Thursday, June 09, 2005

Melody Maker

I was listening to a CD by James Blunt the other day. As I listened, tapping my foot, sipping espresso, and blowing perfect smoke rings into the air, my thoughts turned to writing. Fiction writing, not song writing. See, this Blunt geezer has the gift of making you think you're listening to something deep and heartfelt, and loving it. And by saying that, I don't mean to take anything away from the feller. The songs might well be genuinely deep and heartfelt, but they're all veiled behind a curtain of deepness and heartfeltness, so you wouldn't really know.

What I mean is, he has the populist touch. He feeds you misery and deep reflection in a very pleasing, easy way. The lyrics are what they are, but the music (and his voice) tells you all you need to know. And what I'm getting at here, in my unfocussed, sleep-deprived way, is melody.

So, like I said, I started thinking about fiction. You want to write something, right? You might have an theme you want to explore, so you work out a premise and create some characters to fit around it. Or maybe you work the other way (like me), and you start with a character and see where he wants to go, and leave the critics to work out the theme. Whatever, your novel is going to go nowhere unless you know how to write it. It could be a great story, but a bad novel. It could be a great story, and a great novel. And the difference there is........


Maybe melody isn't the right word. But you know what I mean, right? It's the X factor (and I don't mean these wankers), the mysterious ingredient that makes you turn the pages like a bastard, or that makes you sit back and think like a... er... bastard. Hamlet was a story that had been knocking around the pubs and snooker halls of Stratford for centuries, raising the odd eyebrow here or laugh there. But it was the Bard himself - Shaky - who tarted it up and set it to the right tune.

And back to old Blunty. Satorially challenged he might be, but he's putting out some good stuff. It's got a good beat and you can dance to it, you know? (If you're on heroin.) But it's not about the lyrics. It hardly ever is. These guys put out some of the most interesting lyrics ever, but it took the right guitar, bass and drum mix to make the songs great. Look at the lyrics on their own, and you'll surely go barmy. You'll end up turning to the Birdie Song.

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