Two chords. Generally my tastes call for lots of chords, with interesting progressions and odd harmonies. For years Elvis Costello tried to write a song with only one chord - but always ended up using at least two. Two of those are amongst my favorites. "Beyond Belief" spills over with word associations and builds to a fevered pitch. And "Uncomplicated" begins with thunder and cuts to the bone. Those two gems are about the only two chord songs that I would care to list amongst my favorite songs. Until last week. When I discovered the long lost Rolled Gold LP by the mod British rockers The Action.
For a bit of background on that album, they were produced by none other than George Martin, and released less than half a dozen singles on Parlophone Records, none of which made a dent in the UK charts. But they had a large mod cult following, apparently not so far behind The Who and The Small Faces. About the time that they were dropped by Parlophone in 1967, they were working on demos for an album. By this point they had graduated from American soul covers to writing their own acid drenched rockers. Many of the songs had fully fleshed out melodies and harmonies, but the lyrics were just placeholders awaiting further tuning, and the arrangements were still quite spare. No Martin magic had yet been applied.
Thirty years passed and the LP never saw the light of day. Then an ex-band member released an acetate to a small label that put it out on CD. The quality was poor but it piqued some interest, then another ex-member acknowledged that he had the master tape in his possession. Finally released in its full yet spare glory, it sat there for about fifteen years waiting for me to discover it over at the excellen Monkey Picks blog. There are many truly great songs on this album that never was.
That was five days ago. And since then I cannot stop playing it. Especially the song that inspired today's post. "Brain" is that holy grail - the two chord song that has everything it needs. The chiming rhythm guitar and a phased lead set the environment for alternating loud and soft sections. Thrust forward by some just killer drumming, the song pummels and pleads. And best of all is the passionate vocal by lead singer Reg King. His voice is almost a ringer for Pete Hamm of Badfinger, but with even more soul. It is all still new to my ears, but I can guarantee you that I will playing it loud for many years to come.
Take your brain it's time to go
You don't have long to go
Remember me (re)member me
Cause I'm the one that made you see