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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Biography of a Song - "The 12th Man"

Hi diddly ho, neighbor!

The time has come to dust the ol' blog off and write another song bio for my latest Spintunes adventure.  For those not keeping track, this is the sixth iteration of the contest, and my third time competing as an official entrant.  We're currently in Round #2, and my song is in the running amongst a field of very tough competitors.  And Edric*.

The Challenge

"Song Fight" - both an apt description of the challenge and a friendly allusion to another online songwriting contest that features a fair number of crossover contestants (and at least one judge) with Spintunes, we were instructed to write a fight song for our favorite sports team.  There were leniencies in place in case any of us weren't sports enthusiasts, but I had no need to take advantage of them; as I originally hail from upstate New York, I inherited a bleeding heart fandom for that most tragic of NFL franchises, the Buffalo Bills.

Let me get something out in the open:  We suck.  We know it.  But we once did something amazing that no other team has done before or since.  And we, the rabid fans known as 'Bills Backers', will always be there for our boys.  Always, goddammit.  And no way in hell am I going to remark on team failures or conspicuously-absent Tiffany & Co.-designed trophies in our trophy case in any fight song I pen for them.  With that in mind:

The Song...

 ...was always going to be a victory march, not a redemption story.  It's an optimistic rally of a song that matches the unsinkable spirit and never-give-up attitude of the Bills fans and epitomized by players like Don Beebe, who ran the entire length of the field to strip the ball out of a showboating Dallas Cowboy's hands mere inches before he'd have scored a massive gap-widening touchdown in the Cowboys' and Bills' second Super Bowl battle... and who needed a special protective cap outside his helmet because he suffered too many concussions due to his relentless style of play.  I dedicate this song to Don.

The Music

There's not much to say about this one, due to the lack of instrumentation.  Sonically, it's something of a bastard child of "God Bless America" and "Colonel Bogey March" (the Bridge on the River Kwai rendition, naturally); I knew immediately that I wasn't going to be able to address this challenge adequately by using my standard rock n' roll band instruments -- least of all my acoustic guitar -- so I stripped it down to something appropriate for a crowd of rowdy tailgaters - shouting, singing, and whistling.  Then I added in a dash of snare drum, because fuck you if you don't like a snare drum.

Before I had any lyrics down, I knew I wanted the song to be one long crescendo, building up to a crowd singing in a round.  I never intended to do any vocal or whistling harmonies, but when I got around to tracking it just sorta happened by accident, like usual.

The Lyrics

I went back and forth about how many "inside references" I should make while writing this.  I considered telling the (fictional) story of bringing a Lombardi Trophy back to Ralph Wilson Stadium, and also thought about dropping Buffalo-related local references, but they felt a little contrived, like I was trying to prove to the listener that this wasn't just a generic "Go (insert team name here)!" song and that I was a True Fan who knows True Bills Facts.  Ultimately I decided that if I just sang about us, the honesty of it would peek through.

That said, there are a few carefully-selected phrases I chose to include.  The it's fandemonium! prelude was the catch-phrase of long-time Voice of the Bills, radio announcer Van Miller.  I refer to the Bills Backers by name, and also call us "Football's Greatest Fans" in the song, as we were called by head coach Marv Levy during my first time watching a home game live.  This theme carries into the key phrase and title of the song:

A football lineup consists of eleven players on the field.  It's been said that the fans of a team contribute so much energy to the game that it's like having a 12th man in the lineup.  In 1992 the Bills expressed their gratitude by inducting The 12th Man to their Wall of Fame, where the names of other Bills greats' were placed overlooking the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The song's final lyrics are a tip o' the cap to Marv Levy, who wrote his own fight song for the Bills in the mid-nineties.  I am a Levy-era fan, after all.  The line, with victory in sight we'll yell with all our might was graciously borrowed from his song.

In Closing

I didn't realize it until after I was done and had something on paper that I was proud of, but this was one of the most fun challenges that I've faced in a Spintunes thus far.  As a lifelong member of this worldwide extended family, it was an honor for me to write this song to the Bills and their fans everywhere.

* - inside joke**
** - and that's not to say that Edric Haleen isn't a very tough competitor; he's a SUPREMELY tough competitor.  And yes, this is a footnote to another footnote.  I do that.

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