Thursday, July 8, 2010

Biography of a Song: Brain Farts

This is in response to a discussion of songwriting started by Edric Haleen on the TMA forums, which is now ongoing at our new artistic "home", Artifiction. I'm simply moving some of what I wrote there onto this blog for safe-keeping.

Be warned, this "biography" may contain sensitive personal information, which - as it's written from my perspective - is subjective and probably completely innaccurate.

Biography of a Song: Brain Farts
<a href="">Brain Farts by Dr. Lindyke</a>

If nobody else is going to post a biography of a song, you're going to get another one from me. But before I do I want to say that this is REALLY a good idea Edric's got here. When you write the song biography it makes you think about your writing process so you can really understand why you chose one path over another. In writing the bio you find out that your thought processes aren't so random as you imagined, and you really do have reasons for the words and chords you choose.

That said, I'm now going to describe something totally frivolous. I mentioned in chat a couple of weeks ago that I felt like doing something "vaguely Irish", and finally settled on an Irish drinking song. Several reasons for that... 1. I wanted to do something that could be done on a bodhran if you wanted to; 2. I didn't want it to be Scottish, as Joe 'Covenant' Lamb does that so wonderfully and I would feel like a kid trying to wear Dad's suit; 3. I'm not a Scot and I'd get it all wrong; 4. Reasons 2 & 3 don't apply to Irish drinking songs because ALL Americans are Irish on St. Patrick's day, and -- being drunk -- you're expected to screw it up.

(This differs from an actual Irish drinking song in that it eventually does end. Maybe those do, too, but I've never been able to go the whole distance. It also differs from just about everything I write in that it's a narrative song.)

So what to use as a topic? Well, love, obviously, but what specifically? As it so happens, I was listening to Jonathan Coulton's "Big Bad World One", which is about a guy who's shy around women. So I thought, "Great! I'll turn THAT into an Irish drinking song!" (you might suppose I'd had a few already). I had a ready-made theme... shy guy is tongue-tied by women. I decided that this guy was gong to be hung up on one specific woman, as True Love should always be a staple of this sort of thing. Then I thought, "it's not much of a story if it doesn't go anywhere," and decided that he should somehow overcome his shyness and get the girl. This being a drinking song, once he got her he shouldn't want her, for some silly and hopefully ironic reason.
So with a 3/4 time beat in my head I started with the chorus:
Oh! Hi diddle diddle de day...
She makes me tongue tied and me mind go away
I wish that I could be a man of her sorts
But my true love she gives me brain farts 
Sadly, I can't blame these words on William. This song is entirely my fault. And what drinking song doesn't have a few nonsense syllables? Probably a lot, but let's not go there. From now on I simply call this [CHORUS]
In my demented haze I chose Brain Farts as the title before I even got started, so I knew it was going to appear in the chorus, and at the end of the last line as a surprise. This is the cause of the stilted language, of which you'll soon see more. Now armed with a chorus, I knew where this was going (to Hell in a handbasket), so I started the story proper... 
I once saw a lassie of beauty so pure
That with only one look I was perfectly sure
The love of my life could only be her
So I purposed to pledge her my troth. 
Yes, I wrote "troth". Not only was it appropriately archaic, but it's a near-rhyme with "mouth", which I'm going to use in a moment: This starts with an inverted F and there's nothing surprising at all about the progression. F, C, Bb...
  I strode right up to her with moves debonair
  And drank in the fragrance of her lustrous hair
  She blinded my eyes with her beauty so fair
  And that's when I opened my mouth:

  Phthbt. Uhmm. D'umyu cuoum heerofn?
I've got one line to signal his intentions, and two more to describe her effect on him. If this were an ACTUAL Irish drinking song this would take approximately seven verses. But we live in a world of fast food and microwaves and I don't have that kind of time.

Don't ask me how to pronounce that last line. Obviously, he's trying to say "Do you come here often?" and can't get the words past his thickening tongue. He's really tongue-tied and not smart enough to keep is mouth shut. The music simply stops for the moment while you attempt to deliver this Rain Man dialog.

