This is the tenth of my ongoing series of blog posts on the Making Of my new album as Granfalloon, Calendar - Volume 1. To read the first in the series go here.
Track 10 - ALL MY OLD LOVERS (LIVE ON THE SAME STREET NOW)
(Life in a small town)
Are we at track 10 already? Where is the year going?
In 2014 I’d just moved to Manchester (for a second time) and was enjoying the double edged sword of anonymity in a bigger city. ‘AMOL’ (as I’ve taken to calling this song for short*) was a reflection of that feeling when everyone is so connected with each other’s personal lives that things get messy. It’s something I’m sure everyone who’s been part of a small community has experienced. Shrinking that community down to a single street was a fun concept to play with lyrically.
This is the second of the two tracks from the first studio sessions for Calendar Volume I, which took place at Futureworks Studios in Salford under the watchful eye (listenful ear?) of Paul Morrice AKA Cynthia’s Periscope.
Paul “had in mind the likes of Nils Frahms and Apparat” when it came to the recording of these two songs. At that time, Granfalloon was a more electronic proposition but the years of lockdown made me yearn for human contact and organic instruments more and more. There are a few nods in that direction on this track but it’s mainly a swampy synth arpeggio and my Omnnichord George’s** sole appearance on the album (the least on any album since I discovered the Omnichord in 2011.
I didn’t change a great deal about the original structure of the song, I really enjoy playing the chords in the Chorus… lots of quite surprising transitions, especially the inclusion of the Cmajor7 and the F#major.
Arranging the strings for this was a very pleasurable experience as well. Many thanks to Ellie Boney (cello) and George Burrage (violin) for their performances on this. Tim Davies and Jack Wakeman played drums and bass respectively, I think I played them ‘Coles Corner’ by Richard Hawely beforehand to give an idea of the feel I wanted. I used to listen to ‘Coles Corner’ fifty times a day back in 2007 when I first attempted to move to Manchester.
The lyrics to the Hawley song go…
I'm going downtown where there's music,
I'm going where voices fill the air,
Maybe there's someone waiting for me
With a smile and a flower in her hair
I'm going downtown where there's people
The loneliness hangs in the air.
With no-one there real waiting for me,
No smile, no flower, nowhere.
It’s a gorgeous song; rich and deep and haunting.
Thinking about it now, when I moved to Manchester in 2007 I was craving connection. That double edged sword of the anonymity of the big city can make it a solitary place. I tried hard but couldn’t quite seem to find where I fitted. It’s not really something I feel like I’ve managed at the second attempt to find a home here either (not in the same way that I did in Preston) but I think everyone feels like this at turns in their life.
Anyway, it’s of small but interesting note (to me) how ‘AMOL’ is about feeling like you are TOO well connected in a small town while ‘Cole’s Corner’ seems to touch on the loneliness felt in a big city and that desire for connection.
Lyrically ‘AMOL’ remains almost unchanged from 2014 apart from one line which was originally… “Maggie moved onto this street last July/Though it feels like she’s been here for years/At number 52 to match her I.Q./But she promises she’s leaving soon.”
The line was supposed to demonstrate the obstinacy and bullishness of the character in question but time spent considering it always left me with that ‘squinky’ feeling that it was a touch misogynistic. After auditioning a few different options I settled on “At number 54 like a mule on the first floor…”, after the premise of the proverbial ‘donkey stuck up the minaret’*** living in a house on the street made me chuckle.
'Cole’s Corner' by Richard Hawley
Next up: A Year After The Party Died
Previous post: Mr Simm's Olde Sweet Shoppe (rights reserved)
*The shorthand is also due to my partial embarrassment at the title of the song. I mean… ‘All My Old Lovers (live on the same street now)’? Who did I think I was? This might be the sort of title Leonard Cohen could get away with but I always get caught between it being a fitting title and the pretentiousness of it. In the end I embraced the hubris (it’s better than ‘This Is No Place To Heal’) but I call it by the abbreviation most of the time and I designed the album colour scheme of the back cover so as to make the full title almost imperceptible. O sweet self consciousness.
**My Omnichords are called: George, Bonnie, Clyde, and Suzi Q. George is named for George Orwell as the model was made in 1984 (to make a hollow laughing).
***This is originally an Arabic proverb but I think I discovered it while reading Terry Pratchett’s ‘Jingo’. Looking back over my work, it’s interesting to see how big an influence Pratchett was on my writing. ‘Wag’ from my much re-recorded first album is almost entirely a Pratchett concept ripped wholesale and put to work as my metaphor for unrequited love.