Tuesday, 27 September 2016

What Goes Online (Sep 2016)

I'm very pleased to announce my new EP Everything In The World Is Fighting Everything In The Sky will be released via Bandcamp iTunes and all on Nov 1st. Dean Jackson had the world premiere of my track Me And The Devil on his BBC Introducing show and you can stream it for the next 30 days here. I'm on around 1:33:30. You can read the blog post on what Charles Dickens and Tori Amos have to teach songwriters mentioned here

Speaking of streaming I want to recommend the Compleatly Beatles podcast. One mammoth episode per album (Revolver is 2 hours plus) humorous and informative. Find it on iTunes

Some great general Beatles writing: John Medd on discovering the Beatles and Martin Fitzgerald's introduction to the Help album

And in a more technical post Aaron Krerowicz looks at the way Paul McCartney extends melody lines in I Will.

Neil McCormick in The Telegraph imagines a Beatles 'Worst Of' album called (appropriately) 'Misery'

And Billboard interviews Donovan

In 1966, your album Sunshine Superman came out, as did Revolver, Pet Sounds, and Blonde on Blonde. What was going on that year creatively that we have these albums that 50 years later still resonate? 
Three things came together: There was the invasion of pop culture, with what they called folk music. Folk music ... invaded pop culture with meaningful lyrics. That meant protest, that meant civil rights, that meant explorations of the levels of consciousness. The second thing was ... the bohemian invasion of bohemian ideas, and that was self-change and responsibility for the future ... And the third element was we were really good. In 1966 we proved to everybody that the engineers, the producers, the songwriters and the fans were ready for something extraordinary and that’s what happened. The '60s burst wide open in '66 into full colour!

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Friday, 16 September 2016

Eight Days A Week Film And Premiere: Bullet Point Review

I went to watch the premiere of Eight Days A Week:The Touring Years with my family last night – here's some thoughts


  • Red Carpet is blue.
  • Shocking to see what a frail old lady Yoko has become. Like seeing that old teacher you used to be terrified of, decades after leaving school.
  • Did she just say she was married to Paul?
  • To be fair they didn't help her by getting Scouse comedian John Bishop to do the interviews. When Yoko got confused by his accent he replies “You married one of us.” That bamboozled her.
  • My daughter asks if that old lady was Yolo. (She later tries to cover herself by saying “I know her name is Yoko. I thought it was Yoko Yolo?”). Ditto for when they interviewed 'Jazz Martin'.
  • Macca giving the thumbs up, and Ringo flicking peace signs like a manual-tourettes makes me wish each Beatle had had their own hand signal. I don't know about George's but John's would definitely have been flicking V-signs.
  • We're gonna get a post credits treat. And John Bishop has obviously never seen a Marvel film.

Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years

The tagline is “The Band You Know. The Story You Don't”. We'll see...

  • If you're wondering "Is it OK to sing along with the film when I'm in a cinema?" The answer is: "No". "But it's the Beatles!" Doesn't matter. Unless you are The Beatles SHUT THE HELL UP! Moving on...
  • Footage from Manchester ABC in 1963. Looks and sounds amazing. Where did they get this? Is it colourised? [Update: Pathe. And No].
  • The Beatles hired a third roadie in the States. Did not know that! Mark Lewisohn has probably already researched his entire family tree.
  • I think I've solved the McCartney 'piano strings on a bass mystery' (they wouldn't work). There's a picture of him playing a guitar with 'bass strings' on that I think comes from the post-Hamburg period where Lewisohn says he mimed on a broken guitar.
  • We're getting a little Apple Corps 'sanitation' – they cut away from John 'pulling a crip' (imitating a disabled person on stage).
  • Another good clip – pretty sure this one has been colourised.
  • Whoopi Goldberg gets emotional about her Mum buying her Beatles tickets. That's great parenting right there.
  • Beatles say racial segregation is stupid. Hear that 1960's America? Stupid. Gotta love em.
  • Important point. Obviously I am not A/B-ing but from what I'm hearing Giles Martin has done a great job in remixing/remastering.
  • Was worried looking at the trailer that the quality of the footage wouldn't warrant a big screen viewing - there's poor footage but it doesn't detract, and some great stuff.
  • There's a ton of '3D-ing' photos and digital cigarette smoke everywhere.
  • Everyone is smoking always. Surprised it didn't get an 18 cert in todays climate.
  • The press conferences are priceless. Eddie Izzard is right, they're four stand up comic with impeccable timing. George tapping cigarette ash on John's head during an interview is hilarious.
  • Beatles handwritten lyrics for I Want To Hold Your Hand has a 'teachers note' at the bottom “3/10. See Me”.

