Tags: song

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sparkline

Sunday, December 5th, 2021

Getting back

The three-part almost nine-hour long documentary Get Back is quite fascinating.

First of all, the fact that all this footage exists is remarkable. It’s as if Disney had announced that they’d found the footage for a film shot between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.

Still, does this treasure trove really warrant the daunting length of this new Beatles documentary? As Terence puts it:

There are two problems with this Peter Jackson documentary. The first is that it is far too long - are casual fans really going to sit through 9 hours of a band bickering? The second problem is that it is far too short! Beatles obsessives (like me) could happily drink in a hundred hours of this stuff.

In some ways, watching Get Back is liking watching one of those Andy Warhol art projects where he just pointed a camera at someone for 24 hours. It’s simultaneously boring and yet oddly mesmerising.

What struck myself and Jessica watching Get Back was how much it was like our experience of playing with Salter Cane. I’m not saying Salter Cane are like The Beatles. I’m saying that The Beatles are like Salter Cane and every other band on the planet when it comes to how the sausage gets made. The same kind of highs. The same kind of lows. And above all, the same kind of tedium. Spending hours and hours in a practice room or a recording studio is simultaneously exciting and dull. This documentary captures that perfectly.

I suppose Peter Jackson could’ve made a three-part fly-on-the-wall documentary series about any band and I would’ve found it equally interesting. But this is The Beatles and that means there’s a whole mythology that comes along for the ride. So, yes, it’s like watching paint dry, but on the other hand, it’s paint painted by The Beatles.

What I liked about Get Back is that it demystified the band. The revelation for me was really understanding that this was just four lads from Liverpool making music together. And I know I shouldn’t be surprised by that—the Beatles themselves spent years insisting they were just four lads from Liverpool making music together, but, y’know …it’s The Beatles!

There’s a scene in the Danny Boyle film Yesterday where the main character plays Let It Be for the first time in a world where The Beatles have never existed. It’s one of the few funny parts of the film. It’s funny because to everyone else it’s just some new song but we, the audience, know that it’s not just some new song…

Christ, this is Let It Be! You’re the first people on Earth to hear this song! This is like watching Da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa right in front of your bloody eyes!

But truth is even more amusing than fiction. In the first episode of Get Back, we get to see when Paul starts noodling on the piano playing Let It Be for the first time. It’s a momentous occasion and the reaction from everyone around him is …complete indifference. People are chatting, discussing a set design that will never get built, and generally ignoring the nascent song being played. I laughed out loud.

There’s another moment when George brings in the song he wrote the night before, I Me Mine. He plays it while John and Yoko waltz around. It’s in 3/4 time and it’s minor key. I turned to Jessica and said “That’s the most Salter Cane sounding one.” Then, I swear at that moment, after George has stopped playing that song, he plays a brief little riff on the guitar that sounded exactly like a Salter Cane song we’re working on right now. Myself and Jessica turned to each other and said, “What was that‽”

Funnily enough, when we told this to Chris, the singer in Salter Cane, he mentioned how that was the scene that had stood out to him as well, but not for that riff (he hadn’t noticed the similarity). For him, it was about how George had brought just a scrap of a song. Chris realised it was the kind of scrap that he would come up with, but then discard, thinking there’s not enough there. So maybe there’s a lesson here about sharing those scraps.

Watching Get Back, I was trying to figure out if it was so fascinating to me and Jessica (and Chris) because we’re in a band. Would it resonate with other people?

The answer, it turns out, is yes, very much so. Everyone’s been sharing that clip of Paul coming up with the beginnings of the song Get Back. The general reaction is one of breathless wonder. But as Chris said, “How did you think songs happened?” His reaction was more like “yup, accurate.”

Inevitably, there are people mining the documentary for lessons in creativity, design, and leadership. There are already Medium think-pieces and newsletters analysing the processes on display. I guarantee you that there will be multiple conference talks at UX events over the next few years that will include footage from Get Back.

I understand how you could watch this documentary and take away the lesson that these were musical geniuses forging remarkable works of cultural importance. But that’s not what I took from it. I came away from it thinking they’re just a band who wrote and recorded some songs. Weirdly, that made me appreciate The Beatles even more. And it made me appreciate all the other bands and all the other songs out there.

Friday, December 28th, 2018

Songs I liked from 2018

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Surfing on the Web - YouTube

I wrote this song while my colleague Tim Berners-Lee was inventing something called “The World Wide Web” a few offices away. The song was published in 1993, when less that 100 websites existed.

The first image ever published on the web was of this band, Les Horribles Cernettes …LHC.

Surfing on the Web

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

Patterns Day playlist on Spotify

If you were at Patterns Day and you liked the music that was playing during the breaks, here’s the playlist. All the artists are based in Brighton.

