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  1. shotz print wrote on

    Very well written. I cant say I draw exactly the same conclusions. I think song hit different notes in all of us depending on our backgrounds. But the lessons you have drawn certainly do span any gaps in life experience that people may have. Ill be re-thinking my next piece. Thanks for a great article. Cheers Steve

  2. Amanda Gonzalez wrote on

    What a fascinating post, G. No wonder it took you two years to craft.

    This is exactly what makes you such an extraordinary copywriter; lessons are everywhere, and it takes a true professional to see – and learn – from them.

    And thanks for the mention :-)

  3. Paul Leonard wrote on

    A thought-provoking post. And it’s true, there’s so much to be learned from the best songwriters.

    I guess we all have our favourite songs and lyrics. Personally, I love The Jam – Paul Weller was a very angry young man in the 70s and that fuelled some incredibly visceral, emotive and evocative songs. ‘That’s Entertainment’ and ‘Down in the tube station at midnight’ spring to mind, both excellent examples of how to draw on the senses to tell a story and engage listeners (and advertising audiences).

    The Jam – 1978
    Down in the tube station at midnight

    “I first felt a fist, and then a kick
    I could now smell their breath
    They smelt of pubs and Wormwood Scrubs
    And too many right wing meetings
    My life swam around me
    It took a look and drowned me in its own existence
    The smell of brown leather
    It blended in with the weather
    It filled my eyes, ears, nose and mouth
    It blocked all my senses
    Couldn’t see, hear, speak any longer”

  4. Glenn Murray wrote on

    Hey @shotz. Yeah, that’s the fun thing about interpreting songs, eh? I remember I used to have a debate with a girl at work about the meaning of Live’s ‘Lightning Crashes’:

    @Amanda, thanks for that. You’re too kind. To be honest, I don’t make some effort to go looking for copywriting lessons. Like most readers of this blog, I’m sure, I naturally listen to the words of everything, and always deconstruct everything. That’s why I can’t have music on when I’m writing.

    @Paul, wow, that is an angry verse. I watched a live performance of the song, and read the lyrics. He captured the gritty reality of that violence very effectively, didn’t he? I certainly had no trouble empathising with him!

  5. Shae wrote on

    Wow what a great post. That is so true. I was enrolled in a weekend writing group last year and there were a wide variety of writers from songwriters to short story tellers. Anyway the songwriter used to come in with her guitar and sing her own songs. Incredible lyrics with great depth – she had us all mesmerised. Our tutor discussed a lot of songs and the songwriting process especially the likes of Bob Dylan. It made for a well-rounded writing group (I was the only blogger). I am enrolling again in April.

    As a female I sure have related and replayed Kasey Chambers song over and over…

  6. Glenn Murray wrote on

    @Shae, that sounds like a fun group to be a part of. Love those sorts of experiences. It’s like being at a party where someone pulls out a guitar and starts singing their own lyrics.

  7. Emma Lovelly wrote on

    Well done sir!

    Such great insight and vision to be able to see past the melody, past the basic lyrics and get the message.

    I love your interpretation and deep analysis.

    KISS prinsicple applies- keep it simple. I’m constantly over contemplating- less is more.

    And honesty, in the end, is the best policy- but it doesn’t have to be right up in your face and loud.

    re: Nilsson with out you- It is a sorrow filled song. It makes you understand what it’s like to be the person who may have hurt someone. The word sorrow, and the sense of regret is portrayed well.

  8. Susan Lambe wrote on

    Great post! The magic of music and lyrics is like no other. The simple elegance of capturing raw human emotion in just a few words is a special gift.

    Good Songwriting encapsulates much of what we strive for in all types of writing: delivering a clear, concise message; knowing and understanding the audience; and crafting the message accordingly to make a real connection.

