Not too long ago, I was courted by Primary Wave, a publishing company that specializes in finding “placements” for their artists’ songs. They insisted that I would fit in well with their “iconic” catalog, a portfolio that includes the songs of Kurt Cobain, Hall & Oates and John Lennon, among other luminaries.
Help, I’m an icon! I thought.
There are other perhaps less flattering words that they could have used to describe me and that might well be more accurate, but hey, I’m all in favor of a world where folks with money hoist me up to impossible heights, if only to experience the dizzying thrill of dropping like a stone when it is discovered that the rest of the world does not agree with their assessments.
OK, I’ll cunningly go along with their delusions, I figured. Let them waste a few bob on me. My songs have certainly been inert for so long weeds are growing between the stanzas. At least if I knew what a stanza was, and if my songs have any of them, I’d most certainly expect to find a jungle of invasive species crowding them out and blotting out the sunlight.
But the smart folks at Primary Wave have caught on bigtime to the fact that, although CD sales for most of us are, ahem, not very good (!), songs don’t go away. If they did you wouldn’t have to hear the insufferable “Somebody’s Watching Me” on the worst of the otherwise excellent Geico ads every five minutes. Not to mention having to stomach a Journey tune on the final Soprano’s episode, which I refused to watch out of spite. (Did they all get whacked? I’ll never know.)
So anyway, early last summer I received an e-mail from a Primary Wave rep. who deals with the West Coast end of things, TV shows in particular. It was one of those missives that television music supervisors presumably throw out to all their music publishing contacts, requesting a “Main Title,” a theme tune for an upcoming show.
The rep. was unsure as to whether I’d be interested in writing something on spec, and certainly, it’s not an endeavor I’ve ever thought of attempting before, but the idea of the show in question must have got my juices flowing, for within about half an hour I had a ridiculously catchy tune that fit the bill perfectly.
I then booked time at a local studio and recorded a one-and-a half minute opus (that’s all they needed), guitars, vocals, keyboards and synth drums, and was well pleased with the effort.
Not long after submitting the track, I was told that the music supervisor on the show, although expressing high regard for my effort, had ultimately chosen something else.
Not much of a surprise, really, as my observance of TV usages has led me to the conclusion that they mostly either use trendy Indie acts right out of a Nick Harcourt playlist or, like — the Who. As always, Trend and Commerce rule, and their choice in this case was no exception, using as they did a tune by someone you’ve never heard of who nevertheless was in an “Indie” band with a very silly name.
Two weeks later, my contact sent me another request for a Main Title, and with the juices still boiling away, I wrote an even catchier piece (this time they only wanted 40 seconds) and repeated the steps listed above.
To be fair, the first show had at least picked a pretty decent piece of work, trendyness of the artist notwithstanding, but on this second show they chose the lamest instrumental imaginable, probably because they decided to go cheap and hired some hack to cobble something together instead of paying a decent chunk of change to an actual name artist.
So, two rejections, but two potential songs in the bag for me.
And here’s where it gets interesting. What if, I thought, I wrote my own treatments for TV shows — situation comedies for the most part — and then wrote the theme tunes to go with them? The only person who could reject them would be me, and that wasn’t likely to happen because they’d be so bloody good!
I plunged into the concept with some enthusiasm, knowing as I do that anything that gets me off the couch to pick up the guitar and to then return to the couch with said guitar to actually do some work instead of passing out on said couch in front of some highly dubious footwork courtesy of the Fox Soccer Channel would be a good thing.
Within a month or two I had ten songs, which included fleshed out versions of the ones that I’d worked on for the TV shows in the first place.
Then I took the skeletal treatments of the shows and tarted them up into more fully realized plots, recorded “More Questions Than Answers,” the stunning Johnny Nash tune from the early ‘70’s that I’ve had in mind to cover for about 40 years, and there it was, a new album, “Imaginary Television.”
In the booklet that accompanies the CD and Vinyl (yes, vinyl!), you’ll find TV show plots and fake press reviews instead of lyrics (Judd Apatow, call me….), so don’t cheat and ask someone to burn you a copy because by just listening to the songs you won’t have a clue as to what’s going on.
As well as some solo gigs, me and the Figgs will be doing the rounds, so please keep an eye on the Tour page.
Back in the real world, Primary Wave have already been getting results, and the best part is (when it comes to TV show usage at least) that songs are often used in the background, so no ones knows about it. (The fame I don’t need, I’ll just take the dosh, thanks)
Now, there may well be a Paleolithic among you who thinks that even wanting to have tunes placed on TV shows, in movies or in adverts, is a sell out, a morally reprehensible idea, a crass indefensibly offensive affront to the delicate sensibilities of both artiste and audience, a reproachable attack on the bedrock virtues of nonconformist ideology as espoused by 50 years of iconoclastic observance to unwritten codes of conduct evinced by a continual wellspring of rock ‘n’ roll rebellion (stop him…please…) now well established and accepted as a hierarchy implicitly sanctioned in the embedded psyche of a generation of man/child (…oh…) torchbearers still gripping unflinchingly the flame of truth-against-power, a flame (…the humanity…) held dear to countless manifestations of the unadulterated poetics of musical purity, unencumbered (no…no more I beg) by commerciality, resistant to compromise, bound implacably to the concepts of art and simultaneously immune to the vagaries of market and acceptability, popularity (…stop…) and monetary gain, resplendent and intrinsically wedded to higher aspirations of artistic insularity and the (…him…) steadfast multiplicity of complex compositional profundities deeply inherent to the form as established in long-standing antiestablishment diatribes, agitprop and anti-nabob in both structural formulation (…Can’t stand…) (…this…) and density of sonic delivery, immersed in — for want of a better word — cool.
Well, then you’d be a twit.