Acoustic performance of the band’s new single ’45’
Acoustic performance of the band’s new single ’45’
Jake Bugg, Shangri La – First Listen Track-By-Track
Just 13 months after his hugely successful debut album was released, Jake Bugg returns with its follow up. ‘Shangri-La’ was recorded in Malibu with superproducer Rick Rubin, who’s worked with Beastie Boys, Run DMC and Kanye West to name a few. The resulting album is an energetic snapshot of a young songwriter buoyed with the sort of confidence you would expect from a teenager with the world at his feet.
There’s A Beast And We All Feed It
A brief intro for the album, this short skiffle sees Bugg worry to himself about living life to the max and having someone to hold close when times get tough. It also includes the line, “scared someone will tweet it”, a rare nod to the modern world from Bugg.
The song that comes complete with a video directed by the legendary Shane Meadows. The frantic caper caught on camera by the director of This Is England is matched by a jaunty tune, the second in a row on the album. Having toured his debut album relentlessly, including gigs with Noel Gallagher and The Stone Roses, ‘Shangri-La’ opens with the feel of an album Bugg will tear through on stage and have a bit of fun with.
What Doesn’t Kill You
Drummers on ‘Shangri-La’ include Red Hot Chili Peppers’ member and Will Ferrell lookalike Chad Smith as well as Pete Thomas, who recently worked with Arctic Monkeys on ‘AM’. As you would expect, there is a sharp energy that runs through the percussion of the album and ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ is one of Bugg’s tightest songs to date as well as one of his catchiest. It seems hanging with the legends is rubbing off on the lad.
Me and You
“All the time people follow us where we go,” sings Bugg on this laid-back acoustic ode to a lovelorn relationship. Nods to “flashes” (camera?) as well as the lyric “all of these people want us to fail,” and celebrity gossipers suggest this song is about Bugg’s short relationship with top model Cara Delevingne.
Messed Up Kids
Bugg said in the lead up to making ‘Shangri-La’ that he wouldn’t be able to write about the council estates and characters of Nottingham any more now that he’s touring the world and selling thousands of albums. While this is true for the majority of the album, ‘Messed Up Kids’ is a return to the social realism that made Bugg’s name. Telling the story of drug dealing Johnny and homeless girl Jenny, this song is also a nod toward Bugg’s ability to write a crowd-rousing anthem, and suggest that he has been listening to more Oasis than Don McLean in recent months.
A Song About Love
Jake Bugg is arguably at his best when he’s rattling through a fast-paced scuttling song, densely packed with lyrics and melody. However ‘A Song About Love’ sees his progression as a big time balladeer. While his voice struggles to carry the demands of such a huge song, it’s comforting to see him tackle such an ambitious track.
All Your Reasons
Earlier this year, Bugg spoke of his disappointment at working with songwriters in Nashville and discovering they had become lazy. “They were presenting songs they’d already written, not caring what I wanted,” he said. “I had to say: ‘No mate, let’s get our guitars out and see what happens together.’ It was really disappointing.” Sadly, ‘All Your Reasons’ sounds like a song that was recorded before he built up the courage to make his voice heard. A largely forgettable blues number and the first time ‘Shangri-La’ dips in quality.
Channeling the same 60s icons as The Strypes mainline with every blues riff and R&B howl, ‘Kingpin’ is a vintage firecracker from the Bugg canon and one which will be a live favourite.
“We’ve not been together for some time now, after how I handled it you’re not to blame,” sings Bugg as he laments the end of a relationship and his own role in its downfall. “We just grew out of love,” he cries – sounding heartbroken and soulful.
Brittle to the point of breaking, ‘Pine Trees’ is a lo-fi moment on an album which sounds thoroughly expensive throughout. Just Bugg and his guitar, it’s a timely reminder of the rough and ready charm which endeared us to the Nottingham teenager back in his early days.
A slow-burning build up gives way to a rip-roaring chorus and ponderous, almost psychedelic guitars in a song that places Bugg close to Richard Ashcroft in the urban poet stakes. “Maybe it’s all that you’ve done wrong, so just bite your silver tongue that you lied with, lied to yourself,” he snarls, angrily as the atmosphere around him escalates to breaking point. A momentous release never quite arrives but ‘Simple Pleasures’ adds new textures to the album and feels more modern than a lot of the retro material found elsewhere.
Storm Passes Away
This final song brings the album to a close in intimate style with Bugg kicking back and delivering an effortlessly breezy goodbye kiss to ‘Shangri-La’. Similar to ‘Pine Trees’, this feels like a closer look into Bugg’s soul, as if we’re joining him in his bedroom as he knocks around ideas for songs and jots down notes for lyrics.
Chad Batka for The New York Times
Lou Reed performing in New York City in 2010.
Lou Reed, 1942-2013
Outsider Whose Dark, Lyrical Vision Helped Shape Rock ’n’ Roll
By BEN RATLIFF
Published: October 27, 2013
The New York Times
Lou Reed, the singer, songwriter and guitarist whose work with the Velvet Underground in the 1960s had a major influence on generations of rock musicians, and who remained a powerful if polarizing force for the rest of his life, died on Sunday at his home in Amagansett, N.Y., on Long Island. He was 71.
