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Date with a tape – or, dude your song sucks (part 2)…

Some swearing…actually, more than some…


Recap – a few years back, while in Toronto for a song writing contest, my cousin Steve Casey and I decided to check out The Songwriters Association of Canada’s “Date with a Tape,” a music critiquing and testicle squashing exercise that has, in the past, left many an ego battered, bruised and writhing on the floor. We decided to enter two songs (against the rules, but oh, were we rebels…) – one under Steve’s name and one under mine.  One of the lyrics in the song entered under my name (“Alison”) contained the line “an anger of ardence” – something that Steve had made up because it sang better than “anger so ardent.” Although I didn’t write the lyric, if chosen, I would be the one who would have to explain the apparent neologism.  After watching the judges crush the hopes and dreams of the multitude of hapless songwriters surrounding us, I cringed in horror as I realized that “Alison” was heading towards the sacrificial altar and would no doubt be carved up like a Christmas turkey…


The break was now over. “Alison” was being loaded into the tape player. The pink lyric sheet was placed in front of the judges.

“Alison” and her “anger of ardence” were now staring up at them.

I quickly scanned the room looking for an escape.

I was trapped. I turned to Steve.

“Hey I got an idea. How about you say that you’re me when they ask whose song it is?”

He grinned. He either said “relax, it’ll be fine” or “no goddamn way” – I’m not sure which – just as they hit “play” on the tape player.

Everything was funeral home hushed as the brooding strains of “Alison” filled the room.

I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth “anger of ardence” sounded. Smooth as a 21 year old shot of Oban scotch.

It was a perfectly fine lyric. Wish I thought of it.

I took a quick look around – no strange looks from the audience; no bizarre reactions from the judges.

Ardence…yep, it’s a good word…fuck yeah…

So far, so good.

At the end of the chorus, they stopped the tape. For a few moments no one spoke.

I could hear my heartbeat in my ears.

Jesus, somebody say something…

At last one of the judges, Ian Thomas (an excellent Canadian singer/songwriter that Steve and I both admired for years) spoke.

“All right – whose song is this?”

The inquiry, although pleasant, still sounded like a teacher demanding to know who just farted during study period. I waited in vain to see if someone else was going to take ownership of the song thereby letting me of the hook.

No takers. Gutless fuckers…

I awkwardly put up my hand and with all the energy of a narcoleptic, I eventually stood up.

Ian smiled – I was immediately reminded of the grinning guy in William Castle’s “Mr. Sardonicus.”

“So this is yours, huh?” he asked. He kinda nodded a bit, then said, “Good verse…pre chorus leads to the chorus nicely…really like the chorus too.” He then stared at me with a crooked grin. “Yeah, that’s how you write a song. Nice job.”

Did I just hear that correctly? Nice job?

It was like I had just deflected a punt to my ‘nads. I nudged Steve and noticed he was beaming.

The next judge (I think he was from EMI Canada…not so sure after all this time) nodded as well. “Yeah, it’s pretty good. I like it too. You know what you’re doing, I’ve got nothing to add.”

Holy shit – just dodged another boot to the balls. Two for two…could we make the sweep?

Next up was the Sony dude.

He waited before he spoke, as if he was gathering his thoughts.

I’m pretty sure he was just yanking me. What a dick …

After what seemed to me to be about half an hour (but was probably closer to five seconds) he said, “You know, I have to agree. I like the verse and the chorus is really catchy.”

After a short paused he added, “The vocal might be a little overwrought, though.”

I exchanged a quick glance with Steve. He sure didn’t seem to be very impressed with that particular assessment.  I snickered slightly.

The Sony guy continued. “Good tune, man. Congratulations.”

Even if there wasn’t, I like to believe that there was a polite smattering of applause for the lucky guy who dodged a bullet.

I was feeling pretty chuffed. Fuck yeah…

As I started to take my seat, the guy from Sony suddenly said, “oh – one more thing…”

I stopped moving. Not sure if I should continue to sit or to stand back up I decided to hang there in mid hunch. I looked like I had scoliosis.

“By the way,” Sony dude said. “What’s ardence?”

And there it was – the inevitable, thoroughly expected hoof to the testes.

It was as if I had just scaled the wall at Alcatraz and was about five feet from the boat on the shore when I was suddenly caught in the spotlight.

Son of a bitch…!

