Archive for the ‘Song Background’ Category


I know I know see all the people waving; They’re on their way home; Not much to say no-one to understand them more than you know.

Love will find a way

Are we going to turn this thing around?


Turnaround started because I wanted to write a song in a strange key. Neil Finn from Crowded House had expressed a love for F-minor so I thought I’d give the key a crack. Also a lot of songs I loved had a strong opening riff or melody so I was doodling around in the F-minor until – bang – I had that nice moody, jangly intro. I then discovered the verse chords that went with the melody.

I never wrote the lyrics down. I just kept playing the music and adding words until it got silly. Then I’d stop repeat and try again until the words got silly again. I had no idea what the hell it was about really.

At the time there was an increasing paranoia in Australia about boat arrivals from The North and the words started to evolve around this theme.

Then I got to the tag line, the hook, the chorus…. “Are we going to turn this thing around?”.

My logical brain flipped. Are we going to turn the boats around? Not really my politics man. Are we going to turn the situation around? What the fuck are we turning around?

Then I thought, the lyrics fit so who cares if it doesn’t make complete sense. In fact I think music works well with ambiguity. It forces the listener’s mind to at least engage with the ideas and make their own interpretation.

“In jazz, a turnaround is a passage at the end of a section which leads to the next section. This next section is most often the repetition of the previous section or the entire piece or song” – The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

I knew there was musical term “turnaround”, and I figured it’s a good name for song, so I had the title. Nirvana had used it back on Insecticide so I was in good company.

The song then evolved incredibly during the recording process. The final mix is almost unrecognisable from the original take. There are background synths, pads and sirens. The vocals are distorted and flanged. The original guitar solo was augmented with some background flourishes that then themselves became the solo. And there are lots of vocal overdubs and harmonies.

And Jack mixed the hell out of it and gave it a strong, angry, balanced mix. It became the perfect opener to the EP.

Over and out of your imagination; Speaker on the end of a phone; Caught in the eye of your imagination more than you know.

I’m not afraid

How we gonna turn this thing around?

Be Like Me

I really didn’t have any idea what this song was about when I wrote it. I had no agenda, no plan, just four chords and some mumbled lyrics in a demo.

I took this tune to the band to see what they could make of it. As such it was the least finished before rehearsals started.

Everybody wants to be like me, everybody wants to sing like me, everybody wants a song that that they sing when they’re down on their luck in the lucky country yeah

Everybody wants to move like me, everybody wants to walk like me, everybody wants a dance that they do when they’re living on the edge of a gone memory.

Everybody wants to believe. Oh


Don’t Mind The Eye Of Beholder (Will Merydith via Flickr)

The run of verbs moves through being, singing, moving and dancing, suggesting further and deeper corruption of the individual. The corruption runs deep until a person is no longer sure who they are or what they believe….

The song is so wordy. It feels like I’ve sung an essay and the tune is less than a minute in.

The lyrics are a little uncomfortable and feel egotistical to sing.  It’s a song about a country with a reputation for anti-establishment larrikins becoming a country of anxious conformers.

Everybody wants to be like me, everybody be real like me, everybody wants to know who they are, what they said, better say, better go, better leave

Everybody wants to be on the edge, nobody wants to be too fringe, everybody winds up in the middle of story that is told, that is telling to the end.

Everybody wants to be free

Everybody is cautious, concerned with taboo, wants to be considered as someone with an edge, but ultimately it’s only skin deep. It’s a clothing label, a sleeve tattoo, an ironic tee.

Night-walking in the middle of the road, still talking about the end of the world, road forking to the left to the right turnaround sit down contemplate what you owe.

Everybody wants to…

Teenage nights wandering suburban streets looking for mischief, talking and solving the ails of the world, drinking wine cooler, parroting what our teachers, parents and media taught us.

