Sometimes The Best Short Story Is A Song (#21)

Ryan Adams has put out a lot of music since he left Whiskeytown to become a solo artist in 2000. Just this week he released a song-by-song cover of Taylor Swift’s album, “1989”. Whiskeytown only released three albums of their own in the five years they were together. The song “16 Days” is one of my all time favorites. It’s from the band’s second album, Stranger’s Almanac.

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Sometimes The Best Short Story Is A Song (#20)

The year was 1988. I’d barely scratched the surface of the Johnny Cash catalog, but songs like “25 Minutes To Go” and “Folsom Prison Blues” were already favorites. Cash’s ability to transition easily between those criminal tales and traditional gospel music, however, was mind-blowing to my teenage ears. I just couldn’t reconcile it. Then Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released the album “Tender Prey” and everything came into sharp focus.

The protagonist in “The Mercy Seat” is a death row inmate in his final hours. The song is littered with powerful imagery that alternately portrays the electric chair as both the end of his suffering and the throne of God. Religious themes and struggles with morality drive the narrative forward as he constantly asserts his innocence and claims that he’s “not afraid to die.”

It isn’t until the last line of the song that he admits he “told a lie,” leaving the listener to weigh the evidence and decide if it’s a confession, or if he’s simply done with all “this measuring of proof.”

Read the lyrics for “The Mercy Seat” HERE.

Previous installments in this series:

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been published by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published by Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Sometimes The Best Short Story Is A Song (#19)

I discovered Frank Turner in the best possible way—live at a show where I’d come to see another band. Turner took the stage and my buddy leaned over to explain that he was “the new Billy Bragg”. That was enough to get my attention since Bragg’s “Talking With The Taxman About Poetry” is an all-time fav. I became a big fan of Turner’s that night too.

There isn’t anything particularly revolutionary about a punk troubadour, but Turner’s songwriting is really great. And I love his voice. In my mind, this is perfectly encapsulated in his folky ode to growing up, “Photosynthesis”. It’s snotty and sincere in all the right ways, with just enough angst to make it timeless and compelling. Sort of like Holden Caulfield singing The Clash’s “The Guns Of Brixton”.

It’s a premature middle-aged call to arms from a twenty-something that already sees the writing on the wall. So when he croons that he “won’t sit down and I won’t shut up” and that he refuses to meekly shuffle “down the path of mediocrity”—well, it’s the kind of thing that just might make you finally write that novel you’ve been going on and on about.

Read the lyrics for “Photosynthesis” HERE.

Previous installments in this series:

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published by Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Sometimes The Best Short Story Is A Song (#17)

Revenge is a theme that runs throughout crime and mystery fiction. That might be why I like this Taylor Swift song so much. The revenge here is fictional as told in the narrative of the song, but also very real in that it predicts her own meteoric rise to fame despite the critics and (ahem) “haters”. Plus, banjo.

Taylor Swift wrote “Mean” after her performance on an awards show got a bad review, or so the story goes. But the themes about bullying and the interior thoughts of the person being bullied are universal. The bouncy country music and playful video, however, can’t disguise the anger and spite that run throughout this song. It all comes to a head in the bridge when she flashes forwards to a future where the bully is drunk at a sports bar, “washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things.”

Read the lyrics for “Mean” right HERE.

Previous installments in this series:

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published by Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Sometimes The Best Short Story Is A Song (#13)

I got Wilco’s debut album, “A.M.,” when it came out because I liked the song “Box Full of Letters.” But it wasn’t until they released their second album, “Being There,” that I really sat up and took notice. There are a lot of great songs on this ambitious double album, including “Outtasite (Outta Mind),” “I Got You (At The End of the Century)” and “Sunken Treasure”—but nothing quite as anthemic as the opening track “Misunderstood.” Channeling the sort of angsty, suburban shiftlessness previously perfected by Paul Westerberg, “Misunderstood” gives a sneak peek into the musical direction the band would later perfect on “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”

Have you ever wondered what happened to those kids that stayed behind after high school? The one’s who smoked a little more weed than they dealt and were still digging into KISS, Black Sabbath and Led Zepplin when their friends had moved on to The Replacements, The Pixies and Nirvana. Jeff Tweedy’s lyrics can always be a bit of a mystery, but there is a hopelessness and depression that echoes throughout this song like a drunk screaming at the top of his lungs as he walks down Main Street in the middle of the night. Nobody is listening, and he feels like nobody has ever been listening. Which all makes the final lyrical crescendo that much more sad and profound—”I’d like to thank you all for nothin’, I’d like to thank you all for nothin’ at all…”

Read the lyrics to “Misunderstood” HERE.

