Songwriting Basics Section II – Analysis 34: Big Dead Bob

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Bob Leslie is an Independent Scottish Songwriter, Singer, and Recording Artist

 

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Not quite gone, hopefully not forgotten …

A few years back, I walked into a session, run by my friend Bernadette Collier, only to have everyone stop playing and stare at me. “What’s up?”, I asked.

Much to my surprise, “You’re dead!”, was the reply.

Apparently, a local singer called Mick Fagan (NB remember that name) had reported that I’d dropped dead while coming out of the Clutha Vaults the previous Friday.

I buttonholed Bold Mick and was told he’d got the news from local folksinger, Joe McAtamney.

Joe, in turn, said that Big Sandy, singer with the Vagabonds group, had told him the sad tidings.

Finally, Sandy informed me that he’d heard about it from … Mick Fagan! The circle was unbroken!

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For a year, people kept calling me “Big Dead Bob”. Finally, Bernadette suggested that there might be a song in there.auth.gif

Cursing, I retreated to my attic, emerging, haggard and exhausted, at dawn, with my latest mousesterpiece: Big Dead Bob.

Some time later, I needed a finisher for my 2017 album Land and Sea, so, with help from Avril Cleland (whistles), Kate Kramer (fiddle), and Wendy Weatherby (cello), we recorded it with an intentional “live” feel as if we were doing it in a pub.

It’s been in my set ever since, providing some welcome leavening to counteract some of the more serious numbers I do. Serious, it ain’t!

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Lend an ear and an eye …

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Big Dead Bob

© 2017 Bob Leslie

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Dig that crazy beat …

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The chorus has 3 stresses on every line except for Ll 3&7 which have 4.

 

The metre tends to run over the line-breaks, giving a pattern of emphasis on the 1st syllable as follows:

  • Ll 1,2,4&5 2trochee (Dum-dah) + dactyl (Dum-dah-dah)
    Ll 3&7 – trochee
    Ll 6&8 – trochee single stressed syllable
  • “|What’s that |cheer-y |cry, who’s that |
    com-ing |in the |door? Big Dead|
    Bob is |in the |buil-ding |look-ing |
    big-ger |than be- |-fore. As I |
    look a- |-round the |tab-le every |
    face is |ash-en |white |
    Oh, my |God, it’s |Big Dead |Bob, Hell’s |
    men-ded |him all |right |

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Stress in music and song

 

The verse has 3 stresses per line – again, except for Ll 3&7 which have 4.

 

  • As in the chorus, the metre tends to run over the line-breaks. In contrast to the chorus, the emphasis is more on final-syllable-stressed metres.

    Ll 1,2,4,5,6&8 – 3iamb (dah-Dum)
    L3 – 4iamb
    L7 – anapaest (dah-dah-Dum) = 3iamb
  • “|Word came |from bold |Mick Fag’n |
    Who heard |it from |Joe Mac |
    That Bob |had crossed |the Great |Div-ide |
    And was– |-n’t com– |-ing back |
    Joe heard |it from |Big Sandy* |
    and San– |-dy from |bold Mick |
    Since the cir– |-cle was |un-brok |-en well |
    the word |went round |quite quick

*the “-y” is very quiet and short, and is effectively absorbed into the previous syllable.

There is some slight variation from verse to verse, but the essentially final-syllable-stress of the metre is maintained.

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Regular rhymes …table

The end-rhyme scheme of both verse and chorus is a regular

  • A  B  C  B  D  E  F  E
  • “cry” “door”
    “building” “before”
    “table” “white”
    “Bob” “right”

with occasional internal rhymes/half-rhymes, e.g.

  • “God” “Bob”
    “heart” “depart”

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One simple key …key.gif

The song throughout sticks to the key of D major and a straight folky 4/4 beat.

The melody  has a fair range of an octave from low A to high A. It’s meant to be a singalong song, so has just enough range to keep it interesting, without straining anyone’s vocal chords!

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Did the recipe work? …rec.gif

In terms of regularity of stress patternmetre, and rhyme scheme
I’ve implemented my own songwriting recommendations,
so I have to say the structure is pretty strong.

The song is based on a true story, which I’ve told in an easily absorbed linear way.
It’s meant to be amusing, and audiences seem to find it so. They also sing along with
the chorus. It’s pretty easy to jam along with too, and other musicians have joined in on
many an occasion.

I think, therefore, I may modestly claim that it works!

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Next time, we’ll dig down through the ages for 
a traditional classic!

 

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Bob Leslie – Scottish – Traditional – Songwriter

 

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