How I wrote Spinning the Compass

<a href="">Spinning the Compass by Tom Slatter</a>

Spinning the Compass is the title track from my first solo album. It’s another song that’s been very long in the making – the chorus has been hanging around in my head and on scraps of paper for years. The demo below, recorded for FAWM, was the first time I realised the thing and got some verses together.

The lyrics I won’t explain, except to mention that there is an oblique reference to the end of The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester in the verses. The structure of the song is mildly unusual, having two verse together near the beginning of the song and nowhere else. The basic structure of the song goes something like:

Intro Melody
Melody (But a longer version)
Guitar Solo
Melody (An even longer version)

Each time that instrumental melody comes back you get to hear some more of it – that was the idea anyway.

Musically, the time signatures are all over the place (well, there are three different ones anyway) and the harmony is mostly centred around the E Lydian scale. The title and one of the counter melodies near the end recall material earlier heard in Bad Dreams. The two songs are related in tone and I think are the centrepieces of the album, although other people have had their own ideas about that.

Here’s the demo:

Spinning the Compass Demo

And here are the lyrics:

Been spinning the compass again
Changing the rules while I was looking away
5 paths in the same dial

Like living in a world of your own
all the time shrinking till all the roads meet
white lines dashing past at speed
And up is left, east is west and no-one cares

Spinning the compass again
16 down isn’t making sense
cross purpose and silent days
Like living in a mind not your own
thinking thoughts you don’t understand
white lights shining in the dark

Do you get the feeling we’re running out time?
Have you heard the rumours of war planes in the skies?

With this spinning the end is surely nigh?
Do you get the feeling we’re running.

White lines dashing at speed the windows
They’ve been spinning this compass again.