monday song #4: walking away


after starting with three heavy songs in a row, number four is something of a palette cleanser.

it’s an homage to homages: a kind of 20s music hall number that was a favorite of the psychedelic popsters of the later 60s. mccartney was a master of the style (“when i’m 64,” “honey pie”), as was harry nilsson (“1941”). in the 70s, queen followed suit with authentic oldies, tongue firmly in cheek (“lazing on a sunday afternoon,” “seaside rendezvous”).

the song started as a simple little ditty, with just the line “you love me when i’m walking away.” when i got the second line (“you haven’t a clue what to do when i stay”), i found I had dropped a beat. i think this bit of strangeness inspired me to experiment a bit more than i had planned, tweaking the structure, trying to add variations in each repeated section.

at times i felt like i was writing a sitcom, making sure that i didn’t go more than three lines without a punch line. my first vocal passes were more straightforward, but i found that the more old-timey singing style suited the piece better, giving it a more consistent feel. it was a lot of fun to record, but there were times early on when i didn’t think i had a song, so much as a collection of gags.

the piano arrangement owes a lot to randy newman and his bluesy raggy bounce. as i work on piano/vocal songs, i aspire to the economy of his arrangements, and his ability to make tricky music sound simple.

5 replies on “monday song #4: walking away”

  1. Quite a departure, Andy — and such a stylish successful one! Mama Cass comes to mind — she did quite a bit of this music hall stuff too in her funky way. However, I confess this lil’ subgenre is not a favorite of mine, mainly because after the second listen, I’m done — fun but fleeting, can turn cloying, you know? I did listen to yours three times, and was still not cloyed, so there! Why? Kudos to you for sustaining the push me/pull me theme in such thorough and clever lyrics for so long with so many unexpected variations (in the music and the word play and imagery). It gives the song complexity. Some of those double entendres are Sondheim-worthy! You have a gift of being able to cut thru the sentimentality of pop music styles with a dash of salt and a bit of bite. I really admire the prologue “set-up” to the story and then the Catch-22 realization at the end!

  2. thanks so much for the thoughtful feedback. i like to make sure that the kitchen sink comes included in every song. i have always prided myself on the fact my songs improve with repeat listening (often due to a certain lyrical density). the challenge is to make it catchy that first time with so much information flying by. my song “99 liberty lane” off BBE’s “let your heart break” is the current top example of this style. so far. i’m sure i can go farther in one of these monday songs.

  3. Lyrical density indeed. But there’s much more going on in the melody and structure than meets the eye. So I listen over and over again until I’ve acclimated to the whole lay-out. Then I lay out.

  4. This song is so much fun!
    I love the drifting, then floating vocals on “that’s not easy to do.”
    The little comment “you know, that kind of hurts my feelings” had me in stitches!
    Walking away madly (or was that loving madly? 😉 made me chuckle.
    There’s something very Randy Newman about the whole arrangement that I just can’t quit. Very nice, Andy!

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