All Over

Play the song here!

Jo Jo was a man
Who had a best laid plan
Such amazing things he could become
Alas, there was a lady
Power mad and so shady
And she kept him down right under her thumb

When she failed to duck
A sanitation truck
Ding-Dong! She was finally gone
Without that witch Loretta
Jo Jo knew he’d be better
Off he went to turn his happy life on

All over
All over
When it’s over, you can finally just be
All over
All over
When it’s over, you can finally be free

Found a gal named Sal
To boost his own morale
What she’d do for him, there was no end
He headed for the top
It seemed he just could not stop
But not only Jo Jo needed a friend

Stumbled on her cries
He saw it in her eyes
How he’d take but he hardly would give
He saw what he’d become
He kept her under his thumb
He wondered, was he still deserving to live?

All over
All over
When it’s over, you can finally just be
All over
All over
When it’s over, you can finally be free

To leave her like that
Would just be one more selfish thing
He had no right
But if he stayed ’round
To make it up, that just might bring
Him to the light

From that very day
The two would find a way
To be giving as good as they’d get
Yeah, Sal and good ol’ Jo Jo
Found the way to their mojo
Was to live a life they wouldn’t regret

Even at the end
They still could both depend
On each other to see it all through
The worse as well as better
They forgave even Loretta
And when they were gone, the two of them knew

All over
All over
When it’s over, you can finally just be
All over
All over
When it’s over, you can finally be free

All over
All over
When it’s over, you can finally just be
All over
All over
When it’s over, you can finally be free


The Challenge

After participating in its first go-round but being too busy for its second, I got involved with SpinTunes #3, an online songwriting competition where people submit original songs they write to meet challenges handed out by a panel of judges. The challenge for Round 1: If You’re Happy And You Know It Raise The Dead – Write a happy song about death.

Immediately upon seeing this challenge, I smiled. My interest in psychology over the last several years has taught me about the connection between fear of death and dysfunction in life. Also, for the last several months I’ve been reading a lot of Joseph Campbell, in whose work on mythology recurring themes are death as necessary to support life and therefore something that must be embraced in order to really live, and also ego death as the path toward all of that, i.e., both being okay with death and fully living life. So the idea of being happy about, or least very okay with, death is often on my mind.

The challenge arrived on Thursday, June 9, with submission due by the end of the day Sunday, June 19. I was due to be away from Friday through Sunday of both weekends in between, and behind on a bunch of other things. I often do an Appreciative Inquiry to foster the creative process, and it’s even helpful to do it when ideas are flowing, to help develop and focus them. In this situation, though, the time constraints and the familiarity of the topic left me feeling okay about both simply incubating over the weekend and likely moving ahead on Monday without an AI.

The Concept

With time to think, I started pondering different ways one might be accepting of death. There was simply looking forward wisely to the close of a life well lived, taking comfort in the good that can happen while one is alive. That reminded me of Billy Joel’s song, “Goodnight, My Angel,” which had echoes of the Campbell perspective. A hated person could die, making life easier: “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” from The Wizard of Oz. Even suicide, where clearly one is choosing death as preferable to a very sad life.

Initially on learning of the challenge, I thought about a quiet song, with a heart-beat percussion, and the rest would come in quietly, meditatively, communicating the basic ideas from Campbell, and then all would go out except the heart-beat, showing that death is just life continued, not an ending to fear or regret but a transformation.

As I spent the weekend pondering these other things, though, I realized I had something else on my hands. A story, in which one chorus communicating the “okayness” of death could reflect the different ways death was okay as the story progress — and I always like it when a lyric can take on different meanings as it recurs. The story would be about someone who thought life would be much better after a hated influence dies, but then it would turn out that the hated influence lived on through him doing similar things to others. Feeling guilty, he’d become suicidal. Finally, he’d realize that the only way out was to break the cycle, to transcend his own ego, to get free of the past, and do good things for himself and others. And through this, a life well lived, and being okay with his own death.

Now that all sounds rather lofty, and I suppose it is, but there was another aspect to what I had on my hands after those few days of incubation. Just as those other songs had popped in my mind, as I pondered this challenge, I found myself seemingly inexplicably singing The Beatles’ “Get Back” to myself. Soon enough, I realized that its theme of getting “back to where you once belonged” was relevant. Getting back to your source, before poisoning influences and ego inflation, to a state where you could be one with yourself, with others, and even with death. And after all, this was to be a happy song. So rather than the mystical meditation I was originally pondering, suddenly, I had an upbeat pop-rock story song on my hands.

