Welcome to the latest newsletter on May Bank holiday! This is ‘Mayday’ and to Squire fans, it also reminds us of ‘Mods Mayday’ concert which was held on 7th May 1979 at the Bridge House, London E16, and recorded for the eponymous live LP release!
Although we are not performing at the annual Mods Mayday concert next Saturday 6th May, which also coincides with the Coronation day here in the UK, next week we are celebrating with a special ‘Mods Mayday’ newsletter so make sure you catch your emails or Facebook feeds!
We have also postponed the draw of our special ‘100th newsletter’ competition for a couple of weeks, as our prize draw adjudicator Chanel has been very busy, and we will hold the draw in the next couple of weeks - so there is still time to join in! Look at last weeks newsletter to see the details.
The last newsletter “Reflections” focused on the many connections and timeless coincidences between the Passengers On Trains LP, sleeve and location. This sense of embedded time is also the theme of this weeks newsletter, about capturing the gossamer of improvisation in a first band meeting, through sound.
The song ‘For Everyone’ was included on the original Japanese CD release of Passengers OnTrains, but left off the new reissue.
However, the story of how the song was arranged as an electric 12-string lead guitar pop arrangement to add a couple of ‘Squire songs’ to the album, and then left off again glosses over a moment in the songs development, from demo to folk song to electric, and how a new player influenced the style of the original arrangement.
The original demo was written on this Yamaha 12-string electro acoustic guitar. The guitar has a pick up under the bridge so it can be plugged into an amplifier to make it louder. This is useful when playing with a band, as you can balance your volume to match the other instruments. The 6-string acoustic, which played the bedrock of the Passengers On Trains rhythm tracks is also an electro acoustic.
This approach is also reminiscent of the sound of the early Beatles tracks, such as ‘She Loves You’ where the rhythm was played not on electric guitars but Gibson acoustic guitars not only miced up, but also plugged into the Vox amps, and so gave a more forceful sound together with the drums. Louder in the room also meant more reverberation so the overall sound was closer to the early live club sound.
On a particular Saturday morning rehearsal, the song ‘For Everyone’ was introduced for the first time. The line up was a 3-piece, but instead of a rock and roll style guitar bass & drums, it was a folk inspired hybrid of acoustic guitar, drums and violin, as we searched for a particular sound for the record. This arrangement turns the sound upside down. Instead of bottom heavy drums and bass, with the bass guitar playing a counter melody to the voice, the violin takes over the bass guitars melodic duties, and so the drums lighten to build a bridge between the rhythm of the guitar and higher notes of the violin.
Following a solo run through to show the song chords, key and predictable intro - verse - chorus - bridge structure the musicians set off to find an arrangement by improvising together.
The first ever take was recorded via a pair of microphones in the room, to a cassette recorder, so captured the whole room sound in stereo, rather than a multitrack for later rebalancing. It captured an exquisite and fragile arrangement of the song, about as far away from the electric 12-string upfront Squire sound as you can get, the slight hesitation in the initial run through matching the lyric of the song and vocal delivery. It was a big surprise!
Although the 12-string rhythm drives the song, it also plays a supporting role. The very nature of the playing, the picking style, signifies a folk sound and provides a structure, tempo and feel for the other players. At the same time the push and pull of drums and violin to find space allows them to take the lead following the voice / melody direction.
In an instant, the uncertainties in finding parts to fit becomes an unspoken dynamic re-arranging as participatory discrepancies feed in to the improvised performances. Kevin played the drums with brush sticks, not only on the skins, but hitting stands and sides of drums to create a percussive soundscape.
The second run through was more assured but predictable so lost the aura of discovery and wonderment in an unknown country, and slowly the arrangement became a studied and confident canter through a now familiar known landscape. The violin answering phrases became cliches as the initial run though was blurred in memory and the initial response was forgotten.
In the moment, no one really remembers what they played, we didn't stop to listen back to the tape, just played through three times and moved on to another song.
But this version has remained as a haunting memory of something captured that was unrepeatable.
This head arrangement approach where a band works out their parts while learning the song in rehearsal rather than reading from a score or learning from a demo often captures a never to be repeated magic of the first run through! Its the essence of a band sound.
The song structure provides a loose map but no one knows what they’re going to play in the moment. It's count in and see what happens. This is the same in any band rehearsal working on new material in ensemble, but the the effect is magnified when introducing new instruments that add an unexpected character, and force you out of familiar territory.
It was unexpected how simple it could be to add a new instrument, violin, to the Anthony/Kevin sound and the closest we got to re-imagining Squire in an English folk idiom, not a hackneyed or deliberate attempt to move into a different genre, but playing together with a new musician for the simple joy of making music with nothing more in mind than feeling each other out in a musical way to find if there was any chemistry. We briefly found it here!