The wind machine will blow your hair.

I have a real piano at long last. Well, I don’t technically have it yet. It’ll probably be a week or two before it’s physically over here. But the legwork has been done. Rejoice!

In celebration of the impending piano goodness (and finally being able to give some attention to the ridiculous amount of piano-based songs I’ve been itching to record for quite some time), here’s a little look at a piano song that was digitally endowed, and a good example of what a strange genesis some songs have.

Back in October or November of 2006 at the old house, I came up with a snippet of music while playing acoustic guitar and sitting on my bed. Night of the Hunter was on TV but I wasn’t really watching it because I have it on DVD and wanted to wait until I could watch the whole thing. I’m not a big fan of watching movies that are already in-progress…but that’s another subject for another time. This little song fragment was sort of a remake of what was supposed to become a song called “Another Pawn” back around the time of OH YOU THIS, and a year or so before that it had been another different song about breaking things and insomnia. I never finished or recorded any of those half-songs. I thought I would just record this new variation as a tiny song, maybe a minute long, complete with a little decorative guitar riff retained from when it was crawling toward being a proper song. The only lyrics I had were, “Catch him in the act of cheating.” So it still needed some work.

While taking a bath in January of 2007 I started singing and improvising lyrics for no real reason. I kept changing them a tiny bit until after three or four times through I had almost all of the words that would eventually comprise this song. I kept singing them over and over again for the next hour or so while in the bath (I don’t do short baths), hoping I wouldn’t forget the words or how they were sung. I figured I’d throw in the “catch him in the act” bit later on, and as I was singing through the thing I figured out a good bass line, a vocal/piano line, and a few other bits. The whole song, musically and lyrically, was right there in my head. I just needed to dry off, put some clothes on, and get it down on paper.

When I came downstairs I added another little bit. I thought I’d call the thing Backwards Hiccup after experiencing one of those in the bath. It was a strange sensation. I didn’t think “This Song Rhymes and I Don’t Care” was the right song title, even if that was my initial idea.

I went on to record two quick working versions of the song just to get the ideas down. One was nothing more than a few tracks of a cappella singing and leg slaps, with pretty much all of the melodies I would eventually use already there. The second had doubled-tracked vocals over a piano track.

After that, I decided the piano should replace the acoustic guitar as the main instrument. As the song came together in the bathtub I envisioned it as sort of a synth-based thing, like FeFe Dobson’s “Boys and Girls” on drugs, but I came to prefer a more organic delivery. It took me a few months before I took a stab at recording the whole thing for keeps. I got the piano and most of the vocals down, but it just didn’t seem quite right. So I left it unfinished.

Fast-forward to 2008, almost a year to the day since I last worked on the song. I was fumbling around trying to figure out what to work on, and we were still a few months away from THE CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN WITH A TRIANGLE deciding to be born. I thought I would listen to what there was of Backwards Hiccup just for kicks. Then I thought I would add a few missing vocal bits. Then I ended up finishing the whole thing.

All along the plan was to add bass, drums, guitar, and maybe some synth. I ended up nixing that and singing what was supposed to be the guitar part, similar to what happened with “Easy as Thigh” (another tiny song that might have shown up in your inbox at some point and has yet to find a home). I’m not sure what possessed me to do that, but it seemed to work better than the guitar would have. I also couldn’t resist throwing in a little Wizard of Oz vocal quote at the end, with a few seconds of the “Winkie Chant”. That’s a fun tune to play on the piano and sing. It’s catchy stuff.

Thus ends the journey of Backwards Hiccup, one of many tiny songs I haven’t figured out what to do with yet. I would re-record it once I have a real acoustic piano at my disposal, and it would sound much better, but I’d rather tackle unrecorded songs and new things instead of revising things that have already been finished. So here it is in both the first “demo” version and the final version, which is still pretty skeletal.

A bit of an odd and lengthy gestation period for such a simple little song.

Backwards Hiccup (a cappella sketch)

Backwards Hiccup

6 comments

  1. it’s great to hear two different forms of a song, I love the end of the instrument-employing version, it reminds me of something but I can’t put my finger on it. for now let’s just recall the scene in Peggy Sue Got Married where she’s at the men’s club and they’re trying to warp her out of time.

    gotta say the a capella sketch is probably my favorite of the two. LEG SLAPS ARE UNDERRATED.

  2. It’s true — there aren’t enough bands around with dedicated leg-slappers. I think it’s a lost musical art.

    What I find really interesting is when a song completely changes shape. It doesn’t really happen with this one, but there are some songs that seem to keep rewriting themselves until they figure out exactly what they want to be.

  3. yes, i keep listening and lisping to the al capone version of the hiccup
    one of the best singles
    stands as an album on its own
    it makes me want to publish my email address

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