Thursday, May 21, 2020

"......and Stig sued himself accidentally."

During the current unpleasantness, many things have been put on hold. The Neighbourhood Dogs, for example, should have been entering the final phases of tweaking our next single for release, but instead we find ourselves antisocially distanced – flung to the five corners of the unfashionable end of East Angular and bereft of one to one (or two, or three, or six) interaction.

Another consequence of the lockdown has been that dreams are, apparently, more realistic to us than before as our minds take advantage of the extra space they’ve been afforded to stretch their legs, settle down into a comfy armchair, and explore their surroundings. Some of these metaphorical devices may not work togeher quite as one might hope, but at least there’s hope. And so it was with no little anxiety that I awoke from a fevered dream – not the one in which The Present Mrs. Kirk had only clipped one leg of the labradoodle, so everyone thought she was a pirate* - but to the realisation that in my sleep I had been finessing our new song, but had woken up with another running through my head. I was literally in a Nashville State of Mind state of mind.

To explain further, we - Helen and The Neighbourhood Dogs - have been working on a lovely ballad, to which I have contributed a simple slide guitar motif, much as one might find on the more tasteful end of the East Angliacana thirty second taster intro scene but which, importantly, I suddenly thought that I might have lifted wholesale from the exquisite Nashville State of Mind by one Tony James Shevlin which – even more crucially – I had played on at a session for the BBC and which was currently doing the rounds of social media again after it had popped up in both of our timeline ‘memories’. Rightly so – it’s a wonderful song, one of Shev’s best, and I love it dearly both for its sentiment and its lack of sentimentality. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to focus on the chord sequences of two apparently unrelated songs before you’ve even switched off the alarm and let the dog out in the morning, but it’s a disconcerting process.

Firstly I had to ascertain whether the chords were related, in the same ballpark, or even playing the same sport. I imagine that George Harrison went through a very similar process off the back of that whole My Sweet Lord malarkey before he released This Song, which dealt with that exact process and although sounding like something he might have knocked off in his sleep (and probably did, to be honest). I saw an old video from Saturday Night Live recently in which he and his chums seemed to be having a whale of a time, but that doesn’t make the track any more memorable. Maybe that was the idea. At the time he was hanging out with Eric Idle, whose whole Rutles gig was built around making something similar-to-but-not-quite, and so when songwriter-in-residence Neil Innes found that Johnny and the Moondogs-come-lately Oasis had been third-guessing his work with their Whatever, it must have come as a pleasant, and financially rewarding, surprise.

I remembered that at an early rehearsal of our song someone had commented that it may have shared some songwriterly DNA with a previous effort that many of the group had been involved with, called Risk. I comforted myself with the thought that at least I’d co-written that, although anyone who remembers the case of Jarndyce, Jarndyce and Zaentz vs. Fogerty will be aware that this is a tricky defence to mount in the face of a determined legal team with dollar signs in their sights. Also, that was me playing del Amitri’s Driving With The Brakes On really badly, so that was never going to help.
 Eventually, I worked out in my head that although the initial chords shared some of the songwriterly essence to which we all aspire (the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift – we’ve all done it), Shev’s intro - which I had dutifully transcribed and learned – was more complex, melodically more satisfying, tonally appropriate, and well beyond a legal matter.

No. It was from Torn, by Natalie Imbruglia.

*Sylvie, not Mrs. K.