Category: poetry

When I Wrote “Songs” and Was a Legend in My Own Mind

It seems like I have always been writing, my whole life, in one form or another. There was a period in my life (my teens and early twenties) when I wrote “songs”. I started out writing rap songs, then when I moved away from my collaborator and best friend, I drifted off into writing what I heard in my head as rock “songs”.

What’s with the quotes?

Well, I never really mastered any musical instrument, and never bothered to work on anything digital, so the words I wrote were only ever songs inside my brain.

My passion is for words. Making them click. Making the message come through in a provocative (call to action) or at least amusing way.

I am a writer.

But that is not a limitation. If someone has illustrations for a book and needs something written, or if they have an idea but are just really good at the business end of getting it published, fine. I am their man. There is nothing wrong with being a piece of the puzzle in the creative process. It can really be inspiring and motivating. If you’ve ever watched the TV show Songland, you may know what I mean.

I am just a writer of words. And that’s okay.

I could have done something with my “songs” — I could have collaborated with some musicians. I didn’t, but I could have. I moved on to the various other, more productive phases of my writing career that you’ve already read about if you’ve followed this blog.

But the point is always, always know the value of the piece of the creative puzzle that you have to offer. It could be the piece someone else is looking for in their own puzzle.

Cover Songs That Most Improved on the Original:

The following are in my opinion the cover songs that most improved on the originals, or just made it infinitely more fun. They are not necessarily the best covers. And this is not to say that the originals are not great in their own way, even if I don’t like all of them. These are just the covers that brought a much needed energy or color that was missing in the original.

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – Guns n’ Roses (original artist: Bob Dylan)

First off, far be it from anyone really to call the poetry of early Dylan into question. But this song itself, though I do suspect it was recorded this way to put the focus squarely there, on the lyrics, is just plain dull. Guns n’ Roses injected an energy (nay, a virility!) into the song that honors the spirit of the original and calls the attention to it like the original recording could not. They keep the verses fairly simple. Maybe they added some texture. But the chorus is where GnR took this song to where it needed to be. And all they did, aside from making it much heavier, was add some “hey…hey….hey hey yeah”s in between the repeated phrase “knock knock knockin’ on Heaven’s door” where in the Dylan version you just had ol’ Bob strumming his six string. It plodded along a bit. Guns n’ Roses kept you engaged.

Sound of Silence – Disturbed (original artist: Simon and Garfunkel)

Weirdly, I remember thinking before the Disturbed version of this was released that “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel was “the softest heavy metal song I’ve ever heard.” I don’t know what is about the song that struck me as so metal. I guess it is something in the minor tones that are used throughout. In any case, the Disturbed cover just felt absolutely right when it came along. Anyway the super serene and quiet acoustic duet of Simon and Garfunkel to me always seemed a bit on the nose, too literal. It needed to be made heavy.

Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Marilyn Manson (original artist: The Eurhythmics)

I swear, I am not even a metal head. Having said that, I think there is something about a metal artist covering a song that was decidedly on the softer side in its original form that will always impress me simply for the new vitality the heavier treatment gives it. But this one, particularly, hits the essence of the song right on the head without being too on the nose (see above). There was always something dark and ominous about the content of “Sweet Dreams” even in its original form. So it was just asking for the death metal makeover Manson gave it. Too me, 1980s synth is the stuff of nightmares to begin with, so maybe I am biased. Probably.

Lovers in a Dangerous Time – The Barenaked Ladies (original artist: Bruce Cockburn)

My wife brought the Barenaked Ladies to my attention almost 20 years ago, and their cover of “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” quickly became one of my favorites. The production on their version gives it the feel of a purposeful journey mired in a haze of uncertainty. Open road in the middle of nowhere on a foggy night. I did not know it was a cover until just a few years ago. I immediately went to listen to the Cockburn version. I did not like it. Maybe it’s because to me it sounds like it is drenched in synth and the drum machines. It simply does not have the personality, the heart that the BNL version has. That is saying a lot of a band that is so well known for silly lyrics, that to many they are one step to the right of being a comedy troupe rather than a band. Like the Canadian Blink-182.

Rainbow Connection – Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (original artist: Kermit the Frog)

Speaking of bands that are almost a comedy troupe, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are a cover band. They only do covers. And all of their albums have a theme. Whether it be country music, psychedelic 60s or show tunes, the Gimmes take whatever they are doing and turn everything into punk rock. Thus, anything they touch is bound to sound like a staggeringly innovative work of genius. Maybe. Anyway you start with the imagery of a puppet playing a ukulele and they take this song and transform it into a Ramones-like bash out.

Honorable Mention: Every song that Joe Cocker ever covered. Also, the Whitney Houston cover of “I Will Always Love You” goes without saying.

What are your favorite covers?

I’ve Been a Poet

Though I am a professional blogger, this is not a blog about blogging. It is about writing of various types. One of those types is blogging, but we’ll get to that.

Right now I want to talk about poetry.

Blogging at its most raw is a platform to rant. Though blogging can allow the writer freedom from any particular rules of style or meter, if you don’t know how to structure your rant, it can descend into anarchy quickly. It takes discipline and detachment to look at your work and know whether you are delivering your message with grace.

Poetry can come in paragraph form.

To achieve that “grace”, it takes economy. How can I say what I need to say in the least amount of words as necessary to get the job done? How can I do that without being needlessly sparse?

In the effort to be economical, you run the risk of stripping your writing down to the bare bones. In doing so, you take away the heart. Your writing loses its color. You’re no longer painting a picture, but sketching with stick figures.

I learned how to create that balance in my writing with poetry, which I referred to as “songs.” They were for a band that only existed in my head called “Equilibrium.” Our debut album was called “Misfit’s Manifesto.”

But I digress.

It’s True. I’ve Been a Poet, a Blogger, an Author, a Newsman…

I decided when I was fifteen that I was going to be a journalist “when I grow up.” Little did I know that though I would do that, I’d also be the author of:

  • magazine articles
  • books (published and un-published)
  • several blogs (personally and professionally)
  • and a string of sarcastic and witty poetry, some of which I, in a fit of grandeur saw as the next “Jabberwocky” or as scathing punk rock songs.

I am now a professional blogger with my current endeavor, Dailey Freelance Blogging. I started this blog because I wanted to show you how every piece of my past as a writer has prepared me for the work I do now.

In the upcoming four-part series, which I call the “I’ve Been a…” series, I’d like to show you how, with everything I have done as a writer, I have been building toward working for you.

This is what I can bring to the table in writing your company’s blog.
This is how I can help you reach the audience you are trying to reach.

As the name of this blog implies, I plan to post an installment once a week. Hit the Follow button or bookmark this blog to keep up with the series, and beyond.

Thanks!