Sunday, September 07, 2008

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Mansun's "Six"

Today I had the very pleasant surprise of two rather long emails in my inbox, from Paul Draper (formerly of Mansun) regarding the recording of the album "Six" (two because there were supposed to have been two "sides" to be album).

I have many memories of this album from the time I first bought it, going to see one of the gigs on the Six tour (at the Leeds Town and Country Club), and enjoying it with friends.

One of the things I always appreciated it was the way in which it pushed boundaries and broke from convention in so many ways, and yet remained a really enjoyable collection of musical moments. The emails Paul wrote about its recording reveals a lot about how all of this came about, the reasons why things were done a certain way and what some things mean. It also shows a number of details that you might not notice: for example, "Special/Blown It" was written as an attempt to create a song based on one giant chord sequence: it in fact ends up being based on a 32-bar sequence repeated five times. This is similar to what Radiohead did with their song "Just", which came about following a competition between Tom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood to get as many chords into a song as possible. Little musical jokes like this that most people simply won't notice are one of the things I love about great music.

Some of Paul's commentary is simply hilarious. Take for example his story on how "Witness to a Murder (Part 2)" was devised with the goal of creating :

...something so off the wall, so fucking wacky that when people listened to it they think: "FOR FUCKS SAKE, WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?"
Following a brainstorming session they came up with this plan:
An 18th century baroque harpsichord movement featuring one male and one female opera singer singing how miserable they were in Italian with Dr Who playing a dead Brian Jones in a swimming pool in East Sussex.
And that is exactly what they recorded. Brilliant.

Then there's an extremely long section about how the "Muttley" laugh in Shotgun was recorded that is, shall we say, perhaps exaggerating a touch? Wacky.

I was really sad when Mansun broke up. This was a band that was creating genuinely good music that was clever, had depth and rewarded repeated listens. They weren't just about creating hit after hit, and there aren't many bands like them.

The whole thing reminded me of how much I enjoyed making music years ago, with my friend Mark and friends from university, and how I would like to get back into doing it again. it's just a question of time and equipment really.

Maybe someday...

(I've held this post back for a few days in the hope that I could link to Paul's writings about Six, but it appears that it is currently for mailing list subscribers only. I'll add a link once it is published somewhere public.)

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