The Spill Challenge # 49 – Songs Of An Intricate Nature

Welcome one and all to this week’s Spill Challenge


For the uninitiated, a new challenge appears each and every Tuesday and is a blue blanket type device for Readers Recommend enthusiasts to prevent them from sucking their thumbs down to the bone in the time between the close of nominations and the appearance of results of a Thursday.

Some of our favourite music is often the most simple: Smoke On The Water, punk, Kraftwerk and early Rock’n’Roll all made a virtue of it – whereas Status Quo didn’t, but nevertheless found it a lucrative furrow to plough.

This week’s task is to dig into the recesses of your mind and your music collection and offer your fellow Spillers something a little more cerebral, a liddle biddy more complex. Intricacy can come in many forms, musical and lyrical, so what we are looking for need not necessarily be exhibitionist in nature.

By way of inspiration I offer you Kate Bush’s Flower Of The Mountain. The song originally appeared in a different form as the title track of the Sensual World album and was inspired by Molly Bloom’s erotic closing soliloquy in James Joyce’s Ulysses. She had originally set Joyce’s words to music but was refused copyright permission by his estate. When preparing the Director’s Cut album, she tried again and Joyce’s estate agreed to the use of the text. Blending literature and music can sometimes be a clunky combination, but I think she really inhabits the character and lets it soar off the page.

Kate Bush – Flower Of The Mountain

Stepping out
Of the page
Into the sensual world

And then I asked him with my eyes to ask again, yes
And then he asked me would I, yes, to say yes, my mountain flower
And first I put my arms around him, yes and drew him down to me
So he could feel my breasts or perfume, yes
And his heart was going like mad and yes, I said yes, I will, yes

It is quite possible that we have no volunteer for next week’s Challenge, so if you are feeling brave/inclined, speak now or forever hold your silence (or hold it until the following week at least). Challenge topics are ideal for all you luddites out there: simply post a video link/text combination in support of your choice, then just sit back and wait for the gibbering/frothing/adulation (don’t count on the latter) to begin. If you would prefer to do something fancy, the multi-talented Maki has written an easy to follow manual, under the “Manual” tab at the top of the blog, although please bear in mind that embedding video content will slow everything down for those accessing the page from a mobile device . Not much in the way of rules other than the requirement that no artist can be duplicated in one week – whoever posts firsts gets to keep their choice.

55 thoughts on “The Spill Challenge # 49 – Songs Of An Intricate Nature

  1. A pre-Queen Freddie Mercury had a very impressive wall of sound built around an old Ronnettes/Beach Boys song.

      • Boh Rhap was probably the most elaborately produced pop song up to that time (may still be AFAIK), but this came pretty close for a song that Elektra passed on releasing in the States and I don’t know if even got a UK release at the time.

        This song was released on some tiny indie label in the States and just did scrape the national charts based on some airplay and sales in the Philadelphia area. (That’s the unmistakable guitar work of Brian May, so this song was recorded in 1972 just before the band came together.)

  2. Ling Tosite Sigure – Disco Flight

    Ling Tosite Sigure are a three piece band of very accomplished musicians and they really do like to make sure everyone can see how clever thet are ! ! ! They love to use strange time signatures, change times and keys and just show off actually. It can be quite distracting sometime, but usually they do really make great tracks and this one of my favourites by them.

    I hope you like it ! ! !

    Ling Tosite Sigure – Disco Flight

  3. I would suggest a thing called To Be Over by the proggies Yes
    It’s a tapestry of guitars, played one at a time not overlain, and finishes with a dance twixt a jazzy synth line & guitar weaving in an out of each other
    the words are few and far between and i’ve no idea what it means .. except the mood of drifting down a river – imagine any birds, sun beams or flutterings you like as you float along

    it is a joy

    will perhaps try to find a link ..
    the only live clip was from Queens Park Rangers loftus road football ground .. and the sound mix was so bad the guitar, which is 90% of the track, is inaudible.
    But the original might be around with someones inventive graphics..

