Songwriting Basics Section II – Analysis 13: Hauf the Brains o Me

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Bob Leslie is an Independent Scottish Songwriter, Singer, and Recording Artist

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Hauf the brains o me …

Inspired by the well-known travelling people’s drinking anthem Jock Stewart, it occurred to me one day to write a braggart song. 

Now, anyone who sets himself to brag is declaring their superiority to someone. So I thought to myself, “Who can I compare myself to who’s unlikely to come out of the audience and punch me in the nose?”

At which point, another song popped into my mind: Robert Burns’ anthem for the common man (and woman) A Man’s a Man for Aa That in which Rabbie is somewhat uncomplimentary about his feudal and bourgeois “superiors”.

thumbNow, very few of my audience tend to turn up in Ascot hats or ermine, so I figured I was on pretty safe ground adopting the Bard’s approach.

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Well, I had the basic ideas for the song, but how to start it?

For years, whenever anyone brought up the question of class identification, I always jokingly named myself “a jumped-up proletarian” – and, bingo, there was my opening line!

In terms of its basic sentiments, Hauf the Brains o Me is an updating of those of Burns’ saltire1.gifanthem, citing modern tropes like trade unions, the ways in which the concept of Royalty is used by the Westminster and the Mass Media to keep us “in our place”, and the Independence movement.

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Lend an ear and an eye …

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Hauf the Brains o Me

© 2019 Bob Leslie

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So, how’s it constructed? …

V1 opens the song by identifying the singer as the “jumped-up proletarian”, giving his character and personal history, and establishing the hookline “Ye’ll nivver meet a lord wha’s sportin hauf the brains o me.”

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V2 gives family background and compares it favourably to the destructive activities of the upper classes.

V3 attacks the onslaught of Royal propaganda used to habituate the public to the idea that they are inferior beings, and berates the fools that swallow that line (this song pulls no punches!)

V4 stresses the value of  personal dignity, intelligence, and independent mind.

The bridge/chorus comments on how easily people are deceived and distracted by pomp and circumstance, and compares the worship of our “betters” to a dog paying its fleas to bite it!

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pub.gifThere are 5 main audience grabbers in the song:

  • humour – mainly of a satirical kind
  • a catchy hookline
  • a melodically contrasting bridge/chorus
  • the familiarity of the line “ony birkie  cried a lord” which harks back to a similar line in A Man’s a Man
  • the song follows both the rhythm and familiar chords (all within E minor/G major) of a 4/4 reel, and so would have a degree of instant familiarity in the classy venues I usually play.

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Rhythm in the driving seat …

Apart from a few passing, unaccented linking syllables (e.g. “I’m a ..” Ah, ma ..”), the entire song is in trochees (DUM-dah) – a very forcible rhythm that pushes the song, and the points it makes, along like a train …

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“…  jumped-up | pro-le | tar-i | –an tae | nane ah | bou the | knee, ah’ve … “

 

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A regular rhymer …

The rhyming pattern is also an absolutely regular

  • A  B  C  B  D  B etc.

In the verses, it’s even more regular in that all the “B” rhymes are an “ee” sound:

  • “knee” “university” “free” “me” and so on …

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Summing-up …sum.gif

Solid continuity: the lyric builds throughout on variations of the premise that the common man/woman is every bit the equal, if not the better, of the rich and powerful.

Near-absolute regularity in both rhythm and rhyme.

Familiar pace and chords in what is essentially a variation on a reel.

Positive audience reaction – joining in on the hookline, and the line about a dog and its fleas seems to tickle a lot of people!

I know, as the writer, I’m hopelessly prejudiced, but I think it works, and I hope I’ve managed to put some reasons behind that assertion!

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Next time, we’ll look at another song that’s survived down the ages!

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Bob Leslie – Scottish – Traditional – Songwriter

 

 

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