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Saturday, 15 March 2008

Written in granite: What The Waves Are Saying [1]

Although we'll be discussing all sorts of things on these pages, one of the original ideas was to record the progress of the making of the first album by The Granite Shore. So far we've not really mentioned this at all. At some point in the future, should anyone ever show any interest, we might perhaps go back over some of the history, or we might decide to leave it shrouded in mystery.

At the moment there are six songs on which things are reasonably well-developed, plus another couple which are little more than sketches. These latter two will probably end up as outtakes or perhaps be used for other releases, they're probably not going to fit the album itself. Of the six which have come some way it remains to be seen how many will make the final cut. The Granite Shore website currently has three songs available to listen to, here, and these songs are currently expected to make the album, so let's just have a quick first look at them:


This one took a good two years to write. It started with the silly punch line, filched, like a good name, from Richard III. I knew the story I wanted to hang from it, very loosely based on something I observed and almost certainly completely misunderstood when I was about 15. Clearly events didn't take place exactly as recounted but, as so often, there's a grain of sandy fact around which the pearly fiction formed. This is an early recording of the song and chances are that the arrangement may develop somewhat by the time it gets to the final version.


Another early version but the song and arrangement are very nearly complete. Work on a new version has been going on for a while now and is coming along very nicely. The key has been dropped from F sharp to E flat and there are a couple of minor structural changes but otherwise... well, this is one of those songs that need to be allowed to speak for themselves and as they are. Again there is a shred of truth, but as the story was told both to me and about me I can't really vouch for its accuracy, although the source is trustworthy in the extreme. By way of clarification I should perhaps point out that in many English towns when the workhouses closed in the early twentieth century, they quite often reopened a few years later as hospitals, to the horror of some people, particularly from the working classes, who had an atavistic terror of being admitted to the workhouse and to whom the fact that it was now a hospital made little difference. As is so often the case, a number of threads came together when I learned that originally there used to be a workhouse not 50 yards from where I wrote the song and some of the details (the "black or navy suits", for instance) come from this source. Once again the song ends with rather a silly punch line, a play on an advertisement which will be familiar to most Britons of a certain age. The rest you'll have to work out for yourselves, at least for now...

Tomorrow morning, 3 a.m.

This was the song where I started to feel I had something. The idea came as I was trying to get to sleep one night. This happens a lot but usually I've forgotten everything by next morning. The title comes from a possible translation of one of my favourite short stories, Demà a les tres de la matinada by the great Catalan author Pere Calders. We should probably have a piece on Calders at some point, remind me, OK? His story has a similar initial premise but I immediately knew where I was moving it to and that my character was different. As I was writing it the story came alive and took over and then by around the fourth draft, a day or so later, something happened and the whole thing came alive in my hands, the music came in a matter of minutes and I suddenly realised that there was another completely (indeed far more) plausible way of looking at the story. When I played it to Paul, a while later, he spotted this instantly, making me worry that I'd over-egged that particular dessert, but since then hardly anyone else has noticed unless they've been nudged in its direction. Hmm... What do you think? The version here is the one I sent Paul, it dates back to the very end of 2006. There are plans for the song to be re-recorded for the album and I think it'd also make a damned fine single, perhaps do a shorter version too...


Anyway, these three songs are available to listen to at present. We'll probably be uploading a newer version of Workhouse over the next week or so, as that's almost done. Then, as I've got a bit of time off work over the next week, I'm going to start making plans for how we're going to tackle the remaining songs and trying to finish off one or two new ones. As I'm not going to be working hopefully I'll have a little more time to post here, so watch this cleft in the granite shoreline over the next few days.

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