The cause was liver disease, said Dr. Charles Miller of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where Mr. Reed had liver transplant surgery this year and was being treated again until a few days ago.
Mr. Reed brought dark themes and a mercurial, sometimes aggressive disposition to rock music. “I’ve always believed that there’s an amazing number of things you can do through a rock ‘n’ roll song,” he once told the journalist Kristine McKenna, “and that you can do serious writing in a rock song if you can somehow do it without losing the beat. The things I’ve written about wouldn’t be considered a big deal if they appeared in a book or movie.”
He played the sport of alienating listeners, defending the right to contradict himself in hostile interviews, to contradict his transgressive image by idealizing sweet or old-fashioned values in word or sound, or to present intuition as blunt logic. But his early work assured him a permanent audience.
The Velvet Underground, which was originally sponsored by Andy Warhol and showcased the songwriting of John Cale as well as Mr. Reed, wrought gradual but profound impact on the high-I.Q., low-virtuosity stratum of punk, alternative and underground rock around the world. Joy Division, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, R.E.M., the Strokes and numerous others were descendants. The composer Brian Eno, in an often-quoted interview from 1982, suggested that if the group’s first album, “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” sold only 30,000 copies during its first five years — a figure probably lower than the reality — “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”
Many of the group’s themes — among them love, sexual deviance, alienation, addiction, joy and spiritual transfiguration — stayed in Mr. Reed’s work through his long run of solo recordings. Among the most noteworthy of those records were “Transformer” (1972), “Berlin” (1973) and “New York” (1989). The most notorious, without question, was “Metal Machine Music” (1975).
Beloved of Mr. Reed and not too many others, “Metal Machine Music” was four sides of electric-guitar feedback strobing between two amplifiers, with Mr. Reed altering the speed of the tape recorder; no singing, no drums, no stated key. At the time it was mostly understood, if at all, as a riddle about artistic intent. Was it his truest self? Was it a joke? Or was there no difference?
Mr. Reed wrote in the liner notes that “no one I know has listened to it all the way through, including myself,” but he also defended it as the next step after La Monte Young’s early minimalism. “There’s infinite ways of listening to it,” he told the critic Lester Bangs in 1976.
Not too long after his first recordings, made at 16 with a doo-wop band in Freeport, N.Y., Mr. Reed started singing outside of the song’s melody, as if he were giving a speech with a fluctuating drone in a New York accent. That sound, heard with the Velvet Underground on songs like “Heroin” and “Sweet Jane” and in his post-Velvet songs “Walk on the Wild Side,” “Street Hassle” and others, became one of the most familiar frequencies in rock. He played lead guitar the same way, straining against his limitations.
Mr. Reed confidently made artistic decisions that other musicians would not have even considered. He was an aesthetic primitivist with high-end audio obsessions. He was an English major who understood his work as a form of literature, though he distrusted overly poetic pop lyrics, and though distorted electric guitars and drums sometimes drowned out his words.
Lewis Allan Reed was born on March 2, 1942, in Brooklyn, the son of Sidney Reed, a tax accountant, and Toby Reed, a homemaker. When he was 11 his family moved to Freeport, on Long Island. His mother survives him, as does his sister, Merrill Weiner, and his wife, the composer and musician Laurie Anderson.
Generally resistant to authority and prone to mood swings, Mr. Reed troubled his parents enough that they assented to a doctor’s recommendation for weeks of electroshock therapy at Creedmoor State Psychiatric Hospital in Queens; in 1959, while beginning his music studies at New York University, he underwent further treatment.
After transferring to Syracuse University, he fell into the circle around the poet and short-story writer Delmore Schwartz, one of his English professors. Mr. Reed would later resist being pigeonholed, but his college profile suggests a distinct type: an early-’60s East Coast hipster, a middle-class suburban rebel in love with pre-Beatles rock ‘n’ roll, jazz and street-life writers: William S. Burroughs, Hubert Selby Jr., Raymond Chandler, Allen Ginsberg.
He clearly absorbed and, at least at times, admired Bob Dylan. (“Dylan gets on my nerves,” he said in 1968. “If you were at a party with him, I think you’d tell him to shut up.” Twenty-one years later he would tell Rolling Stone, “Dylan continuously knocks me out.”)
While in college he wrote “Heroin,” a song that accelerates in waves with only two chords. It treated addiction and narcotic ecstasy both critically and without moralizing, as a poet or novelist at that time might have, but not a popular songwriter:
I don’t know just where I’m going
But I’m gonna try for the kingdom, if I can
‘Cause it makes me feel like I’m a man
When I put a spike into my vein
And I tell you things aren’t quite the same
When I’m rushing on my run
And I feel just like Jesus’ son
And I guess that I just don’t know.
After graduation Mr. Reed found work in New York as a staff songwriter for Pickwick International, a label that capitalized on trends in popular music with budget releases by made-up groups. Among his credits for Pickwick were “Johnny Won’t Surf No More” and “The Ostrich,” written for a nonexistent dance craze and sung by Mr. Reed himself.
