Monday, 18 February 2019

Under The Influence: Buddy Holly



John Lennon

I only saw [Buddy Holly] on the London Palladium [on TV] … He was great! It was the first time I saw a Fender guitar! Being played!! While the singer sang!!! Also the 'secret' of the drumming on Peggy Sue was revealed...live...

The name BEATLES was directly inspired by CRICKETS (DOUBLE ENTENDRE / INSECTS etc...) I think the greatest effect was on THE SONG WRITING (ESPECIALLY MINE AND PAUL'S). We did practically everything he put out … what he did with '3' chords made a songwriter out of me!!


He was the first guy I ever saw with a capo. He made it O.K. to wear glasses! I WAS Buddy Holly.


John Lennon answering a Sept 1974 questionnaire by Jim Dawson The Elvis Forum



Lennon quoted/paraphrased Holly's song (written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant) in Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence: “The sun is up, the sky is blue/It's beautiful and so are you”
Raining In My Heart: “The sun is out, the sky is blue/There's not a cloud to spoil the view”

George Harrison

One of the greatest people for me was Buddy Holly, because first of all he sang, wrote his own tunes and was a guitar player, and he was very good. Buddy Holly was the first time I heard A to F#m. Fantastic—he was opening up new worlds there. And then A to F, A, D, E, F and F#m. He was sensational. I no longer had the fear of changing from A to F.

Quoted in Mark Lewisohn: The Beatles - All These Years: Volume One: Tune In (p.150)

Paul McCartney



Buddy Holly/The Crickets songs covered by The Beatles

Words of Love - Beatles for Sale
Crying, Waiting, Hoping - Live at the BBC
That'll Be the Day - Anthology 1


More Under The Influence posts
Further Reading: Aaron Krerowicz: Influence of Buddy Holly on The Beatles

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Friday, 18 January 2019

(Don't) Wait - The Forgotten Secret To Writing A Timeless Album


On the 21st April 1967 The Beatles put the final touches to Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band bringing to a close almost six months of ground breaking work. What would their next move be? A long holiday? Side projects? A world tour?

Four days later they started recording Magical Mystery Tour.

FOUR DAYS.

Pepper wouldn't even hit the stores for another six weeks and they were already working on the next project.

This was by no means unusual. From the beginning George Martin and Brian Epstein had a masterplan built upon a new release every three months (single, album, single, album). That meant on average they started recording a new album two months after the previous one had been released. The longest break they took was the eleven months between Pepper and The White Album1- during which they recorded 16 songs for the Magical Mystery Tour TV show, The Yellow Submarine film and a handful of singles.

The Production Line



The band were able to achieve this because Lennon and McCartney (and later Harrison) were always in writing mode. Writing happened on tour, and while the Beatles were in the studio cutting other tracks. An early take of Let It Be appears on the White Album anniversary edition, even though the finished track didn't appear till the final album. One After 909 was first attempted in 1963 (7 years before Let It Be) as was Hold Me Tight (With The Beatles). Wait (Rubber Soul) was recorded in large part during Help! The Fool On The Hill was written during Sgt Pepper and Something (Abbey Road) was completed during the White Album, as was Polythene Pam, The Long And Winding Road and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. If the Beatles hadn't split in 1970 the next album was pretty much written with solid tunes like Maybe I'm Amazed, All Things Much Pass and Instant Karma in the works.


Though the Beatles excelled at this rolling program of releases but they weren't unique. David Bowie started recording The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars a mere two months after recording Hunky Dory and one month before that album was released. Bowie producer Ken Scott sees this punishing schedule as a Darwinian filtering process “One of the great things for me about that time was that the recording contracts were such that the artist had to come up with an album every six months. Now, to keep that kind of pressure up, only the top artists are gonna be able to keep it going – only the most talented people. And they’re the ones that we still listen to today.”

The production line mentality worked because the support network was as efficient as the band. The Fabs didn't even attend mixing sessions prior to Beatles For Sale let alone take part, and mixes were usually completed a couple of days after the band's final session. This was possible because mixing was taking place while the album was still being recorded. How? Because the band worked on one song to completion before moving on to the next. They maintained this practice strictly up until Sgt Pepper and broadly worked in this manner till the end.


