“Choices” is a song about…well, choices!
A first version of this song (sporting the main riff) was written in June/July 2013 in Redwood City, CA. That version was ostensibly about my daughter Anneka (then aged 11), who was going through something of a “phase” at that time. The song was trying to reassure her. But that version simply wasn’t good enough as a song to make the album. (Joe is a great editor in this regard – he sets the bar. Invariably, he is right). Besides, by January 2014, I already had a song about BOTH my kids (“When You Were Kids”, also on the “Losing With Grace” album) and so didn’t need another…certainly not on the same record.
So…I kept the title (“The Choices You Make”) and main riff and ditched the rest. In February 2014, I wrote new music and words one Sunday evening, after one of Joe’s weekend visits. Around the same time, I was re-reading Tom Stoppard’s play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”, which I had studied at A-Level at Reigate Grammar School, some 30 years earlier. The play is a sub-plot to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, chronicling what happened to this hapless pair after they travelled to England. (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were two of Hamlet’s youthful companions and drinking buddies, whom Hamlet sends to their deaths.)
The title “The Choices You Make” lends itself to an examination of choice: really, the ultimate choice…whether to live or to die. And who in the entire canon of western literature struggles more with choice than the eponymous hero of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” himself? The song is basically a reading of “Hamlet” as an existentialist text; a contemplation of suicide.
(Incidentally, Nicky Pasquier, who does all social media for The Third Space and has created most of the images that accompany our song notes on the blog, including this one, was also in the same English class – that’s where our friendship was borne. Neither of us knew then that our reading of both Hamlet and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” would come in handy many years later, to furnish this song with a theme! Nor could either of us have anticipated that we would both be engaged in supporting and sustaining this band! But I am grateful that our subsequent paths diverged thus!).
I played the original riffs by picking on my black Rickenbacker 360 and then guitar over-dubs on my Rickenbacker 330 twelve-string. But when William heard the results, he felt the guitar parts were too similar. So he took the twelve string guitar out of the mix and instead put the second guitar on with a delay effect. This resulted in the present blend, which I like very much. William also played the guitar solo – melodic and lyrical, a very trademark William solo!
Joe arranged the song and sang harmony overdubs. What I particularly like about his arrangement (and what is also unusual about it) is that the middle-eight repeats:
Let’s just hope
For heaven’s sake
If we are to lose
Can we please lose with grace?
Joe has this middle-eight bookend William’s guitar solo, thereby emphasising it. This is apt, not only in terms of bringing an almost exact bilateral symmetry to the song itself, balancing it precariously (and fittingly, given the subject matter!) upon this central fulcrum; but also in terms of the album itself. The album title is taken from this lyric: “Losing With Grace”.
A trivial but mildly interesting detail concerns the title. The process of making an album is very painstaking and precise and one tends to fret over every detail. Joe and I do, certainly. We are both concerned that the music is as good as it can be; but Joe is the absolute “perfectionist” sonically. He will police every take and only accept the best. He is our absolute “editor”; our very own George Martin.
It is probably fair to say, that Joe is less interested in the way the music is packaged and marketed than I am. I find that side of things very interesting – especially the role of social media and the internet might play. Given that my training and day-job is in design for interactive media, that is probably unsurprising. However, despite best intentions, mistakes still creep through. One such is the way the title on the sleeve is printed as “The Choices YOU Make” as opposed to “The Choices WE Make”, which is how it was intended. That is my oversight. But actually, I find the mistake quite endearing…and revealing. Because I am not that mad on the original title either. In hindsight, I would have settled upon its title simply as “Choices”.
Be that as it may – flaws and all – alongside “Love Defined”, “Choices” is probably my favourite song from “Losing With Grace” album.