We move on to her reaction, which is musically somewhat more animated than the delivery. The chord progression's pretty much the same, but it's sung a bit higher, and with disgust.
  She said,
  Get lost you idiot, there's drool on your face!
  Just you keep your distance or I'll get my Mace.
  She left me so fast it looked just like a race
  And her fragrance was her only trace.
I have no idea if they sell Mace (pepper spray) in Ireland. I don't care. They sell it here, So I'm saying Loverboy lives in New York or something. I actually like the last line. I wanted him to stand there, rejected and dejected, with the memory of her presence, and I wanted the (lack of) presence to be tangible. You know how you can taste perfume? Like that.


So we're back to our opening tune:
  Well, I'm not some loser who settles for no
  I tracked down the number of her telephone
  I gave her a ring, heard her dulcet “Hello?”
  And I opened my mouth and intoned:

  Phthbt. Msnf wlyu mmmmbe onf um daaate
Well, I think it's funny precisely because he is a loser. But I needed him to be persistent for the payoff in the last verse. So once more he trips over the rug in his mouth, worse than before. I think this line originally read, "Will you go out with me on a date?" Her response is again animated.
  She said,
  Hang up, you stalker, now this isn't fun!
  Don't ever call back or I'll dial 9-1-1
  And then with a click! my true love was gone
  And I cursed at my treacherous tongue
Definitely someplace in America. But if sung overseas, "9-1-1" should be replaced with "9-9-9" or whatever's appropriate, which still rhymes well enough when delivered with a brogue. (btw, my spell-checker/dictionary insists that a brogue is a shoe. I had to laugh, because it's oddly appropriate for a song about a guy who keeps his foot in his mouth).

I also like the "treacherous tongue" line. It's all about the blame. He can't get it through his head that the problem's not in his tongue, it's in his head.


OK, so at this point I was ready to give him his "out". But I had a hard time figuring out exactly what it would be. I thought maybe classes, or a psychiatrist, or a talk with his grandfather, or just screwing up his courage. Nothing really worked. Eventually I just chucked it all and used magic. I recalled the gypsy caravan that used to park near my house in Caversfield. Real old-world gypsies with the wagon and the cooking outside and the sharpening of knives, and the fortune-telling... every werewolf movie cliche' rolled up into a horse-drawn wooden caravan, and they were there every year in the proper season. These were Romanichal, but for my purposes it doesn't matter if our "gypsy" is Romanichal or an Irish Traveler.
  So I went to the gypsy to buy me a draught
  Of something that wouldna make me sound so daft
  I purchased a potion called “old Number Nine”
  For some silver to her hand from mine
More stilted language. If there's a way around it, I didn't find it. Obviously "Number Nine" is an allusion to "Love Potion #9", which I used to keep from having to use another seven verses to explain it. And yes, that's how to spell "draft". Curse Madison Avenue!

Now originally I had "Loverboy" splash the stuff on, like aftershave. But when I remembered how Love Potion #9 was supposed to work, I had him drink it down. And it works so well! Obviously, this gypsy is a much better chemist than Madame Rue!
  I drank the stuff down, felt me confidence grow
  I felt like a winner from my head to my toe
  I strode right up to her with moves debonair
  And said to the lassie so fair:

  Hey baby, what's happenin'
That's last line should be delivered veeeeerrrrryyyyy smmmooooothhly, in a liquid basso to curl the toes and melt the heart of our Lady Fair, in a parody of Barry White. Again, there's no music and no accompaniment for the line.
  She just stood there smiling with drool on her chin
  And a slack-jawed expression inviting flies in
  I thought, “She looks stupid; besides, she's too thin!
  There are much better women to win!
This is a really quick turn-around, I know, but I really didn't feel like dragging it out. Microwaves, remember?
  Now she follows me 'round everywhere that I turn
  She's been such a nuisance she makes me blood burn
  She bumbles and sputters and makes such a show
  That me appetite's starting to g
And here's our payoff. After all that mooning on his part, he gets to experience some of the discomfort that he put her through. So maybe he gets the upper hand, or doesn't. I leave it to the listener. We cap it off with a modified chorus:
  Oh! Hi diddle diddle de day...
  She acts like a fool and she gets in me way
  I wish someone would come and haul off this tart
  'Cause she's cramping my style... with her brain farts
And that's it.

Now, PLEASE somebody else write a Bio!!! You'll enjoy it! We'll enjoy it! It will curb Global Warming! If not for yourself, do it for the children!

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