Take The Measure Of It All

metrically, imperially, or US customarily
PDF | Midi Mp3

This is written as a solo concert ukulele song, and the chord diagrams reflect that, as they are pretty much exactly what I actually play. The feel departs from the usual Viper swing and lurches toward something a little more McCartney/Nilsson (or, frankly, Herman’s Hermits in their “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” vein). In fact, when I went to look at my early “scratch” tracks demos (see below), I found I’d saved the file info with the genre as “British Invasion doing mock Music Hall.”

Like “Stepping the Betsy,” I’m not entirely sure what the lyrics are about, or even what most of my favorite lines in it mean, though it might be my favorite song I’ve written. It’s kind of an attempt to do a lot with a little; the main motif is just three notes going up the scale, and there’s a few words — call, ball, can, would/wood, etc. — that are tasked with doing a lot of work, appearing with slightly different meanings in slightly different contexts over a lot of repetition. I wrote it while I was reading Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans, so blame her.

I really need to find/record a good full audio/video recording of it. But to at least provide a feel for the style as played on uke, and in the Get Back spirit, I’ll post links to two of the song’s original “scratch” tracks — the little recordings a writer might make while making something up so they don’t forget what they were doing the next day. (I once read a magazine piece collecting advice from songwriters — Liz Phair said this is exactly what you should do and Ray Davies said this is exactly what you shouldn’t do. Or maybe it was the other way around.)

Here, you hear me picking out the eventual verse melody…

The Viper, “Take the Measure of It All” (verse), scratch track, 2015

…but then bringin in the bridge, full-steam (no words yet!).

The Viper, “Take the Measure of It All” (bridge and verse), scratch track, 2015

the kind of music your great-great-great-grandparents warned your great-great-grandparents about