Songs about Life

Songs about relationships  

 

CARELESS

How many cabs in New York City, how many angels on a pin?


How many notes in a saxophone, how many tears in a bottle of gin?


How many times did you call my name, knock at the door but you couldn't get in?


I know I've been careless


 

I've been wrapped up in a shell nothing could get through to me


Acted like I didn't know I had friends or family


I saw worry in their eyes, it didn't look like fear to me


I know I've been careless (I took bad care of this)

 

Like a mixture in a bottle, like a frozen-over lake

Like a longtime painted smile I got so hard I had to crack


You were there, you held the line, you're the one that brought me back

 

I know I've been careless (I lost my tenderness)


I've been careless (I took bad care of this)


 

How many cabs in New York City, how many angels on a pin?


How many notes in a saxophone, how many tears in a bottle of gin?

How many times did you call my name, knock at the door but you couldn't get in?


How many stars in the milky way, how many ways can you lose a friend?

 

Further reading about how Paul Kelly’s relationships influence his songs can be found in David Leser’s essay Love is the Law and Alex McGregor's essay My Cousin the Songwriter in the book PAUL KELLY – THE ESSAYS published by Shark Island Productions available on iBookstore.

 

 

 

General Activity

Student activity 1: close study

 

 

 

 

  1. In pairs, consider each question in lines 1 to 3 one at a time and in order. What is the effect of each on the listener?
  2. What is the effect of all of them together?
  3. Note the use of caesura, the pause between the two parts of each line. What is the relationship between the two questions on each line?
  4. What do you imagine the question: How many angels on a pin means? Now look up the phrase on the Internet.  Does the information change your reading of the line? What is Paul Kelly saying about the persona in the song by using this expression?
  5. How does the music and Paul Kelly’s voice capture the punctuation in the song? Consider the brackets in particular.
  6. Each stanza of the song has a similar structure but modifies the pattern as the song progresses. Graphically represent the structure to demonstrate its development, noting its repetitions and variations.  Compare your representation with others in the class. Which is able to communicate the structure most clearly and accurately?
  7. Listen to the performance again and describe how the music varies for different parts of the argument.
  8. What do you think is the purpose of the persona’s argument in the song? How effective is it? Would you let him get away with it?
Music

'Careless'

 

Refer to the film (26:28)

In music, the use of harmony and texture is integral to the success of the song, and in this performance, Paul Kelly’s band uses different techniques such as falsetto background vocals, the use of harmonica and a tight blend of tone colour to bring the song together.

Specifically listen to the backup singer who sings in a very high voice called falsetto. Do some research on this type of singing and see if you can find other artists who used this musical technique as part of their performance.

Consider how the concepts of music are used in the song. Provide a brief description of these aspects in your own words. e.g., the melody is sung at a high pitch and is a very repetitive shape which can be easily sung. 

Using the outline below, plot out the structure of Careless, using clearly devised indicators for sections of the music such as introduction (I), Verse (V), Chorus (c) etc and try to describe what is happening for each concept.

Section                                            List of Instruments used

Eg        I – Introduction             Guitar plays accompaniment, solo vocal line etc

 

Understanding the importance of a memorable melody in music

 

As you listen to the performances of ‘To Her Door’ and Deeper Water’ you will need to describe the way that Paul Kelly has composed each song and the ways that he has created the melody of each. The importance of this task is to understand that most successful popular, rock songs have very catchy choruses which can be easily sung and performed. These TWO songs are presented for study in this context. Although both are different in their lyric and focus, they utilize similar musical characteristics throughout.

Timings in the film noted here for your reference: To Her Door (10.02 – 13.30) and Deeper Water (40:12)

 

'TO HER DOOR'

1.  What instruments are used to accompany the vocal of Paul Kelly? 

2.  How would you describe the structure of the lyric and the way that the melody is composed and related to this? Is there a sense of repetition used?

3.  The three words resonate like an Anthem, with three notes descending easily, but combined with the words ‘out the door’ or ‘to her door’ they have become both iconic musically and lyrically. What makes such a simplistic but effective juxtaposition of music and text so powerful?

4.  What are the other instruments used as the piece progresses and how do these add to the musical performance?

5.  Look at the scansion of the text and the importance of rhyme and metre. Using the terms, verse, chorus, bridge etc, outline the structure of the song. Do you see similarities in the way Paul Kelly designs and scans the lyrics?

 

TO HER DOOR

They got married early, never had much money


Then when he got laid off they really hit the skids


He started up his drinking, then they started fighting

He took it pretty badly, she took both the kids


She said: "I'm not standing by, to watch you slowly die

 

So watch me walking, out the door"


She said, "Shove it, Jack, I'm walking out the fucking door"

 

She went to her brother's, got a little bar work


He went to the Buttery, stayed about a year


Then he wrote a letter, said I want to see you


She thought he sounded better, she sent him up the fare


He was riding through the cane in the pouring rain


On Olympic to her door

 

He came in on a Sunday, every muscle aching


Walking in slow motion like he'd just been hit


Did they have a future? Would he know his children?


Could he make a picture and get them all to fit?

He was shaking in his seat riding through the streets

In a silvertop to her door

 

 

Music

 

Student activity Music:

Write your own verse and chorus that would work with the melody from the song. If you have a piano or guitar in class, play the chords to accompany the song and get the rest of the class to sing and perform it.

'DEEPER WATER'

  1. Listen to the delivery of the main verse and try to work out the rhyme and scansion – metre of the text.
  2. How is it similar or different in structure to the song ‘To Her Door’?
  3. Is there a similar use of musical repetition? If so, why do you think this is such an important component of being a successful songwriter?
  4. Why is the phrase ‘Deeper Water’ so easy to sing and so memorable musically?
  5. How many different notes are used in the composition of the melody of the chorus over the words ‘Deeper Water’?

 

DEEPER WATER

On a crowded beach in a distant time


At the height of summer see a boy of five


At the water's edge so nimble and free


Jumping over the ripples looking way out to sea

 

Now a man comes up from amongst the throng

Takes the young boy's hand and his hand is strong

And the child feels safe, yeah the child feels brave


As he's carried in those arms up and over the waves

 

Deeper water, deeper water, deeper water, calling him on

 

Let's move forward now and the child's seventeen

With a girl in the back seat tugging at his jeans


And she knows what she wants, she guides with her hand


As a voice cries inside him - I'm a man, I'm a man!

 

Deeper water, deeper water, deeper water, calling him on

 

Now the man meets a woman unlike all the rest


He doesn't know it yet but he's out of his depth

And he thinks he can run, it's a matter of pride


But he keeps coming back like a cork on the tide

 

Well the years hurry by and the woman loves the man

Then one night in the dark she grabs hold of his hand

Says 'There, can you feel it kicking inside!'

And the man gets a shiver right up and down

his spine

 

Deeper water, deeper water, deeper water, calling him on

 

So the clock moves around and the child is a joy

But Death doesn't care just who it destroys


Now the woman gets sick, thins down to the bone


She says 'Where I'm going next, I'm going alone'

 

On a distant beach lonely and wild

At a later time see a man and a child

And the man takes the child up into his arms

Takes her over the breakers

To where the water is calm

Deeper water, deeper water, 
deeper water, calling them on

 

After this watch the section of Paul Kelly - Stories of Me again and this time, discuss how the lyrics of the song are reflected through the type of music that is presented. 

NEXT: AN AUSTRALIAN VOICE - SONGS AND PAUL KELLY