Turnin’ Me – Lyrics

The lyrics to Turnin’ Me, to be released in advance of the forth-coming album ‘Later’, due in spring 2014.

Turnin' Me

Wonderin’ when I’ll see you

Missin’ you more each day

I’m thinkin’ about you so much

My feet are turnin’ to clay

 

Wonderin’ where it went wrong

It seemed such a good thing

But I can’t take the silence

What’s worse than this? (Nothin’)

 

Case for my Takamine. It's been around since '82
 

(You’re turnin’ me)          Sideways and upside-down

(You’re turnin’ me)          Inside and out

(You’re turnin’ me)          Sideways and upside-down

(You’re turnin’ me)          Out and about

(You’re turnin’ me)          Sideways and upside-down

(You’re turnin’ me)          Inside and out

(You’re turnin’ me)          Sideways and upside-down

(You’re turnin’ me)          Without a doubt

 

When I sit, think about

All o’ the things we done

What does it mean to me now

All o’ that time?

 

And all o’ that effort, from you n’ me

It stands unacknowledged now

What does it mean, to you know

Its such a damn waste

IMG_4366

(You’re turnin’ me)          Sideways and upside-down

(You’re turnin’ me)          Inside and out

(You’re turnin’ me)          Sideways and upside-down

(You’re turnin’ me)          Out and about

(You’re turnin’ me)          Sideways and upside-down

(You’re turnin’ me)          Inside and out

(You’re turnin’ me)          Sideways and upside-down

(You’re turnin’ me)          Without a doubt

 

 

And I don’t wanna think what’s next

Don’t want to head out west

Don’t want to pack my chest

And I think of where we missed

Where we wrongly guessed

In pursuit of our quest

other promo image

(You’re turnin’ me)          Sideways and upside-down

(You’re turnin’ me)          Inside and out

(You’re turnin’ me)          Sideways and upside-down

(You’re turnin’ me)          Out and about

(You’re turnin’ me)          Sideways and upside-down

(You’re turnin’ me)          Inside and out

(You’re turnin’ me)          Sideways and upside-down

(You’re turnin’ me)          Without a doubt

slideways logo

 

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

Snow Wonder – a new traditional Christmas carol

 

I was out in Penticton, BC once in early October. Had spent the day doing non-outdoorsy winestuff. It was pouring really hard. Went to a couple wineries, tried  and bought some wine, brought it home, chopped some wood, (I guess that counts as out-doorsy), started a fire, cooked dinner logsand sat down to drink some more wine.

 

 

 

As is my usual custom when I am sitting about not doing much of anything, I grabbed my guitar. The blustery weather put me in the mood to do something I had thought of doing before but hadn’t – write a Christmas song. It happened very quickly. I just started picking on a D chord and decided to try a descending bass line with an ascending melody would be d chordinteresting. The second chord was a rough one but necessary – a chordA/C# – with another high A at the top. Yes, I know you non-players don’t know what that means – let’s just say it is pretty rough making that transition from a D.

 

 

 

The whole song was written in about 45 minutes, at least, the main guitar part. There were still other parts.

My beautiful Larivee D-03
My beautiful Larivee D-03

 

Those mostly came in the studio when the layering of the various instruments was to take place. You see, it was meant to be a song evocative of the Christmas’s of my generations music studioyouth, (as can be seen in the video).

 

 

 

Now, my generation, who grew up in the ’60’s and ’70’s, was NOT the generation which used candles on trees and popcorn on a string as an ornament but we were damn close. We had shopping mall Santa and Charlie Brown Christmas and the Rudolph TV show in that strange animation, (it will air another 428 times this December in Calgary – maybe more in your town). We had eggnog, staying up later and getting up early and family get togethers, charlie brown xmasneighbourhood parties, caroling door to door and, most importantly as relating to the video, who could forget that we had “Go play outside!” from the adults. And we would. For hours. And hours. Even in this frigid city.rudolph

 

 

 

I think that instruments like the shakey bells that the Salvation Army people shake in the malls and the organ are considered by my generation to be traditional instruments, as are tubular bells, music box(main melody) and the music box, (accompanying the guitar as the background music).

