It can take months, sometimes years for a song to be ready, and then there are those songs that come out like a flash of lightning.
Some call it magic, while others attribute it to a streak of inspiration, dreams, feeling a bit tipsy, or even working under the pressure to write something within a deadline.
Many artists may have attributed one (or more) of the above to their writing a song within minutes. Here are 10 songs—including one Oscar-winning one—that only took 10 minutes to write.
“Under Pressure,” Queen and David Bowie (1981)
Recorded during an impromptu, drunken session in Montreaux, Switzerland, this iconic collaboration between David Bowie and Queen came together in 10 minutes. After playing around in the studio, the mega-hit was written in between booze and pizza. Bassist John Deacon had come up with the iconic riff but initially forgot it once everyone came back from having pizza, but drummer Roger Taylor remembered it. “Well, I think the process was, we were all drunk, and in the studio, and we were just for fun playing all sorts of old songs,” said Taylor. “I remember a couple of old Cream songs, and whatever came into our heads and I think David said, ‘Look, hang on a minute, why don’t we write one of our own?’”
“40,” U2 (1983)
The final song written by U2 for their 1983 album War was written after the band added on an extra week in the studio. After reading Psalm 40 of Psalms of David in the Bible, Bono started writing the more atmospheric “40,” which would close the album. “When we were making our third record,” he said. “We were being thrown out of the studio by the studio manager because we had overrun or something – and we had one more song to do,” said Bono. “We wrote this song in about 10 minutes. We recorded it in about 10 minutes. We mixed it in about 10 minutes, and we played it, then, for another 10 minutes. And that’s nothing to do with why it’s called ’40.'”
“Sweet Child O’ Mine,” Guns N’ Roses (1987)
Peaking at No. 1, the Guns N’ Roses hit, off their 1987 debut Appetite for Destruction, remained on the charts for 24 weeks, and was written within minutes when singer Axl Rose wrote lyrics about his then-girlfriend, Erin Everly while listening to Slash in another room playing this new riff he created. The band later put the rest of the music together for the song within 10 minutes.
“Laura Palmer’s Theme” (Twin Peaks), Angelo Badalamenti (1990)
Though an instrumental, American composer Angelo Badalamenti pieced together the dark, atmospheric theme song for cult television drama Twin Peaks in 10 minutes, while sitting with director David Lynch. Sat at a Fender Rhodes piano, Badalamenti and Lynch discussed the scene that the music should illustrate and began thinking of the music visually, and the cascading composition was created.
“Supersonic,” Oasis (1994)
Recording Oasis’ debut Definitely Maybe in 1993, Noel Gallagher wrote “Supersonic” in 10 minutes at The Pink Museum in Liverpool, while everyone was taking a break to have some Chinese food. Gallagher also admitted that drugs may have had an impact on his songwriting that day. “That’s why they’re so good, and that pisses me off,” said Gallagher. “I think, ‘Maybe I should get back into taking drugs, and then it would be brilliant again.’ But that thought lasts less than a second.” He added, “I remember being off my nut and going into the back room and setting the goal of writing a song in 10 minutes — that was ‘Supersonic.’”
“Seven Nation Army,” The White Stripes (2003)
Off The White Stripes’ fourth album Elephant, the march of “Seven Nation Army” was written in about 10 minutes during soundcheck for a show at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne, Australia. The song addresses the sudden rise to fame and some of the negative effects that come with it.
“Born This Way,” Lady Gaga (2008)
Lady Gaga is notorious for taking 10 minutes to write hit songs. She wrote her 2008 debut The Fame hits “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” in 10 minutes as well as 2011 hit “Born This Way.” The song has since become an anthem for the LGBTQ community. “I wrote [‘Born This Way’] in 10 fucking minutes, and it is a completely magical message song,” said Lady Gaga. “And after I wrote it, the gates just opened, and the songs kept coming. It was like an immaculate conception.”
“Skyfall” by Adele (2012)
In just 10 minutes, Adele also wrote the lyrics to her 2012 Bond theme song “Skyfall” with Paul Richard Epworth, which ended up winning the Oscar for Best Original Song. “This could be the song,” said Epworth before calling up Adele to work on it. The producer thought the song may be too dark, but Adele instantly loved it. Once in the studio, she wrote the first draft of lyrics for the song in 10 minutes. “She had the lyrics ready in her head when she drove over,” added Epworth. “It was the most absurd thing. She’s fast, but it was really quite phenomenal.“ Frustrated with wanting to leave her hometown of West Norwood in England to stay in London for school, Adele also wrote “Hometown Glory” in 10 minutes, following an argument with her mother; the song, featured on her 2008 debut 19, would become Adele’s first single in 2007.
“Photograph,” Ed Sheeran (2014)
Following a recent breakup, Ed Sheeran was on tour and found himself singing over loops that Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid had on his laptop, which resulted in his hit “Photograph.” “I just started singing over that, ‘Loving can hurt, loving can hurt,’” said Sheeran, “and then the song just kinda fell out within about 10 minutes.”
“See You Again,” Charlie Puth and Wiz Khalifa (2015)
Charlie Puth was already tasked with working on the main track for the soundtrack for Furious 7 when Fast & Furious star Paul Walker died tragically in a car crash in 2013 at the age of 40 halfway through filming. Moved to capture something more emotional in the song since he had also lost a friend in a car accident, Puth called on Justin Franks (DJ Frank E) and Wiz Khalifa, to help him complete the song.
“It just seemed to occur from out of nowhere, and basically 10 minutes later Justin and I wrote it, we sent it off,” said Puth. “I thought we’d never hear about it again.”
Photo: Queen (Hollywood Records); Adele (Columbia Records)