The song is out of words now. Jay comes in with some lovely harmony lines and the song builds a swinging momentum through the guitar solo, the solo ending with the rumble of Rob’s toms blasting like thunder out of the late summer sky.

Will the rain come this year and clean off the scum, the veneer, the gentrification, the sunburnt hypocrisy? Will the great south land be as great as the one it could have been?

Everybody wants to be like me, everybody be real like me, everybody winds up in the middle of story that is told, that is telling to the end.

The threatened liberation never occurs!

Friend in England

It’s a cold November there’s a chill in the air. We laughed all morning cause we didn’t care. You’re telling stories again, I can’t keep from laughing, my friend in England, you sorted me out.

Like most songs it starts with a simple musical part. The verses are basically two chords with a little embellishment. But when I played them they felt English. Weird hey?

The song is simple but the story is complicated. On one level it’s about a day I spent with a friend in England and another level it’s about the fear of returning home.

I was inspired by ‘Brick‘ (Ben Folds Five) to use time markers in the lyrics to place the story so I started with ‘November’. The story is set. It’s coming up to Christmas. I’m a nervous wreck on a ‘working holiday’, trying to find my place and never quite settling.

Union Jack (Brett Jordan via Flickr)

We’re walking around London having a laugh but I’m also anxious. I’m wondering if I’ll be loved when I return to Australia. She tells me that it’ll work out, we laugh, we spend the day laughing and don’t care about anything. She will return to her man in Brisbane, I’ll stick it out in London and hope that Anna will join me.

And tomorrow is calling, but I want to be still, still in this moment, but we’re not meant to be still, and it feels like we’re falling and the lights have gone out, do people return to be apart.

There’s a song on the radio, ‘Stuck in this Moment‘, by U2. We laugh that that sums me up. Fuck you, U2! I’ll borrow some of that idea then and use it in my verse.

Take the way home, was the answer back there, you’re telling stories and the endings are never quite clear, I tried to listen but the sounds had gone from the air, you were my Friend in England and now you’re not here.

I wrote the chorus in one go. The hairs stood up on the back of my arms and neck. It’s the best part of song writing, feeling like you are conjuring words from nothingness, a muse whispering in your ear.

Back to the story, I’m wondering if she will find something good when she returns home and I’m wondering what there is for me.

Come December, I’m out of here. I’m back in Melbourne for my Christmas cheer. And the Mallee wind, it blows in a new year.

It’s hard to put Australian place names in songs without sounding like Slim Dusty, but Midnight Oil had used the Mallee in ‘Stars of Warburton‘, so I tried it here.

Nothing’s changed round here; it’s still the same. The cold winter wind calls out your name. Nothing’s changed round here but something is missing.

I return and find the world at home hasn’t changed that much but everything is complicated. I’m there 10 days or so and I fly back to London.

When I get back, the house I rent a room in is empty and the snow is falling softly. I have a connecting flight to Edinburgh in about 14 hours time. She has returned to Australia. I’ve flown around the planet and back.

I celebrate Hogmanay with some other Aussies. I drink half a bottle of Grouse whiskey and peck about 60 girls, including a policewoman.

A new year has blown in, and the moment has passed.

Restless Moon – old loves, free spirits.

The song “Restless Moon” was conspired one lonely night in London. I was staring out the front window of a house in Crouch End, staring at the rows of English houses, watching snow gently drift to the ground. The house was empty. My landlord and housemates were away. And I thought of a girl I once knew, I thought of her plans, I thought of her free spirit, and I wondered where she was in the world. All while staring, like a caged animal, out the window at the moon. The guitars start then Niall’s smooth bass brings the band in.

Graveyard Girl, by Unfurled (Flickr)

Watching, waiting, looking at the ceiling, trying to remember her telephone number.

I could remember most of her phone number that restless night. But the numbers were jumbled in my head. I picked up the phone to call but never dialled.

She had plans to travel the country, on a bus bought from the company. I wonder if she got there, or if she never left home.

