Tuesday, 24 November 2015

#67. Late Video Blues – The Extreme Sprinklers

Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: bass
Jade McLaren: vocals
Matt Neal: guitar

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal
Music by Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written 2004.
Recorded at The Shed, Warrnambool in April, 2006.
Produced, engineered and mixed by Harry Fahey.

Songwriting tip #67: Be careful writing songs about technology.

Nothing makes a song date quicker than mentioning technology - especially anything related to computers or the internet. I remember my long-time songwriting partner Jade McLaren wanting to write a song about MySpace back in the mid-’00s. Thankfully, I stood my ground and it never happened.

"My my my MySpace!"
Picture: Damian White

But with this song, for some reason, we deliberately picked an already dated technology. I’m not sure why. We could have used ‘DVDs’ in place of the word ‘video’. It even has the right number of syllables. But it didn’t have the same ring to it. There was just something about videos. I’d already written a song in my previous band 21st Century Ox called Nobody Buys Videos Anymore. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s a certain crappy romanticism to videos - having to rewind them, going to a video store, dubbing them onto a blank tape. It’s probably something to do with lame nostalgia. Which I’m a fan of. Hence this blog.

Anyway, Jade and I deliberately wrote an out-of-date song about videos, and to be honest, I think it’s the funniest song we ever wrote. Jamaica and Lappers may have gotten more attention, but I think Late Video Blues is the most humourous set of lyrics we penned. Plus Jade’s vocal over-selling of the song - such passion! - just makes it even funnier.

You won't believe how many photos I have of Jade doing this.
Picture: Damian White

We were always going to write a blues. We were cycling through as many genres as we could at the time - rap-rock, reggae, country, post-punk, hip-hop, just to name a few - so we were bound to do a blues, especially because the blues is so fucking easy. I kinda hate it because it’s so easy. It’s three chords and a select number of grooves. I like it when people mess with the blues and subvert it, because otherwise it’s just the easiest musical genre in the world. Which is why I kinda hate it - it’s too easy. I mean, I can’t solo for shit, but the rest of it’s easy.

That's enough embarrassing photos of Jade - here's an embarrassing one of me.
Playing with your shirt off is the ultimate sign of a wanker.

We definitely didn’t bother subverting the genre musically - this is just a regular old 16-bar blues in G, if I recall correctly. We did try to subvert it lyrically though. It’s not a new trick, but we wanted to find something deliberately banal as a subject for a blues song - something mundane that then escalates to the point of insanity. That’s always funny. By my recollection, it was based on a true story. Jade’s girlfriend at the time was always reminding him to take DVDs back to the video store. I seem to recall a point in time when Jade was unable to borrow from any video store in town because he had amassed a huge debt at every single one of them. That was our inspiration. We started with the usual “I woke up this morning” bullshit blues cliché and tried to make it sound like we building towards something important, and then made the whole thing about late videos and video store fines.

We wrote this really quickly, pretty much just spilling the whole thing out, in order, line by line. Jade came up with “Asking me about Weekend At Bernies”, and I didn’t miss a beat coming up with the next line: “And Beverly Hills Cop II”. It was great fun to write - just real simple, dumb fun. We were writing a song a week at this point in time, mostly because it’s easy when the songs are simple and dumb and you don’t give a fuck.

Pictured: Eddie Murphy not giving a fuck in Beverly Hills Cop II.

The above recording was laid down just for the sake of it and to ensure we had a recording of this song before it disappeared into the ether, as so many songs do. That’s one piece of advice I’d share - record a version of every song you write. When they don’t get played, songs tend to disappear (unless you have a photographic memory) and that’s always a shame. No matter how dumb or inane or embarrassing the song might be in the future, every song is attached to memories and ideas and moments. For me, this one is a reminder of writing fun, stupid songs for the hell of it, back when it was easy because we didn’t care that much. And it’s a reminder of the nights hanging out in the shed, jamming with Jade and Matt Hewson and Harry Fahey. Those were good times, and we played well together.

And damn we were a handsome band.
Picture: Glen Watson

Below is an earlier version of the song (the riff here is how it was originally written before I got bored with it) smashed out a party at the house of a top bloke called Ross Carlson. 21st Century Ox did a couple of Rosco’s parties up in Melbourne in the early 2000s and The Extreme Sprinklers got invited to do one too some time in either late ‘04 or early-mid 2005. They remain to this day the best parties I’ve ever played at. The people there loved the music, they looked after you really well, and they loved it the most when you played your own originals.

A guitarist named Chris Matthews jumped up and joined us on this track. At the time he was playing with a band called The Box Cutters, who I think we did a gig with at some point and who we met through our sound guy Dave Wilson. I haven’t seen him since the night of this recording, but he’s still around making music. Top bloke, and a handy musician. This isn’t the best example of his talents because we were all seriously loaded during this set. Completely fuck-eyed and off-head. Ah, the (lack of) memories.

Live in 2005 version

Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: bass
Jade McLaren: vocals
Matt Neal: guitar
Chris Matthews: slide guitar

Recorded live at Rosco’s house in Melbourne, summer ‘04/’05?
Produced and mixed live by Dave Wilson.


I woke up this morning with my hair in my face
I decided not to brush it before I came over to your place
Cos I’ve been thinking about you girl and that thing you said;
“Take those videos back to the store and pay off all your late debts.”

I know the guy from the store has been calling saying those movies are overdue
Asking me about Weekend At Bernie’s and Beverly Hills Cop II
I’ve had them almost a decade - my fine could buy a small car
I said I’d take them back on Tuesday…
... and those stupid fuckers believed me

I didn’t take back those videos - I ain’t done with them yet
I just got to dub them on a blank cassette
If they ever want those videos they’ll have to pry them from my cold motherfucking dead hand

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