 

tubular bells

 

I will grant you that the tertiary melody played with guitar harmonics make be a bit of a stretch when defining tradition but …

 

I think the song is really a nice guitar backdrop with a series of contrapuntal melodies weaving around on top. Yet, to my ear at least, it never gets dizzyingly complicated. In fact, because the tubular bells tend to dominate, you might miss the other guitar playing along-side them. The shakers definitely get subsumed by all the other instruments but they are there throughout, (the verse).geoffreycode_snowwonder

 

Regarding the video, it is vintage footage taken from the Prelinger Archives, mixed with some silly footage of me playing my guitar in various places around the beautiful city of Kimberley BC. Great snowstorm that day. Took some footage of me playing the keyboard too but it just doesn’t have the same edginess as walking around with a guitar in a snowstorm.

 

 

When the Flowers and the Dust Have Gone

When the Flowers and the Dust Have Gone

Music and Lyrics by Geoffrey Code

Vocals – Jennifer Kapp

From the album Snow Wonder

snowflake

snowflakeThe first flakes

Fall from the gray sky

Autumn’s goodbye

(When the flowers and the dust have gone)

The wind blowsWinter snow, Kent, England, UK

And the snow flies

Winter’s first sigh

(When the flowers and the dust have gone)

flowersHave you seen when flowers and the dust have gone?dust-bowl-cause-1

Have you seen when flowers and the dust have gone?

blizzardWhen the snow

makes its debut

I am as new

(When the flowers and the dust have gone)

The moon’s glowmoon

Is a preview

winter’s milieu

(When the flowers and the dust have gone)

 

Have you seen when flowers and the dust have gone?

Have you seen when flowers and the dust have gone?

Jennifer Kapp - she sang the vocal on 'When the Flowers and the Dust Have Gone' from the Snow Wonder album.
Jennifer Kapp – vocalist

geoffreycode_snowwonder

When The Flowers and the Dust Have Gone

When the Flowers and the Dust Have Gone

There is a new Indie Christmas compilation that came out December 5 called Birds of Christmas. It features a bunch of great songs by unknown musicians, like me. It’s a free birds of canadadownload so follow the link, listen to it, download it and enjoy.  (Thanks Adam and CIVL Radio!)

 

My contribution is a song called When the Flowers and the Dust Have Gone. Here’s the story behind that song.

In the autumn of 2011 I was working on a Christmas album. I don’t know about you, but, frankly, I am damn tired of hearing the same Christmas songs from November 1 to January 2 every year.

CVL-radio-logo1

What the Christmas canon needs is from fresh tracks.

Actually, I find it quite amazing how many new Christmas albums are released every year. Yes, there are a lot done by the big stars, putting their own spin on the traditional songs. I prefer newly written songs. Some of the big stars have done it and actually had hits with these songs. Way to go guys. Keep it up.

But in the indie market, there are many new albums released each year. Some, like mine, are a mix of originals and new arrangements of traditional songs. Others are all original and quite impressive.

Go to the website CDBaby and check out new releases anytime during the month of December and you will see for yourself. It’s great.

radio

Anyway, I was working on this Christmas album and, one night, I was driving along this country road. Suddenly, out of nowhere, these lyrics hit me. This has never happened to me before. The lyrics are about the first snowfall of the year. I was humming a riff that I had written on the guitar some time earlier and these words erupted. It was pretty cool. So, I pulled over and wrote them down.

Like I said, I was thinking of using this old finger-picking chord sequence that I had written some time earlier but, when I got home and tried it, it sounded flat and lame. I tried it on the piano, changed it up a bit, added a slick little intro and, boom, done. Just needed a vocalist.

I just happened to know one who was available – a former guitar student of mine named Jennifer Kapp.

