The Big Beatles Sort Out Episode 23!

Hello. Episode 23 of my Beatles podcast is available now:

Episode 23!

Also, I have a new project launching this week, a single by band ‘Bag Ratty Bro’ that you can preview and preorder here: ‘I Want A Robot Hoover’

This is the first of 3 singles that are on the EP ‘Chapter and Multiverse’ which is available for pre-order now. It would be great if you’d consider taking a listen and ordering.

Thanks.

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.

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.

The Big Beatles Sort Out Ep 18

It has literally just struck me that I haven’t been sharing on here when new episodes of my Beatles podcast are published!

In this podcast, my brother and I discuss 5 random Beatles tracks and I score each for music, production and lyrics, so that eventually I will have my personal list of my favourite Beatles songs!

The best part is really Paul, my brother, who is a super Beatles fan and does tons of awesome research to help me along the way.

Anyway, we are 18 eps in with 2 bonuses, so you’ve got a lot to listen to! The show is linked below, from there you can listen, follow, like, share and review! And please do! It is also available on all major podcast platforms.

Thanks! I will try and remember to post each week when new episodes are released.

https://anchor.fm/garry-abbott

Restoke – Man Up

Last night I watched ‘Man Up’ from the wonderful ‘Restoke’, a group of artists and collaborators who work with the local community to craft music, dance and spoken word performances in various unusual locations around Stoke on Trent.

This was the first year I was able to watch a performance purely as an audience member, having previously helped out with the technical crew behind the scenes, and regrettably missing last year’s performance due to baby duties!

What a year I chose to come and watch.

‘Man Up’ was pitched as “A gritty, humorous & revealing performance from the frontlines of masculinity & mental health.” (https://www.restoke.org.uk/man-up/), a strapline that is entirely accurate, but could not possibly convey the emotional heft and punch that we felt in the audience.

Almost radiating from the stage, there was a palpable energy in that room as the cast shared interpretations of their struggles with the concept of masculinity, identity and mental health.

And for what reason? Well, that was made clear early in the night: Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50. The prison and homeless population is predominantly male. These facts are the surface reality of deep, social questions that we need productions like this to ask.

The received image of masculinity is that men are not great at talking, at sharing their feelings, at ‘connecting’ with their emotions. At worse, it is almost as if we should purposefully avoid doing so. Yet I just watched a group of men from all walks of life, who started this process as strangers, literally perform their anxieties, their stories, their hopes and fears, together, to yet more strangers.

If that’s not talking about your feelings, I don’t know what is.

This was exceptional in many senses. It was an exceptional production, but it was also an exceptional opportunity for those few who chose to share and see the process through. The hope, I would think, is that focussing on these issues will help conversations happen more regularly in ‘real’ life, whatever that means to each of us.

I certainly heard a lot of stories of audience members inspired to check in with friends, family, or even colleagues who might be needing an opportunity of their own to share, to reach out, to be heard, to be helped. And although these stories came from men who had experienced the extreme edges of mental health, there are none of us immune to the possibility of finding ourselves in those same places.

Mental health, like physical health, is a scale that we can all move up and down, and if society’s preconceived notions of gender identity are causing men to not seek the help they need, then we need to challenge and change society, in whatever way we can, even if that is simply telling someone that it is okay to talk about it.

Find out more about Restoke and their work here: https://www.restoke.org.uk/

Explore The Beatles – My pick of lesser known album tracks.

beatles

If you didn’t catch Part 1 of this blog (https://garryabbott.com/2014/05/13/access-the-beatles-part-1/) – here is part two of my attempt to share some of the lesser known album tracks by The Beatles that I think will enrich and enhance people’s appreciation for what they did for western music.

My full introduction can be found on part 1 – but just to reiterate a little: for those of you who have a good understanding of the Beatles catalogue, this blog may not be so revelatory, but hey, if you think these songs are cool already, then here’s a good excuse to revisit them!

For those of you (I guess quite a lot) who are aware of The Beatles number one records and most popular tunes, I think you may find that some of these songs will surprise you.

When I listen to these songs, I hear modern music. I hear the inspirations and experimentations that have shaped generations of artists. I hope you will too.

Note – I’m working chronologically following on from the last blog, hence numbers start at ‘6’.

 

6. I’m A Loser (Beatles for Sale – 1964)

I think this is the only song from ‘Beatles for Sale’ I’m going to include here. The album is great, and every song hints at the flexing of musical muscles they were building up at the time, but as a stand-out example, ‘I’m a Loser’ demonstrates the self-awareness that Lennon would go on to use (exploit?) to give his song’s meaning.