  • There's a clip of Lennon playing on a melodica from '65. Put on your tinfoil hat cos he's playing the first three chords of Strawberry Fields Forever!!!!

  • Interview with Paul brings home how unique Lennon And McCartney were and why it was incredible they met. “I'd never met someone else who wrote songs”.
  • Footage of Liverpool fans singing at Anfield in 1964 capture the Beatles indirectly creating football chants. The rise of LFC under Shankley and the Mersey Sound = more serendipity.
  • Might be a dodgy stream but it looks like some of the audio and video are from different live gigs. (Didn't they do that on the Anthology show?).
  • Damn, Ringo is laying into the drums. Move over Bonzo.
  • Nice moment where they try to recreate what Shea would have sounded like through the tannoy PA. And by nice I mean hideous.
  • Cliched 'increasing speed photo montage to A Day In The Life orchestral freakout' segment. Works well though. That's why people do it.
  • That's Candlestick Park. So how are we gonna handle the studio years? Oh! - with a couple of animated jpgs and some on-screen text. At least they didn't fudge it with some “we played live...in the studio” blather.

Post Credits Sting

What's it gonna be? Spiderman: Homecoming? Yellow Submarine reboot? Let It Be? Oh it's Shea Stadium. OK.

  • Sounds and looks good. This audio was rerecorded though. [Update: Extensively rerecorded as documented here. But they seem to have re-replaced Act Naturally with Ringo's original live (and flat) vocals. What goes on?].
  • Definitely think they've edited out another 'Lennon crip' here. They've kept the speaking in tongues. Didn't he tell the crowd to shut up too?
  • It's crazy to see the worlds biggest band do a 30 minute set featuring three covers.


Sorry Ron, that is “The Story We Already Knew”. Well told, nicely edited, with a few rarities that were worth the price of entry and sounding fabulous. But unless we're making a biopic of the third roadie - nothing new. Though that's a film I'd totally watch.

Worth buying or streaming.

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Monday, 29 August 2016

Golden Ticket: Chromatic Descent Starting From The Root (Ticket 17)


Put a descending chromatic counter melody within your chord progression, starting from the root note of the chord.

Skippable Theory Lesson

Play the notes E - D# - D - C# - C. This is a descending chromatic line.
Play G and B above each note of the descending chromatic line. This puts the idea into an E minor chord.
Play G# and B above each note of the descending chromatic line. This puts the idea into an E major chord.

Beatles Application

The Beatles probably learned this concept from Lenny Welch's 1962 single A Taste Of Honey (0:14) which they covered the following year. There the line is F# - F - E - D# within the chords F#m - F#m (maj7) - F#m7 - B major. This same basic sequence is extended in And Your Bird Can Sing (0:36) F#m - F#m (maj7) - F#m7 - B7 - D and Something (0:27) Am - Am (maj7) - Am7 - D9 - F.

In the examples above the first three notes of the melodic line remain on the same chord but putting the first four notes on the same chord yields this pattern from Cry Baby Cry (0:11) Em - Em (maj7) - Em7 - Em6 - C7 and a similar one from I Me Mine (0:31) Am - Am (maj7) – Am7 - Am6 - Fmaj7. Michelle (0:00) extends this pattern to six descending notes (F - E - Eb - D - Db - C) and six chords Fm - Fm (maj7) - Fm7 - Fm6 - Bbm - C.

Every use of the line in a major key is harmonised differently by The Beatles. The most straight forward is the verse of Something (0:05) where the four note line is placed over a C - Cmaj7 - C7 - F progression. The same line is harmonised as C - Cmaj7 - Gm7 - A7 in Sun King (0:58) and in the key of F it appears as F - Fmaj7 - F7 - Gm in Strawberry Fields Forever (0:00) and F - Caug - Fm7 - Fm6 in Fixing A Hole (0:06).

Guest Artist: Frank Sinatra

Rodgers and Hart were early proponents of this progression using C - Cmaj7 - C7 - C6 in the refrain of their 1937 Broadway hit My Funny Valentine which was later covered by Frank Sinatra (0:02). A mere two years later Sinatra sang over the minor version of the changes on the Harry James And His Orchestra recording of All Or Nothing At All by Lawrence/Altman (0:09). And in 1969 he tackled both in his signature song My Way (0:07 and 0:18).


Though the simplest application is to insert the line into one chord there are many other possibilities. In C major for instance a C - B - Bb - A line over a Cmaj chord would create a C - Cmaj7 - C7 - C6 progression, but you could harmonise the same line with C - G/B - Gm/Bb - F/A or even C - Em - Bb – F. In the key of Am an alternative progression might be Am - E/G# - G - D/F#. Try adding different notes around the line and see what you can come up with.

