(Does the World Need) Another Love Song

Image (18)In my teens and twenties life was all about music.  I made a living through journalism but my dreams were bound up in writing songs and performing. And perform I did.  I had a fairly regular slot at the Mean Fiddler, played places like Dingwalls and the Twelve Bar and other good acoustic venues in London.

Then when I hit thirty I realised that what I really wanted to do was write.   I sat down and turned out a novel. The first draft took me about three months, which was fast for 105,000 words.

Writing hadn’t come quite so easily before, however a couple of years earlier I’d had what, in retrospect, was a pivotal meeting with a writer that, in a sense, gave me permission to write.

I had arranged to interview the sci-fi and fantasy writer Michael Moorcock for Vox magazine. I used to do regular book reviews for Vox. It was a fairly highbrow music mag that had grown up as its readers had grown up – an NME for people who thought about their music a bit more, if you like.

Moorcock’s publishers had just reprinted pretty much his entire back catalogue collecting a couple of dozen or so books into seven or eight volumes – Moorcock’s novels tended to be short series of three or four stories following the same character (though in some respects all his characters were different facets of ‘The Eternal Champion’). I can’t remember how many I read before I met him and how many afterwards, but I read the lot.

So I went round to his place in The Boltons, a very smart part of West Kensington where he and his wife had a really lovely apartment in a Victorian mansion block.  Moorcock told me he’d had a fantasy that I was Nick Kent’s son, Nick Kent being the Rolling Stone journalist who’d travelled round with The Stones in the early 70s documenting a very dark period in the life of the band; all smack and orgies and screwing people over.

He also had a lovely anecdote about being pursued down Ladbroke Grove by Marc Bolan, he on his bicycle, Bolan in his Rolls Royce shouting ‘Michael, Michael, why won’t you talk to me?’ and Moorcock muttering ‘fuck off you ponce’ under his breath. IMG_3396

I also remember him talking about how he got a lot of his inspiration from migraines. His were debilitating but also hallucinatory and somehow unlocked his imagination.

But the greatest thing I took away from out meeting was his telling me he would write as much as 10,000 words a day, enough to churn out a short novel in a week.

That was pretty intimidating until I discovered that Ernest Hemingway used to write just a couple of hundred words a day.  That was when I think I relaxed about writing. I knew that when I decided to write I’d write more than Hemingway and less than Moorcock and, indeed, that however much I wrote was OK so long as I wrote.

When I joined the BBC however I found that a lot of my creativity was sucked into my work. That was no bad thing. I loved making radio features.  However it was difficult to find the energy to both write and make radio and, in any case, radio honed my writing skills.  It did however put paid to my songwriting.

A little while ago I pulled out my guitar case where all my lyrics live and dug out this.  These are the words to a song I wrote in my early 20s.  It was written with someone in mind but, as is often the case, I think I simply found inspiration wherever I stumbled upon it.  It was a passing fancy, however the song that came out of it had far more substance to it than any of the transient feelings that brief crush provoked.

It’s called, rather self deprecatingly, ‘(Does the World Need) Another Love Song’.  With hindsight I think the answer is yes.  It’s not just that you can never have too many.  It’s that this most complicated of emotions has as many permutations as there are combinations of people.  It has inspired art and artists since there have been art and artists to be inspired.

And while there are plenty of songs or poems or books or paintings that get nowhere near expressing how you feel, the genius of art is that through other people’s expression of their feelings, one’s own feelings find better expression. So, always seeing myself as a better lyricist than writer of tunes, I think these were quite possibly the best lyrics I ever wrote.

Midsummer’s night and a solstice breeze whispers that spring’s gone by,

Between gravestones and a perilous moon, just you, the ghosts and I,

And I hold your hand, as pale as the light, and wipe those sad eyes dry

Hoping that when the earth claims us both it’s next to you I lie.

Laughter and love are ageless

As sweet as life is long

Give me back my innocence

And I’ll write you an innocent song

Oh, I’ll write you a guileless song.