Meaning is sadly lost from a lot of modern popular music. The Beatles in part started this with a lot of songs that centred around pretty two dimensional love scenarios (She loves you, I want to hold your hand, from me to you etc…). The difference however, is that they were aware of this, and wanted to find better ways to express themselves. In this song, Lennon turns the lens on himself. It stills centre’s around a pretty banal situation (unrequited love), but shifting the focus and giving us hints of the ‘man behind the mask’ begins to introduce a depth of meaning (“although I laugh and I act like a clown, under this mask I am wearing a frown”).

Musically the song is, once again, nicely juxtaposed with the theme of the lyrics. There is obvious Bob Dylan influence here, and I fancy you can even hear Lennon trying his best to sound like him (especially in the harmonica section!). Using influences and making them your own is a huge part of a healthy creative process, as evidenced here.

 

7. I’ve Just Seen a Face (Help! 1965)

This is the only song I will offer from ‘Help!’ – mainly because the film and the album combined make many of them already so well known (Ticket to Ride, Hide Your Love Away, Help, Another Girl…)

‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’ is another foray into folk/country music, keeping us in theme with the last. It’s more jaunty, goes at a great pace, and goes to show that when they wanted to, The Beatles could do this style just as well as any band who were dedicated to the genre. This is another aspect that I think marked them out – they could cross genre’s with ease, almost like they were playing with them for fun. That shows understanding and talent, but more importantly, leads to catchy little numbers like this one!

Musically, I can imagine this song done as a slow ballad, a mid-tempo rock song, or even a fast thrash punk song! I reckon that’s a good clue to knowing when the foundations of your compositions are solid: when you can ‘hear it’ in different modes. Also – check out the introduction!

 

8. Think For Yourself (Rubber Soul, 1965)

George Harrison’s ‘Think For Yourself’ is a song of firsts. It was his fist none love song, and also the first song to feature a fuzz bass (possibly ever, but don’t quote me on that).

Here we see George Harrison start to look inwards and outwards, urging his listeners to make their own mind’s up about the lies and promises of the world, a theme that I guess took him on his spiritual journey and the study of Eastern thinking and spirituality.

The vocals are gorgeous. I can’t find a video of the harmonies isolated (though I’m sure that exists somewhere) – but just listen to the precise yet hauntingly slurring slide down the harmonic range accompanying each second line (also check out ‘If I needed someone’ on the same album for another example of this). It conveys a message, and it sounds cool. What’s not to like?

 

9. In My Life (Rubber Soul, 1965)

Okay, so many people may already know this song, but it’s worth putting it here even if it only reaches one person who hasn’t.

I haven’t much to say about Lennon’s melancholic masterpiece that can’t be understood just by listening to it. It’s the kind of song that brings tears to your eyes if you’ve ever lost anything that was dear to you. Lennon had his fair share of that, and even though this could be construed as a love song, I think it is primarily a lament for anything lost.

The use of the harpsichord for the solo is inspired, and shows a generosity by The Beatles in orchestration and allowing George Martin (the producer) to contribute. Without this, they couldn’t have developed like they did as their compositions transcended the need for strict format guitar solos and arrangements.

 

10. She Said She Said (Revolver, 1966)

As someone who grew up in the nineties and had my modern musical faith restored with the indie/Britpop resurgence that took us into the 21st Century, it is songs like ‘She Said She Said’ by the Beatles that made me wonder why it took so long to come back around. They had done it already. It was like everybody had forgotten and thought they were doing it for the first time. There is a line between rock, rock and roll, pop, and what we might recognise as ‘indie’ music today. The Beatles walked across all of them.

Musically – I think Ringo silence’s his critics in this song. As a former skiffle drummer, you can hear him ride the toms off the snare after nearly every phrase in a fusion of old and new that brings the song together. Interestingly, this is the only song not to feature McCartney: Harrison is playing bass! (I never knew that – the wonders of Wikipedia eh?)

 

Thanks for dropping by. More to follow at a date yet unspecified! Next week I am on holiday, so probably no blog – see you again soon!

Access The Beatles. Part 1.

Image

Something I haven’t talked about much on here is my love of the Beatles. I am a big Beatles fan. It’s not something I externalise much: I don’t buy Beatles duvet’s or plaster my walls with pictures, but I do, and have always, loved their music. They are a big influence on me.

