“For I am an engine and I’m rolling on, through endless revision to state what I mean”
Jeff Mangum, (sung from 1992 – 1995, then changed in 96/97, but changed back in 1998)
It’s a great line, made even better by the fact that it’s often sung as “the world is all bending and breaking from me.” How perfect it is that a lyric about endless revision would be subject to said revision itself as time goes on.
It begs the question, when can you finally put your work to rest? Which version is the final version? Conventional wisdom suggests that once a song is released you should let it be, but honestly, if you’re an unknown artist it doesn’t really matter.
As you progress you’ll likely sporadically scrub your previous work from the web and change it to fit with whatever persona you’re trying to achieve. It happens all the time, and it’s fine I suppose, but there’s something special about capturing a moment in time through recording.
Revision should be moderate to reflect your progress as a songwriter and your increased audio recording skills. Go ahead and change some lyrics, add a cello, but don’t mess with the heart of your work. Additions should compliment the original piece not change it.
Because in reality, you probably won’t be very successful as a songwriter in any conventional sense, but if you’re honest with your work you’ll have something concrete to enjoy and reflect back on as age. Eventually, you’re going to get old and start to forget all the spent emotions of youth, but if you produce consistently honest work you won’t have to wonder how you felt when you were young – the songs will bring you back.
Okay, time to tie this all together. Above is an old live video shot by filmmaker Brendan Prost at his home in Vancouver, BC. Previously scrubbed from the internet, for a myriad of reasons that are all unimportant in the grand scheme of my life.
I’ve made moderate changes to the video before re-release, (too slight to mention,) and the modern renditions have some different lyrics, but this how I sounded in 2012 and this is how I felt.