Making love in the fields as the September sun casts down its autumn light

The cornfields sigh and shudder in the wind, tall and golden and ripe

The morning mists lie on the orchards as dew, bejewelled and glistening bright

And you in the grass with your hair in your eyes a godsent and ravishing sight

When I am lost by the city

When its poison bites at my frame

Take me back to my Wealden home

And make me well again

Oh, and make me whole again

Winter will chase you, chill and abuse you, scold and misuse you and turn you to stone

Long nights await you, snows come to plague you, frost at the window and the cold at your bones

But it’s warm on the inside, sprawled by the fireside, curled up by my side and transfixed by the flames

As they dance with abandon, swirl in confusion and, if you’ll forgive the allusion, you’ll find me much the same…

Spring comes again and the wild geese come home to revisit their haunts on the lake

The rush overhead of a hundred beating wings, the water that ripples in their wake

Ask yourself not if the thrill that you feel is felt for the season’s sake

For love turns as sure as the mill and its wheel the staff of life to make

May this year be but one of many,

Till grey hair has taken its hold

They say age cannot wither and whether or whither

This romance will never grow old

No, this heart will never grow cold.

IMG_3378

Lyrics are far, far harder to write than prose. Arguably they’re harder to write than a lot of poetry because the melody, with its rhythms and structure, is an additional constraint, albeit no more, say, than the conventions of the sonnet.  But for that reason lyrics are rarely best judged out of context. So I suppose I should record this again and post it…

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3 Responses to (Does the World Need) Another Love Song

  1. Rod harrison says:

    Burwash, Etchingham, Robertsbridge, socknursh manor. I like you played many gigs around London. The mean fiddler marquee Lyceum, etc., I too, recall this area as a child my Mother brought me to Rudyards house and I always used to sit outside and fuss over the two Donkeys in the field opposite. I was in Hospital for over six months aged 5 years and barely survived, indeed my friend in the next bed died, he was just 4. To get my Lungs better my Ma took me across the fields into the village through Burwash graveyard three times a week. Now I have written a concerto for guitar, about 7 or 8 short stories and a host of songs. But the one place ie remember was KIMS cottage just round the corner from Kiplings it was there my Ma and me shared our last cream tea as a child before she was taken from me and put into a lunatic asylum. When she came out, it was not the same women who went in. This has fed a hatred of all mental facilities nationwide and every trickcyclist under the Sun, but I try to balancing things with the talents given me regarding my painting, ceramics, poetry art, and music. I too am now learning flute, thought it might stop my smoking. But I love the poem IF although I do not regard Kipling as one of the best writers, being a member of the masonic order does nothing to impress me in fact it tells me the kind of gentleman Kipling really was. I prefer Robert Louis Stevenson and “The land of Counterpane.” It was this Land of Iron and oak that My old Mum used to heal my lungs and she did it with this poem. I was forever in bed, ill and used the blankets as rolling hills as a backdrop for my tin soldiers. I still play being conversant with samplitude, Cubase and presonus occasionally writing a short song or guitar piece but I really tumbled on this site by accident. Nice, very nice and some beautiful pictures.

  2. Andy. says:

    East Sussex has for many years been a haunt of musicians etc. I still have the one album made by Shirley Collins and Ashley Hutchins during the power workers strikes, under the name “The Etchingham Steam Band.”Shirley had a remarkable voice, so clear and sweet.
    Debussy wrote La Mer while staying at the Grand Hotel Eastbourne, and I along with friends wrote potential No 1 after potential No1 but were totally ignored by the whole world which knows nothing about good music since it didn’t recognise us, the boy geniuses of our day.

    The Mc Cartneys I think lived in or near Roberts bridge, and towards Heathfield were the homes of people like Keith Emerson and the now discredited Gary Glitter.
    So perhaps Jonathan, you do live in an inspirational atmosphere and should keep going.
    A couple of weeks at the Grand might help?

    • …and Bert Jansch recorded Rosemary Lane while living in Rosemary Lane in Ticehurst, Roger Daltry is down the road in Witherenden and Jeff Beck in Wadhurst. John Martyn lived in Glynde I believe and Keane hail from Battle…

      Not short of rock ‘n’ roll neighbours….

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