The Demo Vault: I Saw Something
A rejected Carphone Warehouse advert given a second chance at life
Some Things Are Like Other Things is a week old today! 🥳
You can stream / buy it here: http://jakemorley.lnk.to/STALOT
I want to thank anyone who has bought the CD or download, anyone who has streamed it, shared it, commented about it or hit any sort of like button. As an independent DIY artist, each one of these matters. So a big thank you 🙏.
Last month’s demo vault was fun, and I have so many more to get through. How about another? It’s hard to know which to choose, but here’s one with an interesting story: I Saw Something from Many Fish To Fry.
1) The Carphone Warehouse Advert
Aged 23, a little lost in a complicated world after my dad died, an opportunity came up to write music for TV adverts. Music and the vague possibility of money? Maybe this is what I’ve been looking for?
Music briefs for TV ads are hilarious. The aim always seems to be outright theft of a track that’s currently popular. Words like ‘zingy’, ‘fresh’, ‘wow factor’ are used without irony. Then when all’s said and done they do a lot of cocaine, change their mind and go with something radically different.
One day The Carphone Warehouse invited people to pitch for a new ad campaign. Being 2006, it should sound a lot like The Kooks, but not so much that we all get sued. It should be zingy and fresh. They need it in 2 days.
Here’s a lesson I have yet to learn: time pressure is the secret ingredient of good songwriting. I jumped from guitars to drums and back again and within a day or two I had this 30 second banger down.
They apparently almost took it… but didn't, which is the chorus lyric of that particular industry.
Eventually the guy getting me the work stopped paying my invoices as they were getting in the way of his coke habit. I also realised I wasn’t especially good at it, and got asked to write a musical about zombies invading victorian London. But that’s a story for another day.
2) I Saw Something (live solo)
Skip forward to 2008 and I’m all buzzing from my recent lap-tapping epiphany. I’m a singer-songwriter now. I have a loop pedal. Friends of friends of friends are coming to my gigs. This could be it. I’ve written This City, Eyes and Inside My Mind. What’s next?
My brother in music was a guy who puts the true in troubadour - Tom McQ. He’s impossible to describe, a legend of the ages, an enigma, a fireball of 5,000 songs, an absolute one of a kind.
We’d just got back from Tonefest, one of my first ever festivals. My best friends had come along for the ride, and together we’d had exactly the kind of young-people-at-a-festival experience that telecoms companies love to associate themselves with. I felt like I’d finally arrived somewhere. From somewhere, the Carphone Warehouse tune came back to me, and I start adapting it, shoehorning in some all-important lap-tapping at the end.
In contrast to songs from later albums, you’ll notice very little changes between demos in Many Fish To Fry era songs. The words are the words and that was that. No faffing about with 15 different rewrites.
Is that a better way to write? The fact it’s many people’s favourite album would suggest it is. Personally I think it’s a trade off, some of these verse lyrics feel a little awkward to me now. But maybe I’ve gone too far the other way? What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
Here’s a live demo I made at a rehearsal studio, much as I played it at gigs at the time. You can hear the band in the next room through the wall at the end.
3) I Saw Something (my pre-prod demo)
This is what I brought to Calum and Phill, who produced my first album.
Listening back I’m struck by how close it is to the final version. I outright snorted with laughter when I heard the completely artificial off-mic ‘OK’ at the beginning, like I’m trying to get the band (of entirely myself) ready for the take.
It’s also a reminder that I had decent production instincts. Maybe I even know what I’m doing sometimes?
The instrument at the end is called a Stylophone by the way. At the time it felt fun and charming. Later it felt a little cringy. Now it feels charming again.
4) I Saw Something (album version)
Calum and Phill nailed it here, tightening things up without losing the bright energy. And the band of course are amazing.
Maybe another reason the final version feels close to the demo is that I worked on it a lot in my own time. Percussion and backing vocals were added from my brother’s empty house while he was between rentals. Me and Tom Loffman took a mic outside to capture some of that wide open air feeling. We grabbed Tom McQ for a little guest appearance.
Producers are great at bringing new ideas, seeing things with fresh eyes, challenging assumptions. At its best it’s a partnership, a creative relationship of equals, more than the sum of its parts.
But looking back I wonder if there have been times I’ve deferred to producers too much… it’s a tricky balance. I hope next time I record an album I’ll have a courage to trust myself as well as collaborate.
Tom McQ is still playing and is best experienced live. Find out where he’ll be next on his instagram page. I recommend his residency at London’s Marquee Club. Love that man.
That’s it for this week, do leave your comments below if you have any, and give my new record a listen here: http://jakemorley.lnk.to/STALOT
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