Ask Van Hammersmith: Legacy Songs

author: Van Hammersmith date: 01/09/2014 category: artists' discussions

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Ask Van Hammersmith: Legacy Songs
Hello again, Ultimate-Guitar friends! Some of you may remember me from my extended stay here at U-G as the resident advice columnist. After a long lay-off, I'm back hanging around the bars again, getting my hands dirty playing dirty, dirty rock and roll. And at the same time, I've dug up a pile of your old, unanswered questions. I have a few minutes to kill these days, so I thought I might answer a few for you!

Here's one you punters might enjoy:

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Bonjour Van Hammersmith,

I've been in a few bands over the past seven years or so. High school, university, blah. I've always been the singer/rhythm guitarist, and as such have always been the one writing lyrics to everything and sometimes writing everything else as well (minus drums). As bands come and go, naturally, some songs become lost soldiers and some get statues. Once the band breaks up, if I haven't written everything, and mostly even if I do, I feel like I'm betraying my ex-band-mates if I were to redo some of those songs with a new band. What do you feel is the best way to deal with songs like that if they haven't been recorded and you can't listen to them? Do you continue to practice them to keep the memory alive? Burn the lyrics and never think of them again? Pull a "Dazed and Confused" and just do the songs anyway?



(I realize Jimmy Page lifted "Dazed and Confused" from another band, and I've never done that, but I think my point still stands) .

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Greetings Trison! Sorry I waited a few years to answer this question. I hope you're still alive. If not, at least others will be able to gain insight from your dilemma.

Now, let me ask you a question. Imagine if you will that you are given tickets to see Sir Paul McCartney. Sweet! Free Macca! You and your buddies dose yourselves up with the old "Lucy in The Sky with Diamonds," smoke a couple fat joints of "Strawberry Fields," and get to the Hollywood Bowl.

Sir Paul gets up on stage. The place goes crazy! Oh my freakin' GAWD it's a Beatle! And look, he's grabbing his bass! This is really happening!

And then Sir Paul plays three uninterrupted hours of songs you've never even heard of. People are screaming "Helter Skelter!" and "Got To Get You Into My Life!".

Sir Paul leans into the microphone and says in his adorable accent, "Sorry, I don't play those songs anymore, people. I just feel like I would be betraying the other Beatles."

What the f--k, other Beatles? John and George are DEAD, Paul. You're afraid of betraying Ringo? What's going on here? Well, at least play "Band on the Run."

"Sorry, I don't play those songs either. I don't want to betray Wings."

What the hell, Paul, YOU'RE Wings! Wings is you! Who gives a crap about some other guys that were playing with you at the time that you decided were named "Wings?" You're worried about Wings? F--k Wings, Paul McCartney. Play the songs we want to hear!

Okay, I think I've made my point. You do see what I'm getting at, right Trison? All right, now listen, because this is what I want you to do. Get a piece of paper. You know, that stuff people used to write on before the giant computer took over our brains. Write down every song you can think of that you had any part in writing, no matter what band you were in at the time. Choose the twenty best songs. These are the songs you should play with your next band, and the band after that. The Trison Solo Orchestra. Whatever. Play these songs without a care of betraying previous bandmates, and keep playing them until you replace them with newer, better songs.

Do you know how you really betray old bands? You let their music DIE, Trison. And then, one night you will be haunted by the ghosts of your old bandmates (causes of death: overdose, choked on vomit, choked on sandwich). The ghosts will float over you and your three sleeping lovers and they will ask "Why, Trison? Why did you let our songs die?" And then you will puke blood out of your eyes and the ghosts will tear your arms off.

So what I'm saying is, play the good songs no matter what your band was at the time. If you record the songs, give song-writing credit where it is due. Also, either write down or make simple recordings of songs you don't play often but want to keep. Songs that really suck? Let 'em die, I guess. Who cares? It's the good ones we want to remember.

Did that make any sense? It's really hard for me to tell anymore. I'm out of touch and out of practice. I'm going to go grab my guitar and try to remember a song I wrote back in my first high school band. I think it was called "Paint It Black." No, wait. It was called "Purple Haze." That's right. I almost forgot.

Okay! I hope this was useful. I'm taking new questions again for a current column at You can drop by and see what's happening. Also send new questions to vanhammersmith "at" See you prigs later!

-VH. @vanhammersmith
More Van Hammersmith columns:
+ Ask Van Hammersmith: How to Dump a Band Fiction 01/06/2014
+ Ask Van Hammersmith: Band of Equals Fiction 12/24/2013
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 62 (Final) Junkyard 10/12/2011
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 61 Junkyard 10/05/2011
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 60 Junkyard 09/28/2011
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 59 Junkyard 09/21/2011
+ view all
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