Songwriting Sessions #3 – The Age of Modern Living

Hello again. This session is about a song I wrote and recorded in early February 2021 linked below:

The Age of Modern Living

This song came about from wanting to record something on my new ukulele, a rather nice Tanglewood TWT 3 if you’re interested, hence the intro and chorus to this is underpinned by double-tracked ukulele repeating a 4 chord sequence that I think rings out nicely on the diddy instrument.

When I started to work around this chord sequence, I found quite quickly that putting heavy guitars and a simple thumping bass line over this made the same chords stand out as a chorus, so the heaviness crept in quite quickly. I am pretty happy with how you can still here the little ukulele in there even in the heavy bits.

Every now and again I will get a song where I think, can I really just loop the chords all the way through? It feels like a cop out, but sometimes it just works. However, you really need to make the rhythm and feel quite different between the sections if you are going to do this, so I dropped out the uke, added a bit of funk to the bass line (which is doubled with fx in the verses) and a bit of wah-wah guitar over it all.

Hopefully this brings the dynamics down and finds a new groove for just long enough for the return of the heavy choruses to have impact. In the second round of the verse, I also added an instrumental bridge that combines the two a bit, and reminds me a little of ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, the excellent Beatle’s track from Abbey Road – that wasn’t intentional but their influence runs through everything I do despite myself.

I nearly didn’t finish this as I couldn’t find the right way into the lyrics. I got the Chorus line ‘It’s like something out of a dream…’ bit quite early, but I didn’t know what ‘it’ actually was! Nowadays, I need a theme/reason to write a song or I can’t get it finished. In the past I was happier to just string vaguely related words together, but I can’t do it now. I’m not saying that every word has meaning or is worried over, but I always know what the song is about overall, or what my ‘way in’ was.

Anyway, the final piece of this song lyric came form a news article about an appetite suppressant drug, and I just thought how miserable it would be to psychologically not have the joy of looking forward to food and satisfying that desire, even if it does stop you being fat. Then I linked this to how antidepressants suppress extremes of emotions (so I am told), and imagined a world where the ‘new you’ is a chemically altered none-feeling model of conformity. That’s not to say that I’m down on diet or mood pills – I’m just exaggerating the ideas for effect, kids.

Lyrics:

Suppress your appetite, and then you’ll never get fat.
May also never have fun, but don’t you worry about that.
Keep having restless nights? But won’t change your life?
Just listen to my voice. Will see you right it’s like…


Something out of a dream. Something you’ve neve seen,
Shiny Happy and Clean, The age of modern living.
It’s like something out of a dream, And you can get it for free.
If you’d only listen to me your doubts will be forgiven.


Can’t take the highs and the lows? Well then we’ll flatten you out.
Just another straight line, nothing to shout about.
You head full of ideas? Just take another deep breath.
Go and find some blue light .There’s nothing left. it’s like… (repeat chorus)

And there we go. It’s quite short and fast and bordering between my rocky and punky/garage sensibilities. I don’t know if this song will find a home outside of this demo, so show it some love if you like it. Thanks for reading and please let me know what you think in the comments! Cheers.

The Big Beatles Sort Out Black Album Special!

Every 10 episodes of the main podcast we like to do a bonus special with a deep dive into a listener questioner.

So, after 20 episodes, here is the 2nd bonus, focusing on the concept of the ‘Black Album’ – a thought experiment basically curating a mythical 13th Beatles LP from their various solo and post-Beatles projects.

We also take a look at the aggregate album charts so far with a few other top 10s thrown in for good measure. Hope you enjoy! Back to the usual business next week.

Big Beatles Sort Out Episode 20a

Songwriting Sessions #2 – The Monster of All

The songwriting sessions are a series of blogs taking a quick peek behind the curtain of my songwriting methods to accompany my new songs and look back at some of my old favourites.

I’ve been writing songs for over 20 years now, but still feel like I am finding my stride, my voice, and my audience. Hopefully, someone will find these blogs interesting about the craft of songwriting, or connect with my efforts, or at the very least, the process of writing it down may hale me to figure a few things out.

This week it is a brand-new song, ‘The Monster of All’ written and recorded over 3 days at the end of January 2021. You can hear it here:

Soundcloud – The Monster of All

I tend to write very fast once I have an initial idea I want to expand on. In this case, the lyric came first, with ‘The Monster of All’ being one of my 3-year-old daughter’s characters in her make-believe world!

I think it’s a fascinating turn of phrase, and I am gathering up some of her ideas into notes to adapt into a possible fantasy fiction story eventually (I’m also a writer – see the sidebar for my published books). With this, however, I also thought it was a great starting place for a lyric – loaded with possible double meaning about the monsters inside us all etc. so I set to work looking for the music to go with it.

The music was then written over the next hour on acoustic guitar and refined during recording which was about another 2 to 3 hours, so probably about 5 hours in all to get this initial ‘demo’ version together (I rarely ever believe these songs to be finished as such when recording them all myself).

Once again, a recent episode of my Beatles Podcast had influenced me and I wanted to write something in triplets timing, along the lines of ‘This Boy’ and that general ‘do wop’ feel. So, I started with a pretty standard progression that you will hear in hundreds of 50s / early 60s songs, and then deviated on the 3rd and 4th chords to minor key and diminished variations, which hopefully breaks it out of that natural expectation of a major resolve.

The chorus emerged out of a natural change from the verses, and originally was half the length of the recorded version. The challenge with this came in the recording, trying to make this feel more pushed, lively, louder than the verse, and not just a variation on it. I tried a few things, including string backing and a distorted guitar. In the end I found that dropping the piano out of the verses and bringing it back for the chorus and links gave it the boost it needed (possibly – this is all open to interpretation).

Arrangement wise, I didn’t want this to go on too long with it’s quite steady 98 bpm tempo, so there is a pretty standard verse/chorus/verse/chorus pattern, with no mid 8 or solo section, a couple of repeats of the chorus bridge at the end and then a fade out.

Altogether, I am quite happy with it, and quite excited about possibly turning more of these fiction fantasy ideas into songs and creating a concept collection along with whatever I end up writing. Genre wise, I like the idea of ‘Dungeon Rock’! A blend of prog/rock/folk/fantasy themed songs? What do you think?

Anyway, I hope you had a listen and found this remotely interesting. If so, let me know using the contact form below or via my podcast or SoundCloud page, all linked in this article! I am always open to opportunities and collaborations too.

The Big Beatles Sort Out Episode 19

Hello! Episode 19 has been released this morning and wow, is it a biggie! Our longest ep yet, purely due to the amount of unpacking needed for at least 3 of the songs in the pick – this is one of my favourites so far, and really shakes up the charts!

Find it linked below, or on all your usual podcast platforms:

Episode 19 on Anchor!

Happy listening!

PS – If you are reading this and do like the podcast, or even if you haven’t yet tried it, please consider sharing this or the podcast links with your friends – the only way we can reach people, is by people, like you, sparing is a few clicks! Thanks.