Robert Pollard, the genius behind the rock band Guided by Voices, last fall told Rolling Stone about how he writes songs.
“I keep a notebook full of interesting phrases and lines that I hear in bars, on television, etc., and then from that wellspring I create lyrics,” he said.
I read somewhere that Pollard even assigns note-taking responsibilities to his friends when they get together to toss back a few cold ones, to ensure that those interesting phrases are captured for future consideration.
Pollard told Esquire that the name of his record “Blazing Gentlemen” came from listening to television at low volume and putting his twist on someone saying “ladies and gentlemen.” He calls the process “blurring reality and illusion.”
Not dissimilarly, I have been jotting down my own song titles for years. It’s a weird hobby, I know, but it’s one way that I’ve lived my own rock and roll fantasy.
I can’t compete with Pollard’s seven records in one year (as noted in the Esquire piece), but I can offer seven new song titles for summer:
“Summer Dumber”: A parent’s fear that his child will fall into bad habits during school vacation.
“Church Bells and Gun Shots”: These are the sounds I hear on any given Sunday, proximate as my home is to a church and to a firing range.
“The Face That You’ve Become”: It’s that sometimes stunned feeling you get upon seeing someone for the first time in a long time. Blame Facebook.
“Men Don’t Have Friends”: From “The Great Gatsby,” this quote: “Thirty — the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair.” From the movie “Stand By Me”: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
“Starting to Slip”: What was the tipping point for Elvis Presley, who never looked cooler than when he was decked out in black leather for his summer 1968 comeback special but was a bloated caricature of himself when he died in 1977?
“Canada, Play Nice”: My grandparents hailed from Quebec, I love hockey, and Martin Short always makes me laugh, so I have a great affinity for our neighbor to the north. We often think of Canadians as being more civil than Americans, which makes it all the more unsettling when they aren’t. I would never boo “Oh, Canada.”
“Always a Train”: I’m not exactly sure what I had in mind when I wrote down this title, but three trains went by during my son’s baseball practice on a field bordered by train tracks and the Susquehanna River.
That’s as good an explanation as any.
As for how Pollard came up with “Soul Train College Policeman,” you’d have to ask him.