When Mr. Reed met Mr. Cale, a musician working with La Monte Young’s Theater of Eternal Music, they wanted to combine early-1960s rock with the drones of classical minimalism. They jammed with the guitarist Sterling Morrison, one of Mr. Reed’s Syracuse friends, and the poet and visual artist Angus MacLise on percussion; he was soon replaced by Maureen Tucker, the sister of a college friend of Mr. Reed’s. With Mr. Cale playing viola, keyboards and electric bass, they named themselves the Velvet Underground after the title of a book by Michael Leigh on practices in nonstandard sexuality in the early 1960s.
The band played their original music at Café Bizarre in Greenwich Village, where the filmmaker Barbara Rubin came by with Andy Warhol. He quickly incorporated the group into the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a touring multimedia performance-art happening with dancers, film projections and the German singer Nico.
The band’s association with Warhol lasted from late 1965 to late 1967, and Mr. Reed was thereafter generally full of praise for Warhol, whom he saw as an exemplary modern artist and New Yorker. A proud New Yorker himself, Mr. Reed squared off against West Coast rock and declared his hatred for hippies. In a 1968 interview, he characterized the San Francisco bands of the time — the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane especially — as “tedious, a lie and untalented.”
In mid-1970 Mr. Reed left the Velvet Underground and moved back to Long Island, where he worked for two years as a typist in his father’s firm. He made a disappointing solo record toward the end of 1971, but David Bowie, a Velvet Underground fan when there weren’t many, helped advance Mr. Reed’s career: he started playing Velvet Underground songs in concert and helped produce Mr. Reed’s album “Transformer” in London. It rose to No. 29 on Billboard’s Top 200, but as with nearly everything Mr. Reed did, it took time to spread through the culture.
“Walk on the Wild Side,” a quiet, jazzlike single from the album about the hustlers and transvestites around Warhol at the Factory, introduced a new character in each verse and included a reference to fellatio that slipped past the censors; it became an FM radio staple and Mr. Reed’s only Top 40 hit.
In January 1973 he married Bettye Kronstad, whom he had met in 1968 when she was a student; by July, after the recording of the album “Berlin,” they were divorced. For several years afterward, Mr. Reed, whose sexual identity seemed to be as fluid as the songs from that time suggested, was romantically involved with a transvestite named Rachel, whose last name has long been uncertain; she was private, but their relationship was public. Rachel, it was assumed, inspired much of his album “Coney Island Baby”; she is also pictured on the cover of “Walk on the Wild Side,” a greatest-hits album.
Mr. Reed’s look toughened in the mid-’70s toward leather, bleached crew cuts and painted fingernails. He revisited his rickety, strange and vulnerable Velvet Underground songs on the live album “Rock N Roll Animal,” making them hard and slick and ready for a new order of teenage listeners.
By the end of the ‘70s his interviews and songs were full of a drive to change his way of living. In 1980 he married Sylvia Morales, who became his manager and muse. She was the subject of, or at least mentioned in, some of his most forthrightly romantic songs of the 1980s. But their relationship ended toward the end of the decade, and he met Ms. Anderson in the early ‘90s. They lived together in the West Village for more than a decade before marrying in 2008. They continued to live in the West Village as well as in Amagansett.
In middle age Mr. Reed became a kind of cultural elder, acting in films by Wim Wenders and Wayne Wang, befriending the Czech leader Vaclav Havel (who smuggled a copy of a Velvet Underground LP into Prague after a visit to New York in the late 1960s), creating multimedia stage productions with the director Robert Wilson. His own work moved between mature, elegiac singer-songwriter reports on grief, tenderness and age and wilder or more ambitious projects.
“The Raven,” a play and album, was based on writings by Edgar Allan Poe and included the saxophonist Ornette Coleman and the singer Antony Hegarty. For the album “Lulu,” an aggressive collaboration with Metallica based on Frank Wedekind’s play, he found himself in a “Metal Machine Music” redux, once again attacked by critics, once again declaring victory.
He got together with Mr. Cale, Ms. Tucker and Mr. Morrison for a one-off Velvet Underground reunion in 1990 and a tour in 1993. (Mr. Morrison died of lymphoma in 1995.) And he eventually returned to his dark anti-masterpiece after the saxophonist Ulrich Krieger transcribed “Metal Machine Music” for an electroacoustic ensemble in 2002; in 2009 Mr. Reed performed improvised music inspired by that album with a group, including Mr. Krieger, called Metal Machine Trio.
Sober since the ‘80s and a practitioner of tai chi, Mr. Reed had a liver transplant in April at the Cleveland Clinic. “I am a triumph of modern medicine, physics and chemistry,” he wrote in a public statement upon his release. “I am bigger and stronger than ever.”
But he was back at the clinic for treatment last week. Dr. Miller, who performed the transplant, said Mr. Reed decided to return home after doctors could no longer treat his end-stage liver disease. “We all agreed that we did everything we could,” Dr. Miller said.
Just weeks after his liver transplant, Mr. Reed wrote a review of Kanye West’s album “Yeezus” for the online publication The Talkhouse, celebrating its abrasiveness and returning once more to “Metal Machine Music” to explain an artist’s deepest motives.
