Chain, Chain, Chain

2009
Perpetual Emotion Machine
from The Unforetold / Released as a Single

Like Lullabye, from Omega, I wrote this for my daughter. In fact, the words suggest I wrote it to her, almost like a conversation I was having with her in my mind. At the time I wrote this, I was separated from her by thousands of miles and only got to see her a couple of times a year.

The idea started as a poem — I don’t consider myself a poet, but I have written several. I was walking around my neighbourhood and passed by a house with a fence made of thick metal decorative chain. When my daughter lived with me, she was younger and would always point it out and say ‘Chain! Chain!’ It always reminded me of the Aretha Franklin song ‘Chain of Fools’. That memory stayed with me, insignificant as it may seem, but was particularly powerful when she wasn’t around. Many thoughts would come to me when I passed by that chain and processed my feelings.

So the poem came first, I wrote it in about 2 hours. Everything in the poem reflects my memories of a particular day when she was younger and we were out walking in the neighbourhood and out at the park, playing. The words are very literal — I was hoping to capture the happiest moments of that day freeze those moments in time. At the end, the lyric sets describe a picture each of us had of the other.

For the music, I was going for lazy-summer-day beats. I admit I was inspired by Kraftwerk in constructing the bassline, as it does rather sound like ‘Autobahn’. But what I find most intriguing about the way the music came out is that I was really attempting to make happy-sounding,peaceful and content even joyful music — all the chords are major, there are no minor chords. I added birdsong and environmental elements and poppy sequences. But the music somehow still sounds very sorrowful, and not just to me but to others who listened and didn’t even know the context. The ad-libbed vocalizing at the end even sounds like a lament. I can’t explain it, but it’s probably better that I don’t try.

There are two remixes of this. The Crunch-O-Dub was an experiment to see how distorted I could make the music become before it was intolerable. The Jamix is an even better experiment. I had pianist Archibald Macdonald play in the same key but not in the same tempo when I recorded his parts. He played at the tempo of the original song, but I sped up the timing when I remixed it. It really works — it’s loose and meandering. I cut up my vocals into little bits and then played them on the controller.


Perpetual Emotion Machine

Chain, Chain, Chain

Chain, Chain, Chain (Crunch-O-Dub)

Chain, Chain, Chain (Live Jamix)


Credits

written, produced and arranged by Perpetual Emotion Machine. remix and additional production on Crunch-O-Dub by OCIII. keyboards on Live Jamix by Archibald Macdonald.

Lyrics

chain, chain, chain
a warn breeze flutters by
black painted pickets
along the beaten path
walking hand in hand
picking flowers by the roadside
talking about the options 
of what to have for supper

chain, chain, chain 
a buttercup in your hand
cherries, hearts and rosebuds
adorn your sunday best
there's time for everything now
the seconds and the days
pass at ease for countless centuries
with you

chain, chain, chain  
a puddle ripples in the playground
casting your reflection
to the brilliant sky above
the place we call our own
so close to a home
that has kept me 
from the thing I need to do

chain, chain, chain  
a stain
a yellow mark so plain
on my denim jeans, reminding me
you travel back and forth in time
to the rhythm in my mind
as we laugh and sing of nonsense

chain, chain, chain  
a picture on my nightstand
among the items strewn there
in a fit of apathy
it sits there every night and day
awaiting my attention
capturing the moment of the buttercup

chain, chain, chain
a picture on your wall
hung one foot from the ceiling
with four strips of sellotape
from my nightstand I look through at you
and you look back at me
while Aretha hums the memory
of that blissful summer's day

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