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.

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