About a song: Rough Diamonds from Turquoise Cyan Sapphire

I woke up today to a request to share some of the background to Rough Diamonds, track 7 from Turquoise Cyan Sapphire. So, here goes…

Rough Diamonds was originally written and recorded in about 1998, and started off with that main picked guitar riff

[for those playing along at home, it’s my ES-335 fitted with Seymour Duncan P-Rails playing that part throughout the TCS version]

once again, the riff is a function of my broken hands, so lots of drone strings – though it’s possible now to play it with the barre, it loses a whole lot of that certain something.

The original demo featured Ruth on vocals, though at that stage in my song-writing journey I hadn’t quite twigged about changing key to suit voice and, as a result, Ruth

[who happens to be a trained opera singer – here she is on Pepperbox]

takes the main chorus up an octave  – and it does something very special to the song.

As a result, I seriously doubted my ability to perform Rough Diamonds to its potential – it doesn’t stretch my range, and I can’t really project it hard – and I put it in a time capsule: “songs I will never sing”.

Yet, that guitar riff kept coming back. And I couldn’t stop it.

As I headed into recording Sparse, I began to play with the song, trying different keys, tempos, treatments; all the time coming back to the original key, though the tempo changed. I ended up putting an acoustic treatment as a bonus track with the download of Sparse

[and you can definitely hear me reshaping the song]

While I love the original version of Rough Diamonds, I would dearly like to have a time machine to take my current tracking, mixing and mastering skills back to that younger me. All of my early demos are way too slow and, as a result, lumbering. No matter how good  Ruth’s performance was, the musical backdrop didn’t help!

So, when it came to producing the version that’s on Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, I had a couple of references and a pretty clear idea of what worked and what didn’t.

Musically, the riff remains prominent, though here, with the toms, it takes on something of a Radiohead-feel. The original demo had a lot of guitars in lots of directions, and I kept that spirit alive here, doubling the bass during the link-chorus, putting some stabs here and there, and some angular rhythm guitar in the verses. This also has the benefit of pulling the song closer to the “nearly blues” spirit of Turquoise Cyan Sapphire.

In the main chorus, I took a different tack – adding horns to keep things fresh, and also to allow the picked riff to return clearly, as well as the prominent echo on the vocals

[which had been on Ruth’s original take]

The original demo had a beautiful, structured guitar solo by my former band-mate John Matthews, and I decided not to try recreating it myself; instead, I turned to my daughter Elise and together we wrote the simple but effective trumpet solo that’s on the final version.

Not much else to say about the music, aside from that the Sparse treatment

[work-in-progress as it was]

reassured me that I could sing the song, and that in doing so, less would be so much more.

Lyrically, Rough Diamonds is a song about survival; in this case, living through psychological manipulation and interpersonal politics. I know what and who it was written about, but that’s not important to anyone but me, myself and I.

What I hope the song offers is the hope/belief that, even when people seek to undermine us by persuading us to undermine ourselves

[in this case, in the guise of “trying to help”]

we can emerge stronger for the experience; as strong as diamond.

Even as I wrote the song, I knew there was a higher level of interpretation – at the societal/political level, Rough Diamonds was also a statement of hope/belief for those activists for change; in the lyrics, this is represented by the shift from “you/I” to “we”.

In essence, Rough Diamonds was the emergence of my offering to the world:

Keep going

I think this fundamental core is why the song still hits me so deeply; it’s among a handful of favourite songs I’ve written.

They won’t believe what they have done
When you pull them from the earth
Rough diamonds
Catch the sun

Enough writing, have a listen, read the lyrics, let me know what you think!

Love-peace-trust

Vince Sig 131x89

ROUGH DIAMONDS – VINCENT TUCKWOOD

You are you and I am me
And we could break so easily
When they’re kicking us in shape
And we can stand and take
Their taunts and fears and crap complaints
They can’t stop us
It’s their weakness

You know what’s strange
I’m half-and-half
I forgotten how to laugh
At the same time
I feel 10 feet tall
6 feet wide
I have got a smile inside
They can’t stop us
We are rising

We could bend until we break
We could fall to our knees
Take all that we can take
We are stronger than we think
But when they get in your head
It’s tantamount to rape

They looked for blame and they found us
Though they cut and they run
They will find they have not won
They won’t believe what they have done
When you pull them from the earth
Rough diamonds
Catch the sun

See the sun and the moon
You’re catching them in your eyes

From Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, released 28 July 2015
Instruments, voice – Vincent Tuckwood
Trumpet solo – Elise Tuckwood

Written, performed, mixed and mastered by Vincent Tuckwood at Monkey68 studios, CT, USA.All rights reserved, Vincent Tuckwood – 2015.

