….she pointed at her heart then she pointed my way
She shook her head no, that was all she had to say….
January, and we gather on rainy nights and–would ya believe?-even Saturday afternoons!– to sift through the riffs (and raff) that have collected the past few years.
Now we are into that messy business of assembling parts into songs: throwing out the stuff that simply doesn’t come into form, coaxing out structures from disjointed bits.
I imagine an exhausted working mom coming home and staring into the fridge, wondering what sort of meal she can throw together from the chilled ingredients staring back at her.
It’s harsh business at times, you bring in a part that sounded just huge when you were playing it on the couch last night, but once you play it for the lads it is met with a shrug and meh.
You’ve brought the latest finger painted masterpiece home, but this one will not be hung on the refrigerator.
So you throw it out and move to something else, try to get a grip on how that can become a song.
There was one sketch that Jay sent me that kept coming back in each session.
4 derivatives of a D chord, played on the beat 1-3-5-7 simple and pure.
But what the hell we gonna do with that?
We hauled it out each time and stumbled along until giving up and throwing it back on the pile til next session.
But it only takes a small reflection to get a handle on a song, a different perspective.
A glimpse that reveals that thing, like a print or sculpture viewed from a side alcove of the gallery instead of from straight on: Ah.
The riff of course echoed Clash City Rockers, so we set about to basically rip that off, down to the very break (yeah yeah!) in verse two.
We call it homage, not plagiarism, by the way.
We’ve found that if you start with a song in mind, you’ve got a nice jumping off point, but it ends up somewhere else indeed.
Most people have this strange Déjà vu tingle when they listen to it, but they can’t quite place it, unless some asshole comes right out and explains the trick.
So now we have a handle on what we’re gonna do, time to start putting the parts together on chart.
Of course we can’t read music, silly–much less write it!
So we jot down notes, making up names as we go along, anything to jog the battered memories for the next time we tackle the song in progress.
We come across a series of descending chords and a brief intellectual discussion on the actual musical term ensues:
What is that, what ya call it, a glissando? Opposite of crescendo?
Nah man, that’s a modulation redux! Look it up….
What? Get the fuck outta here, that’s what’s know as retardāre.
You’re the Retard!
No you are…!
We settle on calling it a dogleg, for lack of any better term, and move on.
When you write a new song, you can’t help but compare yourself to that 19 year old kid that so effortlessly made up a song that somehow connected way back when.
You come to the realization. You are not going to write like that kid, you are not going to sound like him.
There has been a lifetime of pain and boredom, a novel of hilarity and small index of triumphs.
So better or worse, we are on the other side of that divide: can’t call it wisdom, pray it’s not cynicism, but we have become separated from the idealistic kids in the garage, and can only wave to them from other side.