Monday, June 8, 2009

Small Faces -- Song of a Baker (May 1968)

Nine things:

1. Verse is a simple chord progression, reminiscent of a lot of bands, for me it particularly recalls The Who (maybe it's also the crash on the chord changes). It's a four measure pattern: D A C G (which I think would be a I-V-VIIb-IV progression, please correct if wrong).

2. The chord pattern repeats in 4 beats, the paired lines take 5 beats, followed by 3 beats of just music, which results in the end of each line ending on the D Major and the other chords following through the progression. I'm not a music theory guy, but this seems a pretty common pattern.

3. Lyrics:

There's wheat in the field
And water in the stream
And salt in the mine
And an aching in me

I can no longer stand and wonder
'Cos I'm driven by this hunger
So I'll jug some water
Bake some flour
Store some salt and wait the hour

While I'm thinking of love
Love is thinking for me
And the baker will come
And the baker I'll be

I am depending on my labour
The texture and the flavour


I can no longer stand and wonder
Cos I'm driven by this hunger

So I'll jug some water, bake some flour.
Store some salt and wait the hour.

4. At first I thought of this as fairy-tale rock, but I don't think it quite is. It's a sort of folk song vocab, but with none of the weird narrative that accompanies the fairy-tale/parable sike genre.

5. The lyrics are consciously simple, but very symmetrical. The first verse is all potentialities: unharvested wheat, unfetched water, unmined salt -- and this moves to the emotional point of the song in the last line of the first verse, the narrator's aching, implicitly compared to these unfulfilled things.

6. The song moves in the second verse to action, and continues the symmetry. The baker will turn the wheat to bread, jug the water, and mine the salt.

7. And finally the point of the metaphor, he will be the "baker", and turn all these potentialities, including his own unfulfilled desire, into realities. He'll turn the longing into something by acting on it. And then he'll wait the hour to see what came of his efforts. And that's it. Rather than return to verses after the solo, the song puts together the two couplets from the first and second choruses and fades.

8. It's certainly not rocket science, the lyrics here. But the nice restrained metaphor coupled with the unornamented symmetry wins me over. Despite the lofty conceit, it has an honest feel to it, a simple song about taking control of your destiny.

9. Incidentally the above performance was mimed, but is one of the better mime-jobs I've seen in 60s shows. It was aired on BBC's television programme Colour Me Pop on Friday June 21, 1968. The band made special recordings earlier that afternoon for the show, then mimed them on air.

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