Sep 052008

Here’s a question for musicians in the Halls of Rock, a question that begs your honesty: Can you share a personal example of what I call an “exit strategy,” or way out, of having to play a song that a bandmate has brought to you for the first time or that your band has been playing for some time? Candid, weasily examples will be appreciated.

I ask this question as both a bandmate and a songwriter, who’s been involved in conducting exit strategies as well as, I am pretty sure, had them conducted on my own compositions. The exit strategies I’ve been involved in have been as straightforward as telling the songwriter “It’s just not right for our style” to stalling to something squirrely, like telling my friend, in private, “You don’t want [our singer] to butcher your song. That demo’s perfect the way it is!” As a songwriter of a song that most of our band liked playing live, I had one bandmate who would claim that he’d forgotten the chords to that one song. I later used his technique on another guy in that band, to get out of having to perform a song I never liked playing.

Short of having George Martin do their dirty work, I wonder what strategies Lennon and McCartney used on Harrison over the years.


  15 Responses to “Exit Strategies”

  1. my songs were always the ones that OTHER members of the band were bullshitting in order not to play.

  2. Mr. Moderator

    As always, Shawnkilroy, your honesty is appreciated. I urge musician Townspeople to follow this man’s lead! Your honesty will wipe clean past sins and remaining feelings of guilt.

  3. Ahem, Helloooo. As [our singer] – you didn’t think I didn’t know that you did this, did you?

    I think my best exit strategy was to do nothing. Show no enthusiasm at all and not think of any arrangements. The one song I remember doing this on, I forget the name of it, it had a baseball theme to it. I think the song is still kicking around in the mexican league.

  4. Mr. Moderator

    That was a good call on that song. It’s no longer even capable of playing in the Mexican League. Last report was that song retired and opened a baseball camp in Australia.

    I figured you knew the technique of which I spoke, and I figured you appreciated its use:)

  5. I’m feeling too good to stir up trouble, but I will say this: Years ago, a bad song more or less ended a band I was involved with. A key member brought a song to the group via a demo and more or less told us that it would be the focus of our next practice. The number in question was about six minutes long, contained numerous multi-syllabic words that couldn’t be phrased properly over beats, and had time and chord changes, that were thrown in at various points that had nothing to do with the musical or lyrical logic of the song. Criticism wasn’t really tolerated by said member so the rest of the crew decided to deal with the matter in a passive aggressive fashion. At each consecutive practice, another member opted not to come. No real discussion ever took place about what actually happened because none of the members had the balls to tell said person that the song in question sucked horse cock.

    That said, you can understand why the rest of The Beatles chose to steer clear of “All Things Must Pass”. Despite the fact that it’s probably only four minutes long, it feels like two or three hours. The melody is weak, there’s too much space, and those quasi-philosophical thoughts are expressed more clearly and concisely with 4 words that need no muscial accompaniment: “You’ll get over it.” Readily apparent is the fact that The Band was having a huge influence on Harrison’s songwriting, which continues to perplex this head, considering the fact that he was stuck up the rearend of absolute genius for a good 10 years or so. People champion a lot of that “All Things Must Pass” crap, but I fail to find one number on there that’s even close to something as weak as “You Like Me to Much.”

    Waiting for the wind and rain to kick in,

    E. Pluribus

  6. Mr. Moderator

    The wind and rain are kicking in bigtime over here. Good timing on your post, E. Pluribus.

    Damn, that’s an excellent Exit Strategy tale you had to tell. Just the sort of thing I was looking for. At the risk of coming off like the subject of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”, I fear that 6-minute turd was mine. At least the songwriter’s sense of entitlement and intolerence strike home. I like the way you and the other bandmembers handled the situation. Very passive-aggressive!

    Excellent point, too, about “All Things Must Pass” seeming to last 4 hours.

    Step forward, musicians. There is forgiveness and healing to be had.

  7. I think when it comes to The Beatles, it was a matter of formula. They pretty much followed the standard Lennon/McCartney bulk, two Harrisongs, plus one Ringo equals disc. Even The White Album follows this formula to a tee. I honestly don’t think it was as if John and Paul just didn’t like George’s tunes. I think it was just two big gigantic egos in one of the greatest bands to ever live. They had a right to those egos, but as George was blossoming as a writer. He really didn’t start writing primo material until the later years (some of you might argue that he never “arrived” as a writer). He may not have been in a league with the likes of Lennon/McCartney, but who is?

