I remember the first time I saw someone write a song. I’d written stories and poems and just, stuff, since I was a kid. Writing words was something that I just did.
I already knew that sometimes the words come easily, sometimes they do not, and sometimes trying to squeeze words out of your head is just not worth the effort. At those times its better to just let the mind wander until has something it needs to get out and throw onto the page.
Marrying words to music though, was not something I had ever done, and I first got to watch it happen at a time when I was still struggling to form chords on my first guitar.
It was university for me, first year. I decided to buy a cheap electric guitar with part of my student loan money. It was a Series A Strat copy with a hideous Van Halen paint job. I think that was good for another fifty bucks off the price. I figured it would be good enough to learn on. Of course, I knew nothing back then.
A few of us were hanging out, drinking beer and smoking hash, which seemed to be the thing to do in Halifax universities at the time. I wasn’t really hanging out with other university kids though. It was a school for jocks mostly, so we hung out with locals we’d meet at Backstreets Arcade or the Club Flamingo at punk rock shows. This was a definite step up from the 10 people in my hometown that had what I would deem “acceptable musical taste.”
I had the guitar in my room, and a small Gorilla practice amp, that I still may own, I suppose, but I have no idea where it may be. It was not the kind of amp you’d sell anyone after you grew out of it. It was basically a piece of shit. But it did make a noise.
While we were sitting around getting a buzz on, the guys that could actually play would pass the guitar around and noodle as I watched. Intently watched, trying to remember anything they were doing.
One of the local punk rock legends (a legend to me at least) named Dominic, looks at the guy playing the guitar and shouts “Let’s write a song. It’ll be called Brewski, and it should sound like the Ramones.”
And then, they did it.
Right there in front of me. Danny hammered out the chords for a verse and chorus with Dominic’s encouragement as Dom frantically scribbled lyrics and the rest of us shouted approval or suggestions. They played through it once or twice to nail the arrangement and then we recorded it on a boombox with everyone doing gang vocals on the chorus. It seemed incredible to me at the time.
I think I actually still remember the chorus over 30 year later.
I believe this is it:
“Brewski we want you, brewski we need you, brewski we love you - OK!”
And the brilliant bit, the tag line after the second to last chorus:
“If there were more than 24 hours in the day, Man I could drink a hundred, but how we gonna pay!”
It was pretty good punk rock really, kind of like Blitzkrieg Bop, T.V. Party and Six Pack all jammed together. It was tremendous fun, and mainly, it taught me something important.
It taught me that if you had just a few barre chords down, and even a small idea, you could do it.
You could write a song.