Paris Goodnight: Still writing those songs the whole world will never sing

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 3, 2022

What is it that makes a good song these days? And how would you ever know what young musician out there is the next big thing since there are so many platforms and so many ways to enjoy music?

I’ve tried my hand at writing songs through the years, but only a rare few have been allowed to listen to any of them. Even some folks here at the Post got to hear a few snippets, but the rule was and remains: only after midnight would such things come out.

It always seemed simple enough for me to get the words for a story put together, especially if there was deadline pressure involved and you didn’t have too much time to think about it. I wonder if coming up with songs is just about the same or takes a different kind of brain activity to put words and music together.

So even after all these years, not many people have heard any of the original lyrics I’ve penned. And I’ve never really stopped writing them, but at some point I transitioned from penciling out the phrases to just recording a few bars or lines that come to mind on my phone, which is why I only request two things when it’s time to upgrade: that the new model has a video function and records audio.

I tried to write the songs that would make the whole world sing, but of course I never got them out for anyone but myself. So in some ways, it’s like writing in a diary, which I’ve also tried to keep up with on and off over the years. Nothing in any of those pages would be literature for mass consumption either, and more likely would fit better in the trash bin. But I haven’t gotten up the nerve to toss any of them or bury them far enough away that if I get hit by a bus tomorrow they somehow get out.

I think back to the one paying gig that I ever took part in as a musician. It was with the Marty Lefler Band back in high school and I made enough money playing a single show at an arcade to pay for — or almost pay for — my electric guitar, a black Ampeg Stud model that I still keep sort of tuned up these days. I think it cost $50 or so, and seems like each of us in the four-piece band got $25. I realized early on that making a living as a musician wasn’t in the cards for me.

I still find myself humming “I Gotta Get Away,” which would have been one of our biggest hits if only we could have stayed together and got that sweet recording deal we all wanted. But not too many musicians of any caliber ever find that secret way to break through to the charts. Even bands like Sugarcreek, who we all thought was as good as anything we heard on the radio back then and who played a reunion show in Salisbury not long ago, couldn’t find a way to make it big on the national stage.

I’d take “What A Night” by that band as a lock to have been on the charts, but what did I know?

It remains a mystery why even some of those with talent don’t make it to the top, while others with questionable skills seem to have it made — like some of those forgotten artists who made MTV must see TV back in its early days.

Somehow I continue to jot down ideas for little ditties every now and then, and just can’t seem to let it go. Maybe one day I’ll try out that TikTok again and see if it’s the trick, or maybe someone will come up with a new version of MySpace that will let aging rockers break on through to the other side.

Paris Goodnight is interim editor of the Salisbury Post.