Here’s my favourite band from the 1980s (slightly renamed for safe blogging purposes), with one of my favourite tracks of theirs:
I had no intention of playing you today’s song, because it’s not light ‘n’ breezy. At all. It’s deadly serious. But…
I am playing it to you today because it ended up in my head, and wouldn’t leave for most of the day.
Due to an overzealous record company who used to be extremely enthusiastic whenever I posted this band‘s songs on the blog and named them, it’s slightly tricky mentioning this band properly. I’ll just say that, despite the legal unpleasantries, this band is my favourite from the 1980s. They were – and still are – by far my favourite live band I ever saw perform.
I feel compelled to play you today’s song because it shows you what they were like live, and why I revere this band. The performance is intense.
Whenever I watch it (and I’ve seen it plenty of times now, courtesy of the magnificent DVD it appears on), my usual way of experiencing it is by sitting in my seat gobsmacked, in a state of utter seriousness unbecoming of a rock music fan.
The song is about a troupe of boxers in Australia in the early 1900s. It was organised by a man called Jimmy Sharman, and his underlings were young men being pummelled for entertainment.
I’d like to change my description of this performance. It not “intense”. It’s INTENSE:
Here’s the audio from that performance:
And here’s the not-quite-the-same-because-it’s-not-live original:
This week Michael has suggested a song from the tail-end of the Eighties, when new musical trends began to appear – such as Britpop.
Cue one Britpop song suggested by Michael…
If you’re wondering why, of all songs, Michael chose “Made Of Stone”, he says it’s because he had the chorus stuck in his head and thought “Ah,I can educate Peter with that.”
Before I start listening to “Made Of Stone” and then commence yappin’ about it, I’d like to mention something:
I’m remarkably ignorant of The Stone Roses’ oeuvre (I’ve only ever seen / heard one song by them, and that was “I Wanna Be Adored” which I saw once on a TV music program). I’ve been reliably informed (mainly because I looked it up) that “Made Of Stone” is one of the tracks on The Stone Roses’ self-titled debut album, which is something I’ve never heard. (Apparently, “I Wanna Be Adored” is one of the tracks on it.) Almost every review of the album I’ve seen talks about it being seminal / epochal / revolutionary in terms of British pop music history.
Because Michael suggested “Made Of Stone” this week, I now want to hear the entire seminal / epochal / revolutionary album to hear what all the fuss is/was about. And I’ll do that right after I finish this post.
I’m glad Michael suggested “Made Of Stone” this week, and not only because it’s prompted me to investigate that Stone Roses album. Another reason is that the song’s title (i.e., “Made Of Stone”) reminds me of the amazing “World Of Stone”, a very early song by Australian band Hunters & Collectors. It was recorded way back when their music was primal and utterly unique, before they became a regular rock band.
Hunters & Collectors – “World Of Stone” (1981)
I’m extremely pleased The Stone Roses called their song “Made Of Stone”, otherwise I wouldn’t have had an excuse to play you “World Of Stone”.
And now, “Made Of Stone”:
The Song (Finally)
0:00-0:18 – That’s some nice E minor jangle for the song’s introduction, followed by a little bass riff to bring in the verse. I like it.
Incidentally (and sorry to bring another song into this post, considering this is supposed to be about a song by The Stone Roses), the jangly start of “Made Of Stone” reminds me of the start of “No Reaction” by an Australian band I can’t name because Blogger threatens me with deletion whenever I post one of their songs:
A band that’s very protective of its songs – “No Reaction” (1979)
“Made Of Stone” sure is reminding me of some Australian songs.
So, to recap the first 18 seconds:
0:00-0:18 (recap) – Nice jangle and cute bass riff. I like it.
0:18-0:29 – What a dreary vocal melody for the verse. I don’t like it. However, if you don’t mind me moving very quickly away from talking about that vocal melody, I’d prefer to talk about the instrumental backing. It exudes a vibe of moody Sixties psychedelia, with its languid chord progression (Em, D, C, B7) and half-time drums. I’m enjoying it. I just wish the vocal melody had more, uh, melody to it. But I suppose the vocal matches the low-key, psychedelic, drugged-out mood of the music.
0:29-0:33 – That’s a great little muted guitar riff to separate the first half of the verse from the second half. Love it.
0:33-0:48 – The second half of the verse uses the same chord sequence (Em, D, C, B7), but it’s a bit perkier (thanks to the regular-time drums). But more importantly for me, it has a better vocal melody. That’s a relief.
