Archive for July, 2013

Transposition’s finale, “Stand Up”, was not the last song written; in fact, it was finished late in November 2005.  It’s a pretty straightforward rock ‘n’ roll song, intended to be inspiring and anthemic.  In the bridge it echoes the “Life isn’t easy” line from “Two-Spirit”, and like that song, it ends with the voices of all four vocalists for a rousing final chorus.  I wanted to close the opera with a positive message, as so many rock operas seem to be total downers.

“Stand Up” was another of the Transposition songs on the set list when put together a short-lived performing version of Chameleon Red in 2008.

This concludes the Stories Behind the Songs series for the Transposition album.  We will resume the series once Skeleton Crew is officially released.

Video Shooting Again

Posted by on July 19th, 2013

Here are a couple of candid photos from last night’s shoot for the video of “Westwood”.  Thanks to Dave Calvert for the camera work.Westwood Shoot 2

Westwood Shoot 1

Pointing at the MoonThe Zen-like “Turn Away” was written during the prolific month of January, 2005, when songs were coming so quickly it was almost scary.  This particular one made me late for work, in fact; the melody and some lyrics flashed into my head and I had to record them before they were forgotten.  I think this is the first song I wrote using a diminished seventh chord; you can usually tell when I learn new chords when they start cropping up in my songs!

I regard this as one of the most spiritual songs I have ever written; I have performed it in church several times, in fact. The first line of the third verse is derived from the Tao Te Ching, chapter 32: “Once the whole is divided, the parts need names.”  The next line refers to the punch line of the old Zen parable: “Truth is like the bright moon in the sky. A finger can point to the moon’s location, but the finger is not the moon. To find the moon you must gaze beyond the finger.”  I probably first heard it from Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon, though.

The weird-sounding guitar solo is actually playing backwards, a favorite device of mine; as far as I know, the Beatles did this before anyone else in “I’m Only Sleeping” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” on Revolver.  The way it’s done is to record a guitar solo while the whole song is playing backwards, then flip it all around so that the backing tracks play normally and the guitar solo is backwards.  For some reason I always play a good solo when I do this!

“Turn Away” was another of the Transposition songs on the set list when put together a short-lived performing version of Chameleon Red in 2008.  It was performed live a number of times by our other band, Mother Zephyr.


“Borrowing” Music

Posted by on July 12th, 2013

I thought it might be interesting to explore some “borrowing” in music.  In the first installment, Bob Dylan transforms the earlier “The Patriot Game” into “With God On Our Side”.


Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here

“Rock and Roll Messiah” was completed in mid-January 2006 but actually began life as a separate song fragment called “Cellophane Messiah” in January 2000.  In its original form it was a chorus without a verse, or many words, in fact.

The final piece, “Give It Back”, is a reprise of the verse chords and melody from “Simone”, but this time Jackie is the mentor instead of the protégé.  I kind of conceived of this as a Byrds-like arrangement of “Simone”, so when I recorded the demo I affected an imitation Roger McGuinn voice.  I debated on whether to replicate this on the final recording, but ultimately decided that a more feminine vocal was called for.

The writing of “Choices” was finished on January 20, 2006, but as might be expected, it took longer to record than it did to write.  In fact, we were still recording additions to it right up until the last recording date.


Posted by on July 5th, 2013

I love mondegreens (misheard lyrics).  Here are a few from people I know personally, including me.  No names have been used, to protect the guilty.

George Thorogood: “Bad to the Bone”Real lyrics: “Bad to the bone”
Misheard lyrics: “Bare to the bone”

The Steve Miller Band: “Jet Airliner”Real lyrics: “Big ol’ jet airliner”
Misheard lyrics: “Bingo Jed and Lionel”

David Bowie: “John, I’m Only Dancing”
Real lyrics: “John, I’m only dancing”
Misheard lyrics: “John, I’m old and rancid”

The Doors: “Roadhouse Blues”
Real lyrics: “Down at the roadhouse, they got some bungalows”
Misheard lyrics: “Down at the roadhouse, they got some bumpy lows”

The Presidents of the United States of America: “Cleveland Rocks”
Real lyrics: “Cleveland rocks”
Misheard lyrics: “Clean red rocks”

Def Leppard: “Pour Some Sugar On Me”
Real lyrics: “Pour some sugar on me”
Mishead lyrics: “Awesome Zudokhan love”

Three Dog Night: “Mama Told Me Not to Come”
Real lyrics: “Mama told me not to come”
Misheard lyrics: “I’m a toad in a jug”

Got any mondegreens you’d like to share?  Promise we won’t laugh…hard.

Read part 1 here

“Blame You”, the third movement, came just before Christmas.  Katie did an excellent job on the vocals; she normally sings folk, country, and bluegrass, but I always heard some rock and roll in her voice.  John added the interesting clavichord part fairly late in the recording process.  The next piece, “Eye for Eye” was completed in early January.  It was straightforward to record, though I did add extra distortion to the guitars after the fact.   This is followed by the final reprise of the “Won’t Do It Again” theme, faster and rawer this time around.

Jackie is tempted three times during the course of the piece; first by hatred, then by fear, and finally by greed.   She comes to grips with each in the recurring “Maybe I Should” pieces.  The chord progression and melody date from January 2000.  The first iteration features only acoustic guitar and vocals, the subsequent occurrences add more instruments as the temptation becomes greater.

“My Son”, the next section, was written in early January 2006.  As with the other songs which feature the character Mrs. Coleman, the vocals are slowed down.  At the end of this section I reprised the bridge from “Cold Sun” to represent the overprotective impulse of the mother.  The steel guitar-like sounds in this section were recorded by John in several successive tries; we ultimately decided that the different takes actually sounded better when all played at the same time.