The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover

This week I’ve listened to the 1967 album by The Beatles, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“. I’ve noticed how simple many of the instruments’ individual parts are. A lead guitar will appear, play a few notes, and then disappear for a few bars; While underneath there may be this constant bed of chords played rhythmically on the piano, almost as if some krautrock or Velvet Underground is being played on a radio in the other room. I was reminded frequently by this album of the importance of letting an instrument rest. Also, of how the bass line can be provide interest. In contrast to most rock music, the bass guitar frequently provides melodic counterpoint. Even though much of the individual parts are simple, the accompaniment is made interesting by the way they are layered. They’ve pieced together something fairly complex from mostly simple elements. Ultimately, it became apparent to me the real focus of these songs, musically. The melodies drive every songs. Most of the rest serves to support the vocals.

“Within You Without You” is the only track I do not like. I appreciate what Harrison was doing, but it bores me quickly. Musically, the song sounds nice yet goes nowhere. Lyrically, the song sounds like a hippie neophyte getting excited about Hinduism and I just don’t think it holds up well. I skip the song every time and it improves the album on a whole. It’s not really a Beatles song and it doesn’t fit with the rest of the album; which is definitely something since there’s so much variety on the album otherwise.

A Day in the Life” is absolutely my favorite track. Some very simple instrumentation opens the song with a single acoustic guitar. Piano and bass soon join in. All of these are gently played, especially coming out of the noise and applause from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)”. Congas, shaker, and then the drum kit soon join. On top of this accompaniment, John sings beautifully at a relaxed pace. Each line of the lyrics are observational, but end with a sense of questions unanswered that makes the following line welcome. A vague thread of narrative holds these lines together, like old news footage re-filmed through the lens of Godard.

Then the song transitions into McCartney’s section. I’ve always though the transition was too long and dramatic, but the jaunty mid-section makes it worth it. Lyrically, the play between the two sections is interesting. Lennon’s lines are observational of vague events in the outside world with a sense of distant helpless; McCartney’s are very personal events on a smaller scale with a sense of immediate urgency. And that contrast leads to further unanswered questions. The lyrics are descriptive while leaving room for the listener to drop in and find their own interpretations. This is completely a great song and provides much to learn for songwriters.

Some call this the greatest album of all time. I can understand recognizing the importance of the album’s influence, but I wouldn’t go that call it the greatest. I wouldn’t even say it’s the Beatles’ best album, it’s certainly not my favorite. That honor would probably go to “Abbey Road”. There are some great songs on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, though. In addition to “A Day in the Life”, I also love “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, “Fixing a Hole”, “When I’m 64”, and “Lovely Rita”. Good stuff.

The Deadliest Summer (2017)

Album Cover for The Deadliest Summer single

I present a new single release of Trip Gunn music: “The Deadliest Summer” with b-side “Dial Tone”, with a cover featuring artwork by 19th century French painter Eugène Boudin. It wasn’t intentional, but perhaps the September equinox is an appropriate time to share “The Deadliest Summer”.

I wrote this song as “Orange Velvet Crush” in the fall of 2015. The final version differs little from that first draft. Most revisions to lyrics were just a matter of word-choice and rhythm, but the first two lines of the chorus were completely replaced. Originally they were “Times passes slowly, but it goes so fast; I held on to the trees and celebrities.” I disliked them when I wrote them, but I believe it’s better to write anything now and revise later than to wait for good stuff. The inspiration for the new lines came from a line of Henry Darger‘s book Crazy House; The book begins as a reality-based autobiography, but with the line “Oh yeah, there’s one thing I forgot to mention…”, Darger goes from reality to tales in his fantasy world instead. I appreciate that within the context of Henry Darger, but it also fit beautifully with the subject of this song.

This is one of only three songs that I worked on with a band in 2016. We only had a few practice sessions before dealing with typical but annoying difficulties, including practice space issues and scheduling conflicts. At any rate, we played around with the chorus chord progression a bit, but I ended up going with the way I had written it. Either I didn’t heed good advice or it worked out in the end. Still, I finally got to use my Danelectro guitar on this one.