  4. The idea: Once upon a time, Dave Stewart and Stevie Nicks had just clicked at a party, and they were getting down to business in a hotel room when they became aware that Joe Walsh, whom Stevie had just dumped, was out in the corridor doing…what? Howling? Dunno, but it was getting on Dave’s nerves, so Stevie said “It’s OK, I’ll sort it” and out she popped. Silence ensued, and when she came back Dave said “What did you do?” and Stevie said “Oh, I just said ‘Don’t come around here no more.'”

    The recording: Dave’n’TP decided they wanted a cellist on the track, so they booked one from the LA Philharmonic. When he turned up at the studio and found out they wanted him to jam, he was shocked: “Well, I’ve never played anything that wasn’t written down.” He enjoyed it once he got into it, though. There’s a sitar on it too, but Dave played that.

    The video: based on the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, it has nothing to do with the song at all. Dave plays the Caterpillar, TP is the Mad Hatter and the rest of the Heartbreakers play party guests. My kids were seriously freaked out by the cake-cutting scene…I’m not linking to that video, but you can easily find it on YouTube if you want.

    The performances: all this produces very intricate concert performances of the song. In this one from 1991 (one of my favourites) a giant tree has been built on stage, hung with coloured lanterns…but it only really gets used for this song. There’s a five-minute introduction by Mike Campbell playing three instruments before the iconic drum solo even starts, and the performance has hat-wearing, theatrical lighting effects, rushing about, and an overt political message at the end. And it lasts twelve and a half minutes. Phew! The audience participation is pretty complex too, since as well as being encouraged to clap along by TP they are required to shout “Hey!” and “Stop!” at the appropriate moments. Restful it ain’t. The concert film is by Julien Temple, and it was only ever released on VHS so the quality isn’t that good I’m afraid. What’s more, I couldn’t find the clip on YouTube so I hope you all appreciate the immense and, yes, intricate effort I’ve put into bringing it to you this afternoon.

    Don’t Come Around Here No More by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

      • Well, of course there’s neither a sitar nor a cello on the version I posted…Anyone know what the third instrument that Mike plays is?

      • I know the song tfd but can’t listen to the version you posted at the moment. It’s not the maracas is it?

      • OK – I’ve found the answer. So now it’s a challenge within a challenge: for precious ‘Spill points, name the third instrument played by Heartbreakers lead guitarist Mike Campbell in this clip. One and two are easy!

  5. In view of the “Don’t put up YouTube videos” rule, I am just going to suggest three seemingly “simple” songs with great lyrics.
    The poets of early rock & roll (aka music for simpletons) were Chuck Berry, Leiber & Stoller and Pomus & Shuman.

    Chuck Berry – “Schooldays”. Great lyrics on this with lines like:
    “Ring ring goes the bell,
    The cook in the lunchroom’s ready to sell,
    You’re fortunate if you can find a seat,
    You’re fortunate if you have time to eat….”

    Leiber & Stoller – Wrote many hits for The Coasters, The Robins, Elvis and so on, but one of their best songs, for me, was the one they wrote for Peggy Lee “Is That All There Is”.

    Pomus & Shuman. Doc Pomus suffered from polio as a child and as a result had to walk with crutches. In his latter years, he put on weight and was then confined to a wheel chair.
    When he got married, at the reception, his new wife wanted to dance and he had to sit and watch whilst she danced with other guests. That inspired him to write “Save The Last Dance For Me”, made famous by the Drifters.
    Although another 3-chord number, the lyrics again are meaningful and heartfelt.

  6. I’m in a state of overall emotional meltdown, after the trauma of a missing cat (more anon), so in the mood for something classical. A ‘player piano’ is, I think, an automatic piano that uses paper rolls with holes in to tell it what to play, and the original composition here was for several of them; the wonderful Joanna MacGregor recorded the different scores on tape and played them all together, which produces an amazingly intricate piece:

    Joanna MacGregor: Player Piano Study No.11 (Nancarrow)

  7. There are a few times in your life when you hear something for the first time and it’s that pull over to the kerb moment or you just sit there, stand there, for a moment or two longer with your musical universe having been transformed for ever. Two records that come to mind are firstly, Cabinessence by The Beach Boys. I first heard this around 1980, many years after it was first released in 1969 on the band’s 20/20 album. This should have been released in 1967 as a bulwark of the lost Smile album and for me it is this record in particular that sums up all the sadness, loss and regret of this period of the band’s career. Was this really The Beach Boys I asked myself? A song about the building of the railroad across America – it is a record that evokes Mark Twain, Frederick Remmington and John Ford. The Beach Boys’ harmonies and vocals are amazing – recreating the sound of the moving train and the increase in speed as the track ploughed across the plains. For me this one of the great American popular records in a way that surpasses the band’s more popular anthems. It captures the intangible vastness of the continent and at the same time the ‘Iron Horse’ eating up the great distances.

