Sadly these great plans came crashing down to earth one Saturday tea time. I'd just taken my first bite of a club sandwich in front of the TV, when my new tune heralded the arrival of a commercial break. Save re-writing it as 'Rhaspody on a Theme of Ant and Dec,' there was no longer any hope for its future. Unwittingly my brain had absorbed a TV jingle at some point, then played it back in my mind as if it were my own creation.
"Oh dear, how very unfortunate," I said to myself.
Plagiarism. A tunesmith's greatest fear; but is it more by accident than design? George Harrison was famously found 'not guilty' in the case of My Sweet Lord v. He's So Fine back in the 1970s. The ex-Beatle's multi-million selling Hare Krishna devotional appears to blatantly rip off The Chiffons 1963 hit, yet in 1976 a judge ruled that Mr Harrison had 'subconsciously' plagiarised the earlier tune.
I, for one, can believe that quite easily.
These are not isolated incidents. An episode of Sergeant Bilko (aka the Phil Silvers Show) featured the reprobates from Fort Baxter entering a catchy little ditty into the US Army Song Contest. On reaching the final, Bilko hears another platoon belting out 'their' song. The reason for this is that one of Bilko's entourage, who 'first' hummed the melody in the bathtub, had previously been in this other troop. A fictional but believable tale…with hilarious consequences, of course.
And so, to KT Tunstall's new album. Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon. A fine collection of songs it is too - yet one track - Feel It All - sounded very familiar to Mrs W when she first heard it on the radio. When its similarity to another was pointed out to me, my jaw hit the floor. Here we go again...
Now please, KT, (or may I call you Katie?) if you are reading do NOT take this as a case of 'J'accuse!' For yes, by my own admission I have strayed from the path of creative writing. But might I ask you the question, have you ever watched the film 'Spinal Tap?' There's a point in the movie when the band's origins are discussed - and flickering archive film from the 1960s is shown. It has to be noted that tune the be-suited popsters are performing, 'Gimmee Some Money,' is remarkably similar to 'Feel It All.'
Again, Spinal Tap is fiction - but Ms Tunstall and her band associates who recorded Invisible Empire in America's South West are very real indeed. It's possible that they'd all nodded off in their relative motel rooms watching Spinal Tap and fresh from a long sleep, next morning were all very excited by the tune they were hammering out in the shade of a giant cactus. Coincidence, I am personally convinced - but would it stand up in a Court of Law?
At this point I'd like to call as witness one 'Biffo', a colleague of my brother at a Gloucestershire engineering works in the 1980s. Now Biffo had a theory - simple, but plausible. One day in the canteen he put forward the suggestion that before long, the world would run out of tunes. "It 'as to 'appen soon, like," he explained. "All that classical stuff uses so many notes there can't be many more combinations to come." At some point in time, the laws of mathematics would indicate this will become a reality. One of the number sat around the table at that particular gathering quipped "Status Quo have only ever had one tune."
Indeed, if we examine the formation of the popular song, or even traditional harmonies, they have a common empirical formula.
The majority of memorable tunes are not complex at all, just being based on a handful of chords at most - often only three or four. And yes, each songwriter or composer will favour a certain combination - yet freshen each new tune with a sprinkling of alternative phrasing and intonation. A different hook. Not forgetting the all important lyrics, for that is what gives a song a reason to remember it.
So is this a form of self-plagiarism? Maybe you are Andrew Lord Webster and you have run out of tunes (as Biffo suggested). So what are you going to do? Look to your previous successes and add a few twiddly bits, a dash of music of the night and away you go, back on Broadway. Yet if you happened upon somebody else's melody - by chance - they'd be on their solicitor's doorstep two hours before the office cleaners arrived.
I met a man in a pub once. Like you do. An elderly chap, one Saturday lunchtime, who played the bar room piano for beer. It was in the Yorkshire Dales. The only seat in the wood-panelled room was next to the Joanna, so we were soon on nodding terms. He did a little medley, all based around four chords, fitting the words of several songs from 'between the wars' to the same tune. Heart and Soul, Either, Either, Neither, Neither and others a little more obscure. If you had a vivid imagination, you could even sing 'God Save The Queen' to the same accompaniment. I had to concur - these were pretty much all the same song. A good point well made. And, for the record, well played too.
So there you go. Shall we leave it at that? A happy musical coincidence - or is the Biffo Prophecy finally coming true?