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Sweet E – A Quirky song About a Pretty Girl

Sweet E

There are times when you’re talking to me

And I should be listening

There are times when you’re talking to me

I don’t hear a thing

 

If you take a look at me

You will note the glassy look I have in my eye

I’m not looking through you

I’m lookin’ at you

 

And I wonder in amazement, thinking,

“My you’re pretty!”

And the words you say just slip right past me

Such a pity.

 

There are times when you’re walking with me,

Hand in hand along the street

In the midst of our reverie

I can’t help but note

 

Every guy that walks past us

Is checkin’ you out surreptitiously.

You don’t seem to notice

And I just smile inside

 

And I wonder in amazement thinking,close up sunglasses sideview

“My you’re pretty”

And I want to take you all the way to

Quebec City

 

There are times when you’re talking to me

And I should be listening

There are times when you’re talking to me

I don’t hear a thing

I don’t hear a thing

I’m glad you wear my ring.

 

The cover is a painting by Tanya Loviz from Australia. We have one of her prints hanging in our house. She was kind enough to give me permission to use it. My friend, and graphic artist, Thelma Freeman, of Napa, California put the whole thing together. She did a great job.

cabin cafe close up singing (2) square

– See more at: http://www.geoffreycode.com/site/category/lyrics/#sthash.Yey5s0A9.dpuf

 

 

 

Available now on iTunes
Available now on iTunes

 

Led Zeppelin – Let it Rest

It was late September, 1980. I had just started Grade 12. The excitement was building as word had leaked out that my favourite band, Led Zeppelin, were about to put tickets on sale for their latest North American tour.

led-zeppelin

Montreal would have been the city that made the most sense for a Calgarian to attend because the whole first leg of the tour was in the Eastern time zone. That was my plan. Get tickets, go to Montreal, see Zeppelin.

In 1977, the year of their previous tour, when they were as close as Seattle, I was still a little young to be tootling down to Seattle. 1980 was to be my time.

Alas, a week before the tickets were to go on sale, the bad news came. John Bonham had died. He died on a Thursday, in the middle of the night, and the news wasn’t in the paper until Saturday. I remember sitting at home reading the Saturday paper and seeing the article.

I can’t say I was devastated. I didn’t know John Bonham and, besides, that would be way too selfish an attitude. I was, however, massively crushed. Not only because the concert I had my heart set on would be cancelled but there would be no more Led Zeppelin.

All these years later I still rue the timing, not that I, or anyone else for that matter, had anything to do with the timing. Just a drag.

jonesy and bonzo

A few years ago, 1990, after Led Zeppelin released their DVD, showing live footage from the course of their career, my interest in them, which never really flagged, was at a peak again. I started searching for, and buying, bootlegs. I ended up owning around forty of them. They range from poor performances and sound quality, (Seattle 1977), to great performances, poor sound quality, (Madison Square Garden, 1972) to brilliant performances and great sound quality. There are actually quite a few of these but the pinnacle is Long Beach, July 1972. This was a concert which formed part of How the West Was Won live cd but, while the sound isn’t as clear as the officially released cd, it surpasses that one because it is unedited while still having great sound. Its four CD’s in length, perfect when one is on a long roadie by oneself, as I am wont to do.

And it is such a party. The music is just so dynamic, the band was still on the way up, trying to prove themselves, living off the synergy created by band and fans. In the medley section, the highlight is Hello Mary Lou. Just brilliantly performed.

But at this time, they still gave Jonesey an organ solo. The solo itself is good but when they break into Louie, Louie, it is the best. They play that song so well, from the organ acting as rhythm section to the fiery guitar solo to Plant’s soaring vocals.

And that is really what is at the heart of this blog – Robert Plant’s vocals.

I was actually very surprised when Led Zeppelin released the Celebration Day  CD/DVD last year, the 2008 show in tribute of Ahmet Ertegun. I seriously didn’t think Plant could hit those notes anymore. He certainly doesn’t even try on his material with Alison Krause. But he did hit those notes and it was refreshing to hear those songs and Plant pushing his vocals.

page jones

That he did it for one night is amazing and shows what a talent he really is.

But all of this talk of a Zeppelin tour? Please stop. Jonesy, Page and Jason Bonham can all do their parts with ease. If anything, they are even better musicians now that at Zeppelin’s peak. But, they need a singer and surely Plant would destroy his voice forever if they had to do a series of 20 to 50 shows.

Plant gets a lot of grief for doing all these side projects to the detriment of re-forming Led Zeppelin. He shouldn’t. He knows, after all, that it’s his career, his voice, on the line. And he knows it couldn’t survive a massive Zeppelin tour.