The production line was familiar to Stevie Wonder too, who grew up on a record label literally modelled on the car industry. Having already released thirteen albums for Motown, “Stevie Wonder made what felt like a lifetime’s worth of music...between 1972 and 1976”2 producing five classics in an unprecedented creative streak - Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness' First Finale and Songs in the Key of Life (a double album plus EP package). And Stevie didn't achieve this by becoming a studio hermit. He spent the summer of '72 touring with the Rolling Stones and produced, co-wrote, and played most of the instruments on his wife's debut album. In '76 Wonder was in a life-threatening car accident that left him in a coma for several days. And did I mention he was blind!? What's your excuse?

Slow Down

The Beatles worked fast. Rubber Soul and Revolver were recorded and mixed in one month. Beatles for Sale took two. With The Beatles three. Even with extensive blocks of time off for filming, A Hard Day's Night and Help only took five and six months respectively3.


And those months weren't spent holed up at EMI Studios. The Beatles hardly every recorded on consecutive days. Their touring schedule wouldn't allow it. So even though Please Please Me took four months to complete, the recording was actually done in four days (not one as is often claimed)4. With The Beatles took six working days and the numbers gradually rose to the ten days spent on Help and fifteen spent on Rubber Soul.


Again, The Beatles weren't unique in this. Another Side Of Bob Dylan was recorded in a single six hour session and Bringing It All Back Home, which featured a full band, was done and dusted in three days. Even in the 80s this kind of speed work was still possible. Bowie's LP Let's Dance was recorded and mixed in 17 days.

When they got to Revolver things changed. Though it took the same amount of time to make as Rubber Soul, Revolver had double the number of recording sessions. This was only possible because a contractually obligated third film never happened5. Revolver also marked the start of late night sessions and longer recording blocks. Sessions continued on past the midnight hour and they began working in 2-4 day recording blocks followed by 1-2 days off. But though 'office hours' were becoming a thing of the past The Beatles still took weekends off, even to the end. After this things multiplied again - Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road both took 40 recording days and The White Album took 72 (for twice as many songs).

Small Print

It's perhaps worth noting that, though the later albums are rightly regarded as more impressive artistic statements it's not entirely due to the longer time spent on them. Pepper took four months to record but much of December 66's sessions were devoted to Strawberry Fields Forever which didn't end up on the album6. And the sessions would have wrapped three weeks earlier if the band hadn't decided to add some hidden 'easter eggs' at the 11th hour7.

Likewise The White Album was filled with holidays8 and sessions that contributed nothing to the finished album. Three and a half days wasted on Not Guilty, two days on aborted versions of Sexy Sadie, two and a half on the pre-Clapton version of While My Gently Weeps and half a day on the first attempt at Helter Skelter. The band even blew three whole days on Ob La Di version 1, made a second abandoned version, then spent a further half a day on version 3 before returning to (and completing) version 2.

Now And Then


Times have undoubtedly changed. In the 60s, once albums began to overtake singles as the main musical statement every band worked hard to remain relevant and stay in the spotlight.

From 1962 Bob Dylan released 11 albums in 9 years (including a double album), three classic albums9 arriving in one fertile 15 month period. The Rolling Stones released 12 albums in their first 11 years, Joni Mitchell 10 in 11 and Elton John 11 in 8. Chicago released 3 double albums and a quadruple live album in only 2½ years.

Things began to slow in the 80s and only a small minority of artists maintained the old fashioned work ethic. Prince's 1978 debut began a run of 10 albums in 11 years but his productivity stood out like a quadruple live album in a punk rock singles bin. In their first ten years as recording artists Rihanna and Van Halen released seven albums, U2 six, Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, Green Day, Bon Jovi and Metallica all managed five, Arcade Fire, Coldplay, Mumford And Sons, Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga four10. And Adele and Take That could only scrape together three.

Quality and Quantity?

It's easy to assume that any artist constantly churning out new material with barely any time to revise or recharge must be operating far below their best. The evidence would suggest otherwise.

After producing so many albums in such a short space of time Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life went straight to no. 1 and stayed there for three months, selling 10 million copies, producing two No. 1 singles and earning Stevie his third Grammy in four years.


