This is the track which I wrote at 4:00am a few weeks back. About 90% of the words and the guitar riff in its entirety came to me as a trade-off for my lack of sleep that night. Unusually, I didn’t write it with a guitar in my hands or seated at a piano; it just arrived in my head. At first I thought the riff was a Beatlesesque one, but as soon as I played it on my acoustic guitar later that morning I realised that it was a classic Led-Zeppelin-style riff and the rawness of the vocal line left me in no doubt about the treatment which the song demanded.
I used the score writing software Sibelius to score a provisional drum track for the song. This is where 50 years of standing beside the kick drum in bands really paid off; I know which drum grooves work and which ones don’t. However, my first attempt was far too busy, even by John Bonham’s standards, and when I played an early (and very rough) mix of the track to my friend Mark Thomas, he pointed me in the direction of “Kashmir” for inspiration. In this classic LZ track it is the simplicity and power of the drum track which holds together the cross-rhythms in Jimmy Page’s guitar line and in the string orchestra parts.
Mark’s instinct was, as ever, rock solid. As soon as I stripped back the basic beat to a simple four-in-the-bar, the drum fills became twice as effective as they had been in the old version.
The bass guitar part almost wrote itself, as the song is entirely riff-based. I used a Rickenbacker virtual bass which may not be authentic John Paul Jones (who used Alembic instruments) but it works in context.
The Jimmy Page part was comparatively easy to put together. My soloing style has always borrowed a great deal from him. I am not the fastest of players so I tend to use cross rhythms a lot when soloing. For the musos out there this means lots of three-quaver licks crossing over the beats in a four-crotchet bar.
But then came the hardest part of all – singing the Robert Plant vocal. I put this off for a long while, thinking I would never come close, and my first few despondent rehearsals singing to the backing track convinced me that I wouldn’t be able to do it. But then after about a dozen practices (and a couple of glasses of wine to loosen my inhibitions) a raspy rawness began to develop in my voice – not surprisingly, as the vocal line is very high. A few “ooohs” and “ah yeahs” during the guitar solo also helped to create the live feel to the track.
As I write this, I have recorded all the parts I need, so now it’s time to put my recording-engineer-and -producer hat on to kick the parts into shape.
I think the track may surprise people who only know me from my wistful ballads and pop-style songs but it should come as no surprise to those who have listened to my band Beat Route.
Watch this space!