Over the years from time to time I’ve started writing a song intended for someone else. Then a funny thing happens. The closer I get it to actually being presentable, the more it becomes a ‘me’ song, and in the end I don’t have the heart to give it away.
I wrote a song called ‘Interference’ for Michael Jackson. Initially I just had the bass and drum groove. I sent him a demo and he said he liked it and would try to add a melody. Then I didn’t hear any more, and next thing I knew, a Jacksons album called Victory came out, and there was my groove. (I guess MJ suffers from the same malady—he can’t bear to give things away!) So like a sucker I started writing another one for him, inspired by memories of him as a kid. You know, back when he was really cute and actually had a fabulous voice. The song was called ‘Hyperactive.’ But I didn’t get far into it before I realised it was really all about me. So I kept it for myself, and it became my only substantial UK singles chart hit.
One day circa 1980 I went to see The Thompson Twins play live at a college refectory gig in central London. This was in the days when they were a nine-piece, including my friend Matthew Seligman on bass. I recall they had this kind of flag onstage, a bit like a Roman Legion standard. They would pass it around from person to person while they played, backlit with lots of smoke. I suppose it was symbolic of them being a tribe or whatever, it was visually very effective. Shortly after that the ‘tribe’ shrunk to two guys and a gal, and they became megastars overnight. I was taken with the ‘shape’ of some of their songs… not sure how to describe it, there was a kind of epic cadence to the phrasing, enhanced by some long stereo delayed reverb on the vocals. I went straight home and started writing a song for them. At first it had no lyrics, but as soon as they began to form they were clearly very personal. That song turned out to be ‘One Of Our Submarines’, IMO one of my very best.
I worked briefly with Belinda Carlisle many years back, playing the keyboards on ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’ (I know, I know…. but cut me some slack, I was trying to get into her pants! for the record, she found me completely resistable. ) I later wrote a song for her called ‘The Road to Reno’, but it fell on deaf ears. However the song is a bit of a cracker and I’ve recently recorded it with Matthew and Kevin, and it’s going on my new album.
So an odd thing happened over this weekend. I was approached last week to contribute something to a large scale, long-term musical project involving several world-class musicians bouncing tracks back and forth via FTP. I had this germ of an idea for a song a couple of years back, and it never really felt like a ‘me’ song, because the lyrics such as they were didn’t seem to apply to me. The title was ‘I’m Not Your Dog.’ It was just a groove and a hook. But I decided to try to whip it into shape, as it were, and send it off to them.
48 hours later, a familiar pattern is emerging! It’s sounding pretty interesting, and I think I’ve found a slant to the lyrics that makes it work as a solo effort. Not sure now whether it’s destined to ever leave the Nutmeg until it’s fully parceled up as a TD song. So what’s up with that? Well, I reckon there must be something very healthy about getting out of one’s own skin for a while. It takes away the pressure to live up to the prescribed vision of oneself that can be such a burden. It loosens up the imagination, allowing new ideas to flow.
It’s early days, but perhaps ‘I’m Not Your Dog’ will end up on the new album too. It’s got a meaty mid-tempo groove, extremely grungey uncompromising Virus and Omnisphere synths, a ’60s style falsetto bit to the hookline, even a harmonica riff and a pseudo-Southern Rock slide guitar!