    The other record is Joni Mitchell’s Paprika Plains’. From her jazz-inspired album ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter’ this is another journey of a lifetime for the ears and the mind. So much of this seems improvised, the unpredictable playing out of a dream – beautiful moments of perfect togetherness and jarring dissonance that caress and buffet you in turns. Mitchell’s sense of adventure here is amazing – She shares this dream and the landscape she finds, it is a beautifully sensual record perfectly realised. A long journey that is to be savoured.

  8. Got 17 minutes to spare?

    I listened to Joanna Newsom’s Ys album for the first time in a while a couple of days ago (perfect up-with-the-baby-in-the-middle-of-the-night listening…). This song in particular packs in more musical and lyrical ideas than most artists manage in a lifetime.

    On a first listen, it can sound impenetrable and disjointed. But the more you listen to it, you hear themes and melodies developing and returning. Every time I hear it, something new surprises me.

    I love a three-minute pop song. But in terms of “pop” music as “Art” – if that’s in any way a valid concept – I think this is the greatest thing produced in my lifetime.

    Joanna Newsom – Only Skin

  9. Hope this works. Posting in “Word” and hoping I can copy and paste to the ‘Spill.
    Right. I have always liked King Crimson for their unpredictability and innovation. Fripp is never one to rest on the laurels of previous performances and no two albums (nor sometimes group members) are the same.
    At first this track sounds disjointed. The vocals, guitars and drums all appear to be playing in different time frames. Someone more intelligent than I will be able to tell me what those timings are but for me the overall sound fits in with the title of the track and it’s meanings.
    For something a bit more “cerebral, liddle biddy more complex” then Crimson have a lot to offer.
    King Crimson………….”Three of a Perfect Pair” (1984)

  10. Great theme, there’s so many.
    The first that comes to mind is the entire album Astral Weeks by Van Morrison from around 1968, specifically the cut Ballerina which knocked me out from first listen and still does. The thing I appreciate most in a lot of pop music is the backing arrangements, Beatles are great and so is Dylan but the way Van created this piece with a group of jazz musicians who had never played together before and without the benefit of rehearsals or lead sheets he created this; a masterpiece! He just told them to follow him and to improvise freely, they did!
    Forty years after the release, he performed the songs on the album live during two concerts at the Hollywood Bowl in November 2008.

  11. Kitchens of Distinction’s song ‘Railwayed’ intertwines film/literature and music (I don’t know how to format this successfully, so apologies if it ruins the moment):

    It’s sung from the perspective of the Jenny Agutter character in the movie; and is about her watching the train arrive bringing her father after years apart. Will he still love her? I think the lyrics are wonderful, with a sensitive empathy matched by the soaring, swirling guitars: they switch between the father’s and daughter’s perspectives. Really clever and beautiful.

    • I was sat outside a pub in Camberwell the other day and Jenny Agutter came out of the building opposite, got in a waiting cab and sped off. The 20-somethings I was with had no idea who she was. Tsk.

      • I don’t know what she exuded in The Railway Children but it was something that made your heart do all sorts of strange things. A whole generation of besotted young men were destined to seek in vain for their own Bobbie.

      • not a Song Of An Intricate Nature – but ‘at one with nature’

        The Shy Retirer by Arab Strap

        “I wanna fall in love tonight and form an unbreakable bond
        you can be my teenage Jenny Agutter swimming naked in a pond

        you know I’m always moaning
        but you jump start my serotonin”

        I only mention this because the first mixtape I did for my Ms. was:

        A side: you know I’m always moaning.
        B side: but you jump start my serotonin.

        (nothing ever changes)

      • The Railway Children is the BEST film to watch when you have the ‘flu. Especially when she is standing on the platform near the very end and just screams out “My Daddy!”. It’s a three handkerchief moment alright. She was fun in Local Hero.