Beyond that, however, is just this whole idea that you can re-capture lightning in a bottle. We had Led Zeppelin for 12 brilliant years. And then they were gone.

Pity.

Reality.

Let’s move on.

 

Slade – All Join Hands. Happy New Year

Have the time of your life when you’re younger.all join

Have the time of your life when you’re old.

Drink the wine, feeling fine

As we sing Auld Land Syne

We all join hands

We all join hands

So let’s all join hands her and now.

 

As you can read elsewhere on this blog, I recorded a Christmas album, with a couple originals and a few covers. As a nod to the New Year, I did a minimalist cover of The Wassail Song.geoffreycode_snowwonder

Rather than the usual gawdy happiness of passing another year and entering another headlong, it actually has a feeling of melancholy and, even, apprehension, as one might feel approaching a New Year, or any other ‘new’ thing one may be facing in their life.

And the New Year is that.

2013.new year

One person I was speaking with never liked the whole idea of the ’13’ in 2013 and he thinks it jinxed his whole year. He will feel a whole lot better once we are back in even numbers – or, at least, not unlucky numbers.

While I’m not sure I subscribe to that, it is another New Year and 2014 is here tomorrow.

What music to listen to on New Year’s?

Surely to God the Christmas music is finally over! Isn’t it?

There are still some stations playing it until the first or second of January. For those not, what do we do?

Back in the ’70’s, Dan Fogelberg, a Renaissance Man as a musician if there ever was one, fogelberghad a song called ‘Same Old Lang Syne’. Brilliant song. Heartfelt. There was a time when that song meant everything to me and, one particular New Year’s Eve, amidst a great steak and lobster meal and cigars, I had a very memorable dance to that song.

An original song with a sax solo that incorporates the melody of Auld Land Syne. It’s great.

And there are probably a number of New Year’s Eve songs that are good.

slade4But the best, and I mean, THE BEST, is the one Slade did.

All Join Hands. (please note that you tube changes the address of links occasionally so if slade3the link doesn’t go directly to the video, search Slade all join hands)

From their album Rogues Gallery, released in 1984.

The ‘official’ video for this song is great. Good ol’ Noddy being naughty. But, beyond that, the sentiment is timeless.

In keeping with the New Year’s theme, as you grow, year after year, one’s reminisces of friends – current, past, lost – seem as sharp as ever. There are people I would love to see again, alive and dead. There are people I hope I am done with forever. There are people I currently know that I don’t know well enough and would like to get to know better. There are people who appear to have a limited time left on this planet and it makes me sad thinking about it.

Ah, but to take the hand of someone you love, or miss, or want to get to know better, or have screwed up with, or, any reason, as Noddy does in the video, and lead them to the dance floor. Waltz tightly for a few minutes and speak intimately as the music plays – not just any music but music written specifically to bring reminiscence, and happy reminiscence, to your mind – now that is a dance.

SladeWho would have thought Slade capable? From their early hits, Mama Wear All Crazy Now, (their spelling, not mine), to Run RunAway in the ’80’s, they were the epitome of glam rock, even out-doing the Raspberries, a great, but pale, imitation of them, and everyone else as well!raspberries

In the ’70’s. Slade sold more singles than any other British band. They had more number 1’s than anyone else. They were the BIGGEST band from the UK in the ’70’s. 25 hit singles. 15 albums. Did you know that?Slade2

And their last song to enter the Top 20? Why, it was All Join Hands, of course. One of their best.

There are official videos of the song posted all over the internet and there are also live versions from those terrific TV shows from the ’70’s, a speciality of Brit TV, where the band plays ‘live’ at a party.

I suppose that fake TV still goes on. I don’t know, I don’t watch enough to know. Hell, I didn’t watch enough in the ’70’s to know. But when Slade did it, they did it full blast!

I love watching Jim Lea playing the piano. He was piano and bass in Slade, and main co-writer, with Noddy. Noddy got all the press but I think Jim Lea was the main musician in the band. You can always tell.slade-borrowed-80

A few notes about some of the live video shots:

a) How does Noddy smile so much as he sings? Hmmm. Something I have never mastered, although I have worked with people who can do it and marveled!

b) check out the pants of guitarist Dave Hill. Those are brilliant anytime! And the hat too!dave hill

c) Doesn’t Jim Lea look at least 10 years younger than the rest of the lads? I know he’s not, but it sure looks like it.

d) You need to see Slade’s movie – Slade – On Fire. Most would call it the worst movie ever. Whatever. It’s a movie about a rock n roll band.

