Wednesday, July 12, 2017

that's catchy!

----------- [excerpt from Dylan's Chronicles] -------- What I was into was the traditional stuff with a capital T and it was as far away from the mondo teeno scene as you could get.  Into Lou's tape recorder I could make things up on the spot all based on folk music structure, and it came natural. 

As far as serious songwriting went, the songs I could see myself writing if I was that talented would be the kinds of songs that I wanted to sing. 

Outside of Woody Guthrie, I didn't see a single living soul who did it. 

Sitting in Lou's office I rattled off lines and verses based on the stuff I knew -- "Cumberland Gap," "Fire on the Mountain," "Shady Grove," "Hard, Ain't It Hard." 

I changed words around and added something of my own here and there.  Nothing do or die, nothing really formulated, all major chord stuff, maybe a typical minor key thing, something like "Sixteen Tons." 

You could write twenty or more songs off that one melody by slightly altering it.  I could slip in verses or lines from old spirituals or blues.  That was okay; others did it all the time.  There was little head work involved. 

What I usually did was start out with something, some kind of line written in stone and then turn it with another line -- make it add up to something else than it originally did.  It's not like I ever practiced it and it wasn't too thought consuming.  Not that I would sing any of it onstage.

Lou had never heard any of this kind of thing before, so there was very little feedback from him.  Once in a while he would stop the machine and have me start over on something. 

He'd say, "That's catchy," and then want me to do it again. 

When that happened, I usually did something different because I hadn't paid attention to whatever I just sung, so I couldn't repeat it like he just heard it.  I had no idea what he was going to do with all this stuff.  It was as anti-big mainstream as you could get.  Leeds Music had published songs like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "C'est Si Bon," "Under Paris Skies," "All or Nothing at All," Henry Mancini songs like "Peter Gunn," "I'll Never Smile Again" and all the songs that were in Bye Bye Birdie, a big Broadway hit.

              *        *

The one song that had hooked me up with Leeds Music, the one that convinced John Hammond to bring me over there in the first place, wasn't an outreaching song at all but more of an homage in lyric and melody to the man who'd pointed out the starting place for my identity and destiny -- the great Woody Guthrie. 

I wrote the song with him in mind, and I used the melody from one of his old songs, having no idea that it would be the first of maybe a thousand songs that I would write.  My life had never been the same since I'd first heard Woody on a record player in Minneapolis a few years earlier.  When I first heard him it was like a million megaton bomb had dropped. --------------- [end / excerpt]

{Chronicles.  Bob Dylan.  2004.  Simon & Schuster.}



No comments:

Post a Comment