Oh, Dennis!

Churning my way towards this make-or-break third album (I KNOW) I’ve blown the dust off this previously undeveloped groovy little number for your delectation. This poses me something of a conundrum as I’ve now got 15 songs to choose from – not counting the dozen or so slow numbers that are also kicking around. Crikey. I’ve never had this kind of energy. Anyway, set to this syncopated psychedelic groove are a set of lyrics about another distasteful subject: lovable Scottish necrophile and serial murderer Dennis Nilsen. Have a listen, read the words, and I’ll see you in the pub for a chat afterwards?

Lyrics

Back to mine for rum and coke and then we’ll see just what you’re made of
Listen here: O Superman is soothing – put on these headphones

Then drop your neck into this noose
While I lean back and feel the groove
Stop! Nobody move
Don’t fight the feeling just let go
Then you can take the starring role
Stop! Nobody move

Now we’re done just lay back and stay here while I go outside for fresh air
I’ll be back tonight to play some more – we can watch some TV

Then drop your neck into this noose
While I lean back and feel the groove
Stop! Nobody move
Don’t fight the feeling just let go
Then you can take the starring role
Stop! Nobody move

Background

As intimated earlier, the bare musical bones of this date back a few years, but I never worked it up into a full song until recently. I liked the general vibe of the monotone verse, but it wasn’t until I hit on the idea of heavily syncopated bass and piano parts that it sprang from being a passable acoustic tune into something with a little bit of spark.

I sweated a fair bit over the instrumentation to give it something distinctive (I’m painfully aware of the danger of repeating myself) and while the chorus cam fairly easily, it was clear early on that effect would start to get tiresome after a verse or two. Luckily, I’d penned it in F#, which gave me the idea of an instrumental passage in a sort of attenuated 12 bar. And with the Vth being G# that opened up the possibility of deploying one of my very favourite sounds: the Indian tanpura/tampura/tampora (there doesn’t some to much agreement on the correct spelling) – a drone you might have heard on various psychedelic records over the years.

I’ve always been a very limited guitarist, but this is the second song in succession where I’ve ventured into the realms of a solo. I’m not super pleased with it, but it’s nicely idiomatic – using as it does the general ‘indian’ scale. I say ‘Indian scale’ but I don’t know quite what that means, other than it’s a major scale without certain notes and a couple of sharpened/flattened notes along the way. It’s a very late 60s sound.

Music completed, I then found myself at a loss (again) as to what to sing about. I’d always had the vocal echo (excitingly panned from side to side if you listen carefully) in mind but didn’t have any strong lyrical ideas. I feel like a lot of my recent songs have been a bit ponderous and self-revealing, but I was listening to a podcast about Dennis Nilsen and was really struck by some of the details of his case that I wasn’t aware of. He was a huge lover of music, and for many of his murders he would make the victim put on some headphones to listen to one of his favourite prog tracks… and then strangle them with the lead. His favourite track to which to strange people to death was O Superman by Laurie Anderson – hence the mention in the verse. It’s a fairly fascinating minimalist prog track and for a while I toyed with the idea of an outro along these lines, before settling on a prog-ish squelchy keyboard extemporisation.

But really, it’s a pretty facile lyric. It doesn’t have a point of view, and treats serial killing as an amusing side note. Not that every song has to have some kind of deep meaning or anything. Maybe it suggests that this track doesn’t really spring from a personal place, but is more of a musical exercise.

Anyway, I enjoyed making it and don’t cringe particularly hard when listening back to it, and I guess that’s not a bad result.

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