I rarely smile so my lame attempt at a grin undoubtedly was more psychotic serial killer than ingratiating.

“Um…ardence?” I began.

Jesus, is it normal for someone to suddenly sweat that fast and that much?

The Sony dude continued his interrogation in his dry, inquisitive tone. “Yeah, ardence. What is that anyway? What does that mean?”

I winced. Now even greater globs of perspiration began to set up camp on my forehead. I glimpsed at Steve. If a countenance could be completely devoid of compassion, I was now looking at the prime example. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could see a trace of a smugness that said “don’t look at me – you’re on your own, buddy…overwrought vocal, my ass…”

Serves me right for snickering…

I turned back to the Sony dude. “Yeah, ardence. Um, it’s like, uh…ardour,” I mumbled.

Instead of just stopping there and leaving everyone with the idea I was a complete dolt, I decided to continue speaking, cementing the impression.

“I thought that, uh,  ‘ardent’ was too harsh a word, so I, uh,  thought I’d soften it, and use ‘ardence’ instead – you know, the soft ‘s’ sound is, uh, more pleasing to the…uh, palate…”

What the fuck was that drivel? Palate? Palate? What the fuck…?

Goodbye clear thinking…it’s been nice knowing ya…

The only thing that would have made that speech even more ridiculous would be if I was wearing a beanie with a propeller on it.

By the look on his face, I’m fairly certain that at this point he was starting to wonder if I had any hand in writing the lyrics at all and was no doubt wondering if English was even my first language.

“Uh huh…so it’s like passion?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said, my head bouncing around like a goddamned bobblehead. “Like passion. Exactly.”

“Hmm,” intoned Sony dude. “Okay, but is it even a word?”

My brain, which earlier had apparently decided that discretion was the better part of valour and fucked off at the beginning of the conversation, suddenly reappeared and whirred into overdrive.

Welcome back, brain. Great to see ya…you’re up!

“It…could be a word,” I eventually muttered.

As those inadequate syllables dribbled out, I so wanted to give my brain a fuckin’ wedgie.

The Sony guy leaned forward. “So it’s not a real word then.” He smirked. “You made it up. You basically just made up a word to make it work.”

Hanging my head, I sighed. I thrust out my wrists, moistened palms facing the ceiling as if I was about to be handcuffed and taken away for the fraud I appeared to be.

“Yeah, you got me,” I confessed.

The Sony dude then folded his arms and sat back in his chair like Henry the Eighth after condemning Anne Boleyn’s head to roll.

“Cool,” he laughed. “That’s the whole essence of rock and roll, man.”

Ever had flop sweat? I’d heard about it and always thought it was hyperbole. It’s not. My armpits could have drenched an Amazon rainforest.

I nodded weakly and took my seat.

Man, I’m never doing this shit again.


I’d like to say that after that experience, “Alison” went on to be a smash hit, but alas, it wasn’t so. Soon after that Steve and I kinda drifted away from song writing. I eventually moved on to a fresh hell – writing novels – but every now and then I think about song writing and one day having a hit song. Maybe I’ll get back into it – but only if my balls can take it.


Date with a tape – or, dude your song sucks…

Some swearing…obviously…

Instead of a rant, I thought I’d relate an amusing little anecdote (in 2 parts) about a time when I thought I’d suffer through the ignominy of trying to be a professional songwriter instead of the ignominy of trying to be a professional novelist…


Song writing – oh man, I really, really wanted to be a songwriter. I thought that it would have been a really cool profession.

You  know, like if someone came up to you and asked you what you did for a living. I’d raise an eyebrow and say “I’m a songwriter,” and that person would be sooo impressed, right?

God, I can be such a knob sometimes.

I did write songs, actually. My cousin, Steve Casey and I used to have a band called “Network.” It was just the two of us. We played all the instruments and Steve did all the vocals and we wrote and recorded two CD’s that sold millions.

Nah, that’s bullshit. About selling millions of CDs, I mean.

Our friends bought ’em but that was about it. That’s not to say that there were terrible songs on them– on the contrary, many of the tunes were pretty decent, if I do say so myself. A bunch of ’em won a number of song writing contests over the years, including a New York song writing contest and the prestigious Nashville Songwriters Association International song writing contest (with a pop song, no less). The only problem though was that we just could never seem to connect with the record industry. Trying to pitch our stuff down in Nashville was a real eye opener too.

If you ever have the uncontrollable desire to be kicked repeatedly in the nuts, I would suggest trying to hawk your tunes on Music Row.

You’ll be icing yourself for weeks.

One time, many years ago, Steve and I were in Toronto for a songwriting contest (we were Ontario finalists in a national songwriting competition) and we decided that while we were down there, we’d take in a song writing critiquing session put on by the Songwriters Association of Canada called “Date with a Tape.”

“Date With A Tape” – sounds sweet, don’t it? What could be nicer than a date…with a tape?

It’s actually the musical equivalent of shitting your pants while giving a speech in grade school as everyone points and laughs…

If anyone has ever been to one of these soul-sucking events, they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Basically you present your “hit” song to a panel of industry insiders who would then proceed to play the first verse and chorus.

They would then tell you in no uncertain terms why it was a piece of crap. Once, if the planets all lined up and if a tune was half decent they’d offer up advice as to how to make it better, but most of the time the songs weren’t all that good so the comments could be pretty devastating.

It was like “American Idol” about ten years before Simon Cowell made being a dream crushing dick a career choice.

You could only enter one song, so you had better pick the best thing you’d done. Of course, since Steve and I figured we were the Lennon and McCartney of Kanata Ontario, we had a multitude of sure-fire hits – the question was, which one do we pick? We narrowed it down to two but we could only enter one.

Steve came up with a simple, yet elegant solution – we’d each enter a song under our individual names – that way we’d at least have two songs entered and better the odds.


In our song writing arrangement, I usually wrote the music and Steve wrote the lyrics. And being the ignorant twat I was at that time (as if that’s changed…), I never paid much attention to our lyrics. I’m happy to report that I do now know all of our lyrics and can say without hesitation that they really are great, but at that time I was probably (definitely) a bit of a self centred douchebag who only marveled at what I thought were the cleverest chord changes east of Difford and Tilbrook (look ’em up…jesus…)

Steve duly prepared the two tapes. He also printed the lyrics on two separate coloured sheets so that they would stand out from the rest of the bunch and we would know if our tune (or tunes) were about to be played. Again, simple yet brilliant (it would never have occurred to me to do it).

Steve entered our tune “Shiver You Up,” an awesome, bouncy and catchy earworm that I still believe to this day, could be a hit, under his name with lyrics on a blue sheet and I entered “Alison,” a brooding Crowded House style ballad under my name, with the lyrics on a pink sheet.

Awww, pink…seriously?

Now for the first time since we wrote the song, I decided to actually take a look at the lyrics.  After all, it was going up under my name.

Wow, I thought. This is really good – except…

There was one line that jumped out at me – “an anger of ardence…”

“An anger of ardence?” I thought.

What the fuck was ardence?

I turned to Steve and he explained that it was like “ardour.”

“Ardour? You mean like passion?”


“Okay, but ardence isn’t a word,” I said.

“Oh I know,” he responded. “But it sounds great when you sing it.”

He was right. “Anger so ardent” may be grammatically correct but “anger of ardence” sang so much better.

Oh yeah, I thought. Makes total sense. Of course.

The judges took their places at the head table and the bloodbath…I mean, the session began.

The first song I recall, was by an older gent and the only things I can remember about it was that it was about drinking whiskey and his whiskey soaked vocal.

At the end of the chorus the tape was stopped and one of the judges (I believe it was the Sony Music dude) said: “I’d really like to comment on this song but I can’t get past this terrible vocal.” He then pointed to the old guy and said: “Is this you singing? It’s pretty awful.”

Holy fuckin’ shit! What the hell was that?  They were kinder during the Spanish Inquisition.

It was one of the most cringe worthy moments I’ve ever witnessed. The old guy scowled, got up and slunk out of the room without a whiskey soaked word.

I don’t even think he collected his tape…

Jeeezus…on to the next victim.

The carnage continued in this way for about forty of the longest minutes on record:

“If you think this is good, just what exactly do you think is bad?”

“Wow – this is the best you got? Really?”

“Jeez, I could go out and have a light lunch before that chorus comes in…if I’m not already asleep, I mean…”

“Hey this is great…too bad Jennifer Lopez wrote it first…you should look up the word ‘plagiarism’…”

“I hope you’re not seriously thinking of writing songs for a living…are you?”

At last it was time for the musical version of throwing Christians to the lions to take a break. As I stood up, a coldness suddenly slammed me. I felt a shiver glide up and down my spine.

