassette recordings they'd made under lousy conditions. The stories weren't affected so that was OK by me.

However I would jump on anyone deliberately changing my lyrics because they think they know better than me what I had in mind when I wrote them. If I construct and formulate parts or all of the text in a certain way it's because I specifically want it that way and my response to anyone deliberately changing parts of the text would be,"Just who the f*** do you think you are??"


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Subject: RE: Improving Lyrics?
From: Joe_F
Date: 10 Sep 13 - 11:08 PM

Grishka: I absolutely do not understand you. People work for money; what a day's work gets them is money. People spend money for other things; what a dollar gets them is things. In order to complain about inflation, what you need is the former description.


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