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How I Wrote ‘Before This Miracle Occurs’

by John Mendelssohn

Before This Miracle Occurs - John Mendelssohn
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The demon bitch Cirrhosis has one fewer slave tonight

Everything’s in focus now. Dull colours have turned bright

I’ll give you with no strings attached all that once was hers

Don’t leave before this miracle occurs


I’ve stumbled badly. Every time I’ve tried it’s been a bust.

I’ve fallen off the wagon, broken bones and been concussed

That this time I’ll return to grace your love of me assures

Don’t leave before this miracle occurs


The man who tends the bar was once my friend and confidant

He processed all my tear-drenched words. He even chose the font

I’ve lost all interest now in what he doesn’t shake, but stirs

Don’t leave before this miracle occurs


I’m no physician, Heaven knows, but I could never wait

on nights this damp and desolate to come self-medicate

The world is so much kinder now. The happy kitten purrs

Do’t leave before this miracle occurs

©2012 John Mendelssohn

In 2012, I was living with Dame Zelda in the east Kent seaside town of Ramsgate, a real shithole, in a four-storey house, whose enormous garret became my study. Having all that space was one of the very few things I liked about Ramsgate. ’Twas up there that I wrote Before This Miracle Occurs, which between 2012 and 2014 was, successively, a No. 10 pop hit throughout eastern Europe by the Ukrainian Katy Perry clone Galyna Pulupeyko, a No. 17 country hit in America by The Cinnamon Girls, and a No. 4 adult contemporary hit in Canada, a country to the north of the USA, by Tina McDougall.  


I have a great many alcoholic friends, and wanted to write a song about their struggles that I could license for megabucks to one of the better-funded recovery groups, which advise their members not to quit before the miracle (of recovered sobriety) happens. 

For decades, I had always started my songs with melodies because lyrics are very easy for me. But I found that I had a tendency to paint myself into lyrical corners, and tried setting some little poems to music. So ’twas with Miracle. Happens, with its strongly emphasised first syllable is best suited for an upbeat dance number, and can be rhymed only with gerunds whose ending G’s have been dropped, a la Sarah Palin, so I changed it to occurs, with its lovely very weak first syllable, and a dominant syllable that can be sung at length.

My first task was to make a little list of words to rhyme with occurs. Once I’d done so, the lyrics pretty much wrote themselves. I will concede, years after the fact, that “the demon bitch Cirrhosis” is a bit…much. Worse, “That this time I’ll return to grace your love of me assures” violates what I think of as The Mike Hazlewood Rule. Mike, one of the world’s nicest guys, co-wrote the exquisite The Air That I Breathe (recorded by Phil Everly and The Hollies), and felt about backward syntax approximately as Dwight Eisenhower did about the military-industrial complex. When I get lazy and break the rule, as here, I remind myself that nobody listens to lyrics anyway, and that Holland Dozier Holland, the great Motown songwriting team, broke the rule all the time, though I can’t think of a time when Smokey Robinson did.

As is my custom, I used what jazz snobs think of as vanilla chords, and didn’t sing this demo nearly as well as I wished I could. 

You are forewarned that a purring feline makes an appearance in my the forthcoming Freudian Sluts song A Perfect Bastard. 

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