I watched in helpless terror as a familiar pink sheet of paper inexorably made its way to the front table.

“Alison” was going to be the next victim when the session resumed.

After watching all those other songs go down in ignominious flames, I began to sweat.

Fuck me

(end of part one)

Driven to distraction (or licensed to suck)

It’s about driving …of course there’s swearing…

Time for a rant – I made the near fatal mistake of taking a drive today…

I’m really fed up.

Why aren’t there more car accidents?  Why aren’t there more fender benders, side swipes, rear endings, T-bonings or head on collisions?

There should be, man. There should be hundreds per day.

Per day? Per hour.

Okay, sure – there are some decent drivers out there (or so I’m told) but there is an inordinate amount of sucktastic cartards clogging up the roads these days and I am at a loss as to why this apocalypse of ass is allowed.

It’s shocking.

I’ll admit – I am not the greatest driver in the world. No one is. I will say in my defense though, that I’ve only had about 3 or 4 tickets in my over three decades driving career. I follow the rules of the road. I stop at stop signs (by the way, that’s why they’re big and red and say “stop” – ‘cause you’re supposed to stop.) I let people in. I’m pretty courteous.

Oh, and I am a master of the single, most complicated device ever installed on an automobile –

The turn signal.

Why, in the name of all that is good and holy and tastes like Buffalo Trace bourbon, do very few drivers use it? It’s a safety device fer chrissakes. It lets other drivers know where you’re going so you don’t get plastered and, you know… die. Flick it up and it indicates you are going right – down, left.

It’s sooooooooooooooooooooo fucking simple. It takes less time to use than it takes to change the goddamn radio station.

I’ve been in cars with people who don’t (or refuse) use it. When he or she weaves into the other lane unannounced, (and after I yell “What the fuck was that shit?”), I usually ask the question “um, why didn’t you signal?” The response is usually a shrug followed by something enlightening like “whatever,” or “I didn’t see anyone behind me.”

Huh? Are you serious?

What a truly asinine response. It’s up there with “I can hold my liquor” (usually followed by projectile vomiting that misses the toilet) and “free form jazz sure doesn’t make me want to blow out my eardrums with a bolt gun…”

You’re on the road, dude – there is always somebody behind you. You probably didn’t notice because you didn’t fucking shoulder check.

It’s common sense.

A couple of weeks ago I had to do some running around. I must have had a death wish because I decided that I would drive to the store. In the space of about 7 minutes (7 fucking minutes!) I witnessed:

– a garbage truck whip across two lanes of traffic about 75 yards from the traffic light, cutting off multiple cars in those two lanes of traffic (I’m assuming that there must have been some kind of emergency trash pick-up);

– an asshat in a Mazda, who while texting what was obviously the most important text ever in the history of texting – possibly the location of the Lost Dutchman Mine or maybe even Atlantis – rebounded off the curb and almost sideswiped a Honda puttering along slightly quicker than an old lady with a walker in the left lane and

– two fuckwits, without signals or even cursory shoulder checks, who tried to merge into each others lanes at the same time.

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

Here in Ottawa, or O Town (as in “O my god what the fuck is going on with the drivers here?”) for example, along with the previous examples, we’ve actually had:

– the asshole who ate a rotisserie chicken while he drove with his fucking knees;

– another asshole who chowed down on a bowl of porridge while driving;

– the dimtard who thought he would kill two birds with one stone (and a couple of pedestrians, presumably) by shaving and driving at the same time;

– a couple of cerebellumly challenged Einsteins who found the drive a tad boring and decided to watch movies as they motored along;

– the dumb fuck knucklehead who decided to read a book while doing 100 km on the Queensway and my personal favourite.

– the future Darwin Award nominee who drove into the fucking Rideau Canal and then just left it in the water…

What is it about getting behind the wheel of a two and a half ton potential killing machine that makes some clear thinking and educated people so reckless and idiotic? It’s like there’s some sort of brain cramping metamorphosis that happens once settled in the driver’s seat – common courtesy is replaced with thoughtlessness and ignorance. Logic is swapped for anal skullery (a new term for “head up the ass” – I make up words and terms all the time – see “cerebellumly” above.)  Basic safe driving skills is substituted with some of the worst regard for the road since Mr. Magoo got his license.

I mean, c’mon…

Sigh…time to get a friggin’ bus pass, I suppose…