Most of all, you need to listen to All Join Hands on New Year’s Eve and all through the jonesy and bonzoChristmas season because nobody delivers live Noddy Holder. And Slade?  Great band. While everyone is freddiemercuryimg461exclaiming that Freddy was the best frontman ever, a claim I don’t dispute, and that Bonzo and Jonesy were a great rhythm section, let’s not forget the boys from Wolverhampton, (wasn’t a certain singer and drummer from Zeppelin also from around there?)

One last note – Noddy was rejected by Page and Jonesy in 1968 because he was too ‘flamboyant’. They settled on page jonesRobert Plant!

Have the time of your life when you’re younger.

Have the time of your life when you’re old.

Drink the wine, feeling fine

As we sing Auld Land Syne

We all join hands

We all join hands

So let’s all join hands her and now.

 

Happy New Year!

 

All Join Hands

Talking Blues

Christopher Bouchillon
Christopher Bouchillon

A genre that was begun in the 1920’s by comedian/musician Christopher Bouchillon when he recorded a song called Talkin’ Blues and was popularized by in the 1940’s by Woody Guthrie and developed into a political protest genre. As it continued to develop, it retained its protest characteristic as Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash used it on several occasions, notably when Johnny Cash protested against the Vietnam War. Bob Dylan used it once as a dig against a political movement, (John Birch Society) and it turned into a protest against CBS when they stopped him from playing ‘Talkin’ John Birch Society Paranoid Blues’ on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash
Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash

Many people have used it and it has developed into a form of parody.

I use it as a metaphor.

Woody Guthrie
Woody Guthrie

I have written a song called Talkin’ Bicycle Blues, the recording of which is in progress and will appear on my up-coming EP, ‘Its Been a Long, Blue Day’.

A blast to record but incredibly difficult. The music is fairly standard as it is meant to remain strictly in the background while the narrative rambles on. But, finding the correct voice to do the talking, where one should find that vocal place where you are monotone, flat, and rhythmic yet coupled with the music – tough. And it is not a quick dip into the pool. Rather, it is a marathon as the form allows for excruciating detail to evolve in the lyrics as the tale unfolds.

What Am I Hearing? The G Chord

I must have played a ‘G’ chord on my guitar thousands of times. It is my preferred key on the guitar because, as a soloist, it is very versatile. On my current set list, shown below, no fewer than 11 of the guitar songs are in G.

I was in a duet about 10 years ago called the Dirty Ol’ Buskers. I played guitar, harmonica and the kazoo, (specifically for a cover of the Ringo version of ‘You’re Sixteen’) and my partner, Rob White, played a set of drums one might find a busker playing. A real simple set and he stood while playing. It was a great set-up. We both sang.
The Dirty Ol' Buskers logo
The Dirty Ol' Buskers

I will take a minute to explain what a G chord is to you non guitar players as it is relevant to what I will explain later. A guitar has six strings, (duh?!?) and to form a G chord, at least the way I do it, is to press down the 6th string at the 3rd fret, (bass) with your second finger, mute the 5th string, press down the 3rd fret of the first string with your 3rd finger and strum. The key is that strings 4, 3 and 2 are left open and ring out once you strum until you stop them. Great chord!

Two of the songs we did were Squeezebox by the Who and Rave On by Buddy Holly. We played both songs in G and the reasoning was thus: Both songs involve a simple boogie pattern over a shuffle beat and it sounds good with the full G chord but the real magic is that, when it came time to do some sort of guitar solo, I would get my two fingers in the position described above and start flying around the fret board, hitting chords at frets 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 15, 20. The beauty of this is that you are actually playing a solo, whether you are focusing your strum on the high notes or the low notes, and those three open strings I mentioned just continue to ring out, basically acting like a rhythm guitarist.

So, we had two singers singing in harmony, one set o’ drums and one guitar acting like two guitars, essentially a five piece group. It was an effective way of filling out the sound.The Dirty Ol' Buskers - photo shoot

I have G on my mind because I was sitting down to do a little work on the guitar the other day and, after tuning up, struck a G chord. It was another of those strange aural phenomena I wrote about earlier, (see Barely Audible Music). When I struck the G chord, this one note really stood out. So, rather than doing what I had set out to do, I decided to spend a few minutes chasing this sound that just came out of my guitar. What resulted was a finger picking song that, with a little more development, is now being worked up with the working title ‘Quirky Riff in G’. (I dunno if I will stick with that title?)

And this song just emerged from a chord that I had played thousands of times.

It is a wondrous instrument.IMG_4366

This is my current set list, (songs in bold are piano, italics are in G.)

