Posts tagged ‘songbook’

Songbook: Hit On You

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

“Entangled” is the second song on the new record, but Greg wrote it, so I’m skipping to number 3, “Hit On You”.

This album is light on the “funny ha ha” songs, as people have noted, and this is probably the only outright example. I’ve always been a fan of songs in which the backing vocalists seem to have their own personalities – “With a Little Help from My Friends” is the best example I can think of offhand. Something about the other singers referring to me in the third person, as if they’re ambassadors or live translators, tickles me. And then it was natural to have them veer off in the third chorus into their own completely parallel commentary, warning the listener of the ulterior motives of the lead singer. Your mileage may vary, but I think “Pretend you’re gay / or you have the flu” is freakin’ hilarous. (I think this is largely because it’s fitting into a fairly tight rhyme scheme that has already been established.)

The form is kind of unusual: Verse, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Chorus. It’s unusual in modern pop music to never come back to the verse after the beginning of the song, but it was a standard technique back in the days of “standards” (Porter, Gershwin, etc.) to have an intro section that never returned, and you encounter it in many early Beatles songs as well, for example “Do You Want to Know a Secret” and “If I Fell”. I wasn’t really thinking of those sorts of songs as a model, though – mostly it was just that I already knew I needed three choruses (one without backing vocals, one with backing vocals added, and one where the lyrics diverge), and probably a bridge, so those were already eating up a fair amount of time, and (probably due to the fact that the choruses are different each time) I didn’t feel like it was getting too samey if I didn’t throw another verse in.

The verses are mostly in 6/4, and I was trying to get our drummer Bill to bring that out with a really emphasized

Drum part

which he did once and then collapsed cracking up. Uh, why is that, Bill? Oh, yeah, it’s exactly the same as the verses of “Heat of the Moment” by Asia. OK, never mind.

The bridge moves to another key and then back, which is a technique I really like. “Your body’s hotter than the deepest deep-fat fryer” also cracks me up. See, deep-fat fryers are really hot, and this one is even deeper, even though that makes no sense! Is that one of those jokes that becomes less funny when you try to explain it? Sigh. The harmonic transition from F to Ab for the bridge is super abrupt, but I’m really happy with the Ab -Db – G – C – Bb – F sequence (under “I’ve got to buy myself a new pair of pants ’cause my loins are on fire”) that accomplishes the return to F.

This was not a sure bet to make it onto the CD. I was worried with this song, as I always am with the funny ones, that it wouldn’t work well on record, that it’s mostly good for playing live, where people can react to the jokes in real time instead of hearing them over and over; also, because of the laid-back nature of it, it has the potential to sound kind of limp if we’re not really tight. But it ended up sounding really good, and in our final flailing song-ordering pass, I said, “You know what? We could put this right up front,” and I think it works really well there.

Songbook: Bucket

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

I thought it would be fun to write about some of the songs I’ve written. (I should point out for those coming to this cold that I’m the principal songwriter for Honest Bob and the Factory-to-Dealer Incentives). I’m going to start with songs from our latest record, Third Time’s the Charm. If you don’t have it, you can at least listen to a chunk of each song at our CD Baby page .

“Bucket” started because I felt that we had a dearth of songs in 3/4 and I wanted to remedy the deficiency. And what do you think of when you think of songs in three? Sea chanties, of course! The one-note-to-a-bar chorus is meant to be bellowed with your arms around your fellow men as you sway back and forth. It comes in groups of 9 bars, which doesn’t subdivide easily – the idea was kind of to just keep you swaying, bar by bar, without having that overall structural feeling of “okay, now we’re halfway through”.

The verses are mostly in groups of six bars, keeping the ternary idea going. Originally the guitars followed the bass as it went C – C – F – Bb – C – C, but it turned out to work out better to offset them slightly and ratchet up the tension a little – they pretty much go C – C – F – F – F – C over that bassline, which makes it feel like the bass is pulling them reluctantly along through the chord changes. We don’t prog out much in general but I totally gave into those tendencies with the unison break at the end of each verse. We drop one beat during it for extra proggy cred.

The lyrics are pretty silly. “Tomatillo” was a just a space-filling word I was using for the chorus, and it stuck. It took me a long time to come up with bridge words I was happy with – for a long time the bridge ended with “I’m a telegram” instead of “if you telegram”. If they mean anything at all it’s a general sense of leaving the quotidian trivialities of everyday life behind and achieving transcendence, which, hey, rock music never hurts in the pursuit of. “Hale-Bopp” from the first record had a similar basis.

The form is Verse, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Bridge, Chorus. Originally there was another chorus before the bridge but it made the whole thing too long; by the last chorus you were just waiting for the thing to end instead of being swept away in a final flourish. It’s a little unusual to head into a bridge after hearing just one chorus, but the end of the verse is enough of an event that I don’t think you feel like you haven’t had enough resolution points yet.

We started out with everyone just coming into together, then we decided to give our drummer Bill a couple bars of intro, then one rehearsal he played a full eight and it was awesome. Which made it a clear album-opener as well.

There’s some Hammond organ starting in the bridge that I really like; it adds to the balls-out atmosphere I was looking for. I wrote the part in less time than it took to perform it. One take and it’s good to go!