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Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Columns From Behind the Pine Curtain

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

“I can’t stand this indecision

Married with a lack of vision

Everybody wants to rule the world”

Tears for Fears – Orzabal, Stanley and Hughes 1985

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is a song by the English pop/rock band Tears for Fears.  It was written by Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley and Chris Hughes. The song was first released on March 18 1985 by Phonogram, Mercury and Vertigo Records as the third single from the band’s second album, Songs from the Big Chair (1985).  Its lyrics detail the desire humans have for control and power. It is regarded as the group’s signature song and had success on charts internationally, peaking at number two in Ireland and the United Kingdom and at number one in Canada, New Zealand and on the Billboard Hot 100. It was certified gold by both Music Canada (MC) and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). Years later New Zealand singer Lorde recorded a cover of the song which was included in the soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013). Here is a video from a 2022 performance by the original artists: Everybody Wants to Rule the World

I first remember hearing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” back in 1985 when MTV actually played music. I loved the song, it’s presentation and, it’s meaning, and I still do. And now I feel like it is a logical introduction to my possibly foolhardy attempt to provide a list of songwriting rules. I certainly don’t want to rule the world of songwriting and I can assure you that for the most part the rules are tongue in cheek. I also realize that I am opening myself up for a lot of criticism. But what the heck, I’ve got thick skin. Or, at least I hope so.

I just finished teaching my first songwriting class in April and I’ve got to say it was a wonderful experience. I had a couple of folks who had written before and one who had never written a song. They all created wonderful work, surpassing any expectations I may have started with. But more than anything they and their eagerness to learn and create inspired me to continue teaching. I started the class on a lark when I asked a local arts center if they would be interested in an in-depth songwriting course and almost to my horror they said yes. The class consisted of seven 2 hour bi-weekly sessions. The first session, I was scared to death that it would be a total failure. But in the end, I am sure I got more out of the class than any of the attendees. I am already looking forward to teaching the class again next year.

To prepare for the class I borrowed ideas from friends who teach songwriting, some casually and some professionally, but all the material I generated was either uniquely mine or a spinoff of the materials shared with me. For the last class session I decided to create a set of “songwriting rules” to pass along to my students. Upon re-reading those rules I thought it might be helpful to pass them on to my column readers. I decided on thirteen rules as thirteen is my self proclaimed lucky number.

Sidebar: So why is 13 my lucky number?  I was discharged from the Navy on Friday the 13th 1972 and got married the next year on Friday the 13th. Fifty years later we are still married. So I consider that pretty dang lucky.

So here are my songwriting rules. Take ‘em or leave ‘em but they have unconsciously been my guiding principles since I started writing at age 14. I hope you can find some shred of benefit for your own creative processes. 

Randy’s “Lucky 13” Random Rules of Songwriting

  1. Tell your truth.
  2. Write for yourself, no one else matters or even really cares.
  3. Go deep, then go deeper.
  4. If YOU think it’s good, then it is. But that doesn’t mean everyone will think so.
  5. Be fearless even if it’s an act.
  6. Always use vivid concrete details. (Thanks to my 12th grade English teacher: Eunice Larkin)
  7. Don’t preach, but always tell us how it feels to you.
  8. Push the envelope straight into the trashcan.
  9. Ignore the critics. They are just jealous.
  10. Remember that you are no better or worse than anyone else. You are you and that is enough.
  11. The world is your inspiration, so feel free to steal.
  12. Don’t waste your time. Nothing rhymes with orange.
  13. Know that songwriting is art, so there are no rules.

So there you go, my take on being a songwriter or maybe simply just a creative person. I don’t know if there is something there here you can use or not. Either way, feel free to critique, criticize or comment on my rules. I would love to hear your thoughts. So until next time…

Randy Lewis Brown can be reached from his website or via email.

Randy Lewis Brown may be an over-the-hill, baby boomer and cranky old coot, but he is also an award-winning Northeast Texas-based singer-songwriter and self-proclaimed “performing philosopher”. Despite his years, and an early bedtime, he remains steadfast in attempting to decipher the intersection of spirit, faith, science and the human condition, always trying to maintain a sense of wonder and whimsy in his occasionally clever folk-Americana songs and stories.

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