In 1967-68 Aretha Franklin, who'd already recorded eleven albums, released four more in 15 months, filled with top 10 hits like Respect, Chain of Fools, Think, I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You) and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. This kind of creative spurt is how many major artists produce their most enduring work, “each of the 10 albums topping Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list … arrived no more than one calendar year after the artist's previous album”11.

Songwriters, like any other craftsperson, improve with practice and more writing produces better writing. Constantly returning to the studio breaks the monotony of touring. Mark Caro is right to wonder “whether the years now … taken between albums is resulting in stunted artistic development and a shortfall of great music”. Longer gaps turn each release into a major event rather than just the next step. Ken Scott: “I fear that … coming out with a new album, somewhere between three and five years after a successful album, [is] watering everything down. They’re trying to second guess themselves too much. It just becomes robotic”. Rehashing the old hits night after night only digs the creative rut deeper.

Another hinderance is tracking multiple songs, one instrument at a time. Recording one song to completion (as the Beatles did for most of their career) not only allows greater focus but it gives those who oversee the project (whether producer, manager or label) more chance of enforcing deadlines and even the option to say “screw it, we're just going to release what we've got 'in the can'”. Which is impossible if all you have in the can are 40 drum solos.

It's Only The Sistine Chapel

Painting by Yuriy Shevchuk

It sounds counter-intuitive but perhaps the best way to create timeless music is to treat it with less reverence. Ken Scott expressed amazement that people were still talking about Ziggy Stardust forty years later because “It was never meant that way … we thought that an album would have a six-month life span.” The Beatles worked as though they were replaceable artists working in a disposable medium. 'Beat music' was a flash in the pan - the next craze - and the Beatles just transient foam on the latest wave. All evidence pointed to them being washed up by the age of 25. A Hard Day's Night was rushed into production for fear that the beat boom would be over by the time the film hit cinemas.

So I guess the takeaway lesson is:

The key to writing a 'timeless' album is - spend less time on it.


[Thanks to Rod Johnson and Lee Pat for title suggestions].

Footnotes:

1 Which happened after Epstein's death.
2 Jack Hamilton: Slate.com.
3 The Beatles took six weeks off mid-recording to film A Hard Day's Night and Help was recorded at the same time as filming in the UK, Austria and the Bahamas, allowing them only one recording session per month in April - May '65.
4 The bulk of the album was completed in a single day but because the four previously recorded single tracks were included on the album, the laborious early sessions for Love Me Do and Please Please Me account for the extra time spent on the album.
5The Beatles rejected every option from a western to a version of Lord Of The Rings.
6Penny Lane and Only A Northern Song also failed to make the cut.
7A dog whistle and some gibberish for the run-out groove.
8During this period George Martin took three weeks off, Paul went to the U.S. (twice), as did George (who also popped over to Greece). Ringo visited the U.S. and Sardinia and quit the band as did engineer Geoff Emerick. Ringo came back after a week and a half; Emerick took a lot longer.
9Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde.
10Not counting Gaga's album of covers with Tony Bennett.
11Mark Caro: Chicago Tribune. The Rolling Stone Top 10 are as follows:

  1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles (1967)
  2. Pet Sounds - Beach Boys (1966)
  3. Revolver - The Beatles (1966)
  4. Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan (1965)
  5. Rubber Soul - The Beatles (1965)
  6. What's Going On - Marvin Gaye (1971)
  7. Exile On Main St. - Rolling Stones (1972)
  8. London Calling - The Clash (1979)
  9. Blonde On Blonde - Bob Dylan (1966)
  10. The Beatles - The Beatles (1968)
Sources:

Mark Caro: Chicago Tribune: Why Do Albums Take So Long To Make? Jun 28 2016
Slate.com The Greatest Creative Run in the History of Popular Music
Ken Scott: Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust and Forbes
Let's Dance: Wikipedia

Links:

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Thursday, 29 November 2018

Ticket 43 Playlist: Use The Fourths Luke!




  • In order to better understand the influence of ideas on and by the Beatles songs are laid out in chronological order.
  • Songs written or performed by the Beatles are in bold.
  • Songs covered by the Beatles, or to known to have had an influence on them, are in italics.
  • Songs written by Matt Blick can be found at www.mattblick.com/songs
This page is still under construction. Errors? Typos? Suggestions? Did I miss an example? Leave a comment below!

