Before & After
Inspiration and Composition:
Hands down, my go-to groove-rock-noise-relax-be-astounded record over and over again has been “Band of Gypsys” by Jimi Hendrix. It’ a very unifying record… funky and heavy, with pure energy and noise soundscapes, and amazing fucking guitar playing(!)… all the musicians around me have always had something to sink their teeth into.
I owe the seed-riff that begins “Before & After” to Hendrix’s “Band of Gypsys”, mixed with love from another great recording called “Ask the Ages” by Sonny Sharrock. To be specific, something about the way Elvin Jones played on several of those tracks made me try to imagine Hendrix and Elvin playing together… what would that sound like? Would it not heal the world’s problems?
So this heavy E blues-like riff in an ambling long 10/4 structure lived with me for awhile. The A section melody was straight out inspired by the guitar (like many of my songs)… just a way of exploring open strings ringing against fretted notes flowing into a two part subdominant turnaround. The turnaround melody is simple but celebrates some especially juicy guitar chords with open strings. What can I say? I’m a guitar player.
That was the song for awhile, and that was the riff I was fooling with when I got an automated phone call. The recording, which was sent by the university in Athens, informed me of a manhunt for a suspected murderer “last seen in the vicinity of Prince Avenue”. That’s my street! Shocking. For several days the town was a wreck as this sorry story unfolded about a very angry man killing people down the street at the local community theater. Something seemed changed about Athens after that, and this song got it’s name. “Before & After” became for me a reminder of how change can be quick, violent, and unexpected.
An A section, a title… the bridge flowed after that. Taking the riff to the IV chord area made sense, followed by a lovely Sabbath-esque tritone root motion in there. A brutal straight 8th note riff finishes of the melody and nicely propels the song into the solos.
The murderer “used a shovel to dig a 15-to-18-inch-deep grave in the woods… lay down in it, took an old wooden pallet he had covered with dirt and debris and pulled it over top of the hole. He then fired a single shot from a .38-caliber handgun into his head.” The police found his body four days later.