The Pink Raincoat (studio version)

October 26, 2010 12:57 PM

Sometimes songs come easy and sometimes they come hard. Everything about this one was hard. The final, sweated over, version of a song I posted a rough demo of a few weeks ago. Hopefully the results are worth it!

Everything about this song was difficult, from the chords to the words to the arrangement to the solo to the tempo changes to... well, everything. It fought me every step of the way, week after freakin’ week, when I had much better things to be doing.

In the end however I was happy with the way it turned out, not least because it was about something, and also because I really felt like I’d got out from under my influences and written a song that, for better or worse, sounded like me.

The first hard part was the chord changes, which were not at all out of my standard book of tricks, especially the F#m-Am change which is sort of the harmonic basis of the whole song but took a lot of wrestling into shape.

I butted heads with the solo for a long time. I knew the melody but making it work on the guitar was a nightmare... just couldn’t get it sounding right. Eventually restrung the tele with some big strings set the Fender Twin set to maximum twang and it all came together.

The slight tempo change in the chorus -- it slows down for the ‘pink raincoat’ line, then back to speed as it goes back into the verse -- was an absolute nightmare. I could not work out what the timing was. I could play it on the acoustic, but getting the tempo mapped in logic was almost impossible for some reason.

The harmonies were tough because although the vocal melody is simple, the chords around it are a bit strange so you can’t just track the melody an interval away.

The acoustic guitar was recorded in stereo using the X-Y technique someone recommended here, which really worked well. That was really the only easy part of the whole damn song.

The drums were hard because I decided to play them rather than program them -- the first time I’ve ever done this. I recorded them into midi from the DM5, cleaned them up, and used the Abbey Road 60s samples, which are really lovely.

The bass was hard because a lot of it is played high on the neck, and I had to complete re-intone the damned thing to get any of it to sound in tune.

Finally, the mix was really damn complicated because of the dynamics... everything is being ducked all the time to make space for the little quiet moments, then pushed for the crescendoes and so you could hear certain words... lots of fiddly automation.

Well, that’s my bitching over. I dunno if it was totally worth it but I’m sure glad it’s finished so I can get on with my life...

posted by unSane (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Lyrics FWIW

The Pink Raincoat
words/music © 2010 J Brownlow

I heard you found somebody new
Somebody who will love you too
I hope it’s true
I was not the one for you
Was only ever passing through
You never knew

And I won’t pretend that this is a love song
We ended up bad and we started out wrong

But after all that we went through
There’s still one thing I know is true
That pink raincoat, it sure looked good on you

You wanted to be a special one
A Marilyn, Napoleon
But they were gone
And all the things he did to you
They turned you black, they turned you blue
They haunted you

I’m not trying to tell you that this is a love song
We ended up bad and we started out wrong


You never wore pink but it suited you
When you looked in the mirror, you saw someone new,
Someone who could be one of the special ones
A Marilyn, Napoleon, a Joan of Arc, Coeur de Leon
It made you strong

One day you found a photograph of her
And on the back a letter
I would never write to you
And though you cried and though I lied
We both knew that something died
And would not be revived

And I can’t pretend that this is a love song
We ended up bad and we started out wrong


posted by unSane at 1:14 PM on October 26, 2010

This sounds really good...and totally worth it
posted by Greynaab at 6:02 PM on October 26, 2010

This is really cool, pure power pop. I love, love the tremolo guitars. Really makes me miss the Twin I used to play through... although I don't miss lugging it up and down stairs.

I could play it on the acoustic, but getting the tempo mapped in logic was almost impossible for some reason.

Since you're using MIDI drums, you could just tap along with the guitar track and beatmap to that. (Which--I know this from experience--is a lot harder than it sounds... but it ought to work.)
posted by uncleozzy at 6:11 AM on October 27, 2010

You know, Guitar Rig 4 does a bang up job of simulating a Twin. The tremolo is spot on. The doubled shimmery guitars in this were done that way. Just set the trem frequencies a little off, pan them hard left and hard right, instant How Soon is Now.
posted by unSane at 7:18 AM on October 27, 2010

Since you're using MIDI drums, you could just tap along with the guitar track and beatmap to that.

Oh, believe me, I tried that. It worked for the little ritenuto at the end of the chorus but my timing was so sloppy in the rest of it that it drove me nuts and made it completely impossible to drum to! It was also really hard to sing to because there's no backing at that point and you really need a clear eighth-note click to come in right on the guitar. In the end I had to beatmap it, then try to work out exactly how the tempo was changing in that part, and then put the tempo changes in manually. It only took me, y'know, a week or so to figure it out.
posted by unSane at 7:28 AM on October 27, 2010

Well no wonder this was a bit of work for you! This sounds to me like it's a little more than a song. If there was a female vocal responding to yours, this would be a piece of rock opera...or something like that. Good show man, this is really great!
posted by snsranch at 3:42 PM on October 27, 2010

Heh, I dread to think what the subject of this song would write about me. Imagine Alanis Morisette on a PCP binge. With Doc Martens, a Suicide Girls bob, a pink raincoat, and a taste for revenge. Ulp.
posted by unSane at 4:10 PM on October 27, 2010

Great song.

I think a bold and sometimes tinking piano might help.
posted by Zenabi at 5:18 PM on October 27, 2010

Yeah, there is a bit of piano in there but it's mostly chords and that little walk-up bass line. It's a very non-intuitive song for me to play on the piano for some reason.
posted by unSane at 5:35 PM on October 27, 2010

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