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Last friday afternoon, NPR’s Monitor Mix, a blog concerning today’s music written by Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein, noted that many musicians these days have their own recording setups, and issued a “Write And Record A Song In A Weekend” challenge.
The ground rules:
a) The song and recording had to be brand new, started from scratch
b) The song had to contain at least one of these five words: dog, lampshade, firecracker, NPR, Japan
c) The track had to be uploaded to Monitor Mix by 5pm Sunday night.
Sounds like fun, right? I thought so, plus something about the percussive nature of the word “firecracker” instantly had my musical wheels turning. I briefly toyed with a rock opera based on an NPR report on a Japanese dog who brought a lampshade and some firecrackers to a house party, but…um, no.
Unfortunately, I had unbreakable plans for Friday night, Saturday night, and all day Sunday, which whittled NPR’s generous 48 hour bequest down to a 10 hour sprint: 8.5 hours straight on Saturday and 90 minutes of triaged insanity between 3:30 and 5pm on Sunday.
I ended up getting the song in to Monitor Mix at 5 o’clock on the dot. You can hear it on their blog page here: just scroll down in their player until you see “Radio Nowhere – “Firecracker”. Hope you like it [and if you dig it enough to leave a comment on their blog, thus inciting other visitors to check out the song, well, I wouldn’t mind that at all ;)…]
P.S. If you like this whole idea and want to hear more about it, I just found out that NPR’s “Weekend Edition” will be airing a piece on the project – and interviewing some of the musicians involved – tomorrow morning (Saturday 11/21).
I posted a snippet of the beat. I posted the lyrics. Now, finally – it’s the whole song! Here’s the next demo for the Polaroids project, a song called…called…actually, I still don’t know what it’s called (despite some excellent suggestions – thanks, e$).
What’s it about? When did you write it? Where did those sounds come from? What the hell is going on here? All these questions and more answered later – I just wanted to get this out to you before Thanksgiving rolled around….
Well, I’m getting pretty close to finished with another track. This one’s a little bit different, in that you might recognize it from somewhere else (I’ll continue being coy for the moment). It’s also a departure from the generally restrained nature of the last couple of songs – especially in this rough mix, where the drummer seems to have seized control of the mixing console. Check it out:
Sound familiar? Floor us with your obscure musical knowledge in comments…
Whenever I talk with people about music, and they find out I’m a songwriter, just about the first question they ask me is: “what comes first, the words or the music?”
It’s a good question…without a good answer. Because the answer is “both”, “neither”, and “sometimes” (Satisfying, isn’t it?).
By way of a response, though, I thought I’d take a song that I’m working up right now and explain how it came to be, in installments. Like a Dickens novel, but with fewer adorable urchins and more distorted dub tape loop feedback.
Let’s start with the beat (which is actually not where the whole thing started. Confusing? See paragraph 2, above). This song was just a few words and a musical vibe which had been flitting around my head for a long time, until one day when I decided to blow off my job and finish the !@#$!% &@! thing.
I began laying hands on various instruments and devices in my studio, attempting to strike just the right combination of notes and sounds to coax the song out of its hiding place and into the world of verses, choruses, and royalty checks.
Instead, I came up with this beat.
Whoo-ee. Funky as Ryan Seacrest in a pair of pleated Dockers, eh? I was about to give up and call in un-sick to work when I decided, as a last resort, to run that thing through an old guitar distortion pedal that I’d been using as a pencil holder. Check it out.
Better, no? I thought it brought out a sense of mysterious atmosphere which had been totally absent before, which was much more inspiring. And louder and weirder, which is always good. Skipped the phone call to work. Spent the rest of the day on the song, of which more next time…
Okay, so that’s obviously ridiculous, but I overstate to make a point: Mitch Mitchell was a fantastic musician. He could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee – a very hefty, angry bee – and as iconic as Jimi Hendrix was, it’s impossible to imagine the Experience’s first 3 records without Mitch Mitchell.
His drumming supported the bruising power of Hendrix’ riffs, but instead of reinforcing them to the point of bombasticity (which is not a word, but looks like one), it supplied a level of sly nuance and implied alternate possibilities. Which then became explicit when the band explored jazzier music, or roared off into freak-flag improvisation.
Mitch Mitchell was my first favorite drummer. I’ll miss him.
[If you have no idea who I’m talking about, check this out:]
Which is a good time for instrumentals, right? Here’s a snippet of some noodly but promising stuff I was fooling around with this morning. My cat seems to find it calming:
Do not listen while operating heavy machinery, eh? Here it is again…backwards:
Should be interesting to see where this one goes…
I first heard rumors about this several weeks ago, but didn’t post anything because I figured it couldn’t possibly be true. Uh uh. No way. Not happening
Today, however, the news comes straight from the hardest multi-instrumentalist ever to rock a Day on the Green, master of the heavy-metal church organ, the co-hammer of the gods himself:
Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones confirms that the band is planning to tour and record…without Robert Plant.
With all due respect to Jones and guitarist Jimmy Page, any Led Zeppelin minus Robert Plant rocks about as hard as a deflated mylar balloon at a dentist’s office party. How can you hit the road without one of the greatest frontmen/singers in rock history (not to mention perhaps the greatest drummer, but that’s another story) – a founding member of the band – and still call yourself “Led Zeppelin”?
I mean, really….What???
Jones says that he and Page aren’t looking for a Plant soundalike: “It’s got to be right. There’s no point in just finding another Robert.”
Who were they considering? Tony Bennett? Natalie Merchant? John Ashcroft?
Jones closed by saying, and I quote: “We don’t want to be our own tribute band.”
Maybe rock’n’roll really is dead. Thoughts?
The Good News: The first video for a Days Between Stations song, London Calling is here!
The Bad News: It’s this video…
Maybe I should try not to blow the entire video budget on tequila next time…
I’m a big believer in the power of mystery and well-intentioned obfuscation when it comes to music. I love songs where the lyrics are clearly about something – there’s an internal logic that relates the verses to each other, and the choruses – even if you don’t know exactly what the song is about.
Some people really, really want to know what a song is about, and, specially for them (and because otherwise I’d have nothing to write about here), I’ll tell you that Shotgun is about Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.
This is definitely not something I ever intended to write a song about, but I was walking past a bookstore one morning, I saw Courtney Love dressed in some super high-fashion outfit on a magazine cover, and an entire verse and chorus assembled themselves before my very ears.
The interesting thing is that it actually…wasn’t this song. It was a song about clothes, a terrible song, and I banged my head against it for a week before suddenly, while sitting at my keyboard of pain, started playing this song instead. . I think I wrote the whole thing in about an hour ( an hour and a week…). Weird.