A classic lesson in creative writing: Remember Scrambled Eggs
Oh my baby how I love your legs
Not as much as I love scrambled eggs
Oh, we should eat some scrambled eggs”
Those words, as you may or may not know, were the rather inauspicious starter lyrics to one of the most popular and oft-covered songs in history—Yesterday by Paul McCartney.
As an advertising copywriter for more than a decade, and occasional songwriter myself, those lyrics bring up an important thing to keep in mind: words don’t really matter, at least up to a point.
For example, if, as a songwriter, you focus too early on lyrics, you could very well sacrifice the melody by coming up with something simply to fit your painstakingly-thought-through wordage.
Sir Paul, as you’ve undoubtedly surmised by now, only used “Scrambled Eggs” as a quirky placeholder because it happened to match the chord progression going through his head to a T. Scrambled Eggs is just lucky enough to possess the same number of syllables as Yesterday.
As an ad copywriter and project leader, focusing on the copy, or the words, during the early concept phase of ad development can be a real idea killer in just the same way. You don’t want to stop the big-picture thinking just to perfect the punctuation. Unless, of course, you’re Weird Al.
Sure, when faced with a deadline, it can be very tempting to start churning out copy, coming up with headlines first—and sometimes it happens naturally, just to get things flowing. If you’re a writer, words are your comfort zone.
But one thing is certain, no matter what profession you’re in: It’s never good to let the process of honing the details get in the way of hitting upon the big idea. Here’s a fun game: Go to mwb.com/works right now and see if you can figure out which campaigns started out as Scrambled Eggs—hint: they all did.
Paul McCartney’s silly love song word-scramble helps me to remember there’s more than just copy in an ad—there’s a larger concept, design and visuals. These latter elements often end up comprising the full, hopefully captivating and memorable melody of an ad.
So, yes, words have their place to be sure. Could Scrambled Eggs ever have become the most covered song in the world? Uh, no. (Well, perhaps, if Jimmy Fallon had his way).
Yet, without that unmistakable melody and all those notes in just the right place, Yesterday might have been another forgotten single in the cosmic dustbin of pop history. (Okay, given the Fab Four’s track record, probably not too dusty or forgotten. Even their least-known ditties are beloved by millions. Do you know Old Brown Shoe? These guys do.)
The takeaway here is, no matter what you’re striving to create—be it an ad, a world-changing project, a Powerpoint, a pop song—forget the words for a while and just…forgive me…let it be.
One more lesson to be gained from this tuneful tale: Sheer artistic greatness sometimes comes from very humble beginnings. I mean, who couldn’t have rhymed “eggs” with “legs?” But we’ll save “Easy Word Play Can Be A-Okay” for another MWB blog post. In the meantime, check out this beautiful Jon Batiste twist on another Beatles classic, no alt lyrics needed.