Story Behind the Song: “Sweet, Sweet Color of Love”

On the last day of November 2011, TAXI, an organization that bills itself as helping “independent Songwriters, Artists, and Composers get their music to Record Labels, Film & TV Music Supervisors, Music Libraries, Music Publishers, Music Licensing Companies, Ad Agencies, and Video Game Companies”, published a listing that started out, “NY Ad Agency URGENTLY needs a SLOW, almost MELENCHOLY(sic) SONG about EXPLODING, or things that go BANG.” The listing went on to provide a number of other hints (guesses?) as to possibilities that might (or might not) help their members target the opportunity. For example:

  • The song would play in the background of slow motion shots of “beautiful objects exploding”.
  • At one point they’d been thinking of using “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” for the song.
  • The spot would have flowers in it.
  • They’d also considered using Nancy Sinatra’s song, “Bang, Bang”.
  • They might (or might not) be looking for something that had a retro 1960s or early 1970s vibe.
  • They’d also mentioned the idea of using “an emotional love song that can feature the word ‘color’ in it.”
  • The song needed to be “SLOW!” (their CAPS and emphasis).
  • Another direct quote from the listing reads, “lyric themes like ‘No more flowers,’ ‘You don’t have to bring me flowers’ could work well for this, but don’t go overboard on the flower thing. The visuals of things exploding in slow-mo also lends itself to lyric themes about booms, bangs, and explosions.”

Oh, and most importantly, the song (and its recording, which had to be broadcast quality) needed to be submitted by noon the next day!

I did not have such a song, but there were slightly more than 24 hours (maybe as many as 28) between the time I saw the listing and the deadline, and this was the sort of lucrative opportunity that, had I gotten the placement, could have made a significant difference in my (extremely) quickly deteriorating financial situation. There was also a lot of information, however conflicting some parts might seem to be with other parts, that could potentially help jump start some inspiration. I decided I at least had to try.

I wasn’t familiar with “Bang, Bang”, at least by Nancy Sinatra (it turned out I had heard the song years before in a recording by Sonny and Cher), but one key thing I noticed on that recording was the tremolo guitar. That sound, along with the melancholy feel on the verses of the song, ended up providing some inspiration on the recording, but first I had to write the song.

It’s possible the tremolo guitar sound also provided me a sound reference to experiment with while trying to write the song, but I honestly don’t remember. What I do know is that I had a starter idea on directions by 11:30 AM. I also know I keyed in on the following words from the listing in addition to the concept of beautiful things exploding:

  • color
  • flowers
  • love

I think the “You don’t have to bring me flowers” reference probably also gave me the starter idea for the opening line of my lyric (“don’t send me flowers anymore”). Perhaps I was singing that against a tremolo guitar sound?

I know I had an initial working draft lyric (I didn’t even call it “Draft 1” yet, just “work in progress”), and very likely the melody, shortly before 2 PM. The first verse I had at the time, which read:

Don't send me flowers
They don't thrill me
Like they did before
And I don't want them
To remind me
Of those old times

also ended up being part of the final lyric.

For that matter, the rest of the song, which had only one additional verse with separate lyrics (the first verse is repeated twice) plus the chorus, was pretty close to what would end up being the final draft. In fact, there were only two words where I’d noted a couple of possible options (one of which ended up in the final lyric in each case), and one word I hadn’t yet decided whether to keep in the final lyric or just leave out. The final lyric (“Draft #2”) was completed about a half an hour later, though I also made a “Draft #3” the next morning just to include some additional structural notes after finishing the recording.

Beyond the already short deadline to write, record, and submit the song, I had another scheduling challenge that day. My son and his then-girlfriend (now his wife) were coming over for dinner, which meant time for me to prepare a decent meal and time for the dinner conversations and such. I’d gotten the song written by 2:30 PM, then started working on the arrangement, but I’d only finished the drum programming by the time I had to start making dinner. The dinner went pretty late, and I was really feeling the need to get back to the recording project given the deadline pressure. However, I also needed to take a short nap to buy myself enough time and energy to persist as I wouldn’t have been in any condition to track vocals by that point.

I think I started back on the project around 10 PM, starting with working on the vocals. That took until at least 3 AM by the time you include comping (combining multiple takes of a vocal into one polished vocal) and tuning. The rest of the project ended up being a lot more straightforward, thanks in part to a suggestion in the listing that the recording could be reasonably stripped down.

In the end, I got the song finished and submitted by about 9 AM on December 1st — three hours ahead of the deadline! I’m pretty sure I went straight to bed after that, though I probably only got a few hours of sleep. The song was rejected for the opportunity, but I really liked the song.

Life took some big turns not too long after that. I ran out of cash and had to sell my house, which took until early 2013 to close. Finding a new place and getting settled took some time, and it wasn’t until the summer of 2013 that I started releasing some of the recordings I’d made for various TAXI opportunities in 2011 and early 2012. I think I did some remixing of “Sweet, Sweet Color of Love” prior to September 3, 2013, when I finally released the song as a digital single. Here is a link to that version:

I used two photos I’d taken, one of fireworks off the boardwalk in Asbury Park, New Jersey on the 4th of July 1982, and another a close-up of a rose in Coronado, California from April 2003, doctored a fair bit, to make the cover art.

Earlier this year (2019), when I was trying to decide what songs to include in my latest album, The Road That I Must Take, I decided that “Sweet, Sweet Color of Love” would be a good fit for the album’s theme. Instead of using the version from the original single, which featured a fadeout ending, I used an extended version that had initially been intended as a “TV mix” (for another TAXI opportunity that did not result in a placement). A new mix of that extended version is the one that appears on the album. You can hear that mix here:

Not bad for a song that was written and (originally) recorded in less than 24 hours?