Jennifer Kapp - she sang the vocal on 'When the Flowers and the Dust Have Gone' from the Snow Wonder album.
Jennifer Kapp – she sang the vocal on ‘When the Flowers and the Dust Have Gone’ from the Snow Wonder album.

I am really glad I called on her for she brought the melody to life in that song. And I think her voice is terrific.

Jennifer and I did a cd release show which was well attended and quite successful. The plan was to shoot some footage and release a video but the footage was incomplete. I actually tried to salvage it and mix it with some vintage footage of various landscapes matching the lyrics but we had such a small amount of footage that it ended up being like those old Spiderman cartoons – where he is swinging across the cityscape but he keeps going over the same background. I decided that it was not cool to have repeated footage Jennifer and me at different points in the song, although I still have the video and it is quite funny.

geoffreycode_snowwonder

I am still playing Flowers and Dust as part of my regular set list.

And the title? It is an obvious reference to everything being covered in a blanket of snow.  The phrase itself, however, was coined down at the swimming hole we used to frequent. Down by the Sheep River about ten miles west of Okotoks, we used to drive down an old cart path for about a mile, park and walk for another mile or so. Great place. The river was warm in the summer, there was an old log that served as a diving platform, and we had a fire pit right beside the river. We spent a lot of time there, hanging out, talking, drinking. It was on one such day long excursion that our silly conversation led to the words that are now an ode to the first snowfall.

Cheers Peter!

Snow Wonder – A Christmas Album

I will admit the landscape is not completely barren. All I Want For Christmas is a pretty catchy song. I still consider it a new entry into the canon of Christmas carols – and it came out in 1993! imagesmariah

 

Of course, some people consider that rather dreary version of Little Drummer Boy that David Bowie concocted with Bing Crosby to be a new entry.

I suppose new entries into this market are so rare, that even old entries are considered new.

8_McCartney

There are some Christmas carols that are good, (O Holy Night – Jon Anderson), some are corny, (Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney and Wings), some are uplifting and some are just plain bad, (Jingle Bell Rock anybody?) And we get to hear them for six weeks every year.

anderson

Rather than complain about it, I did what any sensible musician would do – recorded my own Christmas album. Snow Wonder.

 

The album, (or, more properly, the EP) is six songs – four covers and two originals.

 

The covers are as follows:

Silent Night. Recorded with four guitars it retains its serenity and pastoral feel, (except maybe with that bent note near the end of the third verse. I considered re-doing that but left it in. It still buffaloes me.)

O Holy Night. A raucous affair featuring even more guitars layered up that Silent Night. The slides, which occur throughout the song, have always reminded me of the architecture of a Medieval Cathedral – purpose built to get you to gaze towards the heaven, so the soaring guitars are played to up-lift the listener.

geoffreycode_snowwonder

In The Bleak Midwinter – More of a Winter than a Christmas song but it certainly captures the mood of the title. Yet, the song is pretty enjoyable and brings out that certain melancholy one feels in the bleak mid-winter.

The Wassail Song – a nod toward the New Year after all the Christmas celebrating is done.

The two originals are called Snow Wonder and When the Flowers and the Dust Have Gone. I will post more about these two songs in the lead up toward Christmas. Oh, and, uh, Merry Christmas to all!

home_feature

Music Genres – aaaaaugh!

Mind-boggling. One wouldn’t think so but trying to pigeonhole your music into the proper genre is maddening. There are too many.

 

I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Queen, Slade – all the greats, which I considered ‘rock’led-zeppelin bands and, in my ’20’s, after music school,  then went through a huge ‘folk’ phase, listening to mostly Donovan but throwingDonovan at the Hollywood Bowl some Nick Drake, Don McLean, Dave Van Ronk, although he may be considered to be a part of the phase of my life in my ’30’s when I went through a ‘blues’ phase, including such notables as Sonny and Brownie, Sonny Rhodes, (whom I met at the King Eddy in Calgary one night),  and, of course, many others.

