Queen – we will rock you (Leaping ahead #223)

Leaping Ahead Project 2016 #223: 160810

[Song from a band beginning with Q]

What can be said about the most famous stadium anthem of all time that you probably don’t already know? Perhaps something about non-harmonic reverberation maybe?

Maths and music – ever a partnership and certainly present here. It’s all to do with how the song was crafted. For starters the stamping effects were created by the band overdubbing the sounds of themselves stomping and clapping many times and then adding delay effects to create a sound like many people were participating. Secondly, the durations of the delays were in the ratios of prime numbers, a technique now known as non-harmonic reverberation. And finally a tape loop is used to repeat the last phrase of the guitar solo three times as opposed to Brian May playing it three separate times on the recording. So now you know! Maths and music!

Donna Summer – I feel love (Leaping Ahead #213)

Leaping Ahead Project 2016 #213: 160731

[A song from 1976]

1976 was (of course) THE long hut summer. I was between sixth form years and was therefore out in the sun from May when it all started right through to mid-September. Most of it was on the beach but, sometime in the middle, I joined an uncle and aunt for a week in the Lake District, staying in a caravan on the shores of Lake Windermere.

Although it wasn’t formerly released until the following summer, Donna Summer’s ‘I feel love’ was already getting extensive airplay on the pirate radio-stations by then and promo copies had been circulated to all the clubs. Certainly the bar/club/games room on the lakeshore had a copy and (taking a lead from the Kenny Everett radio show), the DJ played the full 12″ version pretty well every other track.

Suited me. Although a hardened ‘heavy rock’ influenced latter-day hippy by then, there was a freshness in these grooves absent completely from anything else at the time. I wasn’t a disco fan and punk hadn’t made it as far as the north-west back then. But this was something else. Fresh and (although it didn’t know it) a shout to the future of electronic dance from the likes of Underworld and Leftfield still some twenty years away, and both of which would attract the avid attention of this long-haired 17-year old.

And it’s stood the test of time. Now approaching 40 years old, its many sampled powerhouse rhythm still cuts the mustard/floats the boats/shivers the spines and any other metaphor you might care to mention. It certainly does mine.

Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the water’ (Leaping Ahead #86)

Leaping Ahead Project 2016 #86: 160326

[Favourite guitar song (3)]

I make no apologies here for repeating again the story behind the song – because it doesn’t get much better than this. Deep Purple had gone to Montreux in Switzerland to record their 1972 album, ‘Machine Head’, the original intention being to use the Casino with the Rolling Stones mobile studio. But at a Frank Zappa gig on 4 December 1971, a disastrous fire put paid to that. All was not lost though as the band relocated to the Grand Hotel to finish things off.

It was here that the remaining song needed for the album was written and recorded. Eventually becoming the opening track of side 2, “Smoke on the Water” was inspired by events just after the fire that engulfed the Casino. Frank Zappa had wisely called a prompt end to the gig once the fire (caused by an over-zealous fan firing a flare) had set fire to the casino ceiling and rapidly taken hold. Watching it from a nearby restaurant, Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover coined the song’s name from the layer of smoke gathering over Lake Geneva after the flames had died down. Ian Gillan penned the lyrics and that uber-famous guitar riff was written by Ritchie Blackmore