Saturday, September 24, 2011

Just a face

For a long time I worked in music retail. First, I can vouch for this truth. It was nothing like the movie Empire Records. We actually used to have people coming in asking for jobs because that is how they though it would be. Unfotrunately, I didn't work with a perfect cross section of musical tastes and current fashion. It was nothing like this:

The best thing about it was access to new music. Something that I don't have on tap anymore. The problem with working in a music store was that you had to play music that would not be too challenging for the customer browsing to deal with. That meant two thirds of my favourites were not appropriate. To make it worse, in some places I worked there were absolute rules about what would be played during different hours of the day. I therefore hated the lunch rush. The rules then were "chart music only". Cue Ricky Martin and audio suicide. Sometimes I would try and sneak in Nick Cave or Patti Smith only to have the manager rush out, tell me off publicly and repace it with Back Streeet Boys or Mariah Carey. It wasn't that those groups were intolerable in short bursts, but regular rotation was say the least.

Every now and then, you would discover a record that you could play at lunch time which would also become an all time favourite.

For me, one of the best was Twilight as played by the Twilight Singers. Beautiful songs, great cover art. Total package.

The Twilight Singers were Greg Dulli from the Afghan Whigs new project, and I still love that record. In fact, the Twilight Singers went on to become one of my all time favourite acts. Along with the Afghan Whigs.

I have music retail to thatnk for that one.

This song is called Just a Face. I wanted to write something that I would have played at lunchtime. Something not offensive, a bit hypnotic, understated. A desert road song.

It is no more than two hours work last Sunday. I came up with a little guitar cycle and decided I didn't want to change chord until I had to. This is the result. A Sunday morning song that will be forgotten in a month, but brought me a little joy while I made it. Take this as is it is. Nothing more, nothing less.


Just a Face (demo)
(Words and music by Andrew Savage)

If you want to fall then let me know
a dream to weave and breathe and leave in tow

You may have a voice
to shatter time
You may have a mouth that tastes like wine

You're just a face

You may have the waist
worn like a crime
it soothes the edges
Supples the vines

You own the room
It moves with your will
Hanging on your wrists
We drink our fill

You're just a face

But when we untie
the strings that hold you hostage to desire
We turn to stone
We turn to stone

Saturday, September 10, 2011

the word 'it' (Heart & Soul)

I have decided that the word 'it' is the best asset I have in my lyrical tool box.

'It' can be anything.

When you are writing songs that have perhaps too much personal meaning, or maybe involve someone you know or have observed, or cast doubts upon your personal integrity, the word 'it' comes to the rescue.

'It' could be love.
'It' could be death.
'It' could be betrayal.
'It' could be hope.
'It' could be God.
'It' could be hate.
'It' could be grief.
'It' could be jealousy.

etc etc. etc.

Perhaps I also think that the songs can become a little like a choose your own adventure book. Just add in what you want 'it' to mean and make the song yours.

This song is called Heart & Soul. It sits firmy on the fence for me. I can't decide if it is good or bad. I was playing around on a 12-string guitar and just recorded the result. The 12-string makes it automatically 'generified'. In may mind I can hear more distortion and chaos at the end. It makes me think, "who do I think I am? Neil Young? Pink Floyd? Mr. Big?"

Try replacing 'it' in the song with a word of your choice. It might be the making of this one...

Heart & Soul  (rough demo)
(Words and music: Andrew Savage)

See how quick it comes
No regard for what you've done
And when the branches start to break
We're just left with the shape
You carved out

And when
The toll collector comes
She won't 
Count your setting suns

It always preys on us who wait
And choose to take too long
We protect what we keep 
In the myths that we make
For you

And you ask why
When the toll collector comes
She won't 
Count your setting suns

She just cuts away the coal
This is heart and soul

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Yesterday's Sun

On my fourteenth or fifteenth birthday my father bought me a copy of REM's Tourfilm. I remember watching  Michael Stipe perform poetry in between songs and I fell for it immediately. He has this knack of capturing a sentiment in a sentence and then weaving enough mystery into it to leave you wanting. We watched the concert film in the backgroung during the birthday party. I was enthralled. There was drama about it. And it made me start to really think about the lyrics of songs.

My favourite line of poetry from the film was:

Pacific Coasts: The closer I get, the further away I feel.

It seems to me like the speaker is celebrating what could be at the same time as grieving what has gone. I really like that idea.

Craig Ireson - Poet, striker, friend

My oldest friend Craig and I had lunch together last Friday. We had not seen each other for some time. But it was a sort of homecoming for me. If it wasn't for Craig, I don't think I would have been as involved in performance arts. He made me audition for plays. He made me play guitar in his super group CIAO (even when I didn't know a chord). He forced me to embrace my imagination. He could make the mundane seem important. Our schoolboy antics were always seen through a magnifying glass.

Over lunch we talked about all manner of things...including the Violent Femmes.

The Violent Femmes

Craig reminded me of their greatness. The way that they championed passion over production. In the 1980s, in the face of the all the studio trickery and the stadium rock juggernaut, the Violent Femmes kept our feet on the ground. As teenagers we ate up the nastiness and lust of Gimme the Car. We loved the evil that is Country Death Song, and the joy of American Music.

They seemed to swing on some crazy pendulum between adolescence and adulthood, lust and love, hurt and hope. Belief and doubt. Life and death.

It seemes to me like they embody the idea.

The closer they get the further away they feel.

So, courtesy of a lunchtime discussion, Michael Stipe's poetry and the stripped back vulnerability and vision of the Violent Femmes, here is a song that deals with those tensions. It is a theme I fear I will continue to repeat. It's all a bit earnest, but I can't help it. I'm just playing the cards I was dealt. I am what you get.

The song is called Yesterday's Sun. It was written and recorded on my 8 track last Sunday. The key line for me reads, "I cried a little bit, for the dream. I got by a little bit, on the dream." The idea is related to the realisation that it is hard to sustain yourself on hope alone. Sometimes you want something tangible.

Yesterday's Sun (8 track demo)
(Words & music: Andrew Savage)

I've been lying to yesterday's sun
And he reminds me of you
I've been crying for yesterday's sun
And now
I am corruption
So I cried a little bit, for the dream
I got by a little bit, on the dream

Now I am Jonah
Running off to sea
And the whale casts its shadow over me
The lines that your peddling
Cut me off at the knee
Yesterday's sun
Do you remember me

I cried a little bit, for the dream
I got by a little bit, on the dream