Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Everyone knows it's windy

Baah-ba-ba-baah-ba-BAH-ba-ba-ba-ba-BAH,
Baah-ba-ba-baah-ba-BAH-ba-ba-ba!

I was hoping if I wrote it down, it would leave my head.

We've had gusts up to 60mph today, based on my internal anemometer, which is in turn based on how much I hear the house shake. Wind advisories are in effect for the area until late this afternoon. I'm pretty sure I just saw Margaret Hamilton fly by my window on her bicycle.

But back to the song. It reminds me of something I've been meaning to do whenever I have a few spare weeks: a research paper on vocalizations in popular music. Some songs just wouldn't be nearly as much fun without the "Whoa"s and the "Hey"s. Where would Springsteen's "No Surrender" be without

Whoa-ohhh-ohhh
and
Lay-lay-lay-lay-lay-lay-lay-lay-la-lay-LAY-LAY

or Counting Crows' "A Long December":

Na-na-NAH-na, NAH-na-NAH-na-NAH-na-na-na-na,
Na-na-NAH-na, yeah.

or Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner":

Doo-do-DOO-doo
Doo-do-DOO-doo
Doo-do-DOO-doo-do-DOO-do

And of course the granddaddy of them all, "Land of a Thousand Dances":
NAH-na-na-na-NAH, na-na-na-NAH-na-na-na-na-na-na,
na-na-na-na-NAH

where the rest of the song is pretty much incidental.

How do songwriters decide where and when to put these things in? And how do they choose between a "Naaa" and a "Doo"? I'm not a songwriter or even a poet, but as a fellow artist I'm trying to understand the process.

What's your favorite use of non-words in a song? Can anyone give an example of where they should have been left out? Where can I go to learn more? (Besides my local library--after all, it's windy out there!)

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