Lyrics

When you walk through the October moonlight
With the smell of streetlights reflected in the rain
Drinking grape soda from glass bottle stars
Where autumn leaves danced between cars

The clouds harbor August memories dark
Windows reflecting legends in dusty panes
Where every portrait is felt by your green
Hoodie and orange velvet crush dreams

It’s the longest winter, the deadliest summer
There’s something I forgot to mention
Ghosts and mirrors, smoke and fog
Too many to count and I forgot them all

When I walk through the November twilight
And the dusty streets of nostalgia
Drinking gun-powder tea from looking glass
Revery’s loose leaves dance past.

It’s the longest winter, the deadliest summer
There’s something I forgot to mention
Ghosts and mirrors, smoke and fog
Too many to count and I forgot them all

It’s time to deny it all
The heart that sighs in December
It’s time to deny it all
The heart that dies in the summer
The deadliest summer.

Dial Tone

For a b-side, I chose the song “Dial Tone”. While “The Deadliest Summer” is revisiting a time associated with a space, “Dial Tone” is caught in a specific time and place. I started with the chorus and took some time to get the verses. Then inspiration came from the line “in my bedroom in those ugly new houses” in The Smith’s song “Paint A Vulgar Picture“; Viewing the chorus through that line, I saw the whole scene. I spent time as a teenager at a brick house on second street in Athens OH. The song has nothing to do with my friends that lived there, but that house serves beautifully as the setting. Regardless, the song is certainly about a very teenage experience.

I knew from the start how the melody for the chorus, but not the rest. So, I chose the key and based some of the chord progression on the dial tone for landline phones. Two sine waves combine to create the tone, one at middle-A and the other is very close to an F below the A. I avoided too obvious a use of a dial tone sound, but played with hints of it throughout.

Lyrics

In a tired brick house on second street
Sitting on a bed corner dying
I held on the telephone a lifetime
And crumpled slowly burning

Listen to the dial tone
Wonder if you’re even home
Would you even answer the phone
I’ll never ever know

Could we shine like the darkest night
Cradles stars in its belly?
Would we fill a shoebox capsule
A heartache waiting to be unburied?

Listen to the dial tone
Wonder if you’re even home
Would you even answer the phone
I’ll never ever know

Tremble so silently
Scribble a diary faintly
In the vacuum of the afternoon
Quietly waiting

A mediocre ineffectual fool
A mediocre ineffectual fool

IJR2017S004

“Oliver” lyric video

I created this simple lyric video for the song “Oliver”. The 19th century photograph of Belfield Hall used for the single cover provides the background. The song bears no relationship to Belfield Hall, though it fascinates me that this image captures a home that no longer exist. According to a post on ipernity.com, the buildings fell to demolition around 1916. The aristocratic hall was certainly nothing like Oliver’s house. I see Oliver in a small one or two bedroom house in the suburbs.

Marianne (2017)

“Marianne” was one of the earlier songs I wrote for Trip Gunn, with very little revision from the initial version. The music drives through Am until the coda. Elvis Costello had originally intended his song “Uncomplicated” to be single chord, but had ended up bringing other chord changes in for the chorus. This idea has always intrigued me, and because the vocals of this song were going to be a menacing rhythmic chant, I thought it’d be a good candidate. But then, I’d written the final verse that needed a change of tone and so it became the coda that’s us outside of the house to the street.

Lyrics

Marianne tore through the pantry
Marianne tore through the wall
Through the floor to the cellar
Because Marianne saw it all

She heard a rat in the cupboard
She smelled a rat in the hall
She didn’t know the half of it
But Marianne saw it all

The air from gasoline is heady
The neighbors frantically call
Fire eats the house in a panic
In a night that dutifully falls

The blades of the flames are sharp
Scissors in the cold quiet night
Slice through roof like gift paper
A home lost winning the fight

So long kissing
Lips of flames and eyes of fire
Sadness feels like anger
The street was screaming Marianne
Only for Marianne.

