Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” has long been one of my favourite party pieces, although I have never quite mastered the rhythm of the repeated open G-string which runs throughout the song. Apart from that little difficulty though, it’s a deceptively easy song to play and a great song to sing. Mr McC certainly knows how to write for voice!
“Butterfly’s Wing” is my attempt to write a song in a similar vein to “Blackbird”. I remember thinking “I wonder if I could write a song where I am playing two notes of a chord and singing the third. Could I sustain that idea for a whole song?” Well I think I came pretty close to achieving it! I’m especially fond of the chorus of this one – the “Evening Showers of Rain” part. Technically, it contains what is known as a “false relation” with a B-flat clashing with the B-natural. This creates an archaic feeling much the same as Seal achieved in “Kiss from a Rose”.
The middle section “You can say what you want” was worked out quite clinically on (manuscript) paper so that it would function as a countermelody to the “Lighter than a butterfly’s wing” line. I had half an eye on Paul McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs” here (which features THREE counter melodies – a tour de force of writing) and the other half an eye on his “Wanderlust” from “Tug of War”. Incidentally, the latter track is one of Macca’s hidden gems – George Martin thought it was Paul’s finest ever vocal from any stage in his career and that’s praise indeed!
The instrumentation of “Butterfly’s Wing” is probably the sparsest of any of my songs – just a single finger-style guitar. I resisted the temptation to add bass guitar and strings because once you start adding instruments it’s very difficult to stop. The essence of this song is its fragility, both lyrically and musically and, just like a butterfly, it could so easily have been crushed under the weight of too much instrumentation.
The song ends with the sound of falling rain and a nightingale singing. I vividly remember back in the 1980s, when I was living in East Anglia, hearing a nightingale singing late at night from the open window of my house. It was the eeriest thing I have ever heard and like Keats, I have always thought that the song of the bird expresses pain as much as it does pleasure.
For our Phoenix Show in June 2017 I have asked Mark to play the guitar part for this song on his classical guitar. That should be worth the price of a ticket on its own, so do make sure that you have booked yourself a place in the audience before the seats are snapped up.