January 31, 2018

Minor secrets of "So Long, Sucker" revealed

A song for Woden. Happy Wednesday.

This is from a show in Southampton, England, July 8th 1992, where we played in front a few dozen wild, shouting, vibrating teenagers, one of whom happened to have a running camcorder in his hand. It's pretty rough, but so were we, and for all its flaws it's probably the best live video document in existence of that era of MTX.

Lots to tell about that strange and awkwardly miraculous first overseas trip, and I'm sure I'll get around to telling some of it here. I may not do each and every song as I did with the RCKNDY show, but I will extract at least a few to comment on, after which I'll post the whole set. (Aaron already posted it a ways back, but I'm going to dribble it out a bit because people seem to like the commentary and it's fun for me too. Also, I want people to go to my youtube channel and like and subscribe and share and such, so yeah, do that if you care to.)

The rudiments of "So Long, Sucker" go back to my high school pretending-to-be-in-a-band days where it kicked around half-unwritten under various titles. How we came to record a version of it in 1989 for our first release on Lookout Records is a little obscure to me now. When we started playing it out loud as a band, it became clear that the chorus was in the wrong key for me, in that the poorly amplified notes as sung were too low to be heard over the racket of the drums and guitars. This is actually quite a common problem for people who do their songwriting in their bedrooms or in their heads (and also, I believe, why rock vocalists tended to get higher and screechier as the rock got "heavier" in the real show business world in late 60s and beyond -- but that's an argument for another time.)

Anyway, the thing you do in this situation is to start moving the base chord up the neck till you get to the point where your weak vocals stand a chance of being heard in the part you're worried about. And sometimes, unfortunately, the result of doing that is that solving the problem of the chorus simply makes other parts of the song suddenly un-singable. The technical term for this process is Vocal Whack-a-mole. It shows nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless. (Still have un-done songs I "can't find the key for" kicking around... it's not easy being an "unconventional vocalist," though it's better than digging a ditch, I suppose.)

The solution here was simply to change the key for the chorus and then play it that way all the way to the end, replacing the suddenly un-singable third verse with some solos. Not going back to the E from the A on that riff felt and sounded really, really weird the first few times, though it doesn't now. It was a pretty crude solution, and a gimmick you can probably only do once. Not that it matters a great deal what you do, big picture, but you get what I'm saying.

One more minor point. If any listeners have ever noticed that the second verse is a literal quotation of the lyrics of the first half of the bridge of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" they have yet to mention it to me.
Anyways, there you have it. This performance is frenetic which is a technical term meaning "too fast," but it has a certain punk rock ness about it. Probably helps to be extremely drunk while listening, which was how it was in the room. I'll to do another next week. Praise Odin.

Posted by Dr. Frank at January 31, 2018 09:36 PM