Careful music composition, thoughtful and well-worded lyrics, and plenty of rehearsal are certainly elements that contribute to appealing songs. Yet oftentimes, those are the last things that come into play to make hit records.
Sometimes, it’s a case of blurt first and tweak later.
Case in point:
The legendary Canadian rock band The Guess Who never sat down to carefully plan and write the rock classic “American Woman” in one go. Guitarist Randy Bachman was changing a broken guitar string during a performance at a curling rink in Southern Ontario when he just started playing an impromptu riff while tuning to a keyboard.
Bachman recalled the event as being at curling rink in Kitchener, Ont., while singer Burton Cummings recalled the event being at a rink in Scarborough.
Seeing the positive audience response to his spontaneous riff, Bachman realized he was onto something and told Cummings to just start singing something—anything! So, Cummings blurted out the first words that came to him: “American woman, stay away from me.” He just ran with inspiration, which the band later expanded, tweaked and refined into the song that would hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970 and chart again at #3 in 1999 on Mainstream Rock (Billboard) as a cover by Lenny Kravitz. How’s that for making a hit record?
Similar stories are found across the pages of rock.
When The Who released their smash “My Generation” in 1965, music fans were captivated and critics applauded the song and singer Roger Daltry’s angry, stuttered vocal delivery as being the perfect encapsulation of the angst of being a teenager. Yet Daltry later commented that he’d not rehearsed the song prior to heading into the studio. He was also nervous and couldn’t hear his voice through the monitors. The now-immortal stutter came about as Daltry tried to fit the lyrics into the music as best he could. The band later decided that it was good enough to release, and today, Rolling Stone considers “My Generation” as the 11th greatest song on its list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
You can find any number of similar stories online, but you probably get the gist.
It’s all well and good to spend days or months carefully writing a song and execute it with studious precision in a recording studio. But the ubiquitous entity called music doesn’t always live under surgical conditions. Music is a wild animal that runs as it pleases, and sometimes the job of the artist is to grab music while it’s within grasp.
So, when musical ideas come along, grab them! Blurt them out. Make hit records!
Get them down raw and unvarnished before you forget them. Worry about tweaking and refining them into a finished song later, and if you don’t know where to go to record those songs at an affordable recording studio with flexible hours, Royal City Studios has you covered.
However you choose to capture your ideas, just remember. Ideas have a core essence that can come along at the unlikeliest of times—while you’re driving to the store, while you’re waiting at the bus stop, even while you’re showering—because ideas don’t know about calendars and clocks. They’re like Otherworld creatures who have their own sense of time and show up with unexpected gifts.
So, grab those gifts according to THEIR schedule and you just might capture the core of your own hit song.
—by Xristopher Bland—