Song: Evolution

This is from a series of posts about songs from my album, Broken Open.

Writing

Broken Open begins with the track Evolution

As opposed to the idea that I am the creator of these songs, my experience of songwriting would be more accurately described as “tuning in” to a song that already exists “out there” in some other realm.  My job then, is merely to find a way to translate it into a form that can be shared in the physical world.

The seeds of this song began appearing in my consciousness about a decade ago.  I came up with the riff that begins the chorus section and some vague lyrics about “the sound of a revolution” but I didn’t get too far with that idea and so the song just layed unfinished for a long time.

As I was starting to write songs for this new collection, I started to get the feeling that a big change in my life was coming and the lyrics of the song began coming out and started to reflect the idea that a personal evolution/revolution was about to take place.  I had no idea what this meant at the time I was writing it but I was about to find out.

There’s a funny thing about evolution
It creeps up on you from behind
Get ready for a brand new revolution
And it’s all inside your mind

The first verse is talking about this deep longing I’ve always had to understand what the hell is going on here on this planet.  I’ve never been able to shake this feeling that there’s a deeper level to existence and that we are only provided glimpses of from time to time.

I’ve been searching for it all my life
The final solution
Take a trip beyond the veil of time
Beyond the illusion

The second verse includes the higher-level reflection of this personal evolution…

This whole world is confusing to me
And I don’t know why
First you see us crawl out of the ocean
Then we take to the sky

The lyrics of the last section of the song were inspired by a news report I happened to catch about snipers in some war-torn city who were shooting random people from their perch on rooftops of tall buildings.  It made me wonder what would motivate a person to do spend their time in that way and if they knew that this was their very last day on earth would they choose to spend their precious time on earth in a different way.

But where is the future that you want to go to?
I’d like to know
If you had just one day here
How would you defend the time that you’d spend?
Would it be a good one?
For everyone?

It’s funny that I’ve always thought of the second half of this song as “the bridge”, since if that’s the case, it’s  a bridge to nowhere in that the song ends as soon as it returns to the original key and somewhat abruptly ends.

The lyrics of the final ”coda” section expose my uncertain feelings about where this  process of  personal evolution and indeed the evolution of our species is headed.

If you had just one day here…
And I wonder in time
if we’ll survive

Recording

I began the recording process by recording myself singing with acoustic guitar (Guild D52 NT Dreadnaught) along to a click track. I then laid down some electric guitar and bass before bringing the tracks to Rich Pagano’s New Calcutta recording studio in NYC for him to lay down the drum tracks.

I love recording with Rich Pagano since picks up on the groove I have going on in my head without my having to direct him.  In the few cases where he has lays down something different than what I had orignally envisioned, his drum part never ceases to grow on me.

At Rich Pagano’s suggestion, I re-recorded the bass once his drum tracks were laid down.  While the original track was okay, I was much better able to lock into a groove playing along with the drum track once it was recorded.  After this experience, I realized that the best results would usually come when I had the drum tracks laid down as early in the recording process as possible and then layering the other instruments on top of that solid foundation.

Rich Lamb recorded his piano and organ tracks after the electric rhythm guitar part (Fender Stratocaster) were finalized.  He recorded two different takes of the organ solo and I found that they really worked well together so you are hearing both organ tracks at once during the organ solo section.

Style

Listening to the finished song, I can hear the influence of the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” especially in the backing vocals. John Lennon has been a huge influence on my vocal style since I grew up listening to and singing along with The Beatles and their later period songs were always the ones that really drew me in.

The electric guitar riff that introduces the chorus reminds me a little of Lynyrd Skynrd for some reason (“Sweet Home Alabama” maybe?)

I love those organ heavy sixties tracks by bands The Doors and Iron Butterfly so that was the inspiration for having some organ in that first solo bit.

Far and away, my biggest influence on guitar has been Jimi Hendrix and I think that comes through both in the backwards intro and also in the closing solo (someone compared my guitar tone to Jimi’s “The Wind Cries Mary”). A Fender Stratocaster through a Marshall amp is my favorite sound on earth.