“I have never thought of music as a challenge — you always figure the audience is at least as smart as you are,” he wrote. “You do this because you like it, you think what you’re making is beautiful. And if you think it’s beautiful, maybe they think it’s beautiful.”
Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed reporting.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: October 30, 2013
An obituary on Monday about the singer, songwriter and guitarist Lou Reed contained several errors about Mr. Reed’s first wife. She is Bettye Kronstad, not Kronstadt. She was a student when they met, not a cocktail waitress. And their relationship ended after, not during, the making of Mr. Reed’s album “Berlin.”
A version of this article appears in print on October 28, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Outsider Whose Dark, Lyrical Vision Helped Shape Rock ’n’ Roll.
The Basque radical rock band Hertzainak was formed in Euskal Herria (Basque Country), by a group of basque musicians. The band started as a Basque version of The Clash. Their first albums were a mix of punk with reggae and ska, with lyrics denouncing the political situation in the country. They sung in Euskera (Basque language). Their first appearance as a band took place on Christmas eve 1982, in Gasteiz, Araba, in southern Basque Country.
They disbanded in 1993. Hertzainak is one of the best music bands that emerged in the Basque Country, beloved by their die-hard fans.
Band members: Josu Zabala, Iñaki Garitaonaindia Gari, Enrique Villaverde Kike, Tito Aldama, Txanpi Bingen Mendizábal
The Art of Music Production is the first book to comprehensively analyze and describe the role of the music producer in creating successful music recordings. Now in its fourth edition, it is the definitive guide to the art and business of music production. Author and producer Richard James Burgess distills this complex field by defining the distinct roles of a music producer.The first part of the book outlines the underlying theory of the art of music production. The second focuses on the job’s practical aspects, including training, getting into the business, and–most importantly–the musical, financial, and interpersonal relationships producers have with artists and their labels. The book is packed with insights from successful music producers, ranging from the beginnings of recorded sound to today’s chart-toppers and across genre lines. It features many revealing anecdotes, encompassing both the daily and overarching career-related challenges that a producer faces. Burgess addresses the changes in the nature of music production brought about by technology and, in particular, the millennial shift that has occurred with digital recording and distribution. His lifelong experience in the recording industry as a studio musician, artist, composer, producer, manager, and marketer, combined with his extensive academic research in the field, brings a unique breadth and depth of understanding to the topic.
But before we start discussing music production, over the next couple of months we’ll be looking into the most scant-regarded and often-ignored element of music: arrangement. It’s a massive subject which has umpteen rules, all of which can be bent, broken and rewritten. For the purpose of this series of articles we will not be looking into how a guitar/bass/drum group get their live set together (for a detailed look at those aspects of arrangement and general musical preparation. So just how do you go about arranging a tune? The answer to that question has as many connotations as the age-old conundrum: how long is a piece of string? On the assumption that the string is two metres in length and seven strands thick, I intend to look at the long and short of arrangement for any sound that calls itself modern popular music.
* This is the first article in a three-part series. We hope you enjoy, and if you want to participate with ideas and/or opinions do not hesitate to contact us.
WHAT IT’S NOT
Let’s start by looking at what arrangement isn’t:
• It’s not finding a chord sequence for a song (although it often is changing the pattern of a chord sequence to make a more sympathetic harmonic bed).
• It’s not writing the lyrics to a song (although it can be working out exactly what the backing singers will be doing with themselves).
• It’s not deciding what the rhythm to a track is (although, in truth, it sometimes is).
Actually, the line between composing or producing a tune and arranging it is a very thin one. If you’re either the producer or the composer, arrangement goes with the territory, whereas if you’re being brought in by a composer or producer specifically as an arranger, it’s usually to arrange the strings or the horns or the backing vocals (we’ll examine those particular aspects and what the job pays later in the series). For now, we’ll look at the basics of how to get the best out of a song you’ve written.
The first thing you must do is make sure that there’s a reason for every part to be there — that goes for any piece of music you write. The amount of times people include four bars of nothing between sections (because it’s always been there) is equal to the amount of songs that never have a hope of getting anywhere. If you’re writing a piece of art that you hope will turn on millions of people, make sure that every part has a reason and nothing is missing. That’s the art of writing, arranging and producing hits. Everyone knows what ingredients can be used — it’s all down to the stirring, I guess. Aprons on: let’s cook!
THE VERSE: We all know that a verse is the part of the song which tells the story. Most songs have no more than four verses, which would include repeating the first verse at the end. Bob Dylan has written songs with dozens of verses, but none of those ever became hits. Of course, you can get away with only one verse repeated over and over again, if you want. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, with ‘Roller Coaster of Love’, and Nirvana, with ‘Something in the Way’, are two that did.
THE CHORUS: The chorus is the part of the song which you want people to be singing along with by the end of the song — the first time they hear it. One easy, effective and sure-fire killer way of making a chorus lift to maximum hit-ability is to find the highest root note string sound you can and have it simply playing all the way through. It sounds corny, but just try it. It could be one of the elements that makes your track a worldwide smash hit. Ask the Pet Shop Boys what they think of this idea.
