ST4 – Raymond Carver – Short Story

An original song of mine inspired by a short story called ‘Popular Mechanics’ by Raymond Carver.

Vocals & Piano: Ophelia Neville

Lyric Scaffold questions:

  • Who is singing? The cancer
  • Who is the singer addressing? The man with the cancer, but the song could relate to anyone
  • Is it a particular ‘you’ or a universal ‘you’? The man with the cancer
  • What will be the overriding emotion conveyed by the singer? Sadness, apologetic, pain.
  • What other element will you bring to the lyric? There’s the twist that it’s written from the cancer’s point of view rather than the man or the wife.
  • Does the song have a setting? If so, where? Inside the man. I want the music to almost sound like the inside of the man i.e. the heartbeat and quite muffled sounds. But then also have the sounds you might here in a hospital to create the sense of imagery and emotion around the topic.
  • When is the event happening? Now, in the past, in the future?Now, currently and has been happening for a while.
  • What will be your song structure? Verse 1, Verse 2, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Verse 3 – very much just going through a clear story?
  • What universal element  from your song will your audience identify with? Cancer

I was inspired by the baby in the Raymond Carver short story, and how at the end it was very much a cliffhanger – we didn’t know what had happened to the baby. This made me think of cancer. Earlier this year my dad was diagnosed with cancer and it’s been one of the hardest years. I wanted to write out of a place of vulnerability and reliability. As I write this a couple of my friends have parents suffering with cancer, some of which are terminal and I’ve had two friends in the past who have suffered with cancer. Everyone knows it. Just as no-one knows what happened to the baby in the short story, a lot of the time we don’t know what’s going to happen with cancer. This was my writing point.

I wanted to create something quite unnerving and thought provoking and write my emotions from this year into a song. When I recorded the voice, I had a really sore throat and couldn’t even really speak, let alone sing, but ironically I actually quite like the fact the vocal is quite ‘not right’, it’s not perfect & is creates this unnerving, mysterious element but also fits the setting of illness.

After discussion with the class about the song, I think I would like to carry on working on it, particularly looking at the structure of the chorus. There’s a change in the chorus after the lyrics ‘or I’ll end up losing you’ and it’s almost like the ‘I just want to be loved’ creates another little chorus section. I would want to have a look at whether I want to keep that, whether its needed. Or whether I could create some kind of bridge out of that instead.

I think I’ve managed to create a consistent emotional tone throughout the song with the use of the hospital sounding elements such as the oxygen mask breathing and the heart monitor beep. I wanted to keep the instrumentation quite minimal so the spaces and elements that are there can be quite captivating and gripping.

In terms of the language I’ve used I might make a few alterations, for example the word ‘heavying’ isn’t actually a word.


Verse 1:

Underneath the surface

I’m latching on

Latching on

You know I’m here

You feel me

I’m throbbing in

I’m throbbing in your bones

Verse 2:

In sickness and in health

Your wife thirsts to see you better

It drives your love apart

I can feel it heavying your heart

Pre Chorus:

I know you’re both exhausted

You conceived me unexpected

Just take a break and please just take me on


I’m sorry I’m addicted to this certain kind of pain

I cause the confrontation

That rips apart your frame

I can’t help being toxic

I have to keep on going

Or I’ll end up losing you

I just want to be loved

To be loved

Just want to be loved

Verse 3:

And when the time is right

I know you’ll give up fighting

To take me on completely

And say goodbye goodbye to her

She won’t know it’s coming

But I promise it’s a good thing

You won’t have to keep on striving

Won’t have to keep on striving


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