Tag Archives: the Rolling Stones

What the Stranglers did to their Diphthongs

R.I.P. Dave Greenfield. Keyboardist, songwriter and singer.

When you listen to the Stranglers’ song Golden Brown, pay close attention to the way Hugh Conwell sings the word brown:

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Fire – Five Ways

English words are like onions, when you sing. Chop them, roast them whole, caramelise them, scatter them as crunchy red raw rings on a salad. They never stop being onions, but you’re in charge of the flavour and the texture they provide.

Fire is a classic onion. We all know what fire is. It’s the singer’s job to make us feel what fire ‘is’ in their song.

Arthur Brown sings a powerful, all-encompassing fire. The fire of myth. Wicker Man, Hell-fire, Prometheus. Fire as pure element. Fi-ya:

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Change One Small Thing, Change Everything

How to cover a famous English song like Can’t Get No Satisfaction and make it your own? It’s Mick Jagger’s voice that your audience will hear, as the opening chords set their memories alight.

Do a tango version or sing it as a waltz; it doesn’t matter. Your audience have Mick in their ears. What if you snatch just one tiny word from the chorus and shake it out of Mick’s reach?

Listen to Mercury Prize shortlisted ESKA bending Mick Jagger’s no into a shape all her own, to call her audience to attention:

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Can you or can’t you? Your audience needs to know

When you sing in English, be kind to your audience. They rely on you to be clear, especially when you sing words with opposite meanings but similar sounds, like can and can’t. Without your help, they won’t know which word you’re singing. The confusion will distract them. They won’t relax until they’re sure whether you can or can’t feel it in the air tonight. You’ll upset them if you sing “You can’t leave your hat on” or “We can stop” or “Baby, you can’t drive my car” by mistake.

If the difference between can and can’t isn’t clear to you, how do you make it clear to your audience?  First, focus in on the sound. Watch Los Bravos singing Black is Black. How many times do you hear the word can and how many times do you hear can’t?  By the way – where do you think the singer is from?:

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