Songs I Wish I’d Written Part 2

A few days ago I started writing about the songs that I use as a swipe file for my own songs.  Someone once said, “Blatant rip-offs are the sincerest form of flattery.”  Or something like that.  😉  I was never good at copying other people’s work anyway.  It’s why I was never in a cover band.  Invariably, when I try to copy something, it comes out different and becomes something new.

So, here’s part 2 of Songs I Wish I’d Written…

Instant Karma! by John Lennon
This is an interesting one.  I said there wouldn’t be any Beatles on this list simply because every songwriter is influenced by them in some way and it’s more their body of work that interests me.  Instant Karma is a John Lennon solo song and usually I’m pretty ambivalent to his solo work.  The chorus on this song is amazing though.  Super catchy and plays against the verses perfectly.  Plus, it’s not a love song.  I’m always trying to get away from those.  Somewhere I have recordings of my band actually performing this song…

By the way… In that video, why the hell is Yoko Ono knitting blindfolded in front of a live mic?

Paisley Park by Prince
There are a zillion Prince songs I could put here.  But I’ve always been drawn to the hippie funk vibe of the “Around the World in a Day” album and especially “Paisley Park”.  Kind of fitting to put it after a John Lennon song as it has a very “Sgt Pepper’s” kind of vibe to it.  It’s also a great example of using finger cymbals in a song. 🙂

Housequake by Prince
I could go back to James Brown here as is the obvious influence on Prince for this one.  Housequake adds the couple extra decades of music behind it to update the sound a little.  It’s a super hard groove and a killer party vibe.  I file this under “songs that don’t mean a damn thing”.  Shut up already… damn.

Sometimes It Snows In April by Prince
Ok, one more.  The dude is so darn prolific, there’s too many to choose from.  As I mentioned previously, I love fun and funny songs, but a really good, really sad song is awesome.  And this, above any other is my favorite Prince song.  It’s from his film “Under The Cherry Moon”, which, if you haven’t seen it, is the best of his three films.  Another stunning chorus on this one.  Just soulful enough to put a scrunch on your face and a beautiful melody.  And who wouldn’t be touched by a lyric about a best friend dying.

Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol
It’s not often that a fairly new song makes my swipe file.  While this one has been around awhile, it’s probably the newest one here.  And that’s only because most everything has been done before.  The evolution of music is a very slow process.  What I love about this song is that’s it’s an exercise in simplicity.  Not only does it only have three chords, I don’t think it has more than 4 notes in the entire song.  It makes it very meditative.  And it shows how much arrangement plays in the effectiveness of a song.  The whole build into the last chorus makes the thing work.  Such a shame that the rest of the album didn’t stand up to the quality of this song.

Pleasure – Soup Dragons
Back to the fun stuff.  This entire album, Hotwired, is always in rotation for me.  It’s all so fun and upbeat and often a good kickoff song for my road trips.  This is from a time in the early 90’s when guys with guitars were just starting to discover danceable beats and electronics.  EMF, Jesus Jones, bands like that.  This is another song that I love for it’s absolutely shallow meaning.  Nothing deep.  Just a solid beat and a great guitar riff.

Everlone by The Wildhearts
I had a tough time choosing this one.  The album “Earth vs. The Wildhearts” is a hidden gem in the music world.  I’m still trying to achieve some of the arrangement and vocal ideas these guys captured.  Just like the Soup Dragons and Snow Patrol, the haven’t been able to really follow it with anything quite as good since then.  This song has it all.  Punk energy, big heavy guitars, a wonderfully complicated arrangement with a ton of ideas, sweet Beach Boys harmonies, an awesome chorus. So much to learn from here.

Now you’ve got a little bit of an idea of where my music comes from.  There’s tons more.  I tend to pick up ideas from songs here and there.  Even stuff I don’t particularly like.  The message that I try to get across to everyone is to listen to as much music as you possibly can.  With streaming services and the like now, there’s no reason to not jump outside your comfort zone and try something new.  🙂

Phil Johnson

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