Writing What you Know

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW, WHAT YOU SEE, AND FIND THE TWIST

Since we are on the subject of writing, I would like to answer to Matt’s comment on “writing what you know” and Jimmy’s “conversational, and in addition, the “paying attention to small articles In the news on television and in papers as well as “writing for artists. I am going to break down the surrounding issues of all of these in one of my favorite songs written with Allen Shervelle, and Bonnie Lee Panda. I believe It demonstrates all four of these.

In one of my incarnations of my Father’s businesses, was a part ownership of a comic book store in the 80’s in Birmingham. We traveled to comic conventions and I developed a bit of knowledge about the genre of collectables. WE did collector cars, records, and many examples of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” I was always trying to be a musician but building knowledge for a lot of reasons. This is how it comes in. I was also a huge fan of the Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN movies. So that subject was one I knew quite well.

Fast forward about twenty or so years and I am mentoring Allen Shervelle, who is one of the biggest Superman freaks there is. He was inspired by the comic book hero, to help him get through his alcohol problems, and has become a big fan. He wears Superman t-shits and has a lot of “Smallville” and other memorabilia.
One day we both saw the same news report and seized upon it as subject matter for a song. A family had received their third eviction notice to lose their home. Stuck in the economic morass we have had. As they were preparing to move out, they were organizing a yard sale and came across some boxes in the basement they did not even know were there. It had belonged to a Grandfather and inside were lots of magazines, books and some comics. They called a local comic vendor to find out if they were worth anything. He was amazed when in the middle of the box there was a Superman comic but it was not named Superman. It was an ACTION Number one, which was the first appearance of Superman in 1938. During World War II most of the comics and other books and magazines were destroyed due to the war drive for paper. So very few exist and almost none in rare condition. This one was in plastic magazine bags, and probably bought in the 60’s or 70’s before comics got valuable.

They ended up running it in an auction and sold for something like $2.7 MILLION dollars. It was in perfect condition and the family was saved.

So the idea was how to how to approach the subject in an interesting idea. I decided to go with the “Saved by Superman” motif and started writing from the first line down. Allen and Bonnie Lee Panda, and I put it together and they fine tuned it. It has become one of Allen’s top songs and I really love the way it fell together. Here are the lyrics:

SAVED BY SUPERMAN
MAB/ALLEN SHEREVELLE/BONNIE LEE PANDA
8-26-10


Was like a shot of Kryptonite
They’d lose the house they’d owned for life
Sorry but one more, economic casualty
(trying to keep it conversational, a narration, sets up the scene)
Little Andy kept the faith (bring in a kid is always a good thing)
In that big “S” on his PJ’s
Staring at the sky every night before sleep
In the basement were the boxes of Grandpa’s cast off junk.
In their darkest moment, they found that said Action Number one

Chorus

IN A FLASH CAME THE MAN OF STEEL
(throw in another comic character)
A LOCOMOTIVE COMING UP THE HILL
(speeding locomotive)
JUST LIKE HE’S DONE SINCE NINTEEN THIRTY-EIGHT (Ist year)
FASTER THAN A 45 (speeding bullet)
CHALK UP ONE MORE SET OF LIVES


PROVING THERE’S STILL JUSTICE IN THE AMERICAN WAY
ONCE AGAIN STOPPING EVIL PLANS
ANOTHER FAMILY SAVED BY SUPERMAN
(BOOM! HIT EM WITH THE HOOK!)

Didn’t know where Grandpa got it
Or that he collected comics
But happy tears fell when they found what it was worth (all true)
And was the fact that it was saved
Was the old man reaching from the grave.
To help his family left behind on Earth
(this is a nod to my own Dad. Story to follow)
The man at the auction house had a shocked look on his face
When he called up the bank and said ‘The money’s on the way”


Bridge
The rarest of collectables in near mint condition
Was a hero, for the family, in the very last minute


All true, wrap it up, redeliver the hook! End of song!

Now, the “nod to my Father” is that a few years back I got a letter from Sony music saying they were withholding royalties but couldn’t send them to me because they didn’t have my address. Yeah. You heard it right. Sent me a LETTER saying they DIDN’T HAVE MY ADDRESS! Welcome to Nashville! I found out that they were not just my royalties, but those of my Father, who had passed away about 7 years before. It was literally “reaching beyond the grave to help his family.”
So there you are. Finding a “twist on a tale” that really happened. Use conversational language and understanding the subject from a variety of angles. Then, couple that with an artist who can inhabit the subject matter.

Hope that all makes sense.

MAB

1 comment

  • Clayton

    Clayton

    Wow MAB, I've known you for a little bit now and never knew your comic origins. How cool, I've been a fan for ever and learned how to read thanks to comics. My favorite: Captain America (lol but the 70's liberal version, sorry). Love ya MAB, you have taught me alot even when you're not here. I love writing and take everything you have to say to heart. I don't ever need a cut, I just need folks that love to write songs as much as I do. Take care and "Excelsior!!!!"

    Wow MAB, I've known you for a little bit now and never knew your comic origins. How cool, I've been a fan for ever and learned how to read thanks to comics. My favorite: Captain America (lol but the 70's liberal version, sorry). Love ya MAB, you have taught me alot even when you're not here. I love writing and take everything you have to say to heart. I don't ever need a cut, I just need folks that love to write songs as much as I do. Take care and "Excelsior!!!!"

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