Inspiration is fleeting - it's up to the songwriter to bottle that lightning as fast as they possibly can, before the phone rings and half of the golden chorus they've just imagined falls out of their heads forever. But some songs are so quick to write, their essence - whittling and polishing aside - was captured in only slightly more time than it takes to play them from start to finish.
Here are some of the most speedily captured flashes of inspiration in musical history.
Ray Charles - What'd I Say
The subtext with each of these songs is that while it may have taken just a few minutes to write the song, there's a lifetime of preparation behind that moment of inspiration. No one exemplifies this better than Ray Charles. At a 1958 gig in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, he found himself 12 minutes short of material, and with an expectant audience waiting to dance. Turning to the Wurlitzer electric piano he brought with him (because he hated relying on venues to provide a decent piano to play), he pounded out an insistent four note riff, set to a rhumba beat, and began jamming boogie-woogie licks over the top of it.
His horn section joined in, playing stabs, then Ray improvised a couple of verses, before going into a call-and-response section with his backing singers, the Raelettes. Each element will have come from years of working the clubs, but never arranged with this fire and vitality before. As the band played, the room began to shake from the vigour of the dancers, and as soon as they finished, Ray was besieged with fans wanting to know where they could buy his latest creation.
Nicki Minaj - Super Bass
BBC News recently ran a report on the amount of professional songwriters used to create certain hits, with some being experts in beats and grooves, some working on melodies, and some bringing the key moment, the hookline, written by specialists known as top-liners. Ester Dean is a particularly hot top-liner of the moment, having written refrains for Rude Boy and S&M by Rihanna, and Turn Me On by David Guetta. She also wrote the "boom badoom boom / boom badoom boom" section of Nicki Minaj's Superbass, and like all of her greatest creations, she claims never to have spent more than five minutes on any one song.
She told the the New Yorker: "I go into the booth and I scream and I sing and I yell, and sometimes it's words but most time it's not. And I just see when I get this little chill, here [touches her upper arm, just below the shoulder] and then I'm, like, 'Yeah, that's the hook.'"
The Guess Who - American Woman
In a similar story to that of What'd I Say, American Woman came from a live jam in front of a paying audience. The Guess Who were playing in a curling rink in Ontario, Canada, when lead guitarist Randy Bachman broke a string. During the quiet of the tuning process with the replacement string, he found himself playing a neat circular riff, which rather caught his ear. So he turned his guitar up and played it again, and the rest of the band joined in, with singer Burton Cummings making up the lyrics on the spot. Having spotted a fan with a cassette recorder in the crowd, the band asked for a copy of the tape, which they then recreated almost note-for-note in the studio.
The lyrics do reveal something of Burton Cummings' inner monologue at the time of the concert, though, as he told the Toronto Star in 2013: "What was on my mind was that girls in the States seemed to get older quicker than our girls and that made them, well, dangerous. When I said, 'American woman, stay away from me,' I really meant, 'Canadian woman, I prefer you.'"
Lady Gaga - Just Dance
Working in a similar manner to Ester Dean, Lady Gaga, RedOne and Akon took a naggingly catchy synth refrain in the studio and then quickly piled up as many melodic ideas against it as they could think of, seeing which ones would stick and then arranging them in order. There's the rise and fall of the verse melody, those little "oh oh" backing vocals, the triumphant chorus yell and the "do do do" she answers it with. Each part was slotted into place to try and write the most uplifting song possible, at great speed, as Gaga told Heat magazine: "It's been unbelievable the way the song has crossed over into the mainstream. It took 10 minutes to write!
"I think it's [popular] because it's a happy record. Maybe the record will be appreciated more now there are lots of people who are going through rough times, losing jobs and homes."