I Threw it All Away – Dylan
Victory – Code
Sail Away – Neil Young
Deliver Your Children – McCartney
One Too Many Mornings – Dylan
All Things Must Pass – George Harrison
The Way – Fastball
Shooting Star – Dylan
River of Tears – Ian Hunter
Yesterday’s Love – Code
The Crystal Ship – Doors
Flowers and Dust – Code
High Flying Bird – E John

Don’t Think Twice – Dylan
The Weight – The Band

Always on My Mind – Elvis
Richard Cory – McCartney
New Orleans – Arlo Guthrie
Most of the Time – Dylan
You’re So Square – Elvis/Queen
I’m Wandering – Kristina Train
Louisiana – Randy Newman
Let It Be – Beatles
Desperado – Eagles
Skyline Pigeon – E John

Downtown Train – Rod Stewart
Sweet Painted Lady – E John
Make You Feel My Love – Dylan
You Stepped into My Dreams – Ian Hunter
The Man You Wanted – Code
Walk a Thin Line – Fleetwood Mac
Love Minus Zero/No Limit – Dylan
Out on the Weekend – Neil Young
Who’ll Stop the Rain – CCR
Standing on a Rock – Ozark Mountain Daredevils

Catch The Wind – Donovan
Say it Ain’t So, Joe – Murray Head
I Shall Be Released – Dylan
Here, There and Everywhere – Beatles

Come a Little Bit Closer – Fleetwood Mac
I’ve Just Seen a Face – Beatles
There’s a Kind of Hush – Herman’s Hermits

Long Songs: Ego-trip or musical exploration

A blog about long songs – ironically, the longest I have written.

A very good friend and I had a great discussion the other day. He had just purchased the Duhaney Code album and was giving me some feedback about it. He said he thought ‘These Walls” was unnecessarily long and, when I explained to him it was done on purpose with the idea that we needed some long songs to put some meat on the bones of the short, ‘pop-like’ songs, he accused me of doing it simply for the sake of my ego. He said it takes discipline to keep a song short. I replied that it has nothing to do with discipline but it is simply a matter of musical exploration.

Well, let’s examine this premise.

I was involved in some recording sessions last year. I had around a dozen musical ideas to work with. The four that got developed first turned in Victory, And I Want You, Yesterday’s Love, a piano song, and These Walls.

Duhaney Code album cover

Victory is a neat little riff played on the acoustic guitar and the song breaks down nicely into a verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus format. The instrumentation was interesting in that the riff was played on an acoustic guitar with chord accompaniment. The riff is imitated on the bass and some harmonic fill between riffs. It turned out pretty well as the hook played on the guitar and bass was really catchy.

After the recording was done, the song came in at 3:40. Pretty good length and, amid all the stuff going on in the song, there is no room for a guitar solo.

Similarly with Yesterday’s Love. The stripped down version that was the final product was simple piano and vocal, with enough lyrics to take up the whole of the 3:49 that that song timed out at.

And I Want You was 3:32 seconds long. During the sessions I flirted a little with some additional guitar and bass, (distorted), but felt, at the end, that the song was nice with just the acoustic. It is a very nice finger picking song with a descending bassline that stands out quite prominently. And, again, there were lyrics enough to fill the whole song.

So, I was about a third of the way through the sessions and I was thinking there was no guitar solos on this album yet. I looked at some of the other material that was on deck for arranging and saw there were some opportunities. What turned out to be a song called Lead Me On, and, subsequently, What’d I Say?, (watch for a spring 2014 release!) clocked in at a respectable  4:41 and includes a guitar solo as well as some back and forth between the singer and the lead guitar. Very enjoyable to record and listen to.

I had an interesting finger picking song that turned into These Walls. I decided to try to make it a bit of a show piece and fully explore the possibilities of the music. I also decided, explicitly, that I wanted to put a guitar solo on the record and make it a long one.

After fiddling around with the arrangement and writing some additional music for a bridge, (which turned into a non-vocal bridge but rather a brief piano solo), I came up with a 7 minute song, in my opinion, not that long at all, although many would disagree with that sentiment.

The way it evolved in the sessions was that the lyrics, initially, were done at the 3:30 mark so I had around another 3:30 to write a long guitar solo.  As it developed, additional singing was done, taking up about another minute. Since this singing was of an improvisational nature, I put some lead in as a call and response format and then the solo took off. Perhaps using the phrase ‘took off’ is misleading. The solo was there all right and it was going to be fairly lengthy but my idea was to make it long and unobtrusive. I like to think I accomplished that. With the original finger picking as a back-drop and some strings to round out the sound, the guitar solo flows along, covering a couple of octaves and coming back to the same root-5th note pattern, finishing on that, in fact, and fading gently away.

