Sunday, November 13, 2016

Songs: The Nuts and Bolts

Anatomy of A Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop – Marc Myers (Grove Press)

While I have written quite literally millions of words over the course of my career, I have always remained fascinated by the process of how songs get written. To me it seems like some sort of magic takes place in the minds of those who craft songs and the magic gets kicked up a notch for those who write songs that become hit records.

It may be the nuts and bolts of the interaction of words, music and recording. It is the magic of those nuts and bolts that writer Marc Myers focuses on in his new book, Anatomy of A Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop. Myers regularly contributes Anatomy of a Song features to the Wall Street Journal and this book is a collection of 45 of those stories culled from 2012 – 2016.

Myers has developed some amazing access to the folks who made these records/songs and from that access he collects in depth insights into not only the crafting of the words, but often the music and production side, which are the foundation on which these great songs are built. Myers writes with a music fans perspective, without falling over the edge to becoming a fanboy.

The successful songwriting duo of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were tapped by producer Phil Specter to pen a song that would allow him to add a hit record by a male vocal group to add to his string of hits by female vocalists. The group was the Righteous Brothers and the song was You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. Mann recounts a visit with Specter in the studio before heading to the legendary Chateau Marmont to begin the writing process. Tapping into his own memory of heartbreak, he threw out the line “you never close your eyes any more when I kiss your lips,” and it was off to the charts.

It is that level of insight that Myers tracks down for a laundry list of great records. Now the actual list of songs may brew up some debate or discussion. While the songs and stories may be great, I am not certain they all live up to the title billing of being “iconic hits that changed rock, R&B and pop.” 

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