Ed Sheeran - Photograph
Similarly, Ed Sheeran was messing about with loops on the laptop belonging to Johnny McDaid of Snow Patrol, and he seized upon one which was just a sweet little piano refrain, something of that refrain made him think of recent heartbreak, and the physical objects people cling on to in order to try and preserve their feelings. Within minutes he had the basics of one of his biggest hit singles, as he later told Capital FM: "I wrote it with Johnny from Snow Patrol and he just had a loop on his laptop that he just put down that was just a three-note piano thing. I just started singing over that, 'Loving can hurt, loving can hurt,' and then the song just kinda fell out within about 10 minutes."
Adele - Hometown Glory
Some songs are not the product of years of experience and hard-won craftsmanship skills. In some cases, all you need is to be in the middle of an argument and not have anyone else to vent to, which was what happened to Adele. After quite a long discussion with her mum about whether she should leave West Norwood and head for university, she huffed off to her room, no doubt slamming the door and throwing herself on the bed.
But then words started to form about home, and about roots, and about taking your place, so she picked up her guitar, and before 10 minutes was up she'd written her very first song, Hometown Glory, which would eventually become her very first single. She later told the audience at her 2015 special Adele at the BBC: "It was all about how I felt about London and stuff like that. I actually wrote it on guitar, and I was at school at the time. I got my friend at school to transpose onto piano - because I probably could play it, but it'd probably take about 12 hours because I'm such a snail on the piano trying to sing and play at the same time."
Mumford & Sons - The Cave
There's nothing like the first flush of success to goose up your's band's creativity. Suddenly everything seems possible, and every time you pick up your instruments, it seems like magic happens. That's certainly the experience of Mumford & Sons during an early Scottish tour to promote their debut EP.
Audiences were warming to their bluegrass confessionals, the gigs were getting better and better, and to cap things off, during the soundcheck at Edinburgh's Bannerman's pub, Marcus Mumford suddenly started twiddling the opening guitar lines to what would become The Cave. The rest of the band joined him, and within minutes they had the essentials of a song that would go on to be nominated for four Grammy awards, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year.
Angelo Badalamenti - Laura Palmer's Theme
This clip, from the documentary Secrets From Another Place, is less than five minutes long, and yet it appears to be an accurate representation in real time of how long it took Angelo Badalamenti to come up with the dark and mysterious Laura Palmer's Theme, from the TV show Twin Peaks. Sitting with director David Lynch at a Fender Rhodes piano, Angelo simply asked what scene the music was there to emotionally illustrate, and David told him what to think about in visual terms.
Angelo then starts to play as David speaks, first oppressive and cloudy chords (and a little too fast), then slowing down, and eventually opening out into opulent cascading heartbreak. It's a masterclass in not just improvisation, but musical interpretation of feelings.
Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth - See You Again
In 2014, Charlie Puth was charged with the responsibility of writing the main melody to a song for the soundtrack to Furious 7 that could capture some of the bittersweet feelings around the action movie franchise, after the sudden death of one of its stars, Paul Walker. He sat down at the studio piano of Justin Franks, also known as DJ Frank E, thinking about Paul and another friend of his who had also died in a car accident, and began to play.
"It just seemed to occur from out of nowhere," he told the Los Angeles Times, "And basically 10 minutes later Justin and I wrote it, we sent it off, and I thought we'd never hear about it again."
He later revealed to MTV News: "I wrote the song on 17 July at 6pm. I know that because I have it saved in my phone, the lyric note. I want to frame that. I wrote it in 10 minutes, which is very unusual, usually songs take a little bit longer to write for me. I sent it off to Wiz... and he wrote it really quickly, too, because it came from a real place for him as well."
The Beatles - Yesterday
The melody of Yesterday tumbled into Paul McCartney's head fully formed during a dream, which he then had to capture in chords and words as soon as he woke up. Technically speaking, the whole song wasn't finished for some time after that, because he didn't believe it was his original melody and had to check by playing the song, complete with scratch lyrics about scrambled eggs, to anyone who might know where it came from.
Eventually he gave up, deciding that if none of his muso friends had heard it before, it must be new. Which puts the length of time it took to complete the song as somewhere between no time at all and several weeks, but really, all the heavy lifting had been done before he even yawned and opened his eyes.