THE BRIDGE OR TAG: This is a section that links the verse and the chorus together. That music shop favourite ‘Wonderwall’, by the mighty Oasis, has a perfect example of a bridge, if a little long and unadventurously used (“And all the roads we have to walk are winding…”). The song also has the ‘two verses at the beginning’ trick (see next section).
THE MIDDLE EIGHT (or, as James Brown would shout, “Take it to the bridge”) is a third melodic part, usually placed after the second chorus to break up the song pattern. It’s called a middle eight because it’s usually eight bars long, but there’s no law saying it has to be that length or even there in the first place — whatever feels good and fits the bill. No-one has ever done a study on this but I would hazard a guess that 50% of records have a middle eight, and of those, 50% are eight bars long. Michael Jackson used this device for effect in ‘Billie Jean’ (“People always told me, be careful what you do…” — which, by the way, is eight bars long).
A KEY CHANGE: Why? Because it can lift a song at that difficult ‘two-thirds of the way through’ stage, where the listener’s interest is beginning to waver. The usual key change is to move up a tone (from A to B, for example). It’s advised, for maximum effect, to build into this with a huge drum break or a dramatic pause. Key changes down are seldom, if ever, used, because they give the opposite effect of uplift. And note that more than one key change per song can be more annoying than exciting. There’s a classic example of a key change in the Whitney Houston hit ‘I Will Always Love You’.
THE CODA is a cool way of ending a track. It’s either the chorus hook repeated continuously, or a new section used to tail off a track. One of the most exciting codas used in popular music is the end of Elvis Costello’s ‘Accidents Will Happen’ — the bit that repeats the words “I Know”, ad infinitum.
Of course, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ doesn’t fit the patterns explained here, but all but a handful of the tens of thousands of top ten hit records before and since have.
PIECING IT TOGETHER
Let’s assume that your song has the following conventional structure:
How do you make it more interesting?
• The first thing to add is an intro. It could simply be a vamp of the opening couple of bars of the verse or the final four or eight bars of the chorus. Then again, four bars of drums at the beginning of a song never goes down badly either.
• Try getting rid of the first chorus by sticking verse 1 and verse 2 together.
• Then, after verse three, double up the chorus, drop the last verse down a gear and make it a middle eight. Halving the rhythm track or changing the fourth chord to a minor second chord is a good way of going about this.
• A middle eight section is a great way to set up the final chorus onslaught (see ‘The Nashville Number System’ box).
Beats per minute (BPM) first became a science in the mid ’70s, when various producers using early sequencers to make dance music worked out that 137bpm was the optimum speed to excite the human heart rate whilst dancing (137 — the disco heaven). Since then sequencers have become an awful lot more sophisticated, as has the BPM awareness of the music makers. These days there are more pigeonholes in which to place music than ever before: house and garage tracks tend to fall betwen 130-145bpm, jungle in the 165-170bpm bracket, and happy hardcore between 170 and 175bpm, but all bpms are subject to change on the whim of a single track, which could be yours. There are some styles of modern dance music which have very eclectic tempo constraints: techno can go from an industrially moody 80bpm to a brain-smashingly bizarre 500bpm. If you’re thinking about trying something in a new style for you, do some homework first. Dance music is an exact business, and close scrutiny of the current market leaders is essential to understanding the form and arrangement. A visit to your friendly local specialist record shop with £20 in your pocket will give you the best overview of what is the current norm. And in dance music, being current is everything.
Even if you’re not a dance music expert and have no intention of dipping your toe in that particular beat pool, tempo is still an issue. A couple of tricks that are seldom used these days, but were common practice up until the Linn drum came onto the scene, involved speeding up the track, both gradually and as a whole.
Tracks would speed up naturally during the recording of the backing track, which is something that doesn’t happen these days. If you use a sequencer but don’t use loops, try notching up the BPM of your track every verse and chorus. Starting at 120bpm and ending the track at 125bpm can give a sense of urgency without the listener having the faintest clue what’s going on.
The other way of speeding up a track which used to be used on a very regular basis was to slow down the mastering tape machine by a factor of 8.5% at the final mix stage. When played back at normal speed, the finished master would be slightly over a semitone higher in pitch. The reason for this was that it made the playing sound a bit tighter, particularly the drums, and gave the overall sound a bit of a toppy edge. On the downside, it made working out songs from the record difficult, because they were often slightly out of tune.
It may seem that some of the aspects we’ve covered have strayed into production or composing, but as I mentioned at the beginning, the line is a fine one. Next month we’ll look at instrumental arranging, including adding horn and string parts, both sampled and real, basslines, rhythm structures, and fancy arrangement tips.
ANATOMY OF A HIT: THE BEACH BOYS’ ‘GOOD VIBRATIONS’
Each month, I’ll take a look at the arrangement of a well-known record to see what makes it tick. To start with, let’s consider ‘Good Vibrations’, recently voted the greatest single of all time by the readers of Mojo magazine.