    With my own band, we’ve never had this problem. That I know of. We all just suck each other’s cocks when a member writes something. Really.

    Actually, it’s never really strategy. When something isn’t working, we just feel it. There’s been many a song I’ve brought to the the band. We get into the rehearsal and it just doesn’t gel. I’m usually the first one to notice.


  8. hrrundivbakshi

    I’m not an Ono-hater, but surely we can all agree that it was bad band form to have your new girlfriend sitting in the middle of your rehearsals, day after day after day, like some kind of gargoyle?

    As far as “All Things Must Pass” and Lennon/McCartney’s exit strategy for the song is concerned, it sounds from this very interesting “Let It Be” outtake that Macca is taking the “I’ll keep adding vocals and bass parts that I know George hates, then pretend I don’t understand English when he tells me I’m ruining his song” route of dumping the tune. Lennon, for his part, is employing the “thank God Paul is taking the hit for me here. I’ll just sit around looking indifferent until we can get back to recording my masterpiece, ‘Dig It.'”

    What is most telling to me is that George let the increasingly crappy-sounding Beatles put out “For You Blue” instead. We’ve been ignoring George’s obvious exit strategy here: I’m taking my *good* songs and splitting!

    The last band I was in managed to fire its bass player by having all the other members quit — separately — over the course of a week, only to simultaneously join a new “band” being put together a few days later by a different bassist. I thought that was classy.


    p.s.: hey, E. Pluribus Y-fronts — would you agree that “All Things Must Pass” would at least make a good single album? And which triple wank-fest is worse: ATMP or “Sandinista”?

    Come to think of it, are there any good triple-LP wank-fests? Greatest hits/live albums don’t count.

  9. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, Y-fronts:

    Serious question — at 7:11, isn’t “Hey Jude” about four minutes too long? Three, if I’m being generous.

    What do you think?


  10. Hrundi,

    If I were put in charge of the “All Things Must Pass” reissue, I’d trim the thing down to an EP featuring the following songs: 1- half of “My Sweet Lord, 2-“What Is Life”, 3-“Apple Scruffs”, and 4-“If Not for You.”

    Each purchaser of the EP who also opts to blow Big Steve, to help him relax a little bit, would receive a complimentary CD single featuring the remainder of “My Sweet Lord.”

    I think that’s a fair assessment of what needs to be done with the thing should some fool feel the need to reissue it for the 800th time.

    E. Pluribus

  11. hrrundivbakshi

    Well, you picked some winners, Plurbie. But any EP or album that doesn’t include “Wah-Wah” goes in the trash in my house.

    “What Is Life” would make my list of top 10 post-Beatles solo tunes for sure. Maybe top three.

    Man, I’ve been indoors all day doing absolutely nothing, and I’m bored out of my gourd. My dog is sick, and now my cat can’t stop puking. Why didn’t George Harrison write a song about *that*?

  12. “Wah Wah”? What in the name of God is so special about “Wah Wah”? What makes that any better than a stinker like “The Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp” or “Let it Down”? Hell, if I need to hear something with that kind of mega dumb ROCK energy, I’ll flop “Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo” on the turntable. Yeah, it’s dumb, but at least you can laugh at it.

    The other thing that bothers me about all that solo Beatles shit is the overall sound of the stuff. Most of that stuff was pretty bad to start with, but Spector made it a hell of a lot worse with all the reverb and the triple tracking of all the vocals and instruments.

    E. Pluribus

  13. BigSteve

    Epg, you can blow me. No need to fantasize about others doing it. And btw if you don’t insult people, you won’t have to pretend to care about whether they’re relaxed or not.

  14. Mr. Moderator

    “Wah Wah” may have the greatest dropoff of any song in rock ‘n roll. After that opening riff is established, the song is a mess: too many instruments, not enough vocals, no natural flow to the verses, little payoff in the lyrics beside the main concept expressed in the opening verse (a key weakness in many of Harrison’s lyrics). In my opinion, of course.

    Hrrundi, I love that breakup/reformation technique! It’s often been threatened; I didn’t know it had ever been executed.

    The Head guys used to talk about the practice of “Besting” a band member, named after the cowardly way The Beatles let go of Pete Best.

  15. The best approach is to own the van, rehearsal space or PA. Then you can say, “I own the van, rehearsal space or PA, so we’re not playing your song”.

    Ha ha.

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