How I wrote ‘Mechanism’

I thought it might be fun to do a blog post about each of the songs on Spinning the Compass

This song is a little naughty. It began life as a song about the antikythera mechanism but as so many things do, eventually ended up about sex.

This mechanism it’s driving us apart,
It shines a prism on the kind of love we share
This mechanism is making passion spoil
It tastes of something the cloying tang of wine and oil
Our love relies on clockwork
The careful use of gears and wheels

More specifically, it’s about a love affair that has been corrupted by toys, cogs and machinery, to the point where genuine human contact seems impossible.

Of course, such despairing and bleak lyrics have to be set to a jaunty tune.

You and me in the gaslight with our machinery
Our artificial steam powered hearts will never set us free
This mecanism isn’t you or me

The song was written for February Album Writing Month, and began as a couple of largely wordless improvisations (Warning, what follows are very rough demo recordings of a work in progress).

Improv 1

This is the first improvisation I recorded. At this point I had one line of lyrics, some chords, a vague idea of the groove/bass line and little else.

You can hear me trying out ideas, and playing little bits of melody on the guitar to make clear to myself what I was singing.

This is how I usually improvise – guitar and voice at the same time and little idea of what the eventual lyrics will be – though I usually do have at least one line to give me an idea of mood.

Improv 2

Here you can hear me improvising to try and figure out a chorus – some of the original chords from this survived, as did the ‘way you get to me’ arpeggio.

One difference you can hear is that I’ve a much clearer idea of how the verses will sound. In between these improvs I wrote a few lines down.

Both of these sound files, as rough and ready as they are, illustrate how the song began to develop. Here’s the demo I posted for FAWM09 – the finished song, albeit not recorded as well as the version on Spinning the Compass.

Mechanism (FAWM09 Demo)

The full lyrics are:

This mechanism it’s driving us apart,
It shines a prism on the kind of love we share
This mechanism is making passion spoil
It tastes of something the cloying tang of wine and oil
Our love relies on clockwork
The careful use of gears and wheel

This mechanism it isn’t how we feel

You and me in the gaslight with our machinery
Our artificial steam powered hearts will never set us free
This mecanism isn’t you or me

The games we’re playing type writers for our hearts
The rules and rhythms
The limits of a steam powered love
It started somewhere lighter
Somehow we got lost somewhre
This mechanism won’t get us anywhere

You and me in the gaslight with our machinery
Our artificial steam powered hearts will never set us free
This mechanism isn’t you or me

Oil is the wine
Roses in the chains
Burning a pilot light
Isn’t carrying a flame

You and me in the gaslight with our machinery
Our artificial steam powered hearts will never set us free
This mechanism isn’t you or me

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