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When is a song done?

Two answers:
a) when it's 'out there'
b) never

I never was quite happy with my song "close your eyes". But since I had recorded and published it I felt no urge to rewrite it. It just bothered me that I had used visual references in the verses where the song's chorus reads

at times you need to close your eyes to get a clearer view
behind the scenes we call reality


In the verses I had the lines

did you ever notice the smile of good friends that never reached their eyes

and
have you ever watched the sun burn his way through the morning mist

both don't make much sense with your eyes closed. Of course, the line in the chorus is meant figuratively, but I've always found these lines in the verses distracting nonetheless.

Since I've had nothing to do after working on the folk rock songs for Christian and my little lyrics project on "beauty to behold" I rewrote the lines in question at last:

don't you feel embarrassed by the porn shows they call their daily news
I wonder how you can stand this endless torrent of abuse

have you ever tried to understand what birds tell with their songs
are you aware that leaves of grass can be truly strong

sometimes you need to close your eyes to get a clearer view
behind the scenes we call reality
sometimes just try to free your mind, to sing and dance, and to
act like crazy just to prove your sanity

have you ever felt the sun burn his way through the morning mist
just think about how many things beyond our world exist

sometimes you need to close your eyes to get a clearer view
behind the scenes we call reality
sometimes just try to free your mind, to sing and dance, and to
act like crazy just to prove your sanity

don't let the time pass away
without offering this day
one of your precious smiles
to take away

sometimes you need to close your eyes to get a clearer view
behind the scenes we call reality
sometimes just try to free your mind, to sing and dance, and to
act like crazy just to prove your sanity


(Those who know the song might notice that I had rewritten the chorus several times in the course of years as well. It's one of my very early songs, I'd surely got better over the years...)

beauty to behold - the lyrics

As for the bridge I kept shifting lines to and fro. My idea was that the bridge should provide an outlook to the future as the line from the chorus, "futures that unfold", already suggests. I was thinking along the lines of Alan Weisman's "The World without us". From my first notes I only kept two lines, and only to a degree, "wild flowers are breaking through the tarmac", and "there are no endings, just new beginnings". Here is the result:

smells of decay, and death, and rot
are wafting through abandoned streets
waste has piled up at the curbs
somewhere a kid screams happily

around the corner children squat
they push marbles into a hole
a ragged boy just won the match
he grins because he's on a roll

beauty to behold
stories to be told
futures that unfold
beauty to behold

the town's river has all dried-up
its bed is filled up with debris
rats climb over heaps of waste
they live a life of luxury

a vivid red geranium
thrives in a broken flower pot
reminder of a graceful past
that once dignified this spot

beauty to behold
stories to be told
futures that unfold
beauty to behold

blades of grass break through the pavement
a blackbird greets the morning light
spring flowers soon will shed their fragrance
to reclaim the land outright
there are no endings, just beginnings

beauty to behold
stories to be told
futures that unfold
beauty to behold

beauty to behold - the chorus

beauty to behold
stories to be told
futures that unfold
beauty to behold


I first had:
beauty to behold
lost futures put on hold
stories to be told
beauty to behold


As much as I like the line "lost futures put on hold" I scrapped it. It doesn't make sense anyway, but it even makes less sense in this context (less then none! Imagine!).

I next tried "the sheen of wealth and gold" (you see, rhymes are a must - for me) that I wasn't happy with either, I wanted something expressing that some afterglow of former glory still exists, but couldn't come up with anything that met the meter and rhymed as well.

Then the 'futures' (note the plural) somehow popped up again, this time paired with a wonderfully rhyming word that actually did make sense.

Next, I think, I should add a bridge.

beauty to behold - continued

I have written four verses for my new title. The song structure that I have in mind goes:
verse - verse - chorus - verse - verse - chorus...

The first two verses:
smells of decay, and death, and rot
are wafting through abandoned streets
waste has piled up at the curbs
somewhere a kid screams happily

around the corner children squat
they push marbles into a hole
a ragged boy just won the match
he grins because he's on a roll

Verses three and four:
the town's river has all dried-up
its bed is filled up with debris
rats climb over heaps of waste
they live a life of luxury

a vivid red geranium
thrives in a broken flower pot
reminder of a graceful past
that once dignified this spot


I gathered lines as mentioned in the first part about these lyrics, shifting them to and fro until they seemed to make sense. The most important helper that I use is Rhymezone. Finding a matching rhyme for "hole" (bowl, soul, toll ...) was a struggle. I had an eye on "roll", and the expression "to be on a roll", but it only made sense after I had come up with the idea to make a kid win the marble game. "Debris" was not much better. Although I thought of "luxury" I could only use it after I had added the line about rats.

Other helpers that I use are dict.cc to check the spelling and meaning of words, but primarily to check their use in context. When you look up a word dict.cc also offers phrases, expressions, and idioms, which can be most useful.

I also use Google to check if expressions that I have in mind are commonly used. Except, of course, if I intend to use an uncommon expression or word. I once struggled with the simple phrase "I looked out of the window" because it had a syllable too many. Fortunately, I discovered that I could easily omit the word "of".

beauty to behold

Somehow the line "beauty to behold" had wormed its way into my mind and stuck. Don't ask me how or why. Since it wouldn't fade awy I decided to write lyrics (no assignment this time) using "beauty to behold" as their title.

The idea that has accompanied the line in question since it first popped up was that I would describe scenes or situations of desolation, devastation, destruction, or despair, and contrast these with scenes of peace and beauty. Then the chorus would set in: "beauty to behold...".

First step: gathering ideas about what could be described in the verses, and how.

As for desolation (I put down more similar words that you find above) :
drought
river filled with debris, waste, and sludge
smell of rot and decay
untended, ragged, neglected


As for beauty (or similar positive contrasts):
kid playing marbles
children absorbed in their games



flower breaking through
- the cracks in a lava field
- cracked desert earth
- asphalt


There is nothing more at the moment.