Behind the album // O Joyce

Updated: 7 days ago

This is the eighth 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 8 - O JOYCE

(A macaw)

More illustrative wonderfulness from Roomer Animations

WHAT I WROTE IN 2014

Around Springtime I remember somebody (I can't remember who) talking about a macaw owned by a friend of theirs.
Apparently macaws live for a very long time and this one had been around for donkey's years (or macaw's years I suppose).
This macaw used to say often the phrase: "Make us a cup of tea, Joyce!"
Not unusual for one of these birds to mimic human speech however what interested me was that Joyce was apparently the long dead grandmother of the current owner and that the mother remembered her grandmother (Joyce's mother and the current owner's great grandmother) saying this to Joyce.
The bird was quoting the matriarch from beyond the grave.

WRITING IN 2022

Well I have since remembered that it was Zena, the former landlady at Salford’s Kings Arms (pub/venue/fringe theatre box) who was relating to me the story of their friend’s macaw. I was pretty taken with the story and especially the concept of this matriarchal voice echoing down the generations.


I tried an exercise in filling in some of the details through these three to four time periods but substituting in the women of my own family… with Joyce being an analogue for my grandmother, Val (her own mother being a BIG fan of gin and rummy. She would teach us kids a game called Spite & Malice so she could roundly whip us all at it while laughing and sipping her drink). She then in turn shares a verse with my own mother and so on down the years with my sister featuring in Verse 3.



PRODUCTION

Even when I was writing it, it felt like a Harry Nilsson song. Those lovely sprawling story songs like ‘Good Old Desk’ sprang to mind. Andy Lyth cottoned on with the drums quite quickly and got a wonderfully Seventies drum sound. After a brief experiment with some Super Furry-style ‘fuzz bass’ (perhaps still taken by the SFA lilt of ‘Bee on a String’) which didn’t quite work, Daz Woodcock’s eventual bass danced around those drums nicely keeping pleasingly varied throughout.


Between Daz and myself, we added some Rhodes and some organs but then we hit a roadblock. We could not get the electric guitar to sit right in this arrangement. I had poor Cleg try everything and the kitchen sink… he tried a simple arrangement at first, and even some stuff on his Talk Box. The Chorus parts sat quite nicely but almost everything we tried with the Intro, the Verses, and the Middle 8 travelled too far into Vaudeville/Music Hall/Oom-pa-pa-land. I’ll write more about this balancing act in the next blog as ‘Mr Simm’s Olde Sweet Shoppe (Rights Reserved)’ was another minefield for it.


Given the Nilsson/70’s feel of the track, I thought looking at adjacent creative artists might help… Cleg tried various parts in the style of Supertramp (‘Breakfast In America’), Steely Dan (‘Haitian Divorce’), and I think even Blue Mink (‘Good Morning Freedom'). Some stuff was arresting, some kind of worked but nothing really broke that arrangement deadlock. You get that sometimes with a track.


In the end I added a Melodica riff which led Garreth’s horn accompaniment and we scrubbed Cleg’s guitar part (sorry Cleg!) as even though the Chorus was working, it felt too offputting only having it in the Choruses.


My dreams of having a Talk Box song in the catalogue are still alive. Maybe next album eh?


FURTHER LISTENING


‘Good Morning Freedom’ by Blue Mink



Thanks for reading

Next up: Mr Simm’s Olde Sweet Shoppe (Rights Reserved)

Previous post: Bee on a String



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