My dad is a big Elton John fan. Like, travel to Las Vegas on a whim to see the Red Piano tour for the third time big fan. There was an interminable time when every night he would sit and watch the same Elton John concert, and every car journey would be underscored by the same shuffle of Elton John's greatest hits. It's testament to the man's songwriting that Tiny Dancer is only slightly less charming the millionth time through.
At some point though, the battered old Best Of instead became Elton John Live in Australia - I think I probably gave it to my dad for Christmas in a definitely-not-hinting-to-change-the-CD sort of way. The live concert soon became the de facto soundtrack to any journey.
It's a great record, incidentally. Elton John's voice is shot to pieces and he growls his way through the whole thing like Tom Waits chewing razors. He's backed by an entire orchestra and there are some lovely arrangements of lesser known tracks.
I remember once sitting in the car with my dad, listening to the last track fade and the CD spin around to the beginning for the umpteenth time. The record opens with a low buzzing drone of violins, like a swarm of angry wasps. It climbs and climbs to a crescendo before falling away into a quiet harp motif and the first track proper. On this particular occasion we both sat in silence throughout the whole intro, and then my dad said: 'Every record should have an opening; you know, an introduction'. It was a throwaway remark really, but for whatever reason it stuck with me. And when it came to making my own record, I wanted it to have an introduction.
Minor song starts with droning violins (playing backwards, actually) that climb to a crescendo and then fall away into a quiet motif and the first track proper. What can I say - imitation is the highest form of flattery. But really I wanted the song as a whole to act as an overture to the record. It's the longest and most complex track on the album but it has so much ground to cover. I wanted to be able to say 'This is what the album sounds like', and have Minor Song represent all that.
It's important to me lyrically too. People keep asking me why I chose TRAGICOMICS, other than because Christopher Eatough doesn't do well on Google analytics. I suppose at its simplest it's because this music is less morose. It's about acknowledging tragedy, laughing and shaking your head at it, instead of revelling in it and all its glorious misery. Life is ridiculous and beautiful and stupid and takes both determination and indifference. I think tragicomic is a good word for it.
Minor Song is about figuring that out, and about discovering some kind of determination to stick with it despite all the nonsense. And it's about depression, and coping, and nostalgia, and all the other stuff that makes me feel old and human sometimes. But its gaze is fixed firmly ahead and I love it for it. The working title was 'The Optimist'; I often feel it would've been more appropriate. And given everything that's gone before, whether you know it or not, I couldn't think of a better way to start the record.