Sarah

Death. Again. I know. What can you do?  I was confronted with it again recently. One of those long-term online friendships you develop, where you possibly know more about someone than their friends and family in the ‘real’ world – where the barriers are lowered a bit further because of an avatar and a username and the resulting distance. This woman was sharp, funny, self-lacerating… and ultimately self-destructing. Realising I’d not heard back from her from my last couple of WhatsApps I went to gently pester her on Facebook. Where I discovered that she was, in fact, dead. The fourth person I’ve known now whose death is in some way connected to alcohol. It prompted a song.

Lyrics

Sarah.
I once knew a girl who was like you
And like you she hid in the daylight
And only came out at night
Until one night
She emptied her heart into my ear
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear then
Or ever at all

Sarah – porcelain skin in the morning
Tangled and blonde in the pale sun
Always a gleam in your eye
But your skin is so cold to the touch
Did it finally get too much?

Laughter
That’s what I will try to remember
Like when your stockings fell down in the Co-Op
While you were stocking up booze
But then you ran
Straight back to the sun with a bottle
It took a lot a bottle to say it
But you were never afraid

Sarah – porcelain skin in the morning
Tangled and blonde in the pale sun
Always that gleam in your eye
But your skin is so cold to the touch
Did it finally get too much?

I’ll keep the picture of you squinting at the sun, stood on your hands
And you can keep the ones you where you cried
I guess that I always thought that you would live forever
On the never never
You lived the pain, the pleasure
And I guess that I believed you

Sarah.
I’ve never known anyone like you.

Thoughts

So as you’ve probably gathered from those words, this is quite a personal song, with allusions to real-world events that probably only she would actually get. As such, it’s hard to know whether the song would really resonate with you the way it does with me (or at all).

But while notionally ‘sad’, it isn’t intended to be a sad song however. She lived her life pretty uncompromisingly, and I’m 100% sure she’d roll her eyes if she knew how she’d died. While her internal life was an tangled mess – much like her external life, come to think of it – she was always blithely cheerful about things. Even in the grimmest of spots, she’d say “ah fuck it” – and absolutely mean it. She seemed kind of indestructible, but in the end… wasn’t. So I guess what I’m groping towards is that I’m sad she’s dead, but glad that I knew her for the last 7-8 years or whatever.

Lyrics aside, I’m actually pretty pleased with the music. The song is essentially in E major, but with a few sideways changes which make it (I think) quite tonally interesting.

The verse is quite dense – starting on E major, then stepping up through E+ (which you might recognise as the same basic movement as Buddy Holly’s Raining in my Heart), before landing on the logical A major, but then dropping a step to a G#7 (a very ‘Lennon’ type trick) before finishing on F#. The chorus also has a fairly odd moves: the main refrain (“Saaaarah”) is a plangent A – Amaj7, then there’s an Esus, E which happily contains some of the same notes – probably why it sounds so satisfying. Then it moves up through F#m7,G#m7 and ending incongruously in a rich Cmaj7 which has a nice sense of suspension. A slide up through D major resolves everything back into the home key. A change I’m well pleased with.

After a brief trip to a slightly exotic ‘Indian’ type scale in E*, the verse repeats, but on the second repeat hangs on the Cmaj7 before clanging away in a F9/Cmaj7 change (I think – I’m no good with formalities so I could be talking out of my bum). After the crabbed nature of the verse, this section of the song feels very… open? I don’t know. It sort of lifts. Then there’s an angrier sounding part (A minor, A minor 7, D7/F#, F).

If none of this means anything to you, then it doesn’t matter. I’m basically letting you know there’s a lot more in this song then I usually have going on.

I’ve still a bit unsure about the instrumentation. Originally it was just acoustic guitar (double tracked, with parts panned left and right) and a bass knowingly played in a classic mid-sixties Beatles style, palm-muted for that distinctive ‘thump’ sound, and roaming around each chord to add some space and offer a counter-melody. I then added in 3 electric guitar parts, which I sort of umm and ahhh about because they sound a bit heavy. But I also like the effect – particularly as the song builds towards the climax of the final third.

I guess all in all I’m very happy with this song. I just wish it came from a happier place. Now fuck off: someone’s just left a load of biscuits on my desk, and they demand my urgent attention.


*I think it’s the Lydian mode, but to be honest I haven’t a fucking clue

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