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‘The Milkman’ Demo

As those of you who rate enough to be a Facebook friend, I’ve been working on at least one new song (actually, a slew of them) called “The Zimbalist Thing,” an ode to Stephanie Zimbalist that gradually becomes a paranoid rant about my fear of her tough-as-nails FBI agent father. I had hoped to have a demo up today, but I find it excruciatingly difficult to write song lyrics unless they’re pornographic disasters, so I got nothing. The music is done, the melody’s done, and I have one and a half verses and the first line of the chorus. I won’t share anything in such an embryonic state, so deal with it.

Instead, I’ll share a hastily abandoned demo/backing track for a song I wrote called “The Milkman.” I never finished it because, again, I couldn’t come up with any decent lyrics. But I’ve always liked the music (and, in fact, pilfered the chord progression for one of my terrible Owen Autumn jams) and always intended to finish the song.

Some insight into my songwriting/recording process: I start with a rough “sketch” of the song’s chord progressions, listen to it a handful of times to glean a melody (at which time the song often changes significantly, because the original chord progression sparks a melody that it cannot musically support). Once I have that locked down pretty tight, I’ll record a more elaborate demo to help get me in the right frame of mind to add lyrics. Usually, this demo ends up as an early backing track, which is then tweaked with different instrumentation and better mixing, at which time I’ll record the vocals and call it a day. I know all of this is really boring, but I figured I should explain why I basically have a fully formed backing track for a song I never finished. It’s just how I work.

(Trivia that nobody but me will care about: The two “percussion” tracks took a page from the mid-’60s Brian Wilson “let’s beat on anything to see what kind of sound it makes” school. The “sticks” are two pencils with a lot of reverb, and the “snare drum” is an empty plastic storage tub with the bass turned all the way up. This is one of the rare tracks where I experimented with banjo. I own a cheap banjo, but I play lefty, and the only left-handed banjos I can find are absurdly expensive for what amounts, in my song stylings, to a production-enhancing instrument. Banjos are not quite so easy to restring for lefties, so I only use it when I have something simple that would sound good on a banjo.)

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