“I started thinking, ‘You know what? Why don’t I just rap?’ Because it’s just poetry with a beat behind it, really.”
Lady Leshurr in The Guardian.
If you’re a musician, a songwriter, or simply a lover of music, you’ll find Paul McCartney’s extended interview/Q&A on BBC Radio 4’s “Mastertapes” fascinating.
The longer, downloadable radio version is here.
The video version is edited, with about 10 minutes removed, so, if you like A Day in the Life, find 24:25 minutes into the radio interview. McCartney talks about the shared songwriting with Lennon, about John Cage’s influence on the sound and about George Martin persuading the orchestra to follow unusual musical instructions. Paul says one member of the orchestra walked out in disgust when he was asked to ‘clap on the end of Hey Jude‘.
There’s something for everyone! If you teach music to children, Paul has suggestions for inspiring lessons here.
© Sing Better English, 2016
A happy word sung sadly is sadder than a sad word sung sadly. Song titles like The Weeping Song or Broken Dream give us fair warning. We’re ready for a story of hope crushed by time or tragedy. The singer can deepen what we already expect, but they can’t turn our expectation upside-down. A Broken Dream can’t be fixed in a song Weeping can’t disguise itself as laughter. Sad words are sad words.
But what do you expect from a song called Cartwheels? Joy and spontaneous exuberance? The innocent, happy whirl of love’s first days or weeks? Watch Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas sing the word cartwheels into sorrow. How? Listen for the catch in the voice on the ar of cartwheels. It throws a shadow on shared memory of carefree love:
When Cilla Black sang Liverpool Lullaby in 1969, she was more famous than the Beatles, 23, with her own TV show. She stands on the TV stage, in her high fashion mini-skirt, and forces us to disbelieve our eyes. She uses all the word-weighing power of the storyteller to pull us deep into the story of her song.
Somehow she convinces us, for 3 minutes, that we’re hearing a penniless mother soothing her young son to sleep while she waits for her husband to come home, late again, from the boozer.
One question: is it the 5th word – mucky – that switches off your eyes and turns on your ears?
Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys is famous for playing glorious games with the English language. If you’re covering an Arctic Monkeys’ song, make sure you know which words carry double meanings, so that you put emphasis in the right places.
Think of Piledriver Waltz: Alex uses misdirection to set up expectation. He places you in the back booth of a run-down hotel: By the pamphlets and the literature/On how to lose … What’s the next word? I bet you guessed weight. And Alex gives you the word you’re expecting, or at least its sound. Then he has fun: