Fictional characters writing fictional songs …

… well, I’ve always liked a challenge, and there’s nothing like stretching yourself. The fledgling novel – as a Creative Writing student, these things are de rigeur – has, as one group of central characters, a band of songwriters. As the songs they write both illuminate them and, in some cases, cause reactions that are triggers within the plot, their songs therefore need writing.

A doubly interesting challenge for a fiction writer who’s more comfortable with a guitar than a keyboard (typewriter variety), who has long written music (but not words) and who sings like a rather breathless bittern. But one to rise too. If you want to comment, let me know how far you think I’ve managed to rise so far 🙂

I’ll give a little context, so the ‘songs’ don’t arrive completely out of the blue (in the novel they will find themselves in, their context will be more obvious, but a blog audience deserves a few clues.)

Razor’s Edge

(Written by Al, the band’s bass player, and the son of an alcoholic. His sister is also a band member. Neither drink, having ‘parented’ their father during their childhood after their mother left her husband, no longer able to cope with the impact of his drinking. The section “It’s in your genes” is a group chant, repeated over the fade-out of the song, the music for which would be a deliberately ironic oom-pah rhythmed ‘drinking song’.)

Teaching the mysteries of stubble and foam
In pictures framed in tiles and chrome
You walked toward me with a cut-throat razor
Your tremor a worrying curtain-raiser

Razor cuts stubble, razor cuts free
Razor will cut what links you to me

Razor cuts bristle, razor cuts beard
The likeness of you will disappear

A dubious teacher with whiskery chin
An uncertain footing, a scent of gin
I’ll learn, I’ll listen, I’ll let is pass
I’ll fill my conscience, you’ll drain your glass

Razor cuts stubble, razor cuts free
Razor will cut what links you to me

Razor cuts bristle, razor cuts beard
The likeness of you will disappear

It’s in your genes, it’s what you inherit
Height of a giant, guile of a ferret
You learn to walk, you learn to shave
You learn to see how others behave

You taught by example, I could say
Showed me there had to be other ways
To come to maturity, master a task
Without the need for a sip from the flask

Razor cuts stubble, razor cuts free
Razor has cut what linked you to me

Razor cuts bristle, razor cuts beard
The likeness of you has disappeared

Apron Strings

(Written and sung by Jen, Al’s sister and the band’s pianist – playing accordion on this song, this is actually written about the mother of Mark – another band member and the novel’s central character. The ambiguity in the lyric is entirely deliberate: the song is unexpectedly successful at a very early stage in the life of a wilfully arty band. (This happens in c 1985, btw) Set to a jaunty/catchy Hi Life/township tune, it’s danceable and joyful, but its lyrics are unnoticed in some circles but very much picked up on in others. Mark is not publicly ‘out’ at this stage, although that changes unexpectedly.)

There’s always trouble, boys will be boys
And momma jumps at the slightest noise
I’m always worried, all night and day
What others do and what others might say

So many dangers, so many things
Can’t tie them all up in my apron strings

I need to let go and let him play
Let him be happy, let him be gay

I vet his buddies, I vet his friends
Check every gift horse that temptation sends
Some make me chuckle, some make me wince
Not good enough for this momma’s prince

So many dangers, so many things
Can’t tie them all up in my apron strings

I need to let go and let him play
Let him be happy, let him be gay

Those fancy cocktails don’t pass his lips
No fancy shimmy ever pass through his hips
No late night parties, no chasing dames
Don’t tell no white lies, or so he claims

So many dangers, so many things
Can’t tie them all up in my apron strings

I need to let go and let him play
Let him be happy, let him be gay

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