Previous installments in this series:

Sometimes The Best Short Story Is A Song (#9)

I know, I know—doing a blog about Steve Earle’s fantastic storytelling and NOT picking “Copperhead Road” borders on sacrilege. The thing is, music is all about the emotional connections you create with it. In my case, “El Corazon” was the soundtrack to a particularly colorful period in my late twenties. And “N.Y.C.” is the track that most consistently taps those memories.

It’s also a really great short story.

The story is simple on the surface: An older guy picks up a young hitchhiker who is rambling his way to New York City because he “heard the girls are pretty.” As the song evolves, you find out  the older guy had made a similar pilgrimage many years before, only to go home with his tail between his legs. It is a tale of adventure, jealousy and regret—and it all happens in three-and-a-half minutes.

Read the lyrics for N.Y.C. by Steve Earle right HERE.

 

Ah, screw it. Here’s “Copperhead Road” too.

Previous installments in this series:

S.W. Lauden is a writer and drummer living in Los Angeles. His short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Akashic Books, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey, Dead Guns Magazine and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Sometimes The Best Short Story Is A Song (#8)

I didn’t discover Generation X until a few years after they ceased to exist, but that is the beauty of music. I picked up the vinyl for their self-titled debut at an incredibly cool beach cities record store that was weirdly staffed by some first wave Hollywood punks. Looking back, I can almost imagine them sniggering at my enthusiasm for this awesome new band I had “discovered.” Lucky for me, those dudes were super cool and turned me on to a tons of music that I still love to this day.

But, back to Generation X. For starters, how cool does Billy Idol look on that album cover? Everything about the band’s aesthetic gave American kids like me a peek into the mysterious London punk scene. That is also true of the mid-tempo punk ballad, “Kiss Me Deadly.” Whether or not I totally understood how it felt to “stand in rank for the thirty bus uptown” or “hustle down the Fulham Road doing deals with Mr. Cool,” this song did what the best short stories do—it transported me to a place I had never been before.

Read the lyrics for “Kiss Me Deadly” by Generation X right HERE.

Previous installments in this series:

S.W. Lauden is a writer and drummer living in Los Angeles. His short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Sometimes The Best Short Story Is A Song (#3)

My love affair with Jawbreaker began with “24 Hour Revenge Therapy,” but I quickly went backward from there to devour “Bivouac” and “Unfun”. These days I can listen to any one of those albums and smile and scream the whole way through. But the album I love the most is probably the least popular with hardcore Jawbreaker fans—”Dear You”.

“Dear You” was the band’s major label debut and features slicker production than its three predecessors, but it also has some of my favorite Jawbreaker songwriting and hooks. And when you are looking for lyrics that make for a fantastic short story, it’s hard to beat the teen angst of “Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault”. It is impossible to have partied your way through high school and college without at least one story like the one that singer Blake Schwarzenbach so perfectly outlines here. Dig it.

Read the lyrics for “Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault” by Jawbreaker right HERE.

 

Previous installments in this series:

S.W. Lauden is a writer and drummer living in Los Angeles. His short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Akashic Books, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published in 2016.

Sometimes The Best Short Story Is A Song (#1)

I had a friend in college who used to whip out an acoustic guitar and play this song in its entirety at just the right moment. At the time I was more impressed at my friend’s memory than I was by the song itself (we may have been in a slightly altered state…). And then years later I actually bought the album. It’s hard to beat “El Paso” for storytelling in song, but some of my other favorites from “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs” include “Cool Water,” “A Hundred and Sixty Acres” and “Big Iron“.

Read the lyrics for “El Paso” by Marty Robbins right HERE.

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.