Back To It! - part two

I'm back. I just wanted to finish what I was talking about in the last post, in which I was exploring the way I came up with the latest P&R song Don't Get Caught Up In Your Dreams.

So to continue: the first verse starts out with our hero, we'll call him Walter, after Walter Middy, in the superstore during his workday. Here's the lyric:

Well I dreamt I saw the White Cliffs standing over me
With the Channel splashing sea spray in my face
But someone yelled and an endcap fell on aisle 3
And the cleanup stole my whole ten minute break

There are a couple of things I did here. The rhyme scheme is obviously ABAB, but there's also an internal rhyme in the last line "stole" and "whole". I changed the lyric from "the cleanup cost my whole ten minute break" so I could make that internal rhyme, even though it sounds funny using the verb steal with the subject cleanup. I figured the rhyme was more important. Incidentally, for those of you who have never had the pleasure of working in retail, an endcap is the display section at the end of an aisle in a store. This verse also establishes a pattern, in that the first two lines of the stanza are Walter's daydream, and the second two lines are reality stepping in and waking him up. I used this pattern for each verse, as you'll see later.

Now, having come up with the first verse, and having decided what the song would be generally about, I needed to have a trajectory for the story. I thought if the first verse was about him daydreaming at work, the next verse could be about him on his way home. Here, I thought he could see a beautiful woman in another car while driving along on the freeway. Only, there should be something supernatural about her. So I came up with:

On the commute I saw an angel on the 42
With a winged horse beneath her sailing by
But when I breathed her name her steed became a Subaru
And she showed me her middle finger when I caught her eye

Again, the first two lines open with his daydream, while the second two are the reality. I like part of this lyric because the girl's horse is really a car, but to Walter, the horse becomes a car, even though the car was only a horse in his daydreams. By having the horse morph into a car, and not the other way around, I wanted to underline the fact that to Walter, dreams are more real than reality. There's a double internal rhyme in the third line: "breathed ... name" rhymes with "steed became". But besides that this lyric is a bit awkward. I'll have to work on it some more. The last line about her showing her middle finger feels a bit awkward. Maybe some of you have some suggestions about how the stanza could end differently. I don't know if I want her to flip him off. But I wanted to move on, so I went on to the final verse. Here, he's at home in bed at the end of the workday. I wrote:

That very night the houses crumbled on my cul-de-sac
How their walls were overcome with trembling vines
But when the daylight came my neighborhood was all intact
And I must confess I really didn't mind

What I like about this verse is the ending. You see, I've grown tired over the years of Suburban Parody. Ever since the 90s, when a band has sung about the middle class, they have done so in a satyrical light. Blur in particular, a band I love, used to lambast the middle class for such crimes as living in nice homes, having jobs, and watching television. Moreover, a certain cannon of cliches with regard to the subject has arisen as a result, not just in music, but also in film. You know the cliches I'm talking about: all the houses looking the same, mothers with big hair and kitshy furnishings, everyone white and everything pleasant and dippy on the surface. I'm not saying any of that isn't true, but what I'm trying to do with these songs, that is, the songs for the next Parks and Recreation album, is to try to address the theme of the Suburbs without falling into those cliches. In other words, I'd like to show my own personal picture of the 'burbs, which ends up being a bit sympathetic, because I'm from there. I'd like to portray something that's closer to my own memories growing up, something that isn't Leave It to Beaver, but isn't American Beauty either. I'm thinking of songs like Pleasant Valley Sunday by the Monkees. Listening to this song, you can't really tell if its idyllic picture of the 'burbs is ironic, or if it's an homage. With regard to my song, I tried to make an ending that you could interpret in two ways. If you were more cynical, you could say that Walter is a typical suburban plebian who doesn't mind his neighborhood being the way it is, and therefore conclude that the song is a parody. If you were less cynical, and this is closer to the mark, you would decide that Walter is just a simple guy who enjoys the comfort and security of the 'burbs and is doing the best he can. After all, just because he daydreams doesn't mean he's oppressed by commercialism or a dead end job. Either interpretation is okay by me. The song is character based, so you can bring your own interpretation in as you witness this character's daily routine.

The lyrics finished, I came up with the broad structure of ABABAB for the song. When I sat down at the piano to sing the whole thing, I found myself plunking out a big huge sus4 chord in the beginning, which alternated back to E. If you want to know what a sus4 chord is, by the way, go to your piano and play, say, the note E in octaves with your left hand. With your right hand play a b-minor seventh chord. That's a sus4 chord! Pretty isn't it? Well, I took that chord and alternated it with an E chord, and that became the introduction. When I showed the song to the boys, we started putting that intro bit after each verse and chorus coupling. So if you call that sus4 chord bit C, the structure became ABCABCABC. And badda-bing, we have a song!

We still have changes to make, however. Joe has some ideas for a different chord progression in the choruses, but essentially the song is fleshed out. And that, my friends, is how I did it. Now I'm going to get to work on more songs before the next school term begins. I'll let you know how it turns out. If any of you have any suggestions about how I could improve this little number, please feel free to let me in on it. Bye for now!