As well as experimenting with the chords you can use different inversions. Try placing the moving line at the top of the chord - as in the verse of Something (0:05), the middle of the chord - Strawberry Fields Forever (0:00), or the bottom of the chord - Got To Get You Into My Life (0:21). George Harrison's solo song Try Some Buy Some – takes this last option to extremes Em - Em/D# - Em/D - Em/C# - Em/C - Em/B - B7 followed by Am - Am/G# - Am/G - Am/F# - Am/F - Am/E - F#dim (0:00 and 0:13).

Don't just use the minor variation when playing in a minor key (eg. Am in the key of Am) as George does in I Me Mine. The progression, due to it's chromatic nature, works just as well on the ii, iii or vi intervals of a major key. I’ll Be Back is in A major but the progression is Bm - Bm (maj7) - Bm7 - C#m (1:03) – starting on the ii chord. And Your Bird Can Sing is in D major but the progression appears on F#m – the iii chord. And Something's second use of the progression (0:27) starts on Am (the vi of C major). So explore what you can do on those intervals too.

See the full list of songs using this ticket here.

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Friday, 26 August 2016

Updated Ticket 17

Check out the new improved post on Ticket 17 - using a descending chromatic counter melody starting from the root note - now in chronological order and complete with exact timings. Everything from Frank Sinatra to Foo Fighters!

Updated Ticket 17 post here

And there's more to coming soon!

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Saturday, 13 August 2016

What Goes Online: Revolver Edition

As you may have heard Revolver is 50 years old this year. I know. Awesome. And kind of depressing too.

Revolver remains my favourite Beatles album largely for the breathtaking scope. Here's some interesting articles.

Ultimate Rock answers Five Big ‘Revolver’ Questions

I was surprised the see the consensus on which song they'd cut (it wasn't Yellow Submarine) and the best cover (Earth Wind & Fire’s Got to Get You Into My Life) and I think this is spot on

Exactly what is it that makes Revolver so great? 
Along with Rubber Soul, this is the time in their career where Paul and John are equals. For the first few years, it was Lennon’s group, and, beginning with Sgt. Pepper, McCartney started to take over. But for a couple of albums, they were on the same level.

Guitar World breaks down the tech side

Ray Davies reviews Revolver in 1966 (and doesn't rate it)

Vanilla blogs on the downside of Revolver

My review of Revolver. How The Beatles Reimagined Rock 'N' Roll

And the LA Times proposes it might just be something in the water. Pet Sounds, Blonde On Blonde, Freak Out - 1966 was a great year for music.

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Monday, 8 August 2016


OUT NOW: Episode 5 of the Beatles Songwriting Academy Podcast! The podcast is free to everyone who subscribes to the BSA mailing list and each episode will only be available for ONE MONTH. Sign up now to get the current episodeWhaddaya waiting for!

0:00 Intro

Quote: Men In Black

1:22 – John's Unlocked Music Clues From Anthology

More on Happiness Is A Warm Gun
More on I Will

5:35 – Good Lyrics = Good Song (And Bad Lyrics = Bad Song)

More on Across The Universe
More on Yesterday

8:40 – The Overall Sound (Is What's Important)

More on This Boy

9:58 – Subconscious Sabotage (Slight Return)

More on Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite

11:09 – Paul's Focus (“I just fitted words to it”)

More on Martha My Dear
More on Yesterday

15:15 – Chords Are Exciting! (And So Are Key Changes!)

More on From Me To You

16:53 – Paul - Able To Leap Tall Genres In A Single Bound

More on Honey Pie
More on Tomorrow Never Knows

18:30 – John Got (No) Rhythm

More on Happiness Is A Warm Gun
Post on Ticket 37: The Lennon Edit
Post on Ticket 52: The Lennon Extension

19:50 – Imagine A Jump (Mighty Mike)

A mashup of John Lennon's Imagine and Van Halen's Jump available here
Mighty Mike on Facebook

21:10 - Conclusion (Part 1)

In Spite Of All The Danger (The Quarrymen)
Johnny One Note (Rodgers/Hart) sung by Ella Fitzgerald
More on Because

28:44 – Concluding Conclusion

Video: Lennon or McCartney?

Monday, 1 August 2016

Updated Ticket And New Podcast Episode

I've just updated and expanded Ticket 19 with a whole load more examples of 'different bar blues' (like I'm Down, Come Together etc)

read it here

the next episode of the podcast is almost finished - if you subscribe now you'll get the previous episode as well!