A Song from the Gernsback Continuum
I always enjoy mixing forms and formats and this habit of mine sometimes leads me into wonderful new creatives spaces from which I fish a new and interesting fish.
Strawberry Kisser is a good example of this in my work.
I've always been a huge fan of Science Fiction, especially when it leans into speculative fiction, which for me means creating a set of conceptual parameters and then running a thought experiment true to those parameters. It is a crossroads of philosophy and literature, which allows the imagination to run free. My home country.
With Strawberry Kisser I decided to try exactly this. The Gernsback Continuum is a short story written in 1981 by William Gibson, the father of the cyberpunk movement, and a wonderful sci fi writer. In this story the main character begins to have access to visions of futures which never happened. Specifically retro-futures, a vision of the 1980's as seen from the 1930's. We're talking Air-wings, flying cars, sleek chrome cities, with fluid towers and geodesic domes. Vintage retro fun!
So my assignment was to write a song which we might find playing on the car radio in such a retro-future and as soon as I had this image in my head, it was clear to me that it should also be an homage to Chuck Berry, for no one represents huge American Cars with huge America car radios then he. Chuck Berry is remembered as an iconic guitarist mostly, but he is hardly ever credited as one of the greatest pop song writers of all time. But he is.
I decided specifically to model the song after Berry's song No Particular Place To Go, on of his brilliant stories, in which in a 3 minute song format, he develops characters, set, and story that would beat many modern Hollywood films today.
So I started out using these parameters, and found myself with a delightfully weird song which I felt achieved my goals for it. But then I had to record it.
As homage to Chuck Berry the choice of guitars and amps and the shape of the arrangement was fairly clear, but as I started, I wasn't at all satisfied with the sound of the song. I was missing an element which would give it the sparkle of something very much it's own.
This was all not long after I had the opportunity, honor and great joy to work with Brian May on Queen's We Will Rock You musical. For this work all of we guitarists were given their own Brian May Special Guitars and we played on his set-ups. Vox AC30's and little more. Just drive the hell out of the amps and play great. (There are a few more bits to Brian's sound, feel free to ask in the comments, if there are any gearheads out there).
So, there I was looking at my cherry red Brian May Special, and I thought what if I take it another step: What if in my retro-future the car radio was playing a tribute to Chuck Berry where Brian May from Queen is the guitarist? (Yes, this is how my brain works sometimes) And so, I changed my guitar sound concept completely, and enacted exactly this thought experiment. And this addition weirdness tweak was exactly what I was missing in the sound of the song.
So give the song a listen, with this context and let me know where it leaves you!
Peace, Love and Wonder!