Tuesday, February 12, 2013

This Wheel's on Fire

As usual, I am of two minds about the way these songs are done. Should I dash out a perhaps divinely-inspired song in an hour or two and call it done? Or should I let the song simmer a day or two on my recording griddle, in case I get another bolt from above about how the song should end?

Today I have one of the slapdash songs. It started last night when I realized I might be able to do justice to one of my favorite diminished chord-containing gems by The Band, This Wheel's on Fire. I had forgotten that Rick Danko's voice ranged far, far beyond mine and I couldn't croak it in the same key. But maybe if I sang an octave lower and let the harmonizer do the work . . .

 It doesn't sound at all like The Band. But neither did the version that was used as the theme song for Absolutely Fabulous. It's a strange tune and it makes the most out of that diminished chord.


  1. The first version of this I heard was by Ian & Sylvia. Great song.

  2. Love the harmonies on this song.

  3. Blame it on the Flange. I wanted to run the harmonies through some sort of processor to mimic the sound The Band gets, and the one I found is called a Flanger. It gives the background harmonies that spacey sound.

    John Lennon always wanted George Martin to make his voice "different" even though John had one of the best rock voices ever. I think I have a better argument for wanting to make my voice "different".

  4. As you know I am a chord fiend and hear music in chords rather than melody lines. This song demonstrates the power of chords in our music. Richard likes the harmonies and I imagine everybody does, especially on the majestic final lines of each chorus: Notify my next of kin, this wheel shall explode! You can almost hear the exclamation point at the end of the sentence.

    Why is that line so majestic? Because of the A major chord at the end. To fit in the key, it should be an A minor chord. But Danko and Dylan in a fit of genius made it into a major chord.

    But there is more about those last three chords of the chorus, which are F - G - A, all majors. To any horn-tooting Roman announcing the start of the Christian/lion games these chords are familiar. They are a fanfare. In fact, THE fanfare. They have announced something important for over 2000 years now and who knows, maybe the Etruscans used the same chords?

    Dah, dad-dah-dah, dah dah dah daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

    Any rock song with a diminished chord and a fanfare deserves attention.

  5. A decade or so ago I was selling books at a bookshow in Austin and met Bill Crider, author and raconteur. We were in a group and I said something like, "Man it sure must be romantic and exciting being an author," and Bill drolly replied, "Well, some of us think playing in a band would be romantic and exciting."

    At that time I was a few years out of a 25-year career as a guitar picker in bar bands and had been feeling, at least a little bit, that I had misspent those years. But Bill's remark was an epiphany, and I started remembering the romantic and exciting parts as well as the times we spent, as Neil Young so aptly put it, "in this empty bar, echoin' off the walls."

    Thanks, Bill. Playing in a band is just as fantastic as everyone thinks it is.