For more on this songwriting tip go here


1964 Can’t Buy Me Love - The Beatles
1965 Yesterday - The Beatles
1968 Honey Pie - The Beatles
1968 Rocky Raccoon - The Beatles (verse)
1969 The Long And Winding Road - The Beatles
1969 Carry That Weight - The Beatles
1969 Golden Slumbers - The Beatles
1969 You Never Give Me Your Money - The Beatles
1971 (Where Do I Begin?) Love Story - Andy Williams (1:18)
1982 Carnation - The Jam (0:25)
1999 Unintended - Muse (0:14)

All The Things You Are - Kern/Hammerstein
Autumn Leaves - Mercer/Prevert/Kosma
Be My Baby - Ronettes (verse)
Carrying Cathy - Ben Folds (chorus)
Dime (Feelings) - Morris Albert (bridge)
Falling In Love Again - Marlene Dietrich (bridge)
Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue - Henderson/Lewis/Young
Fly Me To The Moon - Bart/Howard
Glory Of Love - Peter Cetera
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Elton John
Hello - Lionel Richie
I Can Cook Too (On The Town) - Leonard Bernstein (“I'm a man's ideal...”)
I Got Rhythm - Gershwin/Gershwin (bridge)
I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor
Isn't She Lovely - Stevie Wonder (verse)
Killing Me Softly With His Song - Roberta Flack
Mister Sandman - The Chordettes
My Favourite Things - Rodgers/Hammerstein
No Matter What - Badfinger (chorus)
Perfect Day – Lou Reed
Rhythm Of Life (Sweet Charity) - Sammy Davis Jr
Spinning Wheel - Blood, Sweat & Tears
Sweet Georgia Brown – Bernie/Pinkard/Casey (A section)
The Windmills of Your Mind - Legrand/Marnay/Bergman/Bergman (verse)
Those Were The Days - Mary Hopkins (chorus)
Try To Remember - Jones/Schmidt (middle 8 iii, vi, ii, V, I, IV, bVII)
You Can't Hurry Love - The Supremes (bridge)

Thanks to Rich Scott for examples

See also

Ticket 25: Transplant Cliches From Other Genres
Ticket 28: Use At Least One Out Of Key Chord 
Ticket 48: Static Melody/Changing Chords
Ticket 53: Write A 'Jazz-Style Intro' Verse
Ticket 60: Drop to the 7th Chord
Ticket 65: Build Up On The V Chord

See the full list of songwriting tips here - Tickets To Write

Further Reading:

Circle Progressions by Rich Scott


Check out music by Matt Blick

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Monday, 14 May 2018

10:60 Can You Take Me Back/Cry Baby Cry (pt.4)


Can You Take Me Back is not, as it first appears, a coda for Lennon's Cry Baby Cry. It's a 'hidden' (or uncredited) Paul McCartney song fragment recorded during the 16 Sept I Will session. The Beatles often played snippets of other compositions during sessions (see the Piggies/Something session) and on this day Paul and percussionists John and Ringo busked their way through Step Inside Love, Los Paranoias and The Way You Look Tonight. Can You Take Me Back lasted 2:21 from which a 28-second edit was used. The fact that Paul cycles round the same short sequence suggests it was improvised on the spot.

Sharing no real connection with Cry Baby Cry (or Revolution 9 which follows), an accidental byproduct of the digital era is it has now permanently become part of disc 2 track 11, just as Lennon's 'aye-up' has migrated from the end of Bungalow Bill to the beginning of While My Guitar. The Beatles Complete Scores doesn't even bother to transcribing it.

So what can we say about it as an independent piece of music? Nothing that I haven't already said about the importance of tracks like this in my post on Wild Honey Pie.

The White Album is full of songs, long and short, well thought out and off the wall, straight ahead and avant garde. On an album already featuring Wild Honey Pie it's hard to see what purpose this serves to the songs that bookend it, much less the album as a whole.

Maybe it's waiting for someone to write a verse for it (or at least move to a second chord). Maybe that person is you!


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Monday, 19 March 2018

What Goes Online Mar 2018


What have I been up to this year? Well you can always check in on my 'now' page but here's the savedyouaclick version ...