This record is more than a mere classic, it’s the Holy Grail of pop. Recording commenced mid-February 1966 at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, towards the tail-end of sessions for The Beach Boys’ most influential album Pet Sounds (although ultimately, it was not included on that album). After a shaky and uncertain start, it took six weeks of recording time, spaced out over several months, to complete the track. Moving the session between five different studios, bouncing from a 4-track machine to a stereo mix on one of the early 8-track machines, and slicing multitrack tape as he went, Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys’ founder, producer and principal composer, gave ‘Good Vibrations’ a godlike sound.
On the finished record, ‘Good Vibrations’ is in the key of G flat major (six flats) and starts with the verse descending from the relative minor: E flat minor. It was probably played in the key of F (one flat) with the verse starting on the chord of D minor and sped up at the mixdown stage. Typical pop songs of that era (or indeed any era) usually have a basic groove running throughout the track which doesn’t change a great deal from start to finish. Not so ‘Good Vibrations’; this is, in Brian Wilson’s words, a ‘pocket symphony’. It lasts just over three and half minutes but has as many dramatic changes in mood as a piece of serious classical music lasting more than half an hour, moving from the delicate opening verse (bass, vocals, and organ only) to the soaring vocal harmony sections on the chorus and bridge, and then, in the middle of the track, dropping right down to the simplicity of a church organ pad accompanied solely by a tambourine. Of course, much of the atypical structure is due to the way the track was recorded in completely different-sounding sections, and then edited together later.
As well as the unconventional structure, the instrumentation used is, to say the least, dangerously exotic. This was a period when pop records were either guitar, bass and drum combos or traditional orchestrated arrangements for vocalists. For one thing, ‘Good Vibrations’ doesn’t use a guitar; instead it uses a solo cello and a theremin to build the rhythm section for one section, and in another section doubles a honky-tonk piano with a jaw’s harp. The instrumentation changes radically from section to section; the bass plays in some parts but not in others, drums and vocals drop in and out, and the voices sometimes accompany fully developed backing tracks (such as in the chorus) and are in parts almost a cappella.
The beat, although the standard four-in-the bar, has a triplet feel (1 2 3 / 2 2 3 / 3 2 3 / 4 2 3) — some people call it ‘threes over fours’, others ‘a shuffle beat’. This is the same feel as Tears For Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ and Billy Ocean’s ‘When The Going Gets Tough’ and many other lesser number one records. For the casual listener, the most prominent triplet figure is the part played by the cello, which saws away on the root note of the chord during the chorus.
The very first thing you hear is the angelic voice of Carl Wilson, Brian’s brother, singing the word ‘I’ a triplet quaver before the downbeat. The first eight bars of the verse feature a heavily phased organ passed through a Leslie rotary speaker (for more on this, see the Hammond feature starting on page 40 this month). The organ plays the chords on the beat, accompanied solely by the tight bass guitar sound of Motown and Country music session giant Carole Kaye playing super-cool triplet figures. The second eight bars have a broken but rigid drum pattern played by session drummer extraordinaire Hal Blaine (alleged to have played on more hit records than any other musician ever) in tandem with a tambourine splash and a counterpoint descending French horn laid beautifully in the distance.
The 16-bar chorus was edited into the multitrack master tape at some point during the construction of the track. Like all the other edits that made up the finished record, this one is partially masked by vast reverb decays added at the mixing and sub-mixing stages. Rhythmically, the chorus is stable, but instrumentally it’s wild; the throbbing cello is stretched over a straight bass and drum framework accompanied by a back-beat tambourine, and the whole arrangement is topped off by a gentleman called Paul Tanner playing a theremin — most unusual for pop music of the time.
The chorus vocals are split into four 4-bar sections. The first section is the ‘I’m picking up Good Vibrations’ hook line, the second section adds an ‘oo bop bop’ figure (years before those Hanson boys were a twinkle in their parents eyes), the third section adds a gorgeous high harmony to the ‘oo bop bop’ part and the fourth section adds an even higher harmony. The structure of these vocal parts and their harmonic framework may not be the kind taught in the Royal Academy of Music, but the excitement they generate in the listener is equal to anything scratched on a piece of parchment by a long-dead composer.
A common way to develop a song arrangement is to add something to the second verse. Again, ‘Good Vibrations’ deviates from the norm; the second verse and chorus adhere to exactly the same patterns of instrumentation and harmony as the first time through, and the verse section is never repeated again in the song. Furthermore, the song then moves into a section that is completely out of left field; a honky-tonk piano plays with half-time feel accompanied by an on-beat bass drone, a different tambourine (shaken, not hit), a jaws harp, and more theremin low in the mix. After eight bars, there’s a four-bar vocal crescendo (‘aaaah’); the third and fourth bars vocally counterpointed with an angelic ‘Oo my my my’, which takes us into the middle eight.
Musically, the middle eight changes from the relative minor to an E flat major and instrumentally adds a sleigh bell. The vocal arrangement (‘I don’t know where but she sends me there…’) has four separate parts which interweave so divinely the Spice Girls or Boyzone couldn’t even dream them properly.
