Educating Peter # 22

November 18, 2012

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…

The Song

The song is “Made Of Stone” by The Stone Roses. It was released in 1989. And very soon I’m going to hear it for the first time.

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.”

Interruption

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.

Interruption 2

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)

Link

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)

The Stone Roses – “Made Of Stone (1989)

Link

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)

Link

“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”
1:43 GASP
1:44 “At least you left your life in style”

2. The second thing I noticed about this verse is that the melody sounds a lot like The Rolling Stones‘ “Paint It, Black“:

The Stone Roses – “Made Of Stone (1989) (excerpt)

Link

The Rolling Stones – “Paint It, Black” (1966) (mono) (excerpt)

Link

In the interests of completeness, here’s the full version of “Paint It, Black” in both mono and stereo:

The Rolling Stones – “Paint It, Black” (1966) (mono)

Link

The Rolling Stones – “Paint It, Black” (1966) (stereo)

Link

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.)

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