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Thursday, November 23

A Night In

After a night out, it's only reasonable to go for a night in, so that's what we did. I had arrived back home a little later than normal, owing in equal measure to traffic and a slightly later departure time from the office. I was fairly relaxed. Following some comments I'd received concerning a new song that I'd played to a friend, I had decided to mess around with an alternative ending and see what I could do to make the song bigger and better. This involved singing along to myself in the car on the journey home. I played the recording of the song, stopped the player before the ending, and then continued on with my new ideas until I had invented and polished something that had grown to a proportion I wouldn't necessarily have thought to write, cold, on a piece of paper.

Returning home, there was a brief opportunity to try it out on the piano to see what it was really about. It turns out that my "natural key" for singing it is the key of C major. This is just typical. I get annoyed with myself for singing and playing in C, as I think it's boring for the audience. I've no evidence of this. I just thing that I'd be bored hearing the same key over and over. So, I originally wrote this song deliberately in F. I've never performed in F, so I thought that it would be a nice departure. F provided me with some interesting opportunities for modulating the chords. I was pleased. But I can't sing in F. I sing in C. So back to C for me. D'oh! The quick play on the piano was not conclusive and we had an appointment with a video recording of Lost, recorded for me on Sunday when I was out at a gig.

Lost was suitably mysterious, as usual. It feels a lot like the start of a series, which is good. It's quite lightweight, the new characters are interesting, it doesn't rely too heavily on the previous stuff and it's watchable. You could probably start watching Lost from the start of Series 3 and pretty much get the hang of what's going on. Nothing. Nothing at all. It's all a mystery! Don't read Lostpedia, though. Apart from it being quite able to spoil all the surprises in each episode, it also fills your head with so many contradictory and spurious theories, that it's hard to know what to make of each surprise... what happens is that you suddenly have a pang of belief in a totally nonsensical idea that some mentalist, with nothing better to do with their time than analyse Lost, frame by frame, has spent their time writing on the web for other people with far too much time on their hands to read.

After Lost, I did a bit of writing. Not on Lostpedia, I hasten to add. My new writing project is maybe halfway through its first episode and I still don't know what it's about, whether it's interesting, funny, or worth spending time on. Still, I'm chucking ideas into it and I'll see whether I like the result when it's done.

Then I sat at the piano and discovered that I'd totally forgotten half of what I'd been improvising in the car for my song. No problem. I'd recorded myself singing it into my mobile phone while en route. That's weird to listen to. It's not weird to do, but out of the context of the car it sounds pretty horrible. With the new tune and lyrics back in my head, I spent quite a bit of time figuring out what, musically speaking, I'd done to get those sounds. What seems like perfectly tuneful intonations, unaccompanied sitting in the driver's seat, can prove to be lacking in any of the rules that govern music, or can prove to rely on incredibly complex chord progressions which you wouldn't expect the likes of me to think up. In fact, I probably just lifted them from a combination of Swing classics and Beatles songs.

In the end, after a lot of wrong attempts, I worked out what I'd been doing. It was simple but reassuringly not simplistic.

I'm now worried. There is wit and humour in this new ending, but not a huge amount of gags. Instead, there's a fair amount of showmanship, swing music being the inspiration. I think the last line is good enough to make it worthwhile, but I may have turned a simple song into a self-indulgent bit of showmanship. As I typed that I mistyped "showman" and put "sham". This is most apposite. I'm not Frank Sinatra (he's dead - sorry if you didn't realise). I'm not even Robbie Williams. Hell, I'm not even Jason Orange. Point is that I'll really have to SING this ending to make it work, and I've no idea whether it will.

But I'm prepared to give it a shot.

It may be one of the first times I've put a real hardcore ending on a song and if I can do, on the guitar, the Duke Ellington-style ending I want, it will be even better. If it proves good enough, I could even try it with a backing track...

... which brings me back to the core concern I have. It's common for me to find that the more I spend on making a bit of my material, the less funny it turns out to be. I still remember my failed Bond Theme parody. Hours of preparation and it wasn't worth it. Comparing that with my jaunty little ditty, which I wrote on a train once, tweaked in my head, practiced a few times during guitar tune ups and then premiered to great amusement. Well, all I'm saying is that there's a difference between an instant classic and a polished turd.


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