One of life’s great mercies is the fact that, for many songs, the music diverts a lot of attention away from the lyrics. Writing lyrics is difficult, but not nearly as difficult as writing poetry – in fact, most lyrics are little more than a rhyming-coupletised vehicle for the singer’s voice, and the actual semantics of the words may well be irrelevant. But what is the secret of writing a classic rock song?
The Originality Of The Species
Lyrics By The Numbers
Over at Ultimate Guitar, Nolan Whyte wrote an article that provides some succint guidelines on breaking through rocker’s block. For example, to write a Ramones song you just pick something you do or don’t want to do today, state a few reasons why you want (or don’t want) to do it and make them rhyme – “I Wanna Be Well,” “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “I Just Wanna Have Something To Do,” “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You”.
To write a Misfits song, just pick a movie you like (preferably one that suits your musical style) and base your lyrics on that. For Pink Floyd, anything with an anti-war theme incorporating the angst of a single-parent childhood will do the trick – although you should probably throw in an axe and a bicycle for good measure. But whatever you do, don’t forget the golden rule – feel free to look to others for inspiration. This isn’t plagiarism (as long as you put some sort of effort in) – as Ben Johnson (Shakespeare’s contemporary, rather than the sprinter) put it, you must observe how the masters have imitated, and imitate likewise.