– Beginning the chronological cataloging of my songwriting material called ‘City-Flower’ with the first song I ever finished, ‘Seashell.’ My thoughts on the song and a performance below –
This was the first song I ever finished writing. I’m fond of this tune not only for those sentimental reasons, but also because it came out pretty well. This was a combination of simple beginner’s luck (letting go into flow) and also having lyrical ideas stored in my unconscious. Never before utilized.
Even after I began taking guitar lessons, it was months before I could form chord changes competently enough to perform a complete song. When I finally reached the level of putting chords together while barely managing to maintain rhythm, Seashell basically fell out of me.
It is interesting to me how the song employs word play, which basically only happened in my process this one particular time. There’s a sense of playfulness to the lyrics owing to an existentialist viewpoint of life. That’s a reflection of myself when I wrote the song: in my early twenties. There are surface critiques on capitalism and consumerism, but they are written from a perspective of someone who has dealt with these forces on a more theoretical, opposed to actual level. But more accurately: I had encountered these barriers in my own life: but was not prepared to write about them in any realistic way.
Being an art believer was one of my positive attributes at this stage, and had inspired me to try guitar in the first place. So it made perfect sense for my first completed creative work as a musician to have an absurd energy. Why not? Why not try? And that remains true, despite everything else that has a way of changing.
The most specific lines having to do with social commentary–
The mask or madness
Choose your clothes
–Probably retain the most meaning for me. Other lines form amusing rhymes amid contradictory meanings: (serendipitous, innocuous) but they don’t have much authorial drive to them. Some lines could float away. (And I think the chord progression always does remind me of things floating away)
I’ve made several adjustments over the years. No idea when these happened particularly:
Adding the closing sentiment: “I could smile and cry at the same damn time.” It affirmed that there’s actually an individual in this song, caught between all the contradictions and expectations of the world. That makes the song more appealing to me, more emotional and less of an experiment in verbiage.
Changing the chorus from ‘Only the Seashells know’ to ‘No One Knows.’ There wasn’t any huge reason for this decision. I just thought the former chorus was too vague while the latter actually expressed a sentiment. I do remember thinking that the original lyric could be saying that natural sound is the only pure truth: a seashell recording the ocean, a singer recording a song. I did like that. But there was something about the words themselves that struck me as overly cutesy. Maybe I’m wrong about that. Anyway, ‘Queens of the Stone Age’ has a song with the title ‘No One Knows,’ and that’s always close to automatic rewrite for me. (I never want to share a title with anyone. Its just unnecessary.