  12. Question: is intricacy the same as complexity?

    Second question: in which universe are most Kraftwerk songs not both intricate and complex?

    • You got me on both counts Prof.

      Challenges titled Songs of Complexity or of a Complex Nature would perhaps not have the same snappy ring to them, so perhaps you might afford me the blooger’s licence, so to speak.

      And Kraftwerk? There is certainly complexity there, although their reductive style is also – I feel – simple.

    • I was also quite keen to present a reasonably open goal type topic and hopefully the complexity will be in the ear of the beholder 😉

    • Don’t mind me, I’m just getting my pedantry circuits fired up again after three days spent worrying about missing cats. I’m currently imagining an intricate piece of Islamic art, simultaneously simple (repeating patterns) and complex. Which would also work as a description of Kraftwerk’s music…

  13. if I could spell intracate I’d happily suggest a few from back in the 70’s
    though i may be confusing ‘convoluted’ and ‘mad as a box of frogs’ for ‘delicate’ and ‘delightful’, bit like Big Shirl

    Camel Supertwister is jolly but quiet instrumental where delicate cymbal thwacks were too loud, so they use a aerosol shssssssssssh instead, with a big cymbal bash at the close replaced with the frothy opening of a can of foster’s lager
    Gryphon on midnight mushrumps played prog but on medieval instruments like crumphorns .. but you can’t dance to it
    Can’t dance to Gordon Giltrap’s acoustic guitar mayhem on Lucifer’s Cage – but highly recommended

    Gentle Giant were playfully complex, swapping instruments mid-song or mid-verse. Knots has KD Laing’s pyschological mind game poems set to music .. he thinks she thinks that he is hurting her but she thinks ..

    But if i had to pick one Giant song for intrawotsit, i’d go for So Sincere for a nice xylophone interlude
    ( takes six minutes for that bit to start )

    So Sincere

    as for Yes what about a link for To Be Over
    we go sailing down an endless stream that plays …
    To be over

    alfie himself

  14. When I first heard this, I didn’t know whether to feel traumatised, aroused, repulsed, terrified or profoundly understood. (In a way I didn’t even understand myself.) Almost 30 years later, I still find it astonishing.

    The Smiths: Reel Around the Fountain

    I think it’s one of the most emotionally complex – and heartbreakingly beautiful – songs I’ve ever heard.

  15. I had to re-read the opening statement to see if this one would fit the bill, I think it does. It’s ‪Steve Reich – Music For 18 Musicians; Pulse, Section II‬, I think it is the epitome of ‘simplicity’ and ‘complexity’ and there’s a fair bit of intricasy in there also. I usually make a point of listening to the entire piece once a year and I’d recommend it to all Spillers to do the same.

      • Exodus; thanks for that . I’m also not a real Van fan, I only have a couple of his early albums but I can listen to Astral weeks over and over; so many great songs there.

        Bluepeter: Thanks for those 18 donds, I find everything of Steve Reich’s to be infinitely interesting and playable over and over, I learn something overtime.

  16. Of all the songs in all the world … immediate thoughts were Gordon Giltrap; Yes; Jon and Vangelis; John Renbourn; Pat Metheny; Weather Report. Then I stopped trying to be clever and came up with:

    Loggins and Messina – Vahevela (1974 – OMG)

    Now, there is no link because the versions on You Tube are a paltry 4.5 minutes long. But the version I have is on “On Stage” and wanders joyously for a full 21 minutes. It is deceptively simple, but there are cross melodies, harmonies, flutey things, steel drums in the You Tube versions – it is just glorious, a great celebration of life, Jamaican things, and gorgeous young men with beards. What more could you ask. Phew.

  17. OK, this is a genuine suggestion even if you don’t think it is. One of the handful of tracks I really like by The Fall. It sounds like chaos and yet seems to hold together throughout the song. I don’t really know much about the technical aspects of music, but lets just say I don’t think it’s just been thrown together even if it sounds like it on first listen. As for lyrically intricate – who knows?
    Warning – contains offensive language, presumably in ironic quotation marks.
    The Fall – The Classical

  18. For me, one of the more intricate and interesting numbers is from French Canadian folk rock group Garolou. The band borrowed a lot from historical stories and folk lore as well as traditional songs.

