Friday, 23 April 2010

Behind The Song: The Ballad Of N.D.C.

The Blog Comment That Turned Into A Song

I moved to the Radford/Hyson Green area of Nottingham a couple of years ago. As I got to know my neighbours I found there was a lot of animosity towards a group called NDC that was supposed to be spearheading regeneration in the area but were dogged by allegations of corruption and poor management.

But it wasn’t till I read local news groups on the web that I realised how widespread the unhappiness with the group was. Hardly anyone in the city had a good word to say for them and many said there had been no significant improvement. I was about to put a comment on one of the blogs saying that NDC really stood for “No Discernible Change” when I had a 'lightbulb moment' and thought this might make a song instead.

Hooray For Harold Lloyd

From the start I had in mind a Music hall type song, particularly patter songs of the kind performed by Stanley Holloway. Indeed the verse came close to being recited rather than sung.

Another big influence was the music I heard as a child on Harold Lloyd’s silent films composed (I think)  by Walter Scharf. When I hear the first two lines of the chorus, I ‘see’ Harold Lloyd.

The Chorus came first pretty quickly, the verse was painstakingly piecing together chords on guitar and piano. I came up with a progression I liked for lines five and six, but Brian May liked it first (he used it in No One Like You). I got around that by splitting the chord progression between the fifth and seventh lines and inserting 3 more chords in between.

Sneaky, no?

What key are we in?

The song cycles through a lot of keys. The chorus uses the standard jazz device of going back through the circle of 5ths to keep it interesting, from A – E7 – B7 – F#7.

The Verse moves through the keys of A, E, C#m, C, G, Dm then ends up back in E again.

I was unsure whether I could come up with any kind of unified melody for this sprawling backing but I got a little tune for the first two lines and realised that I could move it around to fit each progression with very little alteration. The fact that it’s endlessly transposing stops you noticing (I hope) that it’s just the same little tune over and over again.

My wife calls this my 'Billy Bragg song'. I love the example of people like Woody Guthrie who could go from writing about politics to writing love ballads and kids songs. So why shouldn't I have a go?

Power to the people (and free kebabs for everyone!).

Related Posts: Download The Ballad Of NDC

Other Free songs by Matt Blick

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