B-side

This was first song I wrote for Trip Gunn after watching an episode of the Twilight Zone, “And When the Sky Was Opened” with our son. In the story, three astronauts return from a space mission. One of them, Ed Harrington, seems to be missing. Astronaut Clegg Forbes is the only person that even remembers Ed Harrington, which make him realize that something unusual is going on. Basically, each astronaut is disappearing to the point of having never existed. I started, originally, with a chorus of “Why is it that nobody remembers Ed Harrington? He once existed, but doesn’t any longer.” and wrote a song around this chorus. Those original lines themselves eventually disappeared…

Lyrics

Harrington, you’ve been
Places that I’ve never seen
A life that feels a real now
As a passing day dream

There were three space men
Two spacemen
One spaceman
They’re gone

There’s holes in our fabric
And you’re strategically torn
Waking up in the kitchen
Of someone else’s home

The moon was screaming that night, Ed
But time ticks silently now
You kept falling off of bridges

But didn’t make a sound

There were three space men
Two spacemen
One spaceman
They’re gone.

IJR2017S002

Oliver (2017)

Album Cover for Oliver single
Trip Gunn: Oliver (2017)

The writing of “Oliver” began in the autumn of 2015 after being inspired by something Jarvis Cocker had said about the songwriting of Scott Walker. My idea was to write about some mundane person doing something completely unremarkable, but elevating that into something unusual. I started with the line “Oliver walks from one room to the next”, because what could be so unremarkable while still being an action? From there, the song pretty much wrote itself.

Lyrics

Oliver walks from one room to the next
Holding his hands harmlessly at his sides and
That’s not all
That’s not all Oliver does.

Oliver makes a nice cup of Earl Grey
He thinks it makes him seem OK
That’s not all
That’s not all Oliver does.

Oliver selects the smallest room in the house
He lines it with throws and pillows
It’s the warmest
And the softest room in the house.

Oliver leaves the other rooms to the ghosts
They don’t care what he does
They’re sadly happy
Sadly happy anyway.

The tea grows cold and the ghosts leave a mess
The blankets cover up his nakedness
While outside the postman
The postman delivers the mail.

Oliver walks from one room to the next.

B-side

An noisier track “Sick of It” came out of a desire to write something more straight forward noise-rock feel. It’s obviously still very much electronic pop, but has a bit of a harsh edge with a cavern of fuzzy reverb that I find delicious.

Lyrics

Clockwork Atlantis
We’re sinking in 4/4 time

Lay the foundation for a regret nation
So sick of it

Hands shaking wildly gesturing
So sick of it

Sick of it, so sick of it

Sweat dripping eyes blacking out
Can’t think straight

Eat your face and tell them off
So sick of it

Sick of it, so sick of it

Enough enough
Comprehend nothing, nothing makes sense

Sick of it, so sick of it

IJR2017S002

Out of My Mind (2017)

Trip Gunn: Out of My Mind (2017)

Work on this song started in March 2016 with lyrics for the chorus and the second verse. I woke up with the chorus stuck in my head and the title of “Your Call”. A few weeks later, the first verse was written and the title “Out of My Mind” from the new verse. I’m happy to finally share this as my first single as Trip Gunn. Hope to have even more tracks over the coming months. Thank you.

Lyrics

Well, if you don’t really mind
I’ll smash my brains into the dry concrete
Dirty the streets with
Lovely blood and crazy brains
When I have time

Call you out or count you in.
It’s all your call for it’s all the same to me
Out of my mind

Don’t tell them I’m growing old
Shaking tambourines gray and lame
It’s all a shame I
Shook the apple trees
And turned out the way I did

Call you out or count you in.
It’s all your call for it’s all the same to me
Out of my mind

You have a reason to dig, deep into the earth
You have to try harder, a little harder than that.

Call you out or count you in.
It’s all your call for it’s all the same to me
Out of my mind

You can laugh if you want
We’re all laughing anyway
You can laugh if you want
It’s all a joke anyway

B-side

An instrumental track, “You Can Laugh If You Want,” was written to accompany “Out of My Mind.” It’s a simple piano piece with noises and stuff.

IJR2017S001