0:48-1:21 – Here’s the chorus, and after the mopiness of the verse it’s moved into musical sunlight by being centred around G major.
1:21-1:36 – This an instrumental bit that separates the chorus from the next verse. I must say that I thought the transition from the chorus to the verse was a tad awkward. In the last two bars of the chorus leading up to this wordless pre-verse thing (from 1:18-1:21), the band plays a D major chord but as soon as it does the energy level drops noticeably, and then drops a little more when the next verse starts at 1:21.
Update: I’ve just listened to it again, and the transition from chorus to verse doesn’t sound as awkward as it did to me the first time. And listening to the little instrumental bit of the verse before the singing comes back in, I’m now enjoying little things that I hadn’t noticed earlier. For example (now I’m going to completely waste your time with this): the acoustic guitar arpeggio; the tom-tom work; the little 12-string guitar riff (1:35-1:36).
1:36-2:04 – Hearing the verse this time around, I’ve noticed two things:
1. Each verse comprises three lines. In this verse the singer, Ian Brown, tries to sing all three lines but runs out of breath on the second line, necessitating a sharp intake of breath for the third line. This is what Mr. Brown does:
1:36 “I’m standing warm against the cold”
1:40 “Now that the flames have taken hold”
1:44 “At least you left your life in style”
In the interests of completeness, here’s the full version of “Paint It, Black” in both mono and stereo:
Now back to The Stone Roses…
2:04-2:37 – This is the second chorus, and if I’m not mistaken (I probably am) the band has bolstered the backing vocals here with more backing vocals (i.e., more voices). I’ll check. Hang on…
Nope. It’s not more voices. The backing vocals are just a little louder.
Trivia: From 2:18-2:22 everyone sings “Don’t these times…”, and at 2:19 the backing vocalist sings the opening note of “times” out of tune.
I’m going to try really hard not to be that trivial for the rest of the song.
2:37-2:37 – Now this is odd. It’s the guitar solo, but it sounds distinctly unguitary*. Unfortunately, when it started I thought it sounded like a seal. The kind of seal that barks. Like this:
That’s Eighties’ production values for you.
2:47-2:53 (guitar solo, continued) – When that swirly sound effect came in while the guitar solo was still going, I thought there may have been something wrong with the copy of the MP3 I had. But before I went off to check with a different copy it dawned on me that they were being psychedelic. Pointlessly psychedelic. (Note to the producer: “The guitar solo is still playing, Mr. Producer. Would you mind leaving the spacey sound effects alone until he’s finished?”)
I checked regardless just to make that sure that was indeed the intended sound in the song. It was.
2:53-3:02 – The swirly sound effects have mercifully gone away, and the guitar solo is still going. This is one long guitar solo.
3:02-3:06 – Oh-oh. The spacey sounds have come back. The guitar solo finally finished at 3:06. (And you can interpret that “3:06” as three hours and six minutes.)
3:06-3:19 – The spacey sounds have settled down a bit, and the drums have gone into galloping mode, so we’re now getting our groove on in a major way. (Or whatever psychedelic people say at times like these.)
3:19-3:52 – This is the last chorus, but there’s a bit of production awkwardness. The chorus starts on the beat at 3:20 but singer Ian Brown sings “Sometimes…” at 3:19 leading into that first beat. That’s not the awkwardness, because he does it every chorus. (The chorus begins with “Sometimes I fantasise…”.) However, this is the awkwardness: those swirly spacey sound effects continue right up until the first beat of the chorus then abruptly stop, and Mr. Brown’s voice singing “sometimes” is caught up in the sound effect, thereby making him sound like a robot. What made that awkwardness noticeable for me was that the “sometimes” is robotic but the “I” straight after it isn’t. It’s like the producer flicked a switch at 3:20 to stop Ian sounding like a robot, but forgot that Ian sings “sometimes” just before the chorus begins.
Incidentally, the producer decided to keep the spacey sound effect throughout this chorus (although he did use it a little more subtly than during the guitar solo).
3:52-4:15 – A low-key ending to the song, with the band slowing down. I want to say that this is a splendid piece of slowing down by the band. It’s not an easy thing for a band to do, but the drummer is very steady and everyone’s following him splendidly.
Well, that’s it.
Unless I think of anything else to add (Imaginary note from blog reader: “No, Peter – don’t think of anything else”), that’ll be it for “Made Of Stone”.
