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.