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

New Album: Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans | Palette-Swap Ninja

Absolute genius! I’ll never hear Sgt. Pepper’s quite the same way again.

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

Friday, June 5th, 2015

100 words 075

Today was a Salter Cane practice day. It was a good one. We tried throwing some old songs at our new drummer, Emily. They stuck surprisingly well. Anomie, Long Gone, John Hope …they all sounded pretty damn good. To be honest, Emily was probably playing them better than the rest of us.

It was an energetic band practice so by the time I got home, I was really tired. I kicked back and relaxed with the latest copy of Spaceflight magazine from the British Interplanetary Society.

Then I went outside and watched the International Space Station fly over my house.

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Forgotify — Discover a previously unheard Spotify track

4 million songs on Spotify have never been played. Not even once. Let’s change that.

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Pop Sonnets

Modern pop songs retold as Shakespearian sonnets.

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Song blogging: Files That Last

I hereby declare that this song is my official anthem.

I want some files that last, data that will not stray.

Files just as fresh tomorrow as they were yesterday.

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

The Brooklyn Beta Theme Song: Year Three - YouTube

Song-a-day Mann closed out this year’s Brooklyn Beta by singing this song (number #1381 in his ongoing series). We all sang along. It was pretty damn great.

The Brooklyn Beta Theme Song: Year Three

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, Verse 2: A close reading with Fourth Amendment guidance for cops and perps

A blow-by-blow legal analysis of the second verse of Jay-Z’s 99 Problems.

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury - Rachel Bloom - YouTube

In light of the recent death of Ray Bradbury, I think we should all honour his memory by revisiting this song (featuring some future-friendly headgear).

I’ll feed you grapes and Dandelion Wine and we’ll read a little Fahrenheit 69…

Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury - Rachel Bloom

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Like A Rounded Corner (Bruce and The Standardettes) - YouTube

Bravo, Bruce, bravo.

I heard Glen Campbell’s “Like A Rhinestone Cowboy” on the radio and began absent-mindedly singing “Like a rounded corner” to it.

Like A Rounded Corner (Bruce and The Standardettes)

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Salter Cane — Anomie - YouTube

We played at the bottom of the art-deco staircase in Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion. Sounds pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Salter Cane -- Anomie

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Lucozade Energy Advert 2011 - Feeder’s ‘Buck Rogers’ by The James Cleaver Quintet. - YouTube

So that’s what they were filming when I came out of band practice the other day. This is my neighbourhood.

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

The Lost Lemonworld

When the always-excellent Radiolab podcast turned its attention to the subject of creativity and motivation in an episode called ‘Help?’, they spoke to Elizabeth Gilbert who reminisced about interviewing Tom Waits on this topic:

He was talking about how every song has a distinctive identity that it comes into the world with, and it needs to be taken in different ways. He said there are songs that you have to sneak up on like you’re hunting for a rare bird, and there are songs that come fully intact like a dream taken through a straw. There are songs that you find little bits of like pieces of gum you find underneath the desk, and you scrape them off and you put them together and you make something out of it.

And there are songs, he said, that need to be bullied. He said he’s been in the studio working on a song and the whole album is done and this one song won’t give itself over and — everyone’s gotten used to seeing him do things like this — he’ll march up and down the studio talking to the song, saying “The rest of the family is in the car! We’re all going on vacation! You coming along or not? You’ve got 10 minutes or else you’re getting left behind!”

Last year the New York Times ran a profile of The National, written while they were still recording the wonderful High Violet—my favourite album of last year. The piece circles around the ongoing problems the band were having trying to tame the song Lemonworld:

Since January they’d done it bright, done it drowsy, done it with violin parts overnighted from Australia by Padma Newsome, done it so many ways Bryce despaired, “It’s a riddle we can’t solve.”

This is exactly what we’ve been going through with Salter Cane. For about a year we had a song that had been defying us, stubbornly refusing to reach that breakthrough moment where it all seems to come together. We took a break from the song for a while and when we came back to it, we tried approaching it as a new piece. That seems to be working. It’s finally coming together.

In the end we realised that we trying to make the song into something bigger than it needed to be. Sometimes it’s okay for a song to be small and simple. That seems to be the case with Lemonworld:

Matt said afterward, “we tried so hard and it always seemed to fail as a rock song. It lost the charm of the ugly little demo. Now it’s the ugliest, worst-mixed, least-polished song on the record, and it took the longest to get there.”

I think that Lemonworld is a strong song. It even stands up to be being butchered by me on the bouzouki.

Lemonworld on Huffduffer

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Attack! | 100 robots

Electronic rock songs about anger, loss, frustration, love, the surveillance state, the Iranian election, uranium enrichment, Twitter, gene therapy cures for AIDS, the financial crisis and World of Warcraft.

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

LA Re-Sweet: @adactio -

Aw, this is quite sweet: a tweet of mine, put to music.