(*I have a feeling that may be the first time the word “unguitary” has ever been used. Well, deliberately anyway.)
I’m going to have to be fairly discreet about this coincidence because one of the bands involved has an extremely litigious record company. Any sniff of their name, and Blogger’s legal people pounce on the blog and say “Uh-uh, no way, get rid of that RIGHT NOW” etc. So I’ll let you figure out who’s who and what’s what:
Here are the full versions:
This coincidence stems from Scott McCarl‘s song, “In Love Without You”, and it involves not one, but
four five other artists. (The fifth one is thanks to my friend Steve after this post was first published. Hi, Steve!)
It totals three coincidences, and they all occur within the first 30 seconds of Scott’s song. This is a doozy of a coincidence, and it’s all thanks to
two three people: blog commenter “side3” (Hi, side3!) and Scott McCarl, the chap who recorded it in the first place. (And my friend Steve. See Coincidence 1 below.) But I’ll back up a little and start at the start.
I posted a song by the Raspberries called “Play On”. Commenter side3 mentioned that one-time Raspberry Scott McCarl had released a solo album, and that one of the songs on it was “In Love Without A Girl”. Side3 called the song a “fantastic piece of power pop”.
I had a listen to “In Love Without A Girl” and… here we are.
Because this may get messy I’ll try not to interject with cumbersome comments and just let the excerpts speak for themselves:
Scott McCarl – “In Love Without A Girl” (1998) (excerpt 1)
(My friend Steve reminded me of “Stacy’s Mom”. Thanks, Steve!)
Scott McCarl – “In Love Without A Girl” (1998) (excerpt 2)
Jellyfish – “The King Is Half-Undressed” (1990) (excerpt)
Actually, I will interject just for this coincidence. I want to point out that the coincidence in this excerpt occurs at the end, when the band crashes into E minor then A major:
Scott McCarl – “In Love Without A Girl” (1998) (excerpt 3)
A band I get into trouble for mentioning by name (here I’ll call them ‘Left-Right Boil’) – “No Time For Games” (1980) (excerpt)
Here are shorter excerpts where you can hear the specific coincidence:
Scott McCarl – “In Love Without A Girl” (1998) (excerpt 3 – shorter)
Left-Right Boil – “No Time For Games” (1980) (excerpt – shorter)
Here are the full versions of everything above:
Scott McCarl – “In Love Without A Girl” (1998)
Jellyfish – “The King Is Half-Undressed” (1990)
Left-Right Boil – “No Time For Games” (1980)
My friend Fitzall (Hi, Fitzall!) was listening to “Living A Double Life”, a long-forgotten song by long-forgotten band Neurotica, when he noticed a similarity…
First, let’s get re-acquainted with one of the unstoppably catchy melodies in “The Dead Heart“, a song by a band that I get into trouble for mentioning directly:
Neurotica – “Living A Double Life” (1990) (excerpt 1)
When Fitzall presented me with the song and told me where the coincidence appeared, I immediately thought “Yup”. Thanks, Fitzall!
I then listened to the whole song, and noticed something else.
That Neurotica song starts with this riff…
Neurotica – “Living A Double Life” (1990) (excerpt 2)
…and to me it sounds a lot like:
Here are the full versions:
Neurotica – “Living A Double Life” (1990)
I know I played you a song by the band-who-must-not-be-named only last week, but I have a huge urge to play you this track by them as well.
Of the two versions I’m presenting here today, I’d like to steer you in the direction of the live one. To explain why, I must warn you that I’m now going to go into Boring Bass Player mode…
I’m a bass player, and for me one of the best things about the live version of this song is the bass in the choruses. The band’s bass player, Peter Gifford, doesn’t do anything fancy – it’s purely the sound that gets me excited. It’s a sound that makes me go “Wow”. (For anyone still reading this paragraph, the cavernous sound of that bass’s bottom end is due to a chorus effect.)
Oh, and there’s one other reason I love this song: the coda. (Or to use the technical term: “the bit at the end”). In the live version it starts at 3:33 (and in the studio, 3:46). I don’t know what it’s doing there at the end of the song, because it has absolutely nothing to do with what went before it, but I think it’s a great piece of music. (I actually think that little coda is one of the best tunes this band ever wrote.) Maybe it was a stray piece of music they had and didn’t want to waste, so they tacked it on the end of the song thinking: “We can put that there. Nobody will mind, will they?”
Evening Grease – “Cos He Must Go” (1985)