RE:BEATLED

I've been composing/arranging the mother of all Beatles mashups for Inspire Youth Arts for the ReBeatled Project with a mixed ensemble of young singer/songwriters, multi-instrumentalists and members of the Able Orchestra. You can hear and see the results here



And here



And the massed jam on Come Together


NEW ALBUM

I've also been prepping my new album with producer Dan Wright (The Most Ugly Child) which I hope to start soon.


If you can't wait I also have Home Truths a free album of demos ranging from instrumentals, political songs, love songs, style parodies to a song about York, a love song for my wife, a song called Biscuit that’s not about biscuits and lots more. Silly & serious, light-hearted and heartfelt, There’s also chord sheet pdfs for most songs and even a few pages of guitar TAB. Download it here or here.

LINKS

Landr were kind enough to link to a BSA post in 10 Ridiculous Songwriting Tips That Actually Work.

Temporary Bad Boys Podcast featured a song I co-wrote with the late great Hoopshank here. (Head Temporary Bad Boy Balance Lost produced and co-wrote my rap single My Ride).


BEATLES LINKS

Sick of the sound of me and just want to get back to the Beatles? Check out these stellar episodes of the Something About The Beatles Podcast -

Something About Middle 8's
Something About Ringo
Something About Skiffle (with Billy Bragg)




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Friday, 1 December 2017

BSA PODCAST EPISODE 7: Shownotes




OUT NOW!: Episode 7 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!

NEW FEATURE!Ep 7 Spotify Playlist (let me know what you think in the comments. Did you use it? Was it useful?)

0:00 Intro - (They Got The Monkees)

Quote: Dumb And Dumber

1:41 – Painting Something For No One (Help With Chords)

Wonderwall – Oasis
D'You Know What I Mean – Oasis
Something - The Templeton Twins With Teddy Turner And His Bunsen Burners
More on the chords from Something here and here
Junkie (1984) – Steve Vai
Wire And Wood (1985) – Alcatrazz
Answers (1990) – Steve Vai

11:32 – A Tribute To Hoopshank (In Three Movements)

February Album Writing Month www.fawm.org
Paul 'Hoopshank' Turrell

12:29 Yellow Submarine - Hoopshank
29:29 The Decisive Five - Hoopshank
56:15 Wild Honey Pie - Keith Skylark Band

11:53 – Real Modulations and False Teeth (Paul McCartney on Fresh Air)

Full Interview mp3
Full Interview Transcription
My Valentine (Paul McCartney)
Cheek To Cheek (Fred Astaire)
Teeth Like Stars Trailer (1980's BBC Radio 4)

24:34 – Another Lennon and McCartney Original (I Fancy Me Chances)

Fly On The Wall (Let Be Naked Bonus Disc)
Mark Lewisohn Website
Mark Lewisohn: A Beatlemaniac's Prayer


26:49 That No Good Dirty Robbing Songwriting Website - (Please Share This Link!)

My post on BSA Five Unusual Songwriting Tricks From The Beatles
Sharon Goldman

31:19 – The Chord (A Hard Day's Audio Spectrum Analysis)

Beatles Bible
More on the drummer on Dear Prudence
Another Hard Day's Night (From Help! OST) - Ken Thorpe or George Martin Orchestra?

50:29 – Fire In The Fireplace (What I Learned about Songwriting From A Crazy Guy In Liverpool)

Nicholas Tozier
Original Post (The Lyric Writer's Workroom)
The Beatles Story, Liverpool
With God On Our Side – Bob Dylan
Sableyalo Mi Agontze (The Bleating Lamb) - Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir from Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares Vol. 1
Lamentations (NIV Translation)
In My Life – Pageshu youtube

Idents by Poddingham Paul courtesy of LeftLion Thanks Paul! 
Closing theme - 'Piggies' performed by The Black Heartthrobs available here Thanks BH! 
Thanks also to Curtis Pea, Nancy Rost, Sharon Goldman and Nicholas Tozier.

About Beatles Songwriting Academy

70+ Songwriting Tips From The Beatles
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About Beatles Songwriting Academy
Music by Matt Blick

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Line Cliche Lesson





Here's a nice chord tutorial from Joe Shadid (aka singer/songwriter Joe George) of reverb.com demonstrating George's use of Ticket 17: Incorporate a descending chromatic melody, starting from the root, into your chord progression in Something, a melodic device know as a 'line cliche'.

You can read a much more in depth post on that concept right here.



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