Because I write both music and lyrics, people often ask me which I think is the most important. Of course the answer is that they are equally important, but I’d also have to say that if I don’t write what I consider to be a great lyric, the song will never be a great song. You can almost get away with a slightly boring tune, but with a boring or inept lyric you are dead in the water. The first rhyme I ever remember writing was in Mr Field’s English class at St Barnabas’ Junior School in Bradford when I was eight. It went,
“A man from Armada was searching his larder,
A jam tart for to find,
He saw someone coming and was very cunning,
And hid it behind his behind”
Not exactly poetry, but at least the beginning of a fascination with words and their meanings, which has stayed with me all my life. When I was in my teens, and developing the musical side of my personality I was – perhaps without realising it quite as much, simultaneously reacting with fascination to great poetry by Keats, Browning, even Pope and Shakespeare, along with the lyrics of everyone in the pop culture of my time, and a few oddballs like George Formby.
The first tune I remember writing a tune was when I was about ten, -still at Bradford, and it was a setting of the AA Milne poem that went
“James, James, Morrison, Morrison Weatherby George Dupree
Took great care of his mother, though he was only three.
James, James said to his mother, “Mother” he said, said he,
“Don’t go down to the end of the town if you don’t go down with me”.
I can’t imagine why I thought it would benefit from a tune, and it didn’t. But, just as I had started “lyric writing” about the bloke from Armada (where the hell is that?) – I also had to start somewhere as a composer. I can still remember the tune I wrote to the AA Milne words, but if you and I ever meet in a bar, don’t expect a rendition.