Stayin’ Alive

A fellow singer, who has recorded several of my songs, asked about Good Companions a little while ago. It was written quite deliberately as a concert opener many years ago and began the album Laughing In The Dark which I recorded for Alberts under the watchful eyes and astute ears of Harry Vanda and George Young. It was an attempt to provide the audience with some understanding of how I saw myself as a writer/performer – and to reveal a little personal history. When writing the lyrics for the song I created many more verses than I recorded – the original version has three verses.

In recent years I have been singing a fourth verse. It was completed some years after the original song was written but draws its inspiration from the verses I first wrote but never used. Ever since I began writing for myself I have kept all the books in which I wrote my lyrics – I still have those I wrote in from the 60s. Much of what I wrote then is pretty amateurish, self absorbed and very uninspiring, but it was a beginning. Occasionally among the dross contained in those early books will be a line or two that suggests I might have some talent for song lyrics – it’s why I’ve kept those books.

For the benefit of those who might not know the original lyrics here they are, with the chorus:

I ain’t rock’n roll, I ain’t pop or soul
country music it ain’t quite my scene
I ain’t blues or jazz, I don’t know where it’s at
I’m just somewhere in between
I’ve spent so much time out on the borderline
I don’t know which way to turn
If I ever find out what it’s all about
I might pack it all in and go home

So come all my good companions
we will sing and dance and play
we’ll forget about tomorrow
and live just for today
we’ll drink til all the wine is gone
sing til there are no more songs
dance til we have danced the night away

I ain’t no fool and I don’t play it cool
But God knows I’ve been stupid sometimes
I’ve been careless with love and I’ve lost more than once
When so little could just set it right
I start running for cover when every new lover
starts finding I’m half what I seem
I’m an innocent stranger skirting the dangers
of living his life in between

My folks said you’re crazy, some said just lazy
Music won’t keep you alive
get it out of your system then maybe you’ll listen
settle down and work nine to five
I know that I started a little faint hearted
uncertain that I could survive
but I’m still wide eyed and breathless, still feeling reckless
going along for the ride

When seeking a way to keep Good Companions relevant and fresh, (it still works well as an opener), I went back to my original lyrics and was struck by a line I had written which opened up a theme I could pursue to create a fourth verse – “sort out the truth from your dreams”. So the fourth and final verse is as follows:

Now the road is no darker than it once might have been
just longer than it might have seemed
and the journey’s no harder from where we now stand
when you sort out the truth from your dreams
so you make what you can of what little you have
and you live out one day at a time
if you hold on too fast to the dreams of your past
tomorrow might never arrive

So, why write a fourth verse? Weren’t three good ones with a strong chorus enough? The answer to the latter question is usually “yes”, three is enough. But I wanted to convey the sense that, while the opening three verses are quite personal, my world is little different to that of everyone else. We’re all in this together and I wanted to find a way to say that, to draw some broader conclusions that were common to us all.

In the end it’s about acknowledging to myself that creativity is a constant process of reinvention. And as a writer you never get it just right. It is very rare that I ever complete a song and be able to say to myself, “that’s a damned near perfect song”. There is always something that will leave me slightly dissatisfied, something that I know could have been better. It’s what keeps me alive.

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