I wanted to do a couple of things with this song; the first of which was inspired by Strange Weather, a song Tom Waits wrote for Marianne Faithfull in 1987, and we’d just talked about on our Tom Waits podcast Song by Song. I’d been playing it backstage on Peter Buckley-Hill’s acoustic guitar at the 9 Lessons And Carols For Curious People gig over Christmas, and realised how much I loved the song. So I took two ideas – the key (A minor) and some of the chord changes; and the way that the verse and chorus are in different time signatures. Strange Weather’s verses are in 2/4, its choruses in 3/4; Goodbye, 2018! has 3/4 verses and 4/4 choruses (with a bit of a 2/4 feel).
The other thing I wanted to do was use instruments of my parents, it felt like something would ground this physically rambling 40-song collection and tie it up. The guitar part is recorded on a scrappy parlour guitar I bought in a Crystal Palace junkshop and which lives in my parents-in-law’s house in Sussex. The chords and song structure were written on the guitar. The accordion-sounding part is actually a Frontalini Chord Organ – a wonderful little keyboard instrument which is essentially an electric fan-powered accordion laid out flat with a keyboard and chord buttons like a spatchcocked squeezebox. This particular chord organ was purchased by my maternal grandfather in the 1960s when he moved house and chopped up his piano for firewood. It’s a real beauty. But it’s powerful loud. So I recorded every note on it and programmed it into a sampler for the purposes of not annoying the shit out of my parents by recording the whole song live in their Wolverhampton home.
There’s another instrument on this song – the one that produces that wonderful glissando at the beginning and features the sound of running water. It’s the tap in the house we were staying in in rural Sussex, where the final parts of this song were recorded. It’s the real star of the show.
I finished recording this song with about ninety minutes to go before the end of 2018 – I felt like Phileas Fogg getting around the world with minutes to spare. What a trip.
You can buy Year of The Bird Volume 4 RIGHT NOW – from band camp, Apple Music, etc etc – anywhere you get music. And Volumes 1-3, and listen to the whole gd thing, packed, as it is, with bangers. Happy Christmas everyone!