Monday, 20 October 2014

New Beatles Podcasts


I've recently come across two Beatles podcast you might want to check out. First AlphaBeatical is going through every Beatles song “from 12 to Y”. The roundtable format podcast is more of a fans-eye view but fun and interesting all the same. As they've just done A Taste Of Honey you don't have too much to catch up on. And unlike BSA they're covering Anthology deep cuts too.

Next up, Otis Gibbs' excellent 'Thanks For Giving A Damn', a 'life on the road' storytelling project had a cool episode on Paul McCartney's stay in Nashville in 1974. You can download it or listen here.



Friday, 17 October 2014

Under The Influence: Joe Elliott (Def Leppard)


The Beatles gave us something we wouldn't have otherwise had because they spent so long in the studio with Lennon and McCartney no doubt saying, 'What does that machine do? What happens if we turn it upside down?'. When Leppard were in the studio with Mutt Lange we said, 'we wouldn't have been able to do this if The Beatles hadn't done it first'. They showed everybody the way. Our production techniques were influenced by what they were doing on Sgt. Pepper, the White Album... That influenced us more than us trying to rip off their chord structures.

Joe Elliott (Def Leppard) in Classic Rock Magazine

This is a guest post by Martin Quibell

Monday, 13 October 2014

10:36 Dear Prudence (pt.1) Ringoing Going Gone

Prudence Farrow with Ringo Starr in Rishikesh. Oh the irony.

Dear Prudence is a fantastic, deceptively simple, song and was one of Lennon's favourites. Perhaps more closely identified with Rishikesh than any other track, it was inspired by Mia Farrow's sister, Prudence, going a little nuts while studying meditation with the Beatles in India. The legend has Lennon singing it outside her door, but Prudence denies hearing the song till she was 'Back In The US(SA)'.

Using the same Donovan/Gypsy Davy finger picking pattern that appears on Julia, Blackbird and Happiness Is A Warm Gun, it's another example of using a technical exercise to write a song (Ticket 59). Other 1968-approved songwriting ideas are the R b7 6 b6 line (Ticket 68) that appeared in While My Guitar (this time in the major form - D, D/C, D/B, D/Bb) and some Lady Madonna style boogie-woogie piano (Ticket 25) making a cameo appearance at 3:31.

Less praiseworthy is the way Lennon (ahem) 'paraphrases' the first line of Raining in My Heart "The sun is out; the sky is blue", changing 'out' to 'up'.

Back in the UK, the band headed for Trident Studios, possibly to take full advantage of the 8 track recorder, laying down tracks that are as inspired as they are scrappy, perfectly capturing the vibe of the song. Ringo however was not there. Having quit the band during the previous session (Back In The USSR) and gone AWOL, Paul stepped up (or rather sat down) in his place.

One of the amazing thing about the Beatles is how world-class songwriters like Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were also prepared to be sidemen on 'the other guy's' songs. And what a sideman Paul McCartney was! – backing vocal, drums, super loud bass, piano, tambourine, cowbell, handclaps and a fl├╝gelhorn (audible only to the pure of heart).

I Can't Believe It's Not Ringo™



Let's talk about that drumming. The same kind of 'lead drumming' last heard on A Day In The Life, Paul's performance is so good that many people swear it MUST be Ringo. Conspiracy theorists point to how un-McCartney-like it is compared to his solo era skin-bashing. But let me make this clear. It doesn't matter how much of an expert you think you are. Ringo was in a different country. With his family. Writing Octopus's Garden. And Prudence was completed before his return. Besides, a listen to the semi-isolated track reveals a few flubs amongst the flams. And the fact that the fills are overdubbed onto a basic beat makes McCartney sound slightly better than he really is.

Unusual Prudence

The song is a bit of an oddball for a number of reasons. This is the only example of dropped D tuning I can find in all the Beatles catalogue. It has a fade in/fade out bookended chord progression (Ticket 4) something which only shows up in Eight Days A Week. We have the aforementioned lead drumming and rogue blue notes (in the boogie-woogie piano part) like the cellos in Yesterday and Piggies. And the droning double-D strings in the guitar perhaps reflect the Indian genesis more subtly than Tomorrow Never Knows.