As the composer, arranger, performer and engineer, I rather enjoy the song and I have had feedback that others find it to be the best song on the album.

The-Passerby-Don-Mclean-[1]

The longest song to ever top the Billboard charts was American Pie by Don McLean. It is 8:33 and, while you will rarely hear the ‘short’ version anymore, there was a short version, (unofficial) that was played on some radio stations.

 

beatles-hey-jude-10[1]

Hey Jude topped the British charts and was 7:11 in length, although the coda at the end takes up most of the time.

 

 

thedoors[1]

The Doors, on their debut album, heralded “The End” at 11:41. It turned out to be the perfect song for the movie Apocalypse Now, (12 years later), but one wonders at the audacity of putting a song that long on a debut album.

So, the question is, are these songs all about ego or musical exploration?

Is the Coda of Hey Jude really a great addition to the song or were the Beatles just out to prove they could still have a hit while sneering at the convention of hits being three minutes in length?

Is The End a legitimate platform for Jim Morrison poetical musings or is it just filler?

I would venture to say that all the verses of American Pie are vital to the song but, perhaps it could have been sung differently to fit into the standard format.

Stairway to Heaven. Ah, yes. The song that ended every high school dance in the ’70’s and ’80’s. What a great song. The live version is similar but has a longer solo and gets up to over 11 minutes. That’s even better.

So, is it too long? I submit that the song cannot be shortened.

And the other gem from Zeppelin IV, ‘When the Levee Breaks’. I think it is the best song they ever made. They only played it live once, (Chicago, 1975) and that was a completely lame attempt. The song as presented on the album is brilliant and the length is perfect, not only after the light and airy Goin’ To California, but as a coda to the album, even though it is not a ‘concept’ album. Everyone has noted the great drum track laid down by Bonzo but it is the swirling guitars sliding down into the vortex at the end that makes the song.  It neither goes on too long nor is it just a brief foray into the vortex.

The logo from my first album!

I have what I would consider one long song, Fire, from my Slideways album, coming in at 10:14. Wyatt Café, from the same album, is 7:49.

In thinking about this topic, I was chatting with my son, who is a capable guitar player, about the song Fire. It is basically a fusion of three separate riffs in Em, although the song has four parts and I was trying to tell him that the song should have been about 3 to 4 minutes longer! because all those ideas could have been expanded. The ‘train’ intro and then the three riffs treated in various manners. The intro ends at 2:14, which leaves 8 minutes for the three riffs to be expounded upon.

Really?!? That’s less than 3 minutes per section!!!!

The back story here is rather funny and embarrassing. I have a friend who writes poetry and is also a fireman and he told me a story once about a tragedy. I swear I was sober at the time and I heard the story correctly. It was about some kids who lived in a rural area and were out fooling around on some train tracks that ran past their land. A train goes by, and, inevitably, they are hit and, when the EMT guys show up, the kids are dead. The worst part is that the children’s dad was an EMT and it was he who answered the call.

Brutal you say? Yes!

Except it’s not true.

When I talked to him some time later, I told him about the song Fire and that I wrote it after he had told me that awful story and he said something like, “Hey, that wasn’t me. It must’ve been someone else who told you that.”

Well, by that time, the song was in the can. I looked at this friend incredulously. Huh? WTF?

A ten minute song is outrageous to some people. How can this song have been shortened? I could have chopped the intro, (but I wanted the drone building to the train whistle to build up). I could have chopped part 2. It is quite long and perhaps I should have not done the repeat but, I felt there needed to be a solo above the riff.

The link between parts 3 and 4 is around 45 seconds long and the link needed to be there.

Part 3 is too short as it is. And part 4 needed the fade out with the rain falling, (symbolizing the tears of the tragedy but also washing away the pain).

So, is it excessive or is it just proper development?

Now, Wyatt Café, similarly to These Walls, was a song that was arranged in such a manner that the intro and fade out mirrored each other and, hell, I just wanted to layer those guitars like maple syrup and butter on a stack of pancakes and play all day. So sue me! I love it. You know, there is the intro, 2 verses, chorus, verse, chorus, outro. That doesn’t sound unreasonable to me. And, hey, it’s a blues song.

When I was speaking to my brother about this idea, he said jazz and blues seem to be exempt from this rule. I don’t know why that is. I guess they are just considered genres that simply aren’t as commercial and there is more room for … a)ego,  or b)bloated self-expression, or c) improv or d)full development of musical ideas to their full.

I would choose either c) or d) from that multiple choice.