    The song is Germaine and the liner notes tell us that the around 1270 AD, the baron Guilhelm de Beauvoir (referred to as Prince Amboisie in the song) went to serve in the last Crusade. He left for the holy land leaving his young bride Germaine behind to the tender mercies of his mother, a cruel and jealous woman who does her best to try and lure Germaine into infidelity while her son is away in order to break up the marriage.

    The song is sort of a play, with some narration and different actors singing the different parts (although all the parts, even the female ones, are sung by men as there are no women in the band.)

    The story takes place several years after Prince Amboisie has left. The narrator tells how Germaine encounters three “jolis cavaliers” who ask if she is a young woman available for marriage.

    Germaine replies: I’m not a young girl available for marriage, I was married when I was 15 and a half years old. It’s been seven years since my husband departed.

    Next the cavaliers arrive at the chateau where Germaine lives and speak to her mother saying: Bonjour madame, may we lodge here? In honor of Prince Amboisie, of course, the most gallant man at arms in the land.

    The stepmother speaks next to Germaine saying: Bonjour Germaine, three cavaliers are visiting us. But they don’t want drink or food. They want to have you by their side.

    Germaine speaks next: Mere, mechante mere (mother, wicked mother) get away from me. If you weren’t my husband’s mother I’d throw you in the moat.

    There are several changes in tempo, and short instrumental interludes in all of the above. It ends with a musical interlude that gets us to a switch of scenery and takes us to the holy land where Prince Amboisie speaks to his friends: Let’s leave dear friends. Our horses are saddled. At Germaine’s table I want to eat. In Germaine’s bed I want to lie down.

    This is followed by a nice bit of guitar work (4:05 in if you’re trying to follow with the song) The dual guitar solo is followed by a bit of piano and guitar climaxing in a bit that sounds like galloping horses and represents the prince and his friends speeding back to France.

    It ends with the prince at the chateau saying to Germaine: Germaine, beautiful Germaine, open the door for your husband.

    Germaine: I won’t believe you’re my husband until you tell of the day we wed

    Amboisie: Remember then, Germaine, the morning of the 17th. Your uncles and cousins were at the nuptials

    Germaine: I won’t believe you’re my husband until you tell me about the horse I had there

    Amboisie: Remember then, Germaine, your horse from Paris, and your grey satin dress

    Germaine: I won’t believe you are my husband until you tell me what happened on our first night

    Amboisie: Remember then, Germaine, your gold wedding band. I held you so tight in my arms it broke. Germaine, here are the pieces.

    Germaine (to servants): Servants, dear servants, come here. Light the candles at the four corners of my bed. I am going to open the door wide for my husband.

    This takes us to 7:43 in (the song is 10:32 long) and the last 3:45 are a lush instrumental mix of guitar and synthesizer that lets us imagine the prince and his bride re-uniting after seven years apart.

    A very romantic song with varied tempos and an interesting story. One of my favorites.

  19. I had to think about this for a bit. Perhaps I’m not a very complex creature? What I have come up with is Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud by David Bowie, from 1969, partly for the strange story that happens in the lyrics, but mostly for Tony Visconti’s fabulous orchestral arrangement.

    It’s so overblown and blousy, I love it. The oboe, the harp, I am still as impressed with it as much now as I was when I first heard it at 12.

    Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud

  20. Sorry, folks, have been too busy to read through as yet, but following a CtrlF nil result, I have to say – as the old RR saying would have it – I can’t believe I’m the first to mention …:

    Talk Talk – The Rainbow

    These days, it seems to be the norm to refer to Spirit Of Eden as a six-track album, but it isn’t. The “songs” Eden and Desire are actually parts of The Rainbow. All in all, 23minutes+ of [at the time] jaw-dropping stuff. Had this been made a dozen years either earlier or later, it’d’ve been dismissed as prog. But instead, the choirs, string quartets, brass bands, and god-knows-how-many overdubs are credited with helping to create post-rock, amongst other things.

    Despite my heavy rock core, this is still, for me, the greatest album ever made.

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