Perhaps most importantly from a songwriting point of view, repeated chord sequences are very un-Beatles-like, though standard procedure today (Demons and Radioactive by Imagine Dragons for examples consist of a single four chord sequence all the way through).

Next time. Stuff about chords, small melodies and which scale we're using.



Friday, 10 October 2014

70 Songwriting Tips


It's been a long time, been a long time, been a ...wait, wrong band. Just wanted to give you the good news that I'm back working on a new set of posts on Dear Prudence, a podcast AND I've finally overhauled the legendarily user unfriendly ticket to write page. You'll now find a simple list of each tip, 3 examples max and a link to a full post - RIGHT HERE

Saturday, 30 August 2014

NEW! Ticket 70: Write Like A Novelist


Even if you're writing about autobiographical events or issues close to your heart, why not try on someone else's shoes and write 'as' (or about) a fictional character?

Eleanor Rigby - 3rd person
Maxwell's Silver Hammer - 3rd person
Mean Mr Mustard - 3rd person
Nowhere Man - 2nd and 3rd person
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da - 3rd person
Paperback Writer - 1st person
Polythene Pam - 3rd person
Rocky Racoon - 3rd person
The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill - 1st and 3rd person
Yellow Submarine - 1st and 3rd person

also

Knockin' On Heavens Door - 1st person (Bob Dylan)
Lazing On A Sunny Afternoon- 1st person (The Kinks)
Money For Nothing - 1st person (Dire Straits)
Pinball Wizard - 3rd person (The Who)
Romeo And Juliet - 1st person and 3rd person (Dire Straits)
Roxanne - 2nd person(The Police)
Space Oddity - 1st person (David Bowie)
The Boxer - 1st and 3rd person(Simon And Garfunkel)

Concept albums are full of this kind of writing. See for example Operation Mindcrime (Queensryche), 2112 (Rush), The Wall (Pink Floyd) and Tommy (The Who). 

See also

Ticket 54: Unify Your Lyrical Imagery/Extended Metaphor
Ticket 64: Try Writing For Kids
Ticket 66: Write An 'Occasional' Song

See the full list of songwriting tips here - Tickets To Write


Friday, 29 August 2014

NEW! Ticket 69: Climb The Chord Ladder


Starting from the tonic chord, ascend the major scale in chords. In G major this would be

G maj, Am, Bm, C maj, D maj, Em, F#dim, G maj.

Most examples only use the first four or five chords. Also works well in reverse.

Here, There And Everywhere
I'm Only Sleeping

also

Been It - pre chorus (The Cardigans)
Boys Don't Cry - verse and chorus (The Cure)
Gloomy Sunday – bridge (Billie Holliday)
Like A Rolling Stone – verse (Bob Dylan)

See also

Ticket 43: Use The Fourths Luke!
Ticket 48: Static Melody/Changing Chords
Ticket 65: Build Up On The V Chord

See the full list of songwriting tips here - Tickets To Write

Thanks to Timothy Ray Echols on the BSA forum for examples.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Ticket 66: Write An 'Occasional' Song


A song to celebrate a national holiday or a commonly shared life experience (all the things you might buy a greeting card for).

Birthday
Christmas Time Is Here Again

also

Auld Lang Syne
Father's Day (Groucho Marx)
First Of May (Jonathan Coulton)
Happy Birthday (Stevie Wonder)
Happy Birthday To You (trad.)
Happy New Year (Abba)
Shrove Tuesday (Matt Blick)
We Are The Champions (Queen)

And of course too many Christmas songs to mention.

See also

Ticket 42: Have A Completely Unique Concept For The Song
Ticket 49: Employ Madrigalism
Ticket 54: Unify Your Lyrical Imagery/Extended Metaphor
Ticket 64: Try Writing For Kids

See the full list of songwriting tips here - Tickets To Write