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What's in a song? A step-by-step guide to creating our music.

Updated: Nov 28, 2019

The music of the 1960's is quite remarkable. We are now 50 years away from the time that decade ended - yet still the music is popular with all generations, a host of radio stations, TV advertisers and, of course, on stage. There are many bands around who still play 60s music. Why should that be?

We, of the 60's generation of teenagers, were around when popular music came to a fortuitous moment in time. We were influenced by the wonderful harmonies of our parents generation - songs of beauty created as a diversion to the horrors of WW2.

Juxtaposed on this layer was the exciting new sounds, instrumentation and rhythms that came with the birth of the skiffle and rock 'n' roll years of the late 50's.

Although rock 'n' roll suffered some bad press at the end of the 1950's it's distinctive elements were now firmly rooted in popular song culture. A brief period of the 'beat ballad' introduced the idea of orchestral accompaniment into the songs of a host pop stars on both sides of the atlantic. Adam Faith, Bobby Vee, Billy Fury, Brenda Lee... etc.

These songs were beautifully crafted by the prolific composers of the day who frequented Tin Pan Alley. Carol King and Gerry Goffin; Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield; Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent to name just a few of the song writing partnerships. Lennon and McCartney were sitting on the composition launch pad and Burt Bacharach was around too just waiting in the wings to make his distinctive entrance in 1964.

The explosion of the British groups from late 1962 added a much more gritty element to popular music. The result was a decade of great songs with great harmonies, strong gritty sounds and - in many instances - great orchestral/band accompaniment. The variety of the material was also quite remarkable. The Rolling Stones or Beach Boys could be chart topping one week to be replaced by Ken Dodd, Sandie Shaw or The Temperance Seven the next.

Where does all this fit into the music making process employed by Silhouette? Basically we recognise and consider the amazing sounds and diversity of the sixties music as a springboard for our programme selection.

At the outset any of the band's members may suggest a song to learn and each is given careful consideration as to suitability. Is it charismatic enough for our programme? Is it good dance material? How did the song rate in terms of popularity and endurance? How difficult a song may be to learn and perform is not, at any time, given consideration.

Next comes a basic run through with piano and/or guitar to settle on key and the form of the piece. During this procedure other ideas and suggestions may emerge.

Then its time to work on the arrangement. Many bands learn songs and perform them well with competent musicians playing chords, bass lines, riffs and rhythms. All of this fronted by a lead vocalist. Generally throughout their spot the basic sound of the band remains constant.

In Silhouette we work a little differently. Recognising that the sounds of the 60s was so diverse we try to tap into that rich source of material and recreate the music as authentically as possible. This ethos propels the arranging process and - although we are never exactly the same as the original - we believe we get close enough to be interesting... or interesting enough to set us aside from others.

Once the arrangement is complete and sent out out to band members it's a case of getting together to try it out and perfect it. Sometimes the lead vocals are not included at this point but that soon changes and we arrange a full complement rehearsal. This is also an opportunity to practise any backing vocals.

Our performances, like those of many bands, have always been well received but we firmly believe that to make people sit up and take notice we have to be a little different. Silhouette are a team of committed and talented vocalists and musicians who believe that we are different. We play a number of challenging songs which are well loved but often ignored by other groups. I guess our line is:

'nothing's impossible - if you really want to do it'

{The Young Ones ABC film 1962}

By Angela M.K. Perkins

Carol and Angela working on an arrangement

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Nov 25, 2019

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