Category Archives: Songwriting

Because the Night

There are times when you need to sing an English word in a new way.

Native speakers naturally strengthen the word because by emphasising the ‘cause’. Not the ‘be‘.

Why does Patti Smith sing the word oppositively?

Continue reading Because the Night


Feed the Birds: Serendipity on Sunset Boulevard

Our dad had a secret for writing songs. He said, “You’ve got to have them Simple, Singable and Sincere. And they should have a special sound to them. That’s the only way it’ll work.”

Robert Sherman

Continue reading Feed the Birds: Serendipity on Sunset Boulevard

The Listening Service: Tom Service


BBC Radio 3: The Listening Service, with Tom Service
BBC Radio 3: The Listening Service, with Tom Service

It’s a BBC radio programme. It’s a podcast. It’s a store of animations. If you’re interested in music, of any flavour, Tom Service‘s programme will make you think, and help you think better:

If you’re a writer, try:

It’s a deep, delicious, musical treasure chest for listeners and creators. Enjoy!


Exploring Life on Mars

“I somehow got hold of a completely white studio and that dictated the concept – it was as simple as that. We showed up around noon, because none of us liked to start too early.

David looked amazing in his blue suit – it was made by his mate Freddie Burretti, who made the Ziggy costume. Pierre Laroche, who also worked on the Aladdin Sane cover, did the great makeup. And there we were – we just shot for no more than five hours”

Mick Rock, director/2nd cameraman

Sadly the BBC has taken their radio programme Exploring “Life on Mars” down from iPlayer. If you can find it somewhere else, it’s worth listening to. It’s not just another Bowie anniversary documentary. Tris Penna located Bowie’s original demo tape for the song, along with unreleased archive BBC interviews and audio.

If you write songs in English, you’ll find the whole programme useful. Go to 24 minutes in to hear how the lyrics of Life on Mars changed as the song developed. It’s an inspiration if you’re struggling to find the ‘right’ words.

If English isn’t your first language: keep the ar of Mars soft and smooth when you sing Life on Mars. Why? 

Mick Rock’s 2016 reworking of the original Life on Mars video:

Which version do you prefer? I find the last few, black and white seconds of the reworking poignant and I like it as a ‘making of’, but I don’t like the fact that Mick Ronson‘s guitar and Woody Woodmansey‘s drums are missing.