Some Songs Make Great Short Stories

I’m a writer and a music fan, so I often think of the lyrics to my favorite songs as short stories. A couple of the best elements are usually there—from isolation, desperation and validation to heartbreak, betrayal and revenge. Some songwriters create easy to follow narratives, while others make you tease the story out. Great songs can make us imagine exactly what the songwriter envisioned, but it’s more fun to create our own version of the story as we listen.

Lately I’ve been digging deeper with daily posts that re-imagine lyrics through the lens of short fiction. I can’t promise that I’ll keep up this pace, but I’m having fun for now. I call the series “Short Story in a Song.” Here are the first twenty:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

Short Story in a Song — “Motor Away”

I was lucky enough to catch Guided By Voices on the Alien Lanes tour in 1995. I was working as a journalist at the time and writing part-time for my friend’s fanzine. We already had the band’s previous albums in rotation on the stereo, but everything changed when this one came in the mail. We got the last three tickets in Los Angeles and had our faces melted off at the legendary Troubadour in West Hollywood. There are plenty of great songs on this impressive collection, but “Motor Away” has always been a stand out. The repetitive riff and driving rhythm are vintage GBV, but the lyrics would make a great short story.

Our narrator is a road warrior who has spent his life chasing a tired dream. The long, winding road that stretches to the horizon in both directions is littered with the bleached bones of missed opportunities, broken promises and failure to grab the brass ring. He’s the last man standing from a once proud army that haunts him day and night. Despite the odds, he’s made it further than any of the others he originally set out with, but he’s still no closer to reaching their ultimate destination. And every day he wonders if this will be the last before he finally turns the wheel and drives off into the sunset.

Read the full lyrics for Guided By Voices’ “Motor Away” right HERE.

More “Short Story in a Song” posts:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.