About a song: Noodle – 10 Years Later

aftermath-of-hurricane-katrina

10 years ago, bloated bodies floated in the water of NOLA as Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge overcame the levees.

I dreamed of drowning; water as emotion, emotion as water.

With so many brothers and sisters from Louisiana, I knew that unlike other tragedies, I would be unable to look away, unable to avoid the reality of what was happening in a city and state that has brought me great friendship and love.

I faced the deluge with my eyes and heart wide open.

Sleepless, a riff emerged at 5 am – a first-take recording on my rarely-played Jackson Surfcaster, the file saved as Noodle giving name to the song that emerged; a song written as the government failed in its core duty, as the media painted the victims as somehow-deserving perpetrators, as the end-times were claimed.

And as the bodies floated.

Floated.

10 years later, listening to Noodle, I close my eyes and find the flood.

Love-peace-trust

Vince Sig 131x89

NOODLE – VINCENT TUCKWOOD

Live on a hill with the river below
Live in the desert where nothing will grow
Live undersea with no chance to stay dry
Watch the water rise

Its ebb and its flow and its surging deceit
It’s crashing upon me no chance of reprieve
Engulfed by the storm surge no will for the good
Swallowing the flood

Leave me to choking and trying to breathe
Leave me to dealing with all that you leave
Leave me to swallowing pride and conceit
Swallowing my tongue

Hold me down, I’ll try to break the surface
Hold me down, I’ll try to catch my breath
Hold me down, I’ll try to ignore all this
Hold me down, I’ll try to turn the tide

Voice, instruments – Vincent Tuckwood
All Rights Reserved, 2005
Recorded, mixed and mastered at Monkey68 Studios, CT

Photograph from envgeology.wikispaces.com/Picture+Album

About a song: Just Love from Turquoise Cyan Sapphire

Just Love is the sixth track on Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, my record of “nearly blues”.

Though this record saw me revisiting some older material

[as I did on Grope]

there are several completely new songs written while tracking the record, and Just Love is one of them. It arrived while noodling on my Cole Clark Angel in my dining room, which is rapidly becoming a songwriting hub for me

[ley lines, I think]

the first couplet providing the entry point to what I knew wanted to be an innocent, simple song which might just as well have been written and recorded in the 1950s.

Musically, I let myself completely explore classic rock-and-roll textures – most notably in the slapback echo of the rhythm guitars. Though I didn’t consciously bring it in on recording, I hear something of Buddy Holly‘s rhythm playing in the song. On the other hand, the solo is my heavily modified Gibson Les Paul in its out-of-phase setting, and a definite nod to Peter Green.

Several songs on TCS see me exploring my lower vocal range – I’m not as comfortable in baritone as I am in tenor – but I think it works here

[otherwise I wouldn’t have had it one the record!]

and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by reactions to my playing it live.

Lyrically? Well, it’s love, just love, just love.

So, there you have it: Just Love.

Vince Sig 131x89

JUST LOVE – VINCENT TUCKWOOD

Let your knees shake
Let your heart break
Let it break

Let your blood flow
When it wants to
Let it flow

Let yourself go
Down the wormhole
Down you go

Yes, you’ll know
When it hits you
When it hits

It’s love
Just love
Just love

All it takes is one step then the next
To the beat of the rhythm in your chest

From Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, released 28 July 2015
Instruments, voice – Vincent TuckwoodWritten, performed, mixed and mastered by Vincent Tuckwood at Monkey68 studios, CT, USA.

All rights reserved, Vincent Tuckwood – 2015.

Back to RUFUS

Today, for the first time in almost a year, I added new words to RUFUS, one of my novels-in-progress.

I’m going to let that sink in for a moment

[for myself, more than for you, sorry]

The longest I shelved a novel – or at least one that got finished – was the 5 years when Do Sparrows Eat Butterflies? sat at 60 pages. I’ve written about the whys and wherefores of that block several times before, so I won’t cover the ground again. Besides, it’s hardly been an idle time since I last wrote, though the pendulum has swung far towards my musical self, with the release of Grope, Writer’s Flow and Turquoise Cyan Sapphire.

