Good News First: Background

The piece uses a lyrical device Neil in his essay The Game of Snakes & Arrows says he got from Robert Frost in which he depicts a quarrel, but its not between two people but between the narrator and the world. Musically, Alex says the piece evolved from a largely acoustic piece to one that relies on driving electric guitars to propel it.

“In the song ‘Good News First,’ I had a device that was kind of new to me in the lyrical approach. I had the notion I wanted to write songs that weren’t really about me and one other person, but about me and a whole bunch of people. I kind of couch the lyrics in the traditional relationship song of a quarrel between two people, but, again, it’s in fact me arguing with these whole masses of people who just happen to disagree with me. And another element of that, too, is—it’s a common thing you hear—well, I have some good news and some bad news, and I always say, give me the good news first. You know, to me that’s self-evident, of course. Give me the ice cream, then give me the medicine, not the other way around. So, that was a kind of humorous twist that I wanted to get across in there, and address a certain mentality that I was quarreling with: the whole idea, in the middle eight of the song, [of people who say] they never fear a thing. First, I get kind of tired of that, because it’s such empty bravado to say you’re not afraid of anything. If you’re not, you have no imagination. That’s the way I put it. Unfortunately, you can have too much imagination and be too afraid, but there’s a line you can walk, where you’re sensibly afraid of things. So, I took it to the other extreme, and said . . . I’m afraid of enough for both me and you. There’s a sense of self-revelation in there, but it’s really a much larger sense of the individual against a mass of people, too.”—Neil in The Game of Snakes and Arrows, Snakes and Arrows DVD

“‘Good News First’ really came a long way for me. When we first wrote that song, it was probably one of—I don’t want to say ‘weaker songs’—but in terms of strength, it was sort of down at the bottom. I always thought, we’ll do something to it, bring life to it, and take it a little bit out of the ordinary place that it’s occupying at the moment. As the song progressed, we started trimming, we took a different approach. It was strongly acoustic, all the way through in the original version, and it really benefited from electric. It really needed the drive of the electric guitars. As much as you want to use your imagination, until you actually do it, you’re not really quite sure. Well, once we got into recording it, the whole verse section really started growing, and in the middle eight, there’s a beautiful change of scenery. It goes from driving electrics and a very rhythmic, kind of spooky verse section into this glorious middle eight of acoustics and beautiful melodies and a passionate vocal. And now that song is probably one of my favorites on the record. And that’s really cool. When it’s a sleeper like that, its like the runt of the litter ends up being one of the prized dogs—not that I want to call it a dog.”—Alex in The Game of Snakes & Arrows, Snakes & Arrows DVD

“To me, that song came together in different parts. A lot of the melodies I just sketched out using kind of a [vocal] structuring for that basic melody line, which remained through most of the writing process and recording process, until we got to a layer. Well, we decided to replace that vocal line with a Mellotron. What’s interesting about that song is, it was our first opportunity to bring that old beast back into the soundscape. I don’t think we used a Mellotron since, God, maybe 2112. in the song ‘Tears’ [which is on the “B” side of 2112] Hugh Syme played Mellotron. I love the idea of using a Mellotron, because it’s such an archaic and unique sounding instrument. I think it brought the song to life. I just love that element. It just gives it a kind of magical ambiance atmosphere. “—Geddy in The Game of Snakes and Arrows, Snakes and Arrows DVD

More about “Good News First”

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~ by rvkeeper on January 12, 2011.

 
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