The verse to Swaddled came from a fragment of an idea I had and recorded into my phone months ago, and it was originally intended to be a hymn. It was really really simple and was literally the melody and those first four lines. I’d just sing it to myself on long journeys and intended one day to record it as just voice or something. I’d written 2 or 3 verses eventually and worked out the piano chords but that was it really – it felt to be so full of religious tones and questions and something outside H&S but it was very much at the front of my mind when we started doing the writing sessions for the album. I remember starting to playing it in the room and at the time we were very into the simple 4 drum beats and the Graceland/African idea…Gary started adding this fairly hefty bass drum and Rich throwing in some, what you might call “chirpy” guitar licks…and it felt SO wrong for what I thought it would be. It only took a matter of minutes before it was apparent that this new direction and feel was, as usual, MUCH better than what I’d been working with and thinking about before.
Again, the first day demo was pretty much what you now hear in terms of ideas and parts. We had no chorus for a while – just the verses and the idea that there would be a swell in the track, then Gary came up with the chorus melody and chords from behind his drums. We just came to a lull and he said “what about…” and started to sing the melody and worked his way mentally through the chords. We sang a three-part aaahhh on the original demo which I think we all presumed would stay for the final thing because it was so rich but in the end it needed more lyrical content and the melody and feel that Gary had come up with was so powerful I thought it merited some content as well.
Lyrically I won’t say too much about this…I lost the original lyrIcs aside from the first verse and decided to take it in a slightly different direction… I think it speaks for itself now. However, I should acknowledge that the chorus is a rewording of a poem by Philip Larkin. The only poem I know off by heart and a soul-shaking piece of simple genius:
In times when nothing stood
But worsened, or grew strange,
There was one constant good:
She did not change.
I always presumed it to be a poem written as a letter of love but on quick investigation it appears it was written for an inscription outside the Faber and Faber offices to mark the Queen’s Jubilee! Hey ho. I’ve lifted it almost wholesale and re-appropraited it for my own more homely intentions.
This was one of two tracks where I had to overdub my piano/guitar parts (Family Man) and is usually the case it took twice as long as if we’d done it live. In this case the piano pick-ups on the live take were faulty so it was crackling and farting all over the place. The odd timings in the verses and turn arounds totally threw me and we have about 20 takes of me screaming and swearing my way through it. The rest of the band is live from what I recall – some lovely deft touches from Hux again and Gary’s beats at the end make me grin from ear to ear. It also features James’ brass scetion spiralling away – recorded on a lovely day where he literally just sculptured the sound out of the players with no score…thrilling.
Over to Ed to talk brass and choirs…
[Ed] The demo came out in literally an afternoon and was pretty much how you hear it except it had an extra verse and chorus after the first swell in that we binned in the interest of conciseness. It’s quite typical for us in that it’s simple repeated chord sequences all the way through but it seems to have a complicated structure… We’ve never been that good with lots of chords but we’ve always been good at making the most of those chords…
Recorded live for all the band stuff we had to re-record the piano because of techy problems. I used to use loads of mics on piano but this was just 2… MS pair about a foot out from the bass end of the keyboard pointing diagonally up at the high end – a technique for uprights I stole off Rich who stole it from someone else….
Love the two swirly bits of this song. We wanted to go big and build tension but without being just loud. There’s all kinds of clever stuff going on in the background; automating modulating delays and feedback (Ratshack again), bringing the original live piano back in the background, panning stuff about but it’s the brass that really make it. It’s the same ensemble we used on Fast Train 2 trumpets, 2 french horns, 2 trombones and 2 flutes. James had scored the third verse (baaah, bam bam baaaaah) but for the builds he just gave each section a couple of notes and just basically composed the piece by conducting when each instrument played and visually exhorting then to go louder and higher. Took a couple of goes but sound ace and awesome fun to watch…
The choir (owohwahwahwahawahoh) bit at the end was on the original band demo as well as a 3 part from Gary, Rich and Si. It wasn’t planned, it was literally something that was improvised as we did that last build the last time we recorded it. That was about 3 hours after we started writing it and then we didn’t touch it again till we did the band tracking a few weeks later.
We added the Voices of the Day choir in the church they rehearse in Seacroft in Leeds. It was really quick, maybe three takes. It’s a massive Graceland reference again… You could say we’re fans. Check out Rich’s lovely guitar in the left speaker doing some other Graceland referencing as well… The vocal and choir part is also more than a nod to “Life in a Northern Town” by Dream Academy – one of the greatest English singles of the 80’s imho… It’s also one of many songs we used to play at the end of parties. At that point where people have stopped dancing but you can still play music REALLY loud. We used to put on songs like this or Hurt by Johnny Cash or Hotel Lounge by dEUS and just marvel at them… So perfect, so daring, so inspiring.
There’s another reference as well… Try and spot it. It’s in Si’s piano part in the last dip before the build, and it’s just a little cheeky reference to all the New York stuff in “Fast Train”… One of my favourites.