I got interested in polictics after wasting a couple of years drifting throught college. Around the same time, I became interested in learning the guitar, and luckily won an old Kay in a bet on the election of John Kennedy for President. As a journalism mamor, I was writing for several campus papers, so it was pretty natural to slip some of my ideas between the chords I was learning.
This book contains about a fifth of the songs I've written since then. Many people have asked me how I write a song, and after thinking about it for a while, I decided that all my good songs were written subconsciously. That is to say, I'm never able to sit down and decide that I'm going ot write a song. Rather, a song idea will come out of the blue and I'll get the proverbial lightbulb sensation. But I always try to keep my mind conditioned tothinking of new ideas. When I get one, my brain almost acts like a reflex muscle in following up a new thought. Sometimes I have stayed up past daylight pursuing a song idea until it was trapped in rhyme. But once you get the original idea, the rest is relatively easy,and rewarding. Some of the most exciting and satisfying moments of my life have been in the writing of a song.
I hope this book will inspire some reasders to try their hand at songwriting. You'll never know how good you might be without a few honest attempts. I think many potenitally good songwriters have been stillborn by their own inhibitions.
Most of my early songs were straight journalistic narratives of specific events, and the later ones have veered more inthe direction of themes behind the events. All of them, thought, are trying to make a positive point, even the ones that deal with tragic events. However, I do have to concur with some of the rightwing groups that consider topical songs subversive. These songs are definitely subversive in the best sense of the word. They are intended to overthrow as much idiocy as possible, and hopefully, to effect some amount of change for the better.
I'd like to dedicate this book to the memory of Joe Hill, the Wobbly songwriter who received his royalties in the form of bullets from a firing squad.
-- Phil Ochs
Copyright 1964 Appleseed Publications