She had this crazy idea to buy a big old bus and convert it in to a traveling home and just go around the country hanging out and visiting people. On this particular crazy night I wondered if she ever did it, or if she shelved her dreams. Her life had tragic elements but I never knew where the fiction began and the fact ended. That restless night I needed her to be in her bus somewhere north, up the coast or in the desert.

I had some chords lying around. I’d discovered the main riff of E minor to E major and I was quite proud of that, as I’d never seen it done before. I had the chorus line and I had an idea of making each chorus one line longer than the previous one. To try and make the song jar, matching the restless mood.

I’ve been missing you

She always wanted someone to write a song for her so I thought I’d give it a crack. By the end I’m not sure what the song was about. Like many songs, the constraints of rhyme, structure, time and instinct take the writing to surprising places.

(Six) years in the desert and I wrote this strange dialect. What here does that mean? Like I never did stumble.

It was six years since I knew her. But then the song went off in strange new directions. I guess the desert is a metaphor for loneliness.

I’ve been missing you. But it’s so late at night.

Winding back through ancient dust, Outback rumble to memory past, living breathing forward through, an iris blue, a sky clouded in mood, golden and clear, shed no crocodile tears.

The bridge is my favourite part of the song. The break to C and E minor makes easy work after the verses. The lyrics dripped off my pen without any consideration for interpretation. Reading them now, there’s a yearning for home. There’s a sense that when you’re anxious, lonely, fearful, your focus narrows and you loop bad material in your brain. It’s about winding back and seeing the wider truth.

Living in a coma, like I’d ever go and phone her. When the moments passed, was it ever that good?

I’ve been missing you. But it’s so late at night. Restless Moon is shining bright.

Not a very romantic ending I admit. But hey memory makes everything seem idyllic. Let it go man. I love singing this last chorus with Jay.

The ending became a band jam with momentum building through each repeat. Rob loves banging out the drums to the end. The rest of the song has been hard work; all strange section lengths and changes. Now the song has made its mind up and it’s a simple three-chord race to the end with some nice organ overdubs.

Nude Ned explains “Protest Song”

‘Protest Song’ was written because I’m a Midnight Oil fan.Nude Ned - BW Detractors always said they played too much ‘complaint rock’, but Rob Hirst always retorted that it was better than ‘compliant rock’. Sadly, Aussies prefer compliance to complaining.

The song began with a meandering chord progression. In my head I imagined the first word sounding like “Oh”. If you listen to the song you’ll notice that the song starts with the word “So”. And that’s how the song started…

One of my songwriting heroes released a song called “Wings to Work” and I was impressed by how the music was so simple and repetitive but built up with each verse adding something, the song slowly building to a rousing ending. And… I was sick of trying to find catchy choruses.

From these threads the rest of the song grew. I wrote the verses in order. The lyrics were born out of a frustration with politicians and shock jocks. I had a feeling that they were always talking about issues I either didn’t care about, or if I did, they weren’t asking the questions I wanted to here or talking about what I wanted… and sometimes I didn’t even know what I wanted to talk about any more. They’d stolen my words!

The song was played originally on acoustic guitar but as it was jammed and demo-ed I imagined more and more singers joining in with multiple harmonies.

Whilst practicing the song Niall came up with a cool descending bass line between the 2nd and 3rd verses and later on Anna sang the lovely high harmony both of which really pushed the song along.

Paying homage to another Midnight Oil song, “Hercules” and also to the Paul Kelly Classic “From Little Things Big Things Grow” we banged out a long instrumental powerhouse at the end. And that is why the song is 7 minutes long!

EXTRA: The line “pushed that sedan” was morphed from another Midnight Oil lyric. Brownie points to anyone who can get it. The song is off Head Injuries.

ACTION: Listen to the full length song with Rob’s amazing drum work and extra guitar solo (iTunes, CD Baby or Amazon) or stream/download the Radio-Edit for free below.

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