This is from a series of posts about songs from my album, Broken Open.
Broken Open‘s fourth track is Distraction.
The roots of this song go back to my college days at MIT when I was obsessing over a woman with whom I had a brief relationship. Surely just about everyone has had the experience of falling in love with someone and not being able to get them off your mind. It’s pleasant enough – especially at first – but there is also a dark side…
I’ve been going crazy
Since I saw you baby
I’ve been thinking maybe
I can find a way for me to get free
Of this obsession that’s surrounding me
But I just can’t see
Anything but what you mean to me
You’re driving me to distraction
Can’t concentrate on anything
You’re driving me to distraction
Can’t concentrate on anything but you
The chorus of the song started out as a bass riff that my bandmate, Alex Rosen, came up with. He used to play bass with no amp while working at the Senior House front desk (the dormitory we lived at) so he could practice during free moments. He came up with quite a few bass riffs during those times and he would bring them to jams to see if we could develop them into songs. All of my compostions with Alex were done that way: Spontaneous Combustion, Ellen with the Squinty Eyes, Let Your Love and Pull The Plug.
Working up some chords to go with Alex’s bass riff, I managed to came up with the chorus lyrics, trying to describe was going on for me at the time. For a while music was the only thing strong enough to break through that spell I was under. Although I really liked the hook in the chorus, I was never too impressed with the meandering verse section we came up at the time.
When I was putting songs together for this album, I remembered another jam we used to play that had no words. It had a nice hypnotic groove and some interesting rhythms and I remember how we’d play it over and over going around and around. At some point, I realized that it worked perfectly as a replacement for the original verse section and the final version of this song was born.
Don’t know if it’s showing
But my confusion’s growing
Don’t know where I’m going
I got no way of knowing if I’ll ever get free
This song was a lot of fun to record because I got to play the kind of grinding rhythm that always feels satisfying. Rich Lamb came up with a great simple piano part – I suggested a 50’s rock and roll kind of thing. The hammering drum part that Rich Pagano came up with as it moves into the chorus and also the way that he returns to a more straight ahead beat at the very end of the song are also great touches.
I had a blast making car sounds that fly around your head during the break before the guitar solo. I got that sound by playing my strat with lots of whammy bar action through a Fulltone 70’s pedal (silicon fuzzface distortion) into a Fulltone Dejavibe (univibe clone) and then into a cranked marshall amp.
The grind at the beginning reminds me a little of the Smithereens – one of their early hits – I forget the name.
The inspiration for the car sounds comes Jimi Hendrix’s car crash guitar freakout at the end of “House Burning Down”– – definitely one of my favorite Jimi Hendrix ‘moments’.
The solo at the end reminds me bit of Eric Clapton with a little Stevie Ray Vaughan – classic blues riffs passed down through the ages.