I was stunned to learn in the new issue of the mag that Shakira’s hit song ‘She Wolf’ was penned by The Bravery’s Sam Endicott. It’s vaguely disorientating to discover that the foppish singer – best known for singing ‘An Honest Mistake’ and calling Brandon Flowers “a kid in a wheelchair” before vanishing off the indie radar – has reinvented himself as a pop hitmaker-for-hire. It’s a bit like finding out Dick Valentine from Electric Six is back, and is standing for election as your local Lib Dem MP.
Can that really be Sam, penning lines like, “I’m starting to feel just a little abused, like a coffee machine in an office”, and vowing to “behave very bad in the arms of a boy”? Well, no, actually: he only wrote the music, not the lyrics. And you can sort of see the similarity with The Bravery, in that the song drifts by on the flimsiest of synth-borne melodies.
Still, only a hard-hearted git could begrudge Endicott his good fortune. His co-writing credit on ‘She Wolf’ – a radio-conquering global hit – must have made him very rich indeed. Plus, being a back-room guy suits him. It means he doesn’t have to sing, which, let’s be honest, was never his strong suit. At live shows, if memory serves, he was generally more ‘pitchy’ than Twickenham Stadium.
Endicott’s contemporaries must be knawing their knuckles with jealousy. Surely, for your average indie musician, penning pop hits is the motherlode: a well-paid gig where you don’t have to tour, or do interviews, or argue with bandmates, or get slagged off in the NME letter’s page: just dash off an ear-worm chorus and wait for the royalty cheques to roll in.
Ever since Lennon and McCartney penned ‘Love Of The Loved’ for Cilla Black in 1963, musos have boosted their income by pimping out their songwriting skills. Chris Martin is the current master of this – the tunes he’s written for Jamelia and Natalie Imbruglia are actually better than anything on ‘Viva La Vida…’ (especially the anthemic ‘Cry’, which Martin called “the best Coldplay song ever”). A cynic might conclude that Martin gives his best tunes to the people he fancies – if it weren’t for the fact he also wrote ‘Gravity’ for Embrace.
Martin doesn’t exactly need the cash, or the exposure – but often, extra-curricular songwriting can be a lifeline for musicians whose own bands have long since been consigned to the indie knackers’ yard. Did you know, for example, that The Longpigs’ Crispin Hunt, far from spinning off into oblivion after ‘She Said’, has been coining it in as an in-demand songsmith, penning Newton Faulkner’s monster AOR hit, ‘Dream Catch Me’ (which I secretly quite like – for Christ’s sake don’t tell anybody).
Of course, writing a song for a pop star, especially one who’s not especially bright, affords the opportunity for mischief – as Richard X demonstrated when he composed the stupendous ‘Some Girls’ for Rachel Stevens, neglecting to tell her it was all about fame-hungry starlets giving blowjobs. The song had been out for months before an NME journo – or was it Simon Amstell? – pointed out to Stevens the meaning of what she’d been singing. She was horrified.
Then again, there’s also the very real chance you’ll make a bit of a tit out of yourself, if the song is not a hit. Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield contributed a couple of songs, including the not-that-bad-actually ‘Some Kind Of Bliss’, to Kylie Minogue’s flop album, ‘Impossible Princess’ – and seems to have spent the rest of his career apologising for it.
More recently, we were (presumably) spared a similar disaster when Johnny Borrell’s songwriting sessions with Florence came to nothing. As Keith Allen once said about his daughter dating Bobby Gillespie, nothing good can come from such a match. It’s just that, every so often, indie musicians do create pop gold. What are your favourite rock/pop co-writing hook-ups?