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Behind Calendar II // Why Bury Me in the Graveyard?

Updated: Feb 16

This is the second of my ongoing series of blog posts on the Making Of my new album as Granfalloon, Calendar - Chapter 2. To read my Making Of series for Volume 1, go here.


TRACK 2: WHY BURY ME IN THE GRAVEYARD?

(Thoughts on becoming a tree)





OPENING RAMBLE

Burial rites are something I find endlessly fascinating. Whatever one might feel about organised (or disorganised) religion, the place of burial rites within them serves an important function. The rituals we’ve somehow moved towards and settled on might be rooted in the mystical but when you boil them down, you can see very distinctly the purpose they serve in providing us closure for our departed loved ones.


I have a particularly strong memory of my grandmother Pearl’s burial, which took place in November of 2010. Snow had fallen and settled thick across the cemetery. It’s a part of Jewish burial practice for each griever to aid in the filling of the grave. This might strike you as morbid at first thought but I’m fundamentally convinced of its motivation. When I approached the grave and, as the only male member of the bereaved who was under 60, was shown a shovel sticking out of a mound of earth, I picked it up and began shovelling.


Common practice is for you to only do one or two ceremonial (shovellings) but almost in a fugue state I began shovelling and didn’t stop. The manual labour of displacing the earth, the sweat pouring off me, the heat that I felt, my fingers were still numb but the snow didn’t bother me in the slightest, and afterwards I felt a great refreshment… catharsis is a word that gets tossed around too lightly but that’s how I would describe it. One of the few moments in my life I’ve felt true catharsis.*


Since that day I’ve been utterly convinced that funerals and all of the accoutrement that goes with them are necessary to the functioning of the human brain and its processing of the concept of death.


There's a wonderful video for this song made by Roomer Animations. See here now...





WRITING IN 2014

The deadline for this song was the 19th March 2014 which means that this was the eleventh song I wrote that year? Let’s dust off the journal and see what that says…


Chosen by the mystery partner in this song-a-week challenge, I think because when I asked for the topic, the only thing they could see was a road and a tree. 


Luckily another one of those wonderful moments of happenstance occurred to save us from a boring descriptive song about the Willow tree on Avenham park. 


A friend of mine happened to mention that when they died, their wish was to be cremated and turned into a tree which apparently is something you can do now. The cogs started a-whirring and some enough the song was written.


As we all know, my mystery partner in this challenge has been revealed to be country singer Jess Roberts and she chose for us to write about a tree. In 2014 I believe I was fully ensconced in my South Manchester life but I was popping back regularly to my spiritual home of Preston and especially to the erstwhile ‘Mad’ Ferret (now just The Ferret).


It would have been the week leading up to the 19th March that I visited Preston and it’s highly probable that I was playing a show there that night. I remember falling into a long discussion with my friend Charlotte about burial practices and she introduced me to this idea that she was keen on. That instead of being buried in a cemetery or cremated when she died, Charlotte wanted to be planted as a tree.


It’s certainly a romantic notion. And one filled with all the “good intentions of doing good” that we crave in this environmentally conscious age. I liked the notion. It seemed like fertile ground for a song.**


I’m fairly certain I sat down to write the song on a Sunday. In a year when you’re planning on writing a song every week, you have to keep a fairly tight schedule and you can’t really afford to take any sick days. However I remember coming down with a downright bloody horrendous whooping cough that week! O I was a little horse alright… and if I can track down the original recording you’ll be able to hear my best pony impersonations.


This will definitely have affected my writing process, not least because I tend to sing the parts I’m thinking of and if I’m not able to do that will have a limiting effect. That certainly explains the rather limited melodic movements of the Verse from D minor to A major, not that there’s anything wrong with two-chord songs… Some of my best friends have been two-chord songs. (Signed DC, Roadrunner, Dreams, Use Me, So What, 54-46, Astral Weeks… to name but a few.)


Listening back to the original 2014 recording I quite like the three note motif that establishes the verse before moving into a climbing section and repeating the first line is very nice but it does get needlessly clumsy on a lyrical front. It seems I’m desperate to tell anyone listening how many species of tree I can name… Bartek oak? Willow? Spruce? Bosnian pine? You want famous trees? Caesar tethered his horse to a tree once. Shakespeare probably wrote about them in some play or a sonnet or something right?


It appears I go into free form autopilot on the Middle 8 as well… sacking off any melody at all in favour of a spoken word section. This may be down to my bout of Manfluenza that week but it’s more likely that I just couldn’t be bothered to make that section particularly melodic.


Wanna hear?




MEANWHILE IN 2023

There are clearly some facets of the original I liked. Both the 2014 version and the 2023 version start with the lyric “When I die…” and I do appreciate the simplicity of that. There’s something satisfying in writing about death in an uncomplicated way.***


But I was willing to detonate the original song and start from scratch in Lobelia’s studio in early 2023. We sat across from each other playing with ideas. I remember that the original idea for the riff that formed much of the Verse was Lo’s. The moment she started playing it, a tiny firework display went off inside my head. I didn’t need complicated lyrics for this, or an endless list of breeds of tree. I just needed that riff and to keep things simple.


Simple didn’t last for long, once we got to the pre-chorus. Statement of fact #1. Lobelia Lawson is a wonderful guitarist. Statement of fact #2. Lobelia Lawson is as endlessly fascinated with open tunings as I am with burial rites.


Lo plays this song on her Tenor guitar (Abby) with CGCG tuning. This makes for some very interesting guitar work on her part but for a dyed in the wool Chord-fiend such as myself, it makes it devilishly difficult to figure out what she’s playing from looking at her hands and thus I would have to stop her flow and figure out exactly what notes she was playing so I could harmonise accordingly. We got there in the end though and those stacked notes were very intriguing to us both… not only that… they formed a great jumping off point for the strings parts when I came to arranging that. Speaking of…





That strings arrangement eh?


I’d love to say I knew what I was doing; that there are considered theoretical reasons behind my string arrangement for ‘Why Bury Me…’ but the truth is that it was one of those gorgeous moments in songwriting that you’re always shooting for. I just sat down and heard everything. The whole tiny string arrangement was there playing in my brain. It was just waiting for me. I could hardly get the ideas down fast enough, so worried was I, that they’d escape. And once those ideas were down it was really clear what a monster this tune was.


Hazel Watson and Lucy McLuckie are on viola and cello (as they are for most of the record) and damn did we have fun recording this one.


I sign off here as it’s another long one but welcome back to my songwriting blog and happy 2024! You wonderful Patreon and Bandcamp subscribers can look forward to one of these each month. Hopefully you find something interesting in them as I enjoy writing them. See you next time!


FURTHER LISTENING


On Youtube...



On that devil Spotify...




FOOTNOTES


*You might recognise this situation as being the inspiration for the lyrics in the second verse of 'RUExperienced?' from Calendar - Volume I.


**This has happened two blogs in a row now. Is anyone going to believe that wasn’t an intentional pun? Honestly unintentional. Maybe there’ll be one unintentional pun every time…


***Before complicating the Effing Jefferson out of it.


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