Mark Knopfler has a cool song called “Boom Like That.” My understanding is that he read a book about Ray Kroc, the man who made McDonald’s into a worldwide fast food giant, and wrote the song about him. I was speaking to a friend the other day, saying that a person has their whole life to tell a story, a book author might have 500 pages, a motion picture can have 2 hours, and songwriters have 3 minutes to do it. When I listen to a Knopfler song, I feel like I have just read a great book or watched a great movie.

I am a member of a band called Dogs Of Peace…at least for two records in 20 years. The first being “Speak”, released in 1996 and the second “Heel”, released in 2016. From the newest project comes a song called “Only The Gold.” It actually began its life during the first project. It is a title that drummer John Hammond came up with. Along with John, bass player Jimmie Lee Sloas and I would develop music for it and we’d even rehearsed it for the first project. It was never finished and went dormant until the new record. Once unearthed, I remembered that the original thought was that “only the gold that is God would ever do.” We had this great riff, chord progression and by the time keyboard player Blair Masters came up with a cool musical bridge, we had everything but the lyric.

It might as well have been a fresh title as well as a 20 year old one at this point. Often, the lyric writing will began with just a title. For me, with the rare exception of one or two songs, the music comes first. This music had a sense of urgency and a frantic nature about it so, something dramatic lyrically was the order of the day.

Remember, as a songwriter, you are always writing. Thinking, listening, watching, dreaming…always writing…if you are paying attention.

I had read “The Devil And Daniel Webster”, a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet, back in my high school days. I was looking at the guide on tv one day and saw where the movie by the same title from 1941 was coming on. I watched it. A struggling farmer Jabez Stone, sells his soul to the devil. He enjoys prosperity for a while, then the devil comes to collect and Jabez needs an advocate in Daniel Webster. There is a trial in a barn and Webster and Jabez prevail. This story became the inspiration for the lyric to “Only The Gold.”

Writers should look for new ways, or in the case of this song, old ways to say the familiar. Before the short story, I had never heard the devil called “Old Scratch.” The name “Jabez Stone” would also provide an interesting twist for a line making the word “Stone” into something Old Scratch would “mine” for. I also thought of a saleman’s pitch of “it’s a steal!” as being hidden in the fine print with the devil secretly talking about your soul.

I probably got the knack of listening for and going with the use of internal rhyme schemes from Roger Miller. He was amazing at that and in the song “England Swings”, he wrote:

if you huff and puff and you finally save enough money
take your family on o trip across the sea
take a tip before you take trip let me tell you where to go
go to England oh…

Sometimes it made sense, sometimes it was silly, but it always had a sound and flow to it. I tried to do the same here and even the words “wares wherever” sounds like something Roger would do.

Add a little bit of the biting wit that Don Henley is so great at, and maybe a little “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” and you have “Only The Gold” from Dogs Of Peace.

“Only The Gold”

You seem to me to be polite and well refined
And your words sound lovely to the ear
True the fruit you offer me is sweet as wine

Mr. Scratch what is the catch inside the deal
Is there more than what you say in here
And what exactly do you mean by “it’s a steal”

I know you and what you’re doing
You want me to follow you to ruin
My soul is not for sale though you try to buy it still
Only the gold that is God ever will

You would show your wares wherever someone’s weak
You mine to find another Jabez Stone
But I submit that counterfeit is your technique

Mr. Scratch you seek to snatch a guilty plea
Get me Daniel Webster on the phone
Is anybody out there representing me

I know you and what you’re doing
You want me to follow you to ruin
My soul is not for sale though you try to buy it still
Only the gold that is God ever will

I will walking through this world your prisoner
I signed my name then came the finer print
I was condemned I turned to Him my Savior

Mr. Scratch you met your match the matchless name
The answer to your hell bent – heaven sent
Best be finding somewhere else to play your game

I know you and what you’re doing
You want me to follow you to ruin
My soul is not for sale though you try to buy it still
Only the gold that is God ever will

Kennedy/Sloas/Hammond/Masters

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