Friday, June 26, 2015

We Haven't Got A Clue

This is a fun one, written for this year's (2015) Summer play by Boogaloo Folklife Productions. Most of Boogaloo's past productions have been musicals, but in this case the story is an old-fashioned murder mystery called "Murder on Apple Road", written by Daniel O'Shields. I suppose we could have given this play the "Sweeney Todd" treatment, but that's not how it was written.

Nevertheless, I did feel as though we really needed an opening song to kick things off, and Dan's script provided just the hook. It opens with a radio news broadcast reporting a suspicious death. So in a creepy opening, we planned have the radio turn itself on, broadcast the report, and follow it up with an appropriate song, which I'd write (production notes follow the lyrics). However, I was so late delivering the song that every rehearsal started with someone simply saying, "And here's where the song goes". So here's the song:

We Haven't Got A Clue
by Dr. Lindyke
Say goodbye to dear Aunt Gladys
She’s joining dear old Fred
She’s gone to meet her Maker! 
Raised to Glory! 
(I mean she’s dead) 
Someone here is guilty 
And we’ll find him ‘fore we’re through 
All we need’s a little evidence 
But we haven’t got a clue 
I heard that it was poison 
or possibly a knife 
I heard he used a pickaxe 
in the bedroom 
On his wife 
Someone here is guilty 
And we’ll find him ‘fore we’re through 
All we need’s a little evidence 
But we haven’t got a clue 
I heard she was stabbed with an awl through the heart! 
I heard she was found dead sitting in a car 
With a hose stretched to the window from the exhaust! 
It was a car, alright, but it veered off the road 
With the brake lines cut (or so I was told) 
On a cliffside highway sheathed with winter frost! 
She was pushed to her doom from a balcony! 
It was a poisoned page, ‘cause she loved to read! 
No, it was candy-coated mothballs for the kill! 
I heard she was shot with a .45! 
No, No! She ran off and is still alive 
And she hides out in a casa in Brazil! 
If he’s on the policy 
Or mentioned in the will 
There’s a chance that the murd’rer 
Could be waiting 
Among us still 
Someone here is guilty 
And we’ll find him ‘fore we’re through 
All we need’s a little evidence 
But we haven’t got a clue
Lyrical Notes

The challenge for me here was to write a song that was about the play that gave away nothing in the play. After all, it is a mystery! Once I had the title, "We Haven't Got A Clue", the rest of it came rather quickly. I simply engaged my well-developed sense of black humor and imagined a bunch of nosy townsfolk gossiping about all the possible ways in which they imagined the murder to take place, and tied it together with myself as the newly arrived detective who hasn't yet formed an opinion.

Musical Notes

Though I had the lyrics very early, there were some issues, both personal and work-related, that prevented me from actually arranging and recording the song until very late. In fact it was the night before dress rehearsal, and only two days before opening night before I actually started the work of arranging. By that time, I realized that I couldn't remember the quirky chord progression I'd originally planned for it!

And quirky it was, too... I wanted this to be reminiscent of all of the old "Miss Marple" and "Poirot" mysteries I remembered as a boy, with a little humor thrown in, a la Murder by Death, The Cheap Detective, or Clue. I knew from the start that it should be a sort of slow, lurching Tango, featuring a French accordion, so I started from there, adding some variations in other instruments. The featured oboe was first, with various organs, piano, a electric piano and harpsichord ganged to stand in for the bass, and bits and pieces of percussion from a kick drum, muted hi-hat, wood block, sticks, and a struck wine glass. It might not sound like it, but all together there are about 20 separate tracks, and some of those are occupied by more than one instrument. The percussion track carries maybe half a dozen various doo-dads I struck, scraped, or shook for an accent here or there.

I had hoped for perhaps some violin, but couldn't pull it off quickly enough to meet my deadline. Instead, in the "gossip sections" I went with plain piano, and added a soft organ to hint at a melody that's not sung. Rather, the characters simply gossip in speech, as in a musical.

Tom Giarrosso and I provided voices for the male gossips, and the female gossips were JoAnn Abbott and Denise Hudson.

I had planned from the start to involve Denise, because she's an amazing vocalist and generally knows exactly what it is I'm looking for... in this case, she needed to put on her very best "Helena Bonham Carter" to provide some harmony and lead vocals in the verses. I'm very glad she was able to help out (and on the day of the deadline, too!), as this is a very boring song without her.

The last thing added was the shouted "GUILTY!!" in the last verse. This came from my son Timothy, and was then filtered a bit as if shouted from the bench in a courtroom. I can't imagine the song as "finished" without it... and it's there because it reminds me of a scene in Pink Floyd's The Wall.