Warrandyte, February 2018
Ringwood North, 2002
George Harrison, a magician if ever there was, led me back to Bic Runga, an astonishing songmaker.
I’ve been listening to George almost non-stop over the past few weeks. Is there anything more beautiful than the sound of George Harrison’s slide guitar? I love how he made it his signature sound, somehow fusing the sound of traditional Indian music into his songs. It’s as if he’s manipulating some kind of giant revolving steel harp with his nimble fingers, the result of which is the release of beautiful colour-sounds into the air. He is a magician.
I also love his forays into Hollywood. Life of Brian. Time Bandits. Lethal Weapon. Porky’s Revenge. ‘Porky’s Revenge?’ you ask. Yes, he contributed the song ‘I Don’t Want to Do It’ to the Porky’s Revenge soundtrack. The song is a Dylan composition that was handed to George in the late sixties. It’s a catchy little number, but a certain part of the song gives me goosebumps and leaves me with a wonderful sense of déjà vu. It’s at about the 1:12 mark and then again at the 2:14 mark, where the background singers add in a delightful ‘ahhhhh’ in a sort of doo-wop, 50s progression way. I’m a sucker for these kind of chord progressions – what do they call it? The ice cream changes. But this feeling of déjà vu has got me thinking. Where is this taking me? And then bang, it comes back to me: Bic Runga and her song Get Some Sleep…
…It’s winter 2002 and I’m housesitting in Ringwood North. I’ve locked myself away for a few months, slaving away on a novel that just ain’t working. As night descends, I pop out to grab a takeaway pizza from La Porchetta. Arriving back home with the spoils, I switch on the idiot box and sit down to devour the cheap and nasty pizza – a fitting feed for a failed novelist. I’m watching The Panel. About three slices in they introduce a New Zealander called Bic Runga. She launches into Get Some Sleep and I’m enraptured. The melody, chord changes, harmonies have got me hooked. The next morning I set off to Borders in Chadstone to buy the single…
Sixteen years on and I don’t know what happened to the single – I’ve probably moved half a dozen times since I purchased it. Maybe it’s in a box somewhere in the shed. But I need to listen to it right now, so I punch the song title into YouTube with anticipation. The song is just as great as I remembered it, and now, thanks to the wonders of the web, I have the luxury of diving into Bic’s back catalogue. Her songs are captivating. Her talent is remarkable. Impossibly I discover a song that is even more beautiful than Get Some Sleep. It’s called Something Good.
Just wanna know ya
Just wanna talk to ya
I wanna hear about your day
It could be a plea from a partner, a parent, a friend. I’m not sure. But it doesn’t matter. What’s important is the sentiment. The narrator just wants to do good. She just wants the best for her loved one. Her voice is angelic, the bass line is hypnotic and then she launches into a stunning chorus. The chord change that brings us to the chorus is the stuff of inspiration. I’m being sprinkled with stardust here.
To me the word ‘songwriter’ is a strange way to define someone who composes songs. It implies they have to write something down – which is the wrong description for someone who works with sounds. I think ‘songmaker’ is a better word. For me the term ‘songmaker’ encompasses melody, chord changes and phrasing, as well as lyrics. In the song Something Good, all these things combine perfectly to create a work of beauty.
Bic Runga is an astonishing songmaker.