I usually try to take a book with me wherever I go but one night in 2013 I went to see Mountain Schmountain at the Malt Cross I was book-less and bored waiting for the gig to start*. Being a fully hipster approved watering hole they had a few boardgames and paperbacks lying around so swerving Clancy, Grisham and Dan Brown, I picked up The Independent Book Of Medical Emergencies by Dr. Stuart Fischer. I’d been experimenting with minimalist music using ‘found’ texts (apeing Philip Glass) and on p.99-100 I ‘found’ the following ‘Advice Regarding The Treatment Of Bullet Wounds’
Don’t try to remove a bullet
A lodged bullet may be preventing blood loss
Removal could expose a severed artery or vein leading to circulatory collapse
Don’t scrub the area
Or use soaps
Of any kind
Don’t allow the patient to stand
Don’t elevate a bleeding arm or leg
Because an artery may be injured
And circulation of blood to the limb could be impaired
Don’t make any assumptions about the extent of the patients injury
Because a bullet’s path is unpredictable
Get the patient immediate treatment
Obviously the poetic stanzas were my own doing and I set it to an ever evolving melody over a three chord progression. It was terrible. Too terrible to share publicly. Oh alright then.
And that was it. Experiment over, on to the next thing. But a few weeks later I had a light bulb moment – why not fold all this real life medical info into a narrative, with the ‘reveal’ that the singer is addressing the lover who shot him. I even recycled the chords I’d used before. The bVI7 IV I (Ab7 – F – C in the key C) became Eb7 – C7 – G in the new chorus.
Because I’d already written the song once, the new blues version became Advice Regarding The Treatment Of Bullet Wounds NUMBER 2, making a wonderfully pretentious title even more pretentious.
The only subsequent change I made was originally the song in A and sung down LOW like Johnny Cash. That’s the way I did it at First Tuesday Songwriter’s Group but it sounded better up an octave in G.
As well as a solo song I’ve also done it as a duet with First Tuesday regular and my cello playing wingman Rachel McClean.