INDIE SONGWRITING — ANALYSIS OF A SONG

Sometimes the Words Are There, But They Need to be Deciphered and Rearranged

Songwriting my way is to write any way I can.  For this posting I am going to write about writing a song.  I figure this will bore some of you to death, and you will  just have to either go ahead and die, or go read something else, because there will be some who are going to be really interested.  I’m writing this for them.  Below is the link and the lyrics.  Below that I will discuss my process.

Martha Blue

MARTHA BLUE
Copyright Hilary F. Marckx, BMI, all rights reserved

Needle in a Haystack, One Stuck in Your Arm
Let’s Go Someplace Where It’s Safe
Where There’s No Cause for Alarm.
Needle in a Haystack, One Stuck Between Your Toes,
Keep it under Cover, Babe,
Never Let it Show.

Martha Blue Checked into the Crest Motel, Where They Charged Her by the Hour.
Lookin’ Just a Little Sad, Seemed a Little Sour.
Martha Blue Checked into the Crest Motel, for Some Smack and a Couple Tricks.
Some Time in Bed or a Little Head, and You Get to Take Your Pick.

Sneeze Was Stoned and Horny, Needin’ More than He Could Buy.
Trippin’ on the Light Fantastic, Sellin’ Shit for Lies.
Sneeze Checked onto the Crest Motel for a Body He Could Use.
He Didn’t Know it Was Party Time for One Miss Martha Blue.

She Never Thought Too Much about What the Johns Might Have Her Do.
She Turned Seventeen Today, Happy Birthday Martha Blue
Some Way or Another They Got Too Much in Her Veins,
Gettin’ off and Flyin’ High, Martha Blue Has Gone Away.

There is no sure way to write a good song, and there is certainly no same way to write all songs.  This song happened as I was waiting to go take my test at DMV for my motorcycle license.  I was early and had some time to kill, so I did some cruising around.  Earlier as I was coming into town I had seen a severely run down motel that was named, The Crest Motel.  The name had stuck with me, and I had taken a book to do some reading, so I drove over to an old Mervyns parking lot to read a little.  As I turned into the lot there was a very young woman pushing a shopping cart with the rags of her possessions in it in front of me and I had to wait as she slowly worked her way on the sidewalk.  She was a skinny, scraggly blond with knots in her hair, her face was broken out with sever acne, and as sickly white as I had seen.  I just looked at her and felt extremely saddened.  Her eyes didn’t focus, and she had addict written all over her.  I named her Martha Blue, and started to write about her.

The name, Sneeze, just popped out of the ether, and it seemed screwy enough to match.  I put them into the Crest Motel, and the action began.  Once I begin writing, stuff just seems to happen.  When I was a child, I had been sick and confined to my bed for around five years, and I used to make up stories about all sorts of things to keep myself occupied.  I find that boredom is one of the most creative triggers, I know of.  Once I have the kind of time that makes me feel hung out, I begin telling myself fantasy episodes.  Many times these lapses in reality become songs.

Events go right and they go extremely wrong, but they go and a fast pace.   Two drug addicts partying down with sex and heroin and who knows what else?  People living on the edge of both society and life, and one of them dying.  It was the only way for the song to end.  I should say that I spent ten years as counseling drug addicts and alcoholics, and survival was not always the way their lives ended up.  I had many opportunities to hear story after story of drug abuse, violence, bad choices as well as recovery.  I’ve had friends, counselees, die from overdoses, and so the topic is close to me, and I wanted to write something that got into the situation itself.

I have sung this song for years now, and the reaction is always mixed and strong.  Some think it is powerful and of value.   Others have told me I should have never put it on a CD, and never should have written it at all.  As for me the song works because it tells a strong story, gets strong response, and I feel that it has made my statement very well.

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2 thoughts on “INDIE SONGWRITING — ANALYSIS OF A SONG

  1. Howdy Hilary,

    I always enjoy your blogs, and find them very interesting, because, as I’ve said before, you seem to have alot in common with me and many of my life’s situations.
    I wrote a song, sometime back, called “The Least of These”. The title and chorus were actually taken from the Gospel of Matthew, 25:35-45. The content of the song is similar, to “Martha Blue”. I never did any professional counseling, but I was a Pastor for 21 years, so I did alot of pastoral counseling, and for 15 of those 21 years, I was also a police officer, finally working my way up to the rank of Sergeant, before making the ministry my fulltime livlihood. I was able to do much more counseling, while in Law Enforcement, than as a pastor, so I have seen it all and heard it all.
    If I may be so bold, here are the lyrics to “The Least of These”:
    “Swirls of smoke from her cigarette
    Made her blue eyes burn,
    As she held it in her painted lips,
    Just the way she had learned.
    She was dressed for another long night
    Out in the city streets.
    She looked tired and middle-aged
    For a girl just twenty-three.

    She had a 6 month old little baby girl,
    Whose daddy was doing time.
    The baby’s sitter was her own big brother,
    Who had just last week turned nine.
    In their refrigerator was just some milk
    And two cans of beer.
    But in the big brother’s heart there burned a hope
    That better days were near.
    (Chorus)
    There’s nothing new about this story
    And it’s a crime
    That our hearts have grown so calloused,
    From hearing it so many times.
    But there’s another story that we’d
    All do well to heed.
    Jesus said, ‘whatever you didn’t do for the least of these,
    You didn’t do for me.

    As the years went by, the mother’s life
    Became more than she could bear.
    Depression and guilt, and all her struggles,
    Drove her to despair.
    By the time she was found
    On the cold bathroom floor, it was too late.
    Now the once tender hearts of her children
    Are hardened by hate.
    (Chorus)

    Thank you Hilary, and God bless you!

    • Jerry, thanks for sharing that. You are a good writer. Songwriters are the holders of Truth. Have you listened to James McMurtry? I’m obsessing on his work lately–just stunning!

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