“I woke up with all my clothes on
Cigarette smoke in my hair
Unglued my eyes and saw a dirty room
Spilling ashtray by my bed
Empty bottle on the chair
No one else was there
“No You” by Australian songwriting legend Paul Kelly is a sorry tale of love lost and regrets, a man down on his luck and down in spirits.
Paul Kelly is hardly known outside Australia, yet his simple lyrics paint a vivid picture of contemporary Australian life. That’s me lying in that bed, glassily eyed and hungover, disgusted with my life.
Simple words, yet so much power.
Kelly has a knack for painting a picture from his very first word. Here’s another of Kelly’s, “To Her Door.”
“They got married early
Never had no money
Then when he got laid off
They really hit the skids
He started off his drinking
Then they started fighting
He took it pretty badly
She took both the kids
She said I’m not standing by
To watch you slowly die
So watch me walking
Out the door
Years of struggle and hardship, they never had a chance. Delicate threads of a fragile relationship unraveling slowly at first, then rapidly falling apart… a familiar story to so many people.
Fifteen years or more of one family’s struggles, all wrapped up succinctly in just 12 lines. Genius!
How I wish I could be so economical with words yet so descriptive.
What is Paul Kelly doing here? What’s his formula?
Following the Rules
He’s following the rules of copywriting. The same rules you and I try to follow. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes not. Kelly, on the other hand, succeeds 99 times out of 100.
Know Your Audience
He knows his target audience. When he wrote the two songs I quoted above, his target audience was 18 to 35 year-olds living in inner-city Australian suburbia.
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