I’ve Got a Picture

Busy week eh? A second song for your Sony ™ Walkman ™ ! This one’s consumed me this week – like literally unable to sleep. And after all…? I’m not 100% sure about plenty of it. But, it’s done for now so let’s have a little listen, check out the lyrics and (if you can be arsed) some of my thoughts are scribbled below.

Lyrics

“Who are you?”
The question comes out of the blue
And I stumble – I haven’t a clue
And I don’t know what I’m gonna do
About myself

“Move along”
I don’t know quite where I went wrong
I remember I fell in a throng
They ignored me and bustled along
Like I wasn’t there
As if they didn’t care?

All I remember is her in the sunshine
Her smile was so bright
I’ll hold it in my heart forever
I‘ve got a picture and if I could find it I’d show it to you
Oh well –  perhaps it’s for another day

“What’s your name?”
I’m confused cos it’s always the same
I’m sure we did this all yesterday
They carefully spell out a name
That isn’t mine

“Just take your pills”
The doctor said but I don’t feel ill
So I take them now time’s standing still
Like I’ve got a permanent chill
Inside my veins
And nothing feels the same

All I remember is her in the sunshine
Her smile was so bright
I’ll hold it in my heart forever
I‘ve got a picture and if I could find it I’d show it to you
It’s pointless now that every day’s the same


They keep telling me you’re gone
I can’t remember my own name
What the hell is going on?

All I remember is her in the sunshine
Her smile was so bright
I’ll hold it in my heart forever
I‘ve got a picture and if I could find it I’d show it to you
Perhaps we’ll save it for another day

Do you ever get lonely?
I’m lonely every day
Don’t you ever get lonely?
I’m lonely every day

Thoughts

Bit of a queer stick, this. As I alluded at the top I’ve fair sweated blood over it and yet… and yet…

Firstly, it’s based off a slightly ambiguous chording. Essentially an A minor drone with brief trips to D7, but with acoustic riffs that touch on E minor and D, while the bass visits C and (incongruously) F#

I’m almost certain I was aiming for something a bit along the lines of the Beatles’ Getting Better (Sgt. Pepper, 1967) which has a similar distracted sort of air that kind of hangs around without resolution. All of this came from a moment of “fucking hell. I’ve not written a song in ages” annoyance where I just banged around with an A minor on a tiny 3/4 scale nylon string acoustic I keep about the place.

As sometimes happens, there was a happy accident and suddenly there was a verse.

Now the verse – even without lyrics – is a pretty unhappy sounding piece of music, so I decided that it would be nice to have something uplifting for the chorus. It’s a technique often used by my beloved Madness and I think it works pretty well here. It’s a commonplace chord change – descending from C to F and back to G.

The melody took a few days to come. That tonal ambiguity I was talking about in the verse made it sort of awkward to create a tune – not helped of course by the fact it’s rooted for so long on a minor chord. Eventually though, I hit on the idea of hitting the emphasis of each opening line and then kind of letting the melody lag behind the music to give it a sort of tumbling, hesitant, uncertain sound that matched the general moood.

Pleased with that, the chorus took a while longer to come. Because the descending chord trick has been done to death by everyone forever, it’s difficult to make it sound fresh. I don’t claim to have pulled it off, but by using the same clipped phrasing and dragging it behind the beat (which again is a sort of Madness trick) I had something that I felt contrasted nicely with the verse.

I really like the build up to the final round of chorus repeats. One thing that’s a bit lost in the mix is this extravagant vocal harmony arrangement. For a brief moment I felt a bit like the Beach Boys and had to massage my thighs back into life.

So. With a music sorted it was time to turn to the words. And bowhowdy did I have fuck all ideas to work with.

But then an idea came into focus. A man. At the end of his life. Memory blasted by age. Living in a home when all that happens is people saying confusing things. Drugs. Loneliness. The only thing that makes sense are fragmentary moments from his long life. In particular the image of a woman he once loved that he clings on to.

There might even be some personal resonance to this. I remember my grandad’s final couple of years where his mind would be clouded for hours… days… and suddenly he’d say “your grandma..” in the middle of his mumbled words and you knew that he was sharing a happy memory.

Anyway. Jog on.

Impossible

Been a little while since I done a song. Or so it seems, anyway. In fact I’ve been joining and leaving bands left right and centre (see previous blogs, passim) leaving little time to work on new material. As ever, I’ve got a phone with 100+ scraps of songs to work on so don’t worry: there’s still PLENTY of boring blog posts to come. Anyway, I finally grabbed a few hours this weekend to pull together one such scrap. Usual drill – video, lyrics, and post match discussion.

Lyrics

It’s possible to live on your own
To pull down the curtains and turn off the phone
To make a brand new start
Just close down your heart
And stand apart

The stars will look down on you unchanged
You’ll still feel the sun and you can walk in the rain
You’ll be sad sometimes
There’ll be some lonely times
But you’ll be alright

Impossible now as it might seem to be
It’s possible thoughts and impossible dreams
Might be possible still
Just open your heart and they possibly will come to be real
For impossible you

Marking time by watching the sun
Chalking the hours off they pass one by one
They turn into days
But you might say
That’d happen anyway

Impossible now as it might seem to be
It’s possible thoughts and impossible dreams
Might be possible still
Just open your heart and they possibly will come to be real
For impossible you


Step out in the light – it’ll all be alright

Post match discussion

Quite heartfelt this, isn’t it? The melody actually came a long time before the words did, as is my idiom. The soaring, half sad/half optimistic sound is something I’ve had in mind for a couple of months, but it was only after putting together the basic backing track that I really started to think about the words.

I saw something interested the other day. The songwriter with the Diesel Trees (whose singer I now am!) had sent off a track to a record company, and among their feedback was the observation that “the lyrics are good because they’re not self absorbed.”

It’s very easy when writing songs to start with “I”. It’s fairly natural for us to talk about ourselves. Every one of us is solipsistic to a greater or lesser degree, absorbed by our own woes and trifling emotional journeys. I’m probably as guilty as anyone of that so – taking that feedback to heart – I wrote a song basically aimed at people who are living fairly solitary lives.

It’s hard to tell through the fog of social media what is “truth” and what is a kind of consciously-constructed defence mechanism of harmless but meaningful obfuscation. In particular I see a lot of people who say they are “happy alone.” In fact, I nearly chose that as the title/springboard, but then I dwelt on it a bit longer. A lot of people seem to feel that they’re doomed to being alone and might as well embrace it. I love that sentiment, but the sad romantic part of my soul still hopes that life proves them wrong and somehow they find someone to share their life with.

So this song is for those people. It’s not allegorical or consciously clever. It’s just unusually direct for me.

The only odd thing about this recording is that, after it was done, I listened back and thought: “the vocals sound… odd?” It’s recognisably me, but there’s a weird quality to my voice. After a while it struck me: everything’s in tune.

A dig around the new version of GarageBand I’m using reveals that it has my nemesis autotune installed on a soft default setting. I fucking hate autotune, and I’m none too happy about what it’s done to my voice on this track, so I’m going to circle back around to it next time I have some free time (circa 2033).

UPDATE: I fixed it three days later, so if you’re wondering “what the fuck is he on about?” that’s you

Anyway that’s enough of me droning on. Shouldn’t you be doing something more constructive? I know I should.

Goodbye.