From a half-time middle eight, most people would go straight into a big splash hook-line section. Brian Wilson decided to slow the track even further, moving into a 23-bar section of church organ and tambourine by means of the most savage edit in the track. Most arrangers would steer clear of this kind of drop in pace, on the grounds that it would be chart suicide, but not Brian. This section is split into six sections of four bars (my maths is fine, just give me time to explain). The first section is vocal-less. The second section adds the line ‘gotta keep those loving Good Vibrations happening with her’ and at the end Carole Kaye’s fat, round bass strikes up, leading into the third section which has blissful vocal harmonies and a bass line. The fourth section adds a harmonica and over the course of these four bars all the vocals fade out (again, an unconventional move). The next section is vocal-less, with just the church organ, tambourine, bass root and harmonica, as is the first two bars of the sixth and last section. On the third bar there’s a crescendo vocal ‘aaaah’ which stops with everything else on the down beat of the last bar, decaying with delicious, distorted, ultra-analogue spring reverb to near-silence, before the next surprise: an eight-bar coda of ‘Good good good, good Vibrations’. This time, there’s no ‘Oo bop bop’ vocal accompaniment, just straight root-third and fifth block harmony, but once again, all these vocals fade out in time for the final two bars of the section, leaving the cello and bass prominent before the final piece of singing on the track: eight bars of rapturous barber shop-type vocal harmonies. There are no words, just ‘dos’, ‘bas’ and ‘oos’. As if this wasn’t unexpected enough, the final playout is then heralded by two bars of just cello and very prominent theremin before the drums and bass kick in for the final two-bar fade-out with full instrumentation. The exotic instruments, the complex vocal arrangements, and the many dynamic crescendos and decrescendos all combine to set this record apart from most pop music. In short, if there’s an instruction manual for writing and arranging pop songs, this one breaks every rule.
MANIPULATING YER DIGITS
I’m working on the assumption that you’re not a classically trained pianist or a gifted jazz ivory-tickler, and that you input your musical information through that new-fangled MIDI thing, by means of a keyboard. Here’s a handy chord-playing tip. In short, instead of having one chord shape that moves up and down the keyboard, never changing, try using different inversions. If the chords you play are (C) (F) (G), rather than playing the notes in the order C E G / F A C / G B D, where the fifth note of the chord stays in the same position, try playing C E G / C F A / B D G.
To create a mere interesting bassline, use notes from within the chord other than the root. You’ll be playing like Liberace before you know it. (For chords with more than three notes, see ‘Posh Chords’ box).
THE NASHVILLE NUMBER SYSTEM
In the last decade of the 18th Century, the centre of the music world was Salzburg, Austria. Two hundred years later there is no more productive music city on the planet than Nashville, Tennessee. Whether you like country music or think it’s a pile of twanging nonsense, the fact remains that there are more studios, producers, arrangers, composers and musicians making music every day in a square mile there than anywhere else on earth.
Though this is more to do with songwriting than arranging, there’s a most remarkable thing about the way that music is made there, which can be of great benefit to musicians of all tastes: instead of musical notation and chord progressions, they use something known as the number system. Numbering the notes of the scale from one to eight (the latter being an octave higher) and applying those numbers to chords means that a song is seen as a numbered pattern of chord changes, regardless of what key the song is in. It may seem an odd way of looking at music, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it — whatever flavour of music you deal in. It makes learning new songs easier, changing the key to a song a doddle, and understanding what makes other great songs flow so well more straightforward. It would be completely out of order of me to suggest that looking at a number of great songs by other artists as a set of chord numbers, and picking the bits you want to use as a blueprint for your own song in your own comfortable key is a good way to start a new song. If only because this article is about arranging and not songwriting.
Anyway, every musical key is numbered in the table below. A number on its own signifies a major chord; in the key of C, a 1 is read as C major. Other “flavours” of chord are created by a simple shorthand; for example, if you want a Bb minor in the key of C, a minor chord based on the flattened seventh degree of the scale, if would be written as b7-. Nashville convention implies a particular kind of chord for each step of the scale, although this is always fully notated to avoid ambiguity:
1 = major
2 = minor 7th (2-7)
3 = minor 7th (3-7)
4 = major
5 = major
6 = minor (6-)
7 = 7th (7/7th)
So while the 6 chord would normally be minor (notated as 6-), you might want it to be a major or major 7th (6 or 6/7th). And remember, changing a chord from major to minor and vice-versa could make the difference between a massive hit and just another song.
Incidentally, the 6- chord is the relative minor of the key. (In the key of C it would be A minor.) Which means that the same notes are used in the relative minor key of A minor as are used in the major key of C. This may not seem that interesting, but if you use it in the correct way it can make you as rich as Eric Clapton. (Eric Clapton has based his entire guitar-playing style on exclusively using relative minor scales, and he’s not the only one, by a long shot.)
1 C C# D E F F# G G# A Bb B
2 D D# E F# G G# A A# B C C#
3 E F F# G# A A# B C C# D D#
4 F F# G A Bb B C C# D Eb E
5 G G# A B C C# D D# E F F#
6 A A# B C# D D# E F F# G G#
7 B C C# D# E F F# G G# A A#
8 C C# D E F F# G G# A Bb B
Here’s a list of every chord used in music, ever. They’re only in the key of C. To find out what they are in other musical keys, either use your musical transposing skills, or the transpose button on your keyboard or sequencer. Try them out — you’ll sound like a musical genius.
