March 15th, 2011
Thing a Week 25: Stroller Town
On a sunny day in my neighborhood, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a stroller (believe me). I’m not complaining, in fact I freely admit that I am part of the problem. So this is kind of about that, though it’s also about a baby who likes to drag race. And before you point it out, yes, I was thinking very hard about the Beach Boys while I was doing this, specifically “I Get Around” and “Shut Down.”
PRESENT DAY JOCO SAYS: Late again, you are surprised. I’ve been waiting until I finished this song I was working on, and in fact I’m supposed to be at a session recording it right now. I am late for that too, and have rescheduled it for later this week, because I fail at being on time CONSISTENTLY.
And hey, I forgot how much I like this one! In my advanced years I’ve become a little suspicious of style parodies in my own work, it’s sometimes hard to keep it from becoming a crutch. And once you go down that road a lot depends on how well you are able to hit the right marks - style parody that fails to successfully evoke the style is a particularly sad kind of failure. I give myself pretty good marks on this front, you can at least tell that I’m faking Beach Boys. I’m especially proud of the Mike Love impression I’m doing in the lead vocal, and I worked very hard on getting just the right “crappy” guitar sound and bullshit Chuck Berry ripoff solo. I didn’t quite make it in a couple of places - the group vocals are evocative of the right things, but they don’t really get there for me. Part of the problem is that I don’t actually sing like ALL OF THE BEACH BOYS, but the arrangement is also off somehow, there’s too much low register stuff. And in the a cappella intro I was trying to do that Brian Wilson thing where he modulates somewhere extremely far away and back again, effortlessly in a couple of chords. But I am also not Brian Wilson, and I forgive myself for that.
But man, I still love the lyrics, I find them to be clever without being too precious. They lift language pretty freely from those other songs I mentioned, which helps. And the mashup of strollers and 60s drag racing songs is a pretty solid concept - there’s plenty of room for those specific details that make it sing, plus the added benefit of getting to write from the perspective of a baby (“full belly, clean bum” is my favorite line EVER). And style parody or no, it’s musically pretty successful, and the repeated chorus at the end blooming into an a cappella finish is still exciting to me.
And speaking of that Brian Wilson style extreme modulation, mine was so klunky and far away that I had a lot of trouble finding the right notes on that second chord. While I was recording each vocal part, I had to find the note, sing it out loud while I was waiting, and then just try to ignore the first chord. You can hear me doing that right here, and it’s pretty hilarious.