A GLIMPSE OF SONGWRITER HEAVEN - a discussion of Dave Cousins' songs
by Dave himself
TEARS AND PAVAN
(David Cousins/John Ford/Richard Hudson) first released 1973
For lyrics, click here.
I took classical guitar lessons while at the University of Leicester, and these lessons changed my whole approach to songwriting - and indeed influenced a lot of my compositions. "Tears" is a prime example of this. It was created using a standard tuning and the descending fifths at the end of the introduction take us into a Spanish style, with an almost flamenco style chord change of one semi-tone. I also remember being influenced by the chord structure of "Alone Again Or" on Love's "Forever Changes".
The bridge section was created by Blue Weaver on harpsichord and it takes us into a tune written by John Ford to which I wrote the lyrics. "Pavan" is in 3/4 and the classical influence is continued through the use of the Tierce de Picardie at the end of each section. This involves taking a tune in a minor key (as this is) and ending on a major chord - a common device in 16th century music.
The Pavan (which is a variant spelling of Pavane) is a Spanish dance which became a popular instrumental form in the 16th century - but the name derived from the paduana, which is a dance from Padua. It was usually in two sections, as here, and normally performed alongside another dance - hence "Tears and Pavan". The Italian connection was maintained through the fact that I wrote the lyrics in Italy having travelled through a series of Swiss mountain passes. We descended through a pass to find ourselves overlooking a lake with the blue of the lake reflecting the clouds overhead. There was a bell tower near by - hence the carillon of bells, which inspired the whole feeling.
Much of the Spanish influence came from time spent at the London Apprentice in Old Isleworth with Tony Hooper, and where I learned to play a few flamenco licks on the guitar. The London Apprentice is featured on the back sleeve of Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios.
A GLIMPSE OF HEAVEN
(David Cousins) first released 1971
For lyrics, click here.
This song started life as a poem written about Branscombe in Devon. I remember there was an old bakery that was still producing beautiful bread throughout the night, baked on wooden faggots, with old boys loading it up in the van for delivery to local villages in the morning. (It's now a tea room operated by the National Trust). Inevitably during the writing of the poem reality shifted sideways - Branscombe doesn't have grey stone walls, it has hedges - but the idea is to give expression to an overall feeling, not take a photograph. I remember also about this time our producer, Tony Visconti telling me that Marc Bolan was inventing new words in his songs, and during the writing of the poem I dreamed up "sparklebright" which fitted exactly.
Having written the poem I didn't immediately know what to do with it - it seemed too short to become a song, and I didn't have enough other poems to publish it as part of a collection. Eventually I wrote the melody, and extended the song by adding the faster instrumental section before the coda, which effectively makes the whole song flow towards the final pay-off lines.
The song was written on guitar in an open G tuning. This means that the acoustic guitar chords are effectively 7ths, 9ths and 13ths, which fall naturally in this tuning, but are not part of the normal chordal structure of rock music, or even folk. In addition to this the song is in 6/8, which is particularly unusual for rock, and gives the song its distinctive rhythmic feel at the start.
Against the open G tuned guitar there is the organ which starts by playing regular chords, and this is accentuated by the bass line, which makes the listener think in conventional folk-rock terms – except that the acoustic guitar can be heard playing the 13ths – which makes you conscious throughout that there is something different going on not only in the lyrics but also in the music. It may be a glimpse of heaven, but you know from the use of the instruments that something else is going to happen.
Then we get the contrast of the rippling keyboard effect around the melody - before the whole song changes. The rhythm moves from 6/8 to 4/4 for the instrumental, and the tempo picks up. In a sense it is the thunderstorm on a perfect day, but it serves also to lead into the coda, which from a poetic point of view brings the piece together and gives the final explanation of what has happened – why the glimpse was only a glimpse and couldn't be sustained. The poem records that the turmoil took place but gave no feel for it - this was left entirely to the 4/4 instrumental section. Had I tried to say more in the poem I would have said too much. As it is, by turning the poem into a song the emotions are accentuated.
We made the recording in George Martin's studios above Top Shop in Oxford Circus and worked hard to get the church choir effect. We used a huge empty studio - there really was nothing else in it apart from us - with just four voices recorded about 12 times on top of themselves to get that church like effect. On reflection if making the recording again I would not have mixed the drums down so much, but otherwise it still works for me.