Many years ago, here in Memphis, Keith Sykes used to host a monthly "Songwriter's Night" in a dive bar downtown. He would invite all of his old Nashville/Austin/Memphis/Key West songwriter friends to come and play. It was unbelievable. These guys who you've never seen or heard of--and who looked like they had been rode hard and hung up wet too many nights in their ragged lives--would sit on a bar stool with a Coors Lights and a guitar and play songs that had made the likes of Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw millions of dollars... though the songwriters themselves were still struggling to pay rent. One night when I was there, a man with a ukelele said, "here's a song I wrote that you mighta heard..." and then proceeded to play "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress." Bet you didn't know that song was intended to be played on a ukelele!
On the other hand, the bad thing about being back around all these musicians is that it has made me painfully aware of the fact that (1) I am very rusty, having not played much since the demise of Philbilly Cadillac, and (2) I have soooooooooo much still to learn about songwriting. I'm a pretty amateur musician, and an even more amateur songwriter. I've written a few good songs in my life, and a whole lot of bad songs... but I've never written a great song. And I really want to do that before I die. It's the holy grail that I've been pursuing for almost 15 years now. And many of my friends here are amazing songwriters, which only stokes the fire of my frustration.
(An aside for my philosophical readers: One of my longtime friends here, Amit Sen, wrote a song several years ago called "A Priori." It's a really great song, but those of you familiar with Kant will probably appreciate it more than the average listener. You can listen to it here at the website of his now-defunct band The Apostles of Love Song Orchestra, or ALSO. Even if it's not your style, you gotta appreciate the difficulty of writing a song called "A Priori"!)
I'm not sure what the secret to writing the perfect song is. As a deconstructionist, I should know that there is no "secret," but I want to believe there is. So, I'm soliciting suggestions. Tell me what you think makes a great song. Or give me an example of what you think a great song is and maybe we can pick those apart together until we find the pixie dust...