Happy People song by song 4: Flow my tears, the policeman said

Part 1: Happy People
Part 2: Name in a File
Part 3: Satellites
Part 4: Flow my tears, the policeman said
Part 5: Even then we’re Scared
Part 6: Fire Flower Heart
Part 7: Tracking Signals

Flow my tears, the policeman said takes it’s title from a book by Philip K Dick. The story is about a TV presenter and singer Jason Taverner who wakes up one morning to find himself apparently erased from history. No-one remembers who he is. He has become a non-person.

The book is set in an alternative America of government control and work-camps so thematically it fits with the concept of Happy People even if it doesn’t carry on the story directly. While it isn’t a perfect novel it does create an atmosphere of confusion and bewilderment as only Philip K Dick can. I liked it so much I wrote a whole song about it.

Composition and recording

Musically I think this was an attempt to emulate some of my favourite David Bowie ballads, particularly big mid-paced numbers like Word on a Wing or Slip Away. It’s based around a D lydian feel with the raised 4th giving a mood that’s slightly eerie and bittersweet.

The original demo is pretty bare, just chords a simple drum beat and the vocal. Jordan and Dan made the thing sing. Here are Jordan’s notes:

  • Great tune – we need to make those atonal moment in the nooks and crannies pop out better.
  • It could be a good idea to have an extended coda after the “policeman said” bit in the end, akin to Radiohead’s Karma Police. It’s too good of a moment to not build upon it.
  • First listen, something bothered me and then I realised what it was. The asymmetrical structure of the tune. Drumbeat – verse – interlude and then verse bridge chorus verse bridge chorus. To “isolate” better the symmetrical part of the song how about no conventional drum beat until the end of the interlude?

I went along with Jordan’s suggestions, taking the drum beat out of the intro and extending the end with a guitar solo. We went through various iterations of that solo, from an initial guitar sketch played by me to synth solos by Jordan and finally what we have on the record which is Dan playing a fantastic guitar part. It’s my favourite guitar moment on the album simply because it’s nothing like a solo I would play.

The little fills, piano, trumpet and keys really make this song for me too. I love the mood we’ve ended up creating, from the very first chord to the final fretless bass fill.

Maybe this song really is my favourite on the album. What it says to me is that what we think of as real is a thin veil of opinion and biology. At any moment you might come to your senses and see things as they really are. Nothing means anything, nothing is real, and that’s scary, bewildering, cruel and wonderful.

Or something. Good innit?

One thought on “Happy People song by song 4: Flow my tears, the policeman said

  1. Pingback: Happy People song by song 5: Even then we’re scared | Tom Slatter

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