Sunday, 17 March 2013

#2. Acting Like A Child – The 80 Aces

Performed by The 80 Aces 

Jarrod Hawker: drums 
Matt Hewson: bass, backing vocals
Jade McLaren: vocals
Matt Neal: guitar

Lyrics by Matt Hewson & Matt Neal.
Music by Jarrod Hawker, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren & Matt Neal.
Written late 2006-early 2007.
Recorded at Noise Studios in mid-2007.
Produced and mixed by Marcus Jennings.
Released on The 80 Aces EP.

LIKE a lot of songs, this started with a couple of chords. The first one is a D7; the second one, I still don’t know the name of it. Am11?

Anyway, I brought those two chords into an 80 Aces rehearsal one night, along with a couple of other chords, and played it for the rest of the band. At the time, the chords were played nice and slow, about the tempo and rhythm of Neil Finn’s Turn & Run (which also starts with a D-to-A motif). That was a song I was loving at the time, probably thanks to The 80 Aces’ then-bassist Matt “Hewy” Hewson turning me on to it.

I distinctly remember everyone seeming unimpressed by these nice, slow chords I was playing, so in order to save the progression and have something to work with, I said, “Or I can play it like this….”
I played the chords again, this time shamelessly using a rough approximation of the rhythm from the start of one of my favourite XTC songs, Respectable Street. Suddenly the rest of the band was a bit more interested.

So I borrowed a rhythm from XTC in order to stop the song sounding too much like Neil Finn.

Hewy reckons he came up with the chorus chords, but this photo below from my songbook shows I had the right chords, just in the wrong order. The bit I love about this song was Hewy’s suggestion though – that the chorus should be the three chords (G, D, E7) going around in a circle. The way they’re played and the way Jade sings over them makes it sound like a regular old four-chord progression but it's actually only three. It’s a neat trick. Hewy's bassline in the verses is also pretty cool - it's angular but funky at the same time.

Here's my original chords, with the chorus as it was before Hewy fixed it.

During that first rehearsal, Jade la-di-da’ed his way through the chords, coming up with a cool melody and one phrase at one key point: “but it’s not the same”. I’m not sure what he was thinking at the time (probably just that those words had a nice rhythm and fit well), but Hewy and I decided to use that as a springboard for the words. What’s not the same? Eventually we went with the idea of how the small pleasures of childhood are far more fun than the small pleasures of adulthood.

I don’t know if you can zoom in on these lyrics below, but Hewy and I wrote four different choruses and four verses. Jade picked one of the choruses and three of the verses to use. All that work for nothing!

So many words unused....

At the top of the page are two small lists: one for ADULT and one for KIDS. Next to ADULT is says “bill paid, car washed, no rain on washing, a good meal” – things that bring small delight to grown-ups. Next to KIDS it says “swinging from a tree, playing war, riding bikes, fast food good, pillow fights, building forts, cricket after dark, sibling rivalry”. That was the initial brainstorm list, which is a process Jade and I use a lot for song-writing and that Hewy and I appear to have put in action here, but I’ll talk about that more in future blogs (scroll down further for the actual lyrics of the song).

Acting Like A Child is one of the few times Hewy and I have written lyrics together. I think we collaborated on a lost Aces song called The Prince, which I believe was about Machiavelli. We never ended up recording that one. I think it sounded like The Police.

The 80 Aces line-up at the time (l-r): me, Hawk, Hewy, and Jade.

This recording was done for the first 80 Aces EP. I overdubbed about four guitars at the end to get that chaos thing. I remember being in Noise Studios with Marcus Jennings, the producer, and recording a few guitar bits and leaving things feeding back in a few places. When I went back into the control room, Marcus was already cleaning stuff up, cutting the ends of tracks.
“What are you doing?” I said.
“Getting rid of all this extra feedback.”
“Don’t do that. That’s all supposed to be in there.”
He looked at me a bit funny but left the feedback in. After that, he started asking if the feedback was deliberate or not on the other tracks before he’d started cleaning things up.

(PS. The only person who has ever pulled me up on nicking the rhythm from Respectable Street is the very talented Richard Tankard, who is a fellow XTC fan. He heard us play Acting Like A Child at a gig (at the Criterion Hotel I believe) and said he’d thought we were about to launch into a cover. I probably told him it’s “an homage”. To highlight the “homageness” of the song, Jade borrowed the “let’s begin!” bit from the start of XTC’s The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead. This is one of quite a few XTC references peppered throughout our songs... but more on that in future blogs.)

(PPS. I once asked XTC main brain Andy Partridge on Twitter what the first two chords of Respectable Street are, partly to check that Acting Like A Child was suitably different. He told me – they’re a B and a C7-ish type chord. I almost went on to tell him how I borrowed the rhythm of that song, but I didn’t have the guts. Please don’t sue me, Mr Partridge. It’s an homage.)


Let’s begin

A coffee in the sun, a cigarette, another job well done,
but it’s not the same,
it’s not the same.

Two sleep-ins in a row, a bill paid, the traffic isn’t slow,
but it’s not the same,
it’s not the same.

Give me endless play and breakfast every day,
give me running wild and acting like a child,
acting like a child.

Going for a drive to nowhere, another day survived,
but it’s not the same,
it’s not the same.


  1. love this song!
    interesting to see how it developed ;)

    1. Thanks Bec. Also, thanks for being the first to ever comment on my blog!