Thursday, 24 January 2013

Ringo Starr - Beaucoups Of Blues (1970) Part Three

Album 3 - Ringo Starr - Beaucoups Of Blues (1970)

US Amazon - MP3 / CD
UK Amazon - MP3 / CD

1. Beaucoups Of Blues
2. Love Don't Last Long
3. Fastest Growing Heartache In The West
4. Without Her
5. Woman Of The Night
6. I'd Be Taking All The Time
7. $15 Draw
8. Wine, Women And Loud Happy Songs
9. I Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way
10. Loser's Lounge
11. Waiting
12. Silent Homecoming

The tenth song on the album then is the Bobby Pierce song Loser's Lounge, which was originally recorded by Cal Smith for his 1969 album Drinking Champagne.  In the key of F major it starts off with the band riffing around the F major chord.  I will split this song into a verse/chorus pattern which makes the verse section being F, Bb, F, C, and F twice through.  The chorus then is Bb, F, Gm, C, F, Bb, F, C, and F.  The instrumental section is the same as the verse with it's twice through F, Bb, F, C, and F.  At the end of the song you have "(C) Oh (F) Yeah!" to finish.

The song itself is about a possibly fictional bar called the Loser's Lounge somewhere, where people go to drown their sorrows.  In the song there are a few tales told of people there.
Ringo with Producer/Pedal Steel player
and conceiver of the project Pete Drake.

Song number eleven on the set is the final title written by Chuck Howard, his fourth over all.  Waiting is a song that is in the key of C major.  It opens up with a nice run of C, C/G, Am7, and Am7/G.   The verse then is lovely how it starts by repeating a C to C/G vamp.  From that it does a Dm to Dm7 thing like the C to C/G playing, then back to C, C7, Dm, Dm7, C, and then it's "For (Dm) you (G)", and then back around again.

I really like the way they play with the chords in the song such as playing the C chord and then adding the low G, and then D minor chord to the D minor seventh chord.  Very simple, but incredibly effective, and all the instrumentation in these areas works really well.  They do the same thing with the chords when it goes up a tone later in the song (D, D/A, Em, G, D, D7, Em, Em7, A, D, Em, G, and it eventually finishes on a D chord).

The thing I don't like in the song though is how they do the change from the key of C major to D major - it is very messy.  D major to E minor twice.  Maybe it is just me, but it is the low point of the song.  Lyrically the song is about someone who is waiting to find out what is happening with a relationship that they are in with someone.

Ringo playing guitar
The last song on the original album release was the Sorrells Pickard song Silent Homecoming (the fourth one of his that features on here as well).  The song is one that would have been very topical at the time (and would be now as well if someone were to record it again).  It is about a woman waiting at the airport for her partner (husband or boyfriend, it isn't made clear), who has been to Vietnam after being drafted.  She is wondering if he will be the same person that he was when he left.  She is thinking of how as a child he had played with toy guns and toy grenades playing as a soldier.

The last verse is incredibly emotional and moving.  I want to go into it, but I think that it is worth listening to, because lyrically it absolute perfection.  Check the song out if you can, even if you only look up the lyrics online.  It is an incredibly epic narrative.  Behind this there is very simple chord work, which works perfectly with the song as a whole.  I will put in brackets what chord pattern to play if you place a capo on your guitar on the first fret.  The verse is just the chord Ab (G) played throughout.  The chorus then is Eb (D) and Ab (G) twice, then Cb (B) for ages, then Bb (A) and Eb (D).  The simple and beautiful guitar line in the verse is made of the notes C, Db, Bb and C.

Now, on the CD issue of the album the original twelve songs had two bonus songs added.

Charlie McCoy on harmonica
The first of these is a song that Ringo wrote himself (credited as his real name Richard Starkey).  Coochy Coochy was recorded during the sessions for Beaucoups of Blues, but ended up being left off the album and becoming the B-Side to the single release of the song Beaucoups of Blues.  The song is basically a good lesson in what you can do with a single chord, as the whole song is based around the E major chord.  Yes, it's true, it's all basically everyone jamming around that chord with even Ringo playing acoustic guitar on it.

Funnily enough, the song Sunshine Life For Me (Sail Away Raymond) from Ringo's next album (entitled Ringo and released three years later) would also be a song that is based around the single chord of E major, but that would be written by George Harrison.  We'll look at that eventually.

Guitarist Charlie Daniels
I think that Coochy Coochy is a really good songwriting/arrangement lesson, because it shows what is possible from just one  basic three note chord.  The musicians throw in licks, solos, and all sorts that work around it and include passing notes that are still fitting within the key of E major.  It has the ability to make you think that if you can do that with one single chord, then what can you do with more!  It isn't the only song that is like this, with other famous songs using just one chord including Bullet The Blue Sky by U2 (though it could be seen as a two chord song since it is Dm with a C passing chord), Bad To The Bone by George Thorogood (G with a C passing chord), Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant (A), and Exodus by Bob Marley & The Wailers (Am).

Lyrically the song is really about someone that has been to places, seen things, and done things in his life, but despite everything all that is important to him is his "coochy, coochy, coochy, coochy, coo".  It doesn't need to be a clever lyric to get the point across, he loves her and that's all that he needs to say.

In truth I can understand why this song that Ringo wrote wasn't included on the album, which is that it didn't fit stylistically with the rest of the songs, but it is a good song for a few reasons.  Firstly it is a song that everyone can understand.  It isn't poetry, it isn't great literature, but it is an eternal emotion that everyone has - that feeling of love where you can't think straight and just have to let it be known that that other person means so much than anything.  Secondly, it has a fantastic groove to it that gets your feet moving.  Ringo had written a song here that allowed the musicians to really get into it, and that is something that comes across so well on the recording - it has that excitement in there for all to see.  Most musicians dream of being able to just let go and get lost in a groove, which this song allows them to.
A group photograph

The other bonus track then is Nashville Jam, which basically is a recording of the band jamming around a twelve bar pattern in C, playing C major (I), F major (IV), and G major(V).  It is that simple.  Again it is something that the musicians enjoy, and many other musicians/bands have done this before where they will jam out a twelve bar as a warm up or to just relax.  I myself have been party to many of these in rehearsals (and gigs), as I am sure most bands have.

The album has a whole is a really good piece of work.  Pete Drake's production is first rate, and the playing on the album is impeccable.  The songs are really strong, and Ringo's voice is in good shape.  Yes there is the odd hiccup with his singing, but we'll excuse that considering that the recording only two days according to Wikipedia. although I am not sure how much credence we can give that.

It is an album that when initially released wasn't well received, but since then has been seen by many to be the best work that Ringo has released.  I am not too sure if I would go that far, but then I have to admit that I hadn't heard the album until I started swatting up for this blog.  I do think however that it is a really good album, performed with a crack team of musicians that are at the top of their games.  The songwriters too had some absolute pearls on here as well for the most part.  I wasn't so sure about this album when I was coming up to it, but was really really pleasantly surprised by it.

Links -
A little bit cheeky I know, but my friend Nicholas Tozier's blog on songwriting.
My version of the song Coochy Coochy.
A fascinating post on Donald Sauter's Beatles Pages.

Me at home working out the
final bunch of songs on Jan 22 2013.