I obviously ended up using “Get Back” as more than just a thematic inspiration. I like playing with genres, mimicking other things. And here I was having pondered The Beatles and Billy Joel, two of my favorite musical acts, and both of whom are known for their own wide-ranging use of pastiche. When there are countless Beatlesque songs that riff on various of their stylistic tropes, I figured, why not “Get Back”? Thus, not a sequel, but simply an alternative, as if Paul McCartney were to have written the song instead about the new story I now had in mind.

The Song

The story of the song is pretty self-explanatory. I sometimes like to go heavy into analysis mode here and pick things apart, but it seems mostly superfluous here. So I’ll just note a few things.

The first few words of “Get Back” kick things off here as well, but things quickly change. Soon enough, it’s clear that Jo Jo and Loretta have been recast for a new story. They’re simply not the same people as in the original song, and a new character is also introduced. A different story, a different song. One of the other song inspirations finds its way in as well, with the “Ding-Dong!” and “witch” references.

Repeating the rhyme of “become” with “under his/her thumb” reinforces the fact that history is repeating, that the witch didn’t really disappear. If Jo Jo can become what he despises, then the implication is that Loretta was just another victim in a chain. Just as Jo Jo comes to see Sal as worth giving to rather than taking from, and himself as worthy of life rather than death, the same goes for Loretta, who they come to see as deserving forgiveness. All are humanized rather than dehumanized as demons unfit to live or tools only to be used.

There is some illumination imagery in both Jo Jo’s wanting to “turn his happy life on” and also in the notion that setting things right could “bring him to the light.” Older notions of a happy life are giving way to newer, more mature ones that can break a vicious cycle. In the end, “when they were gone, the two of them knew” — they somehow still know even after they’re gone, suggesting that their illumination transcends death, that death is further along a continuum with life rather than marking an end.

The line is even more important because, though the song has three choruses to reflect three different ways of being happy about death, there is a fourth way in the song which is the most crucial of all, hiding a bit without its own more obvious chorus to draw it out. It’s the ego death, in which the “I” is gone but life goes on, that allows one for the first time to “finally be free” to connect with others, and even death, without fear. So the line can also be read, when their egos were gone, the two of them now knew something they could put into practice for the rest of their lives, finding transcendence not only in death but in life as well: Heaven on Earth.

Musically, there are a number of motifs from “Get Back,” though my Billy-Preston-inspired solos are far sloppier than his. Still, despite the parallels, it’s once again clearly a different song. The verses and choruses are more involved, with added length and/or less repetition. A bridge is added as well as a third verse, all in the service of telling a more complete story.

There’s also a bit more to the harmonic progression, though it doesn’t take much when “Get Back” was essentially a two-chord song (I and IV) except for the brief use of a third chord (VII) in the “crash-crash” moments. I used that third chord to make more thorough three-chord progressions, I-IV-VII-I in the verses and I-VII-IV-I for a little variety in the chorus. A few extra chords are brought in for the “crash-crash” and the bridge.

The chorus progression is a very common one, maybe best known to many listeners from another Beatles song, “Hey Jude” and its “Na-na” coda. With that song also being very life affirming, I took the opportunity to make an additional reference by bringing in the symphonic horns from the “Na-na” section for the final chorus repeats.

Before I seized on the “Hey Jude” reference, the song was in the key of A, just like “Get, Back.” With “Hey Jude” being in F, I decided to split the difference and move the song to G, which was just as well since the high notes would be a bit easier on my voice. A side effect of this key change happens at the very end of the bridge. Here, just as in “Get Back,” a few electric piano chords quiet things down, followed by a signature Ringo Starr drum fill. In “Get Back,” those chords were built on D, which was the IV for the key of A. Here, those chords are the V for the song. Had I kept the song in A, they would have been on E. Because I transposed to G, here they were back on D just like in “Get Back.”

The last musical element I’ll mention is the final fade. In my SpinTunes 1 Round 3 entry Will It, I talked about how the Pet Shop Boys led me to only use final fades when I thought there was a really good thematic reason. In that song, emotional pain had “just begun” at the end of the song, so the fade suggested its continuation. In my Songwriting Cycle 1 contribution Do It (Duet), the characters had just found a new groove that felt like it would go on and on. Likewise here, with the notions of transcendence and a continuum of life to death, a final fade seemed appropriate.


You can check out the Round 1 songs at SpinTunes, or more permanently at BandCamp, and you can get directly to All Over at Bandcamp — but you can listen and download for free from BandCamp right from the player at the top of this post.

I work hard on the songs and the site, giving away a lot of stuff for free. If I could make a living by making art, I could make — and give away — even more. That could actually happen if everyone who listened contributed just a little bit. If you’ve enjoyed some of my free music or other content — on the site, through downloads, however — why not take a second and make a contribution to support me in making more? Just click on the Donate button in the right sidebar. Thanks!

If you’d rather buy some music, that’s great, too! Visit the Shop.

Either way, I really appreciate your support.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *