New Song: “The Ordeal” Ignition Lab Week #30

The Ignition Lab is a group songwriting challenge to write a song a week  in 2013, using weekly word prompts as a starting point. Follow our work on Facebook:

Once again, I have to catch up on my blog posts. The good news: I’m not behind on any songs. Don Darius is now crawling, pulling himself up, exploring crevices unknown to most except for maybe my cat, and is learning things at an extraordinary rate! I’m getting the hang of this new version of my son, and feeling less compelled to cover everything in bubble wrap. It’s been amazing, albeit another learning curve for me as a parent. I know my role is ever evolving as his skills evolve too.

Week #30’s prompt was UNDERGROUND. I immediately thought of my buddy Neil Gaiman’s novel Neverwhere. It’s one of my favorite books. I have read it several times as it takes me to a different world in London’s Underground. I knew I had to write a song about it, and I also knew that it couldn’t just be a song about the whole book. Anyone who wants to know the story should go read it. I chose to write about a particularly moving chapter in which our hero, Richard Mayhew, (who started out as a dull and ordinary guy), goes through an “ordeal” –a test of sorts– to get a key. It’s such an intense chapter and I wanted to capture the emotion I inferred from his dialog and series of events.

I reread the chapter several times, as well as the preceding chapter just once to get my bearings. I have to admit, I felt an enormous amount of pressure to get this right, because I love Neil so much and I don’t wanna f*ck this up. I wanted him to listen to it and at least get an, “ok, that’s pretty cool.”

Usually I write lyrics and melody almost simultaneously, but for this one I wrote the lyrics first. I wanted to get into Richard’s head: What’s it like to be him?  He’s going through an adventure with two badass women, Door and Hunter and can’t help but feel a bit unqualified in comparison. In my journal, I wrote a rambling about what he may be thinking. Here’s an excerpt:

I’m pretty sure I’m not qualified. I’m certain that I’m ill-suited for whatever is beyond that door. It will sure prove to be too much for me. Not sure what made me the lucky man. not sure how lucky I am. This is more than what I bargained for. I’m no knight. no warrior…

And from that, I extracted the final lyrics:

Inadequate, incapable, unqualified, coward
I’m no warrior
No knight
I’m just a vague impression
Don’t think I’m worth the fight

There is a phrase in the chapter that keeps getting tossed around that I found so interesting. Richard kept being told how he’s “Closer to reality”, and how this was the closest to sanity he’s ever been. BAM! Chorus.

Later, my husband was getting Darius ready for sleep, and I’m often playing the piano at that time. It soothes him. I was just doodling around, when I landed with the intro you hear in the song, Am7 – F maj7. Darius enjoyed those tones, and my husband commented how he liked the sound of them too. So I tried those first few lyrics with those chords and rhythm, and it felt right.

The most difficult part about this song for me was the rhythm. I kept imagining drums playing a beat I could play along to, and once again, not having enough time to practice it, it might feel a little sloppy, but I hope you get the gist.

I am quite proud of the bridge, for some reason. I really enjoyed singing the melody and the lyrics in this section. Maybe it’s because of the “Mind the gap” reference, and/or the chord changes for when I sing  the word “ramble.” It’s the little things. Here’s the video, and the lyrics below.

The Ordeal

Inadequate, incapable, unqualified, coward

I’m no warrior, no knight
I’m just a vague impression
Don’t think I’m worth the fight

I’m not here, or am I
closer to reality
It’s so clear, or is it
closer to my sanity
Could someone tell me what this means
‘Cause it doesn’t mean a thing to me

Hopeless, helpless, homeless, I need a shave

I’m no hero, no hunter
I’ve fallen hard and lost my thunder
Is this the end oh how I wonder

Things are all gonna go down this way
Mind the gap it’s what they say
Oh I’ll mind if you don’t mind my ramble
Is this ordeal worth the gamble