 

All along the way, Led Zeppelin was really the soundtrack of my life, (thank God for bootlegs – 9 studio albums gets old pretty quick!), but I always listened to the Raspberries, Rod Stewart, Fleetwood Mac, the old, middle and new formations, (the middle one, with Bob Welch is the one I consider the best – check out the link to their great songs Come A Little Bit Closer and Future Games).  Always listening to rock, folk and blues. I have always thought genres are pretty easy to figure out.

 

So, when it comes time to releasing an album, you must slot yourself into, first, a main and then a secondary, genre. For my second album, Snow Wonder, it was pretty easy – Christmas – done. For my first album, the easy choice was “Instrumental”, however, that doesn’t tell you too much. It could just as easily be instrumental of the 500 violins, (aaaah Summer Place by Percy Faith and his Orchestra – great tune) or of the The Great Gig in the Sky from Dark Side of the Moon.fleet

 

The logo from my first album!
 

I broke down the 12 songs from Slideways into the genres I believe they fall into, excluding the instrumental category:

Downtown – Outta Town – pop, country

Drake/In Flight – adult comtemporary, avant garde, new age

New Horizon – easy listening, blues

Thinking Twice – pop, epic pop, sophisti-pop

Too Bad – blues

Collaboration – pop, adult contemporary

Urban Hop – folk, contemporary

Wyatt Café – blues, ’50’s electric blues

Dey Ha’ T’ Go – blues, blues-rock

Blues Riff in E – blues

Fire – psychedelic rock, stoner

Waterfall – pop, easy listening, folk

 

If this is accurate, I guess the album would be classified as a blues album since that is the majority category. You would have a hard time convincing any bluesman worth his chops, however, that Urban Hop is a blues song.

Starting+Over

Being a spatial, as opposed to a linear, thinker, I find these labels exasperating at best and vexing at worst but I do see the need for them. Some system of organizational flow chart is needed. But, c’mon, how many bloody genres do we need. Check out this link about genres from Wikipedia.

 

 

I counted close to 300 and that only includes folk, rock, pop, blues, easy listening headings, It excludes ska, country, electronic, hip hop, jazz, and R and B. Wow.

 

As I continue to record music, I find myself having an internal debate about what the best way to release the series of songs I am working on. At the moment there are 22 songs in various stages of completion. Some of them are quite clearly blues songs, whether long or short or multi-versioned. Others are nice little pop songs. Some are brooding ballads, (I’ll have a blog about this coming up soon!), while others are more difficult to classify.

 

I suppose I could fit them all onto one album but that solution creates many issues, the least of which is that if a pop song is released onto a blues album, the listener expecting to hear blues will be miffed because there is a non-blues song on the album, and the pop listener will have a shallower life for not having heard the pop song lost on a blues album.

 

The solution? A series of singles? Nah. That would involve too much time spent on marketing.

 

A series of EP’s? This is the direction toward which I am leaning.

 

That way, I can release three to six songs on a blues EP and they all fit the description, just as all the pop songs will fit on the Pop EP.

 

Once the songs are complete, you can spend a little time working on all the various components of marketing and playing the songs and then follow it up with another album in short order.

 

And it is slowly dawning on me that the day of the album is doomed. People will buy songs, usually the hits, and move on so they can create a play-list, the current embodiment of the ’80’s mixed tape. And iTunes even has a “genius’ that will mix it for you so you don’t have to spend too much time bothering with your music. Let a machine do it. Bah!

 

In the spring of 2012, as I watched the hockey play-offs, there was a Lexus commercial thatSMALLL-Watson-K-T-c813398f24v2 had this great song as the background music. I did a little research and found out the song was by a North Carolina singer named Kristina Train. I checked out her website, listened to a bunch of her music and ended up buying the whole damn album. She has a great voice.

 

If this is out of step with modern sensibility, then to Hell with modern sensibility. I bought the whole album of someone who, half an hour previously, I had never heard of and I loved it. And this is what I usually do. I would rather listen to great but obscure music. I suppose that is what I record too. Too bad most people never hear it.

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.

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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.

 

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

 

 

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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.