    I wouldn’t even know where to start on a similar post. Off the top of my head, check out Dave Matthews Band, Claire Bowditch, Sarah Blasko, Stephanie Doesn, the Finn Brothers (who you’ve already
    acknowledged), The Waifs, Brisbane songwriter Hailey Calvert …

    Thanks for a thought provoking piece. It’s really got me thinking … May even have a crack at my own!


  9. Glenn Murray wrote on

    @Emma, why thank you! I have great respect for these (and many other) songwriters. I started this post a long, long time ago, and have been dying to finish it.

    @Susan, well said. I’ll definitely check out the songwriters you mentioned. I have The Waifs’ live album, and it’s excellent. Most of its tracks are on my ‘Ballads / Singer-Songwriter (Modern)’ iTunes playlist. (Anyone know if you can share a playlist? The track names, not the source.) Re the Finn brothers, there was a great SBS doco a coupla years back, called ‘Great Australian Albums’, where Neil talked about his relationship with Tim and the politics of his entry into Split Enz and the Split Enz-Crowded House transition. A real insight. You can watch it on YouTube here: There are 2 Crowded House vids in the series, it appears.

    BTW, I figured out (belatedly) some of what Neil Finn and David Gray can teach us, too. How to combine simple, memorable phrasing, with emotive, sometimes ambiguous, phrasing. The former draws us in, and prompts us to think about the latter. I think there’s only limited application for that in mainstream commercial copywriting, but it’s worthy of consideration, nonetheless.

    There are so many songwriters I would like to have included. Like Sarah McLachlan, Beeb Birtles, Graeham Goble (the core songwriters from LRB — check out their live performance, Richard Ashcroft (of The Verve, ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ & ‘Sonnet’), and… and… and…

    Grrr. Have to get some work done! Thanks for your comments so far!

  10. Ann wrote on

    Thought-provoking post, Glenn.

    Messages received include knowing and relating to your audience and speaking a universal language.

    For me, the music is often more important than hearing the words. I mean that the voices and instruments meld together into a series of sounds that combine to communicate with me, rather than the instruments being there to help convey the words.

    But ideas to help writers develop their skills are great to have, thanks.

  11. Glenn Murray wrote on

    Very true Ann. That’s one of things that made this post so difficult to write. (The music component, I mean.)

  12. Keith wrote on

    Good Songs, Great Post,
    I rarely read twitter posts…

    So you win again, GM

    You managed to hold my
    very short attention span… : )

  13. Rick Sloboda wrote on

    Hey, Glenn — neat angle. Being a semi-retired musician (broken promises, broken dreams), I’ve spent some time in the studio, and have drawn some parallels between songwriting/recording and copywriting.

    For instance, when the band recorded a weak tune, we’d start layering it with countless tracks and effects to hide the weak foundation. People who write poor copy tend to add filler as well. The key message should be clear and concise, just like a great tune remains strong with only vocals and an acoustic guitar.

  14. Shane Arthur wrote on

    Outstanding. So glad I found this. Do 10 more of these and put it into a book.

  15. Linda wrote on

    I don’t make it to the end of many posts; I click through to a lot though.

    I made it to the end here *and* wished for more. No doubt helped by the fact that many of the songwriters here are also my favourites, but also because your points are well made and relevant.

    I make it to the end of Amanda’s posts every time too.

    I see a theme emerging. Could it be good copy…?!

  16. Glenn Murray wrote on

    Thanks Michael & Linda. Linda, I make it to the end of Amanda’s posts too. She sure can write!

  17. Johanna Baker-Dowdell wrote on

    Glenn I’ve been thinking about and revisiting this post since you first wrote, wondering what I made of it all. I completely agree about the lessons derived from the songs and know the lyrics you listed very well (second generation compilation tape listener).

    Words are so powerful – whether written, sung or spoken – and you’re right, the simplest are often the best.

    Thanks for the reminder.


  18. seo adviser wrote on

    Remarkable. So glad That’s one of things that made this post so difficult to write

  19. Pingback: What can 15 great songwriters teach a web copywriter? - Sandiya Solutions

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