One thing I’ve always wanted to do is point out a few tracks that aren’t so well known by none-Beatles fans. Obviously their catalogue is HUGE, but many people (I suspect) are more aware of the major singles and songs that have been covered and popularised by other bands (especially following the ‘1’ album that captured the imagination of a whole new generation some years ago featuring all the re-mastered number 1 singles).

So today’s post is going to be a few links to Youtube videos of less well know songs, and why I like them. If people like this post I will do another. I’m not particularly ranking these in any order of preference  – just picking some out that I think will surprise and delight newbie and die hard Beatles fans alike. (something for everybody, see?)

Let’s get started then with the first five (I’ll do more if you like it!). I’m working chronologically due to me referring back to album lists! By the way, unless stated otherwise, presume Lennon/McCartney for writing credits.

 

1. Ask Me Why (Please Please Me) 1963

First up, I’m only picking one from the debut album ‘Please Please Me’ – mainly because only half of the album was written by The Beatles, and most of the others are so well known now it would defeat the point of this post!

WHY GARRY, WHY?!

Because it demonstrates (even this early on) the Beatles use of close harmony, and deviation from standard Rock ‘n’ Roll, which leads to the kind of progressive song writing that I will be featuring!

 

2. It Won’t Be Long (With The Beatles) 1963

Next up, the opening track of ‘With The Beatles’ (second album), and definitely not the only one from this Album to feature here!

BUT MY GOD GARRY, WHY?!

The opening! The call and response of the chorus vocals which belts straight in, bouncing across the stereo, and then smoothing out into story-verses (all underpinned by the simple yet distinctive descending guitar riff at each section break).

 

3. Don’t Bother Me (Harrison) (With The Beatles) 1963

From the same album, George Harrison’s first writing credit.

EXPLAIN! I DEMAND YOU EXPLAIN!

Well, George Harrison must have had a hell of a time getting heard in these early days (even in later years this same problem led to him temporarily leaving the band). But this early outing is  a belter, and much opposed to the mop-top ‘whoooo!’ image of the time. It is gritty and angry, almost uncomfortably so, and this is expertly reflected in the arrangement and performance. Don’t you think?

 

4. Any Time At All (A Hard Day’s Night) 1964

Okay, things get a bit confusing with Album release if you’re trying to follow them through Wikipedia – so I’m sticking with UK releases, making this album #3 (feel free to correct me).

SO WHADDA YOU GO PICKED THIS ONE FOR EH?

A bit like ‘It Won’t Be Long’ – this just kicks straight in with a hook that drags you (or me, or all of us) into the song without a second to realise it. Just imagine this really heavy. There is still a skiffle/folk feel to the interlinking verses, but they just serve to lull you into the screaming chorus (and a brilliantly composed solo, hinting at the clever instrumentation that would come to define later studio work).

 

5.And I Love Her (A Hard Day’s Night) 1964

The next one from A Hard Day’s Night.

EXPLAIN YOURSELF YOUNG MAN!

Well, McCartney is getting into his stride writing the kind of songs here that seem to squeeze you like an emotional sponge. All the while he is singing, “I know this love of mine, will never die, and I love her” – the music is saying something else, something along the lines of “this love thing makes me want to despair for my very existence in anguished contradiction”. Which is brilliant. And then there is the arpeggio classical guitar backing and solo from Harrison, and yet another brilliant run down defining section changes. It’s a sad beauty.

 

Conclusion:

I could do this all day – but the blog would be very long, and I already write blogs that are too long which don’t involve 15 minutes or so of music! I’m sure plenty of people will be familiar with these songs, but still, some won’t, and it’s nice to give the less well-known tracks an airing, even if it is on my modest little blog.

If people like this, I shall do more, five at a time, over the coming weeks. Let me know by liking, commenting or just reading the page! (which, if you’re at this point, you already have done, so well done and thank you!)

 

About me:

I am a writer and musician from Staffordshire UK, currently touting my first published eBook ‘The Dimension Scales and Other Stories’ which can be found in these places. Please have a little look!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Dimension-Scales-Other-Stories-ebook/dp/B00JW1KMUG

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Dimension-Scales-Other-Stories-ebook/dp/B00JW1KMUG

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/dimension-scales-other-stories/id862470105?mt=11

… and KOBO, NOOK and Barnes & Noble too! (just search for the title!).