– = MINOR
&Mac198; = MAJOR 7th
+ = AUGMENTED
o = DIMINISHED
C6 = C E G A
C6/9 = C E G D A
C+9 = C E G D
C&Mac198; = C E G B
C&Mac198;(13) = C E G B A
Cmj9 = C E G B D
Cmj13 = C E G B D A
C7 = C E G Bb
C9 = C E G Bb D
C13 = C E G Bb D A
C-6 = C Eb G A
C-6/9 = C Eb G A D
C-+9 = C Eb G D
C-7 = C Eb G Bb
C-7+11 = C Eb G Bb F
C-7+13 = C Eb G Bb A
C-9 = C Eb G Bb D
C-11 = C Eb G Bb D F
C-13 = C Eb G Bb D F A
C-&Mac198; = C Eb G B
C-9&Mac198; = C Eb G B D
C-7b5 = C Eb F# Bb
C-9b5 = C Eb F# Bb D
C-11b5 =C Eb F# Bb D F
Co = C Eb F#
Co7 = C Eb F# A
Co7+&Mac198; = C Eb F# A B
C+ = C E G#
Csus = C F G
C7sus = C F G Bb
C9sus = C F G Bb D
C13sus = C F G Bb D A
C&Mac198;b5 = C E F# B
C&Mac198;5 = C E G# B
C&Mac198;11 = C E G B F#
Cmj9#11 = C E G B D F#
Cmj13#11 = C E G B D F# A
C7b5 = C E F# Bb
C9b5 = C E F# Bb D
C7#5 = C E G# Bb
C9#5 = C E G# Bb D
C7b9 = C E G Bb C#
C7#9 = C E G Bb Eb
C7b5b9 = C E F# Bb C#
C7#5#9 = C E Ab Bb Eb
C7#5b9 = C E G# Bb C#
C7#11 = C E G Bb F#
C9#11 = C E G Bb D F#
C7b9#11 = C E G Bb C# F#
C7#9#11 = C E G Bb Eb F#
C13b5 = C E F# Bb D A
C13b9 = C E G Bb C# A
C13#11= C E G Bb D F# A
C7susb9 = C F G Bb C#
C13susb9 = C F G Bb C# A
Csusb5 = C F F# B
This is the first article in a three-part series.
Metal masters Lamb of God are getting ready to reissue their second album, As the Palaces Burn, on November 11 via Razor & Tie. The album was remixed by longtime producer Josh Wilbur, and the reissue features three unreleased demos and a 70-minute documentary telling the story behind the album via interviews with band members and original album producer Devin Townsend. The CD package features updated artwork by longtime Lamb of God designer Ken Adams and a new booklet essay by former Revolver Editor in Chief Tom Beaujour.
In anticipation of the release, the band has teamed up with Revolver to premiere a video trailer for the documentary that is a part of the reissue. Check it out below and let us know what you think in the comments!
For more on Lamb of God check out their website and Facebook page. To order the As the Palaces Burn reissue, go to Lamb of God’s http://lambofgod.merchnow.com/ site.
Lamb Of God – As The Palaces Burn 10th Anniversary DVD Trailer
As Lamb of God winds down the touring cycle for their sixth studio album Resolution, they have announced the release of a remixed and remastered version of their second album, As the Palaces Burn, on November 11th via Prosthetic/Razor & Tie. You can check out a remixed track of “Purified” below.
The album remixed by longtime producer Josh Wilbur features three unreleased demos and a 70-minute story behind the album documentary featuring interviews with all five band members, including original album producer Devin Townsend. The CD package features updated artwork by longtime Lamb of God designer Ken Adams and a new booklet essay by former Revolver Editor in Chief Tom Beajour.
The album will be released during the final North American leg of the Resolution tour cycle featuring Killswitch Engage, Testament, and Huntress. The band will then bring the Resolution cycle to an end with an UK/Europe tour in January featuring Decapitated and Huntress. The final shows will be in South Africa on January 24 and 25. This will be the band’s first visit to that continent.
The Resolution cycle was the most eventful of the band’s long career. Starting in January 2012 with a #3 debut on Billboard, touring began on January 25 of that year and ends exactly two years later. In that period, the band was faced with a career threatening crisis with the arrest and incarceration of vocalist Randy Blythe. After a trial that ended in acquittal, the prosecution appealed and the initial verdict was upheld.
Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe will be releasing a memoir centered on his life and trail in the Czech Republic.
In the book, which is due out in the spring of 2014, Blythe will cover his much publicized arrest, incarceration, trial, and acquittal for manslaughter in the Czech Republic last year.
In a press release, Blythe said, “While I’ve dreamed of being a published author almost since I began to read, I never imagined my first book would center around such a sad topic. Sometimes though, life unexpectedly provides you a story that needs to be told. I believe this one does (for several different reasons, not just for the benefit of myself), so I will tell it with the respect and dignity all involved deserve. This will be a good read, I promise you, and I hope some good comes of it.”
To preorder As The Palaces Burn, go to lambofgod.merchnow.com.
Lamb Of God – Purified (2013 Remixed & Remastered Version)