The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Glory Days

As you gets older, and your pop heroes get older, you start to notice a musical form of middle-aged spread. It seems to happen to all artists of all pop genres.

Musically, the middle-aged spread is most obvious in that their tracks will start getting longer. Intros will become flabby, sometimes over a minute in duration. Middles will sag and outros will ramble on aimlessly until they’re faded out.

Tempos will also start to slow. The artist doesn’t have the energy to hit 132 bpm any more. 108 bpm feels much more natural. They’ll concentrate more on ballads and even the ‘up-tempo’ rock-and-roll numbers will be hands-aloft shuffles for the dads rather than frenzied pogo attacks for the young turks.

As the songs get longer and slow down the singer will find it easier to sing in a lower key. They can’t hit the high notes any more, and they’d rather not hit the low notes for too long either. The end result is not dissimilar to what you’d get playing a 45rpm single at 33rpm.

Instrumentation also changes. It becomes more important to be ‘authentic’, to get in touch with your folk roots, to explore world music, to own a ukelele, to do acoustic versions of all your old hits where they become more meaningful slowed-out, stripped-down and croaked-out. Gone are the days of distortion. Now you want nothing more raucous than an oboe.

Songwriting changes too. Sometimes there will be long gaps between lines as you forget what you were singing about. Sometimes you’ll use major seventh chords, because you’re not quite sure which chord fits any more, and because you’re now a ‘proper’ composer who knows what major sevenths are.

And your songs will be all about having kids, getting divorced and ‘the good old days’.

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