For now, all that’s important is that I added words to RUFUS today – and intend to add more tomorrow

[and yes, I was writing to Writer’s Flow – Music For Writing – you should really try it yourself]

All that’s important is that I recognize the act in its moment: I am a writer; I am writing.

In Swan Song, Robert R McCammon has a recurring line for one of his lead characters, Sister Creep:

One step and then the next, gets you where you’re going.

[incidentally, I’m using that as a pace chant when out running – it works really well!]

Over the years, I’ve gained many insights about writing and writers block. They all help me know. And the simplest is:

One word and then the next, gets the book written.

I am a writer; I am writing.

Love-peace-trust

Vince Sig 131x89

About a song: She Says She’s from Turquoise Cyan Sapphire

The chords and melody for She Says She’s arrived at the about the same time as its sister track on Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, 50 Reasons. They both share a typical minor blues opening progression but then veer away from the traditional form

[to spice things up for myself and the listener]

I’d tried both chord sequences out at Common Ground Open Mic, so had a feel for the tempo and swing that each needed. As it turned out, She Says She’s was pretty much a first take pass when it came to recording.

It is, you’ll note, a cyclic song, looping the chord sequence over and again, save a for a small respite in the middle 8 breakdown.

In the guitar parts, there’s a nod to The Edge of U2; in the solo, a little dash of both Peter Green and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Those who have heard an early demo for my song Open And Here will also recognize a very healthy dose of pure Vince T, though – particularly in the chorused guitar that starts with the singing, and the dark rhythm part that kicks in on the final chorus.

Lyrically, I’m not going to say much, save for the fact that as a father of two daughters, who are both growing up independently-minded and with the encouragement to stand in their own space

[much like their beautiful, strong mother]

I am growing increasingly appalled at attitudes to women here in the US

[though I know it’s not a phenomenon limited to this country only]

and the lyrics originally started with me scat singing

She says she’s going down

and from there, it pretty quickly became a concept song: the seed of the abuse done to one woman, is the same seed of societal abuse of all women, is the same seed of human abuse of our mother, this beautiful, fragile planet. And despite each of these short-sighted, vicious relationships

… through it all, she says she wants to heal him…

I give you She Says She’s.

Love – peace – trust

Vince Sig 131x89

SHE SAYS SHE’S – VINCENT TUCKWOOD

She says she’s going down
Says that she can take no more
She says she sees the writing
When she’s face down on the floor
She says that when he hurts her
It’s not just his fists that hit
She says she’s feeling lonely
She says she’s getting used to it

She says he’s got his rules
She says he tells her right from wrong
She says he demands quiet
She says she’s silencing her song

She turns away before the tears can fall
She looks away then I hear her whisper
That through it all

She says she wants to heal him
She says she wants to heal him
She thinks that she can heal him
Well I’m not sure

She says she’s going down
Says she’s nothing left to give
She says he’ll keep on taking
She says this rape it knows no end

She turns away before the tears can fall
She walks away back to him
And i’m not sure

From Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, released 28 July 2015
Instruments, voice – Vincent TuckwoodWritten, performed, mixed and mastered by Vincent Tuckwood at Monkey68 studios, CT, USA.

All rights reserved, Vincent Tuckwood – 2015.

Noisy boy ignored

The silent boy
found his choice
found his voice
found his noise

The silent boy
now noisy boy
made his choice
made his noise

The noisy boy
met with noise
“QUIET!” they yelled
silence your noise

The noisy boy
made his choice
opened his voice
made more noise

The noisy boy
found his voice
met with silence
stone-cold silence

So ignored
the noisy boy
made his choice
whispered his noise

The noisy boy
found his noise
met with silence
lonely silence

The noisy boy
made his choice
let their silence
take his voice

The noisy boy
now silent boy
was never heard
again

Lower your expectations

Lower your expectations
Nothing means anything
until you say
it means something
We who make
something of nothing
We who
lament
the nothing
expecting
something
Something
and
nothing
Just the same
Nothing
and
nothing
just the same
Lower your expectations
Something
that’s nothing
might take you
by surprise

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