Deadline Stress On The Road To Winton


Tambo Dam, which has nothing to do with this week’s FOMM, which I drafted a week before setting off on a road trip to Winton).

An old friend emailed me to say that when he saw a book review in the Sydney Morning Herald, he immediately assumed it was (a) my memoirs or (b) The Best of FOMM.

As he found out when reading the review, Friday on My Mind is a book by music writer Jeff Apter about the life of George Young. The late founder of the Easybeats wrote ‘Friday on My Mind’, a major hit around the world in 1966, with his songwriting partner Harry Vanda.

Friday on My Mind (the song), after which this weekly missive takes its name, is everything a pop hit should be. It starts with an irresistible ‘hook’ – the rapid-fire guitar intro that immediately cements the tune in your brain. It’s a circular song, starting with Monday morning (feels so bad), then names every week day through to Friday and back again.

This alone distinguishes FOMM from other songs about days of the week, which usually focus only on the day in question.

I was researching songs which name days of the week, finding yet again that if you have what seems to be an original idea, it has usually been done. Songs about a day of the week, or which mention a day of the week, for example.

Since the uncertainty and mass anxiety of COVID-19 set in around mid-March, I have been writing new songs. I’m not just writing, but using digital recording technology to flesh out the works in progress. Thus far, I have a seven songs which are at the point where I’d be happy to perform them in public, if I had a public to whom I could perform.

I had started toying with a song about deadline stress and how it always relates to a day of the week (if you have a weekly deadline). This new song is more likely to be about blogging and why millions of people around the world think other people will be interested in what’s on their minds. Some develop huge audiences and make some money, (like Nomadic Matt, which now has 1.5m followers).

Bloggers usually start with an ambitious bang and many vanish without trace within a year or two. The stayers stay by setting themselves deadlines.

A few years ago, I was writing about extreme weather in February; here and in the Northern hemisphere. This gave me a chance to reference the only song I know about February, a poignant Dar Williams tune. Along the way, I discovered a list compiled by Chuck Smeeton, who started the Cavan Project, with the aim of writing and posting a new original song once a month.

Apart from having an interest in lists, Chuck’s aim was to entertain people with an interest in music, but also to freshen up his songwriting by setting himself a deadline. Now, after writing a new song every month since 2012, he is packing it in. Sigh. I know how he feels after six and some years of writing 1,200 words a week.

Brisbane folk singer and performer John Thompson would also know how that feels. In 2011 he set himself quite a task – to research and record an Australian folk song every day for a year.

He achieved this goal, along the way uncovering old Australian folk music that might otherwise have sat undisturbed inside somebody’s piano stool. John wrote a few songs of his own on this ambitious journey, but in the main covered each song in his inimitable style. John finished the project, as befits his deft sense of humour, with Aeroplane Jelly, an advertising jingle which has blended into the culture, just like an old folk song.

I was chatting online to Brett Debritz, who was a sub editor at Brisbane’s the Daily Sun when it was a morning paper and later when it switched to afternoons. I asked if he could recall how many editions we produced. After conferring with a colleague, he said it was at least three, Monday to Friday at 7.30am, 10.30am and 2.30pm. We broke some good business stories in that final edition, which beat our rival The Courier-Mail simply by publishing before they did. Imagine that kind of deadline stress on a daily basis, next time you’re fretting about the article you’re writing for your monthly community newsletter.

I’ve never written songs to a deadline (which probably explains why my output has been so sporadic). I know songwriters who keep writing by exposing their new work to a collective. Some of these groups set challenges (a new song each day/week/month), and often written to a topic specified by the convenor. Some songwriters write songs together. I have always been a bit crap at collaborating (but I get 100% of the royalties).

Nevertheless, I support the notion of a group of creative people meeting to discuss what they do in the privacy of their own home studios.

So, I had this song idea which roughly started “Thursday I’ve got Friday on My Mind’. While true, this was never going to sit well with the publishers of the original song. Plan B, then. The idea was to somehow describe the creative tension which never goes away when promising people something new on a particular day of the week.

If you have a thing about lists, check out Chuck Smeeton’s months of the year and days of the week songs lists (including 16 Songs about August). Among other list blogs are ‘20 musicians who own wineries’ and my favourite, ‘28 songs in unusual time signatures’.

The latter, of course, includes (Dave Brubeck’s Take Five and Jethro Tull’s Living in the Past, both in 5/4), Money (Pink Floyd, 7/4), Happiness is a Warm Gun (The Beatles, various time measures) and Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill (7/8).

In the spirit of ‘it’s been done, but never done my way’, here’s a playlist I put together on Spotify; two songs for every day of the week. Most of them are sourced from the music of my youth (1964-1974), but there are examples from the new crop of songwriters (who latch on to the topic as though it was a new thing).

The standout track in my opinion is banjo player Ian Simpson’s ‘Friday on My Mind’, drawn from a mixed collection of instrumentals by Simpson and guitarist John Kane.

As I so often think, when arriving at this point in my Friday essay (1,150 words), as the lyric of work-in-progress goes, “Will anyone see this post and does it really matter, only to my readers, near and far and widely scattered.”

Jimmy Webb would tell you that is not a true rhyme, to which I could say…By the time I get to Winton…

FOMM back pages

We’re on the road for a few weeks. This is something we prepared earlier.

Comments are closed.