In 2012, I went to the Biggest Week of American Birding in Ohio and I had just finished the lyrics for an English translation of my song Meståg from 1989. I sang it at the “meet and greet” get-together and as it resulted in a few laughs, I stupidly announced my intention of making a recording of the same song. In 2013, I returned to the Biggest Week, now with an additional birding related song about a certain binocular brand to the tune of “Tequila”. Again, I announced that I intended to record it. Here is the 2013 version of Birdparty with me alone with the guitar.
I have a tendency to make big announcements and then procrastinate, so it would take agony and guilt for 3 years, before I finally did something about it. I can now proudly announce that we are recording Birdparty at this moment. In fact, we are working with three different versions of the song – and we can’t decide which one should be the final version.
Maybe you can help us choose? Which version do you like the most?
The original – Meståg 1989.
The Swedish original version of the song Meståg was recorded in 1989 on a self-financed single and mainly sold to Swedish birding friends. The song is blues-rock with rhythm harmonica and harmonica solo fill-ins. The title Meståg refers to the feeding flocks in the winter of various species of Parus known as mes in Swedish. A flock of tits moving through can also be seen as a train (tåg). Hence the word meståg in Swedish. There is also an ironic twist to the word, as mes also means “nerd” in Swedish. The character person of the song is Lasse (Lars), as it seems as if every birder in Sweden is called Lars. You can only guess my middle name is! Lasse, became Johnny in English, as I can’t count with how many Johns and Jons I know who are birders or ornithologists.
You can hear the original below. We were quite pleased with the result, and particularly I like the interwoven bird dawn chorus into the beginning and the end of the song.
Meståg. Guran Guran. 1989
Fast forward 27 years. It is a fantastic feeling to be recording again and lots of fun. My original idea was to just record the exact music like the 1989 version and put English lyrics on top. Had I had the original tapes with the separated tracks from the 16 track studio we used, this would have been very easy. Unfortunately, (or luckily depending on how you want to value new creativity added to the mix), I could not afford to buy the multi-track tape back then, as high fidelity tapes with 16 tracks separation were not inexpensive.
Gunnar Elvin, the other G of Guran Guran, had to recreate from scratch this time. I also had an idea that the song could perhaps gain air and dynamics if done in a more Rockabilly style, than the blues rock of the original. So in the end Gunnar Elvin has put together 3 different versions to choose from.
Before I present the three versions a few words about the aim and goals of what the end product should deliver. The lyrics of the song are funny. Some of the rhymes are rather unexpected and become punchlines to the anecdotes of the verses. Therefor, the vocals need air not to disappear behind a rock n roll carpet. Dictation and flow are important to get the lyrics across.
Secondly, basic Rock n Roll and Blues Rock harmonies are extremely commonplace and often without originality when played nowadays. Listeners will react that such music is somewhat stale and predictable if it not delivered in a new and inspired way. The nuances are in the arrangement, the space/air of the production, the delivery of the vocals and the originality of the solos which have to stand out. That is our main challenge!
Finally, these three versions are not final. Disturbing guitar solos when the song is delivered will be toned down or eliminated. New tracks will be made with guitar, harmonica, real drums, background vocals and probably also new lead vocals as well here and there for better delivery and timing of the lyrics. And we shall add a birding dawn chorus again.
To make your pick, pick the version you feel is most unusual or special. Which feels least ordinary? In which version do the lyrics protrude most and have the best punch-line effect?
The versions presented here are pre-productions by Gunnar Elvin on which I have put song. Gunnar is currently improving the mix, so I think some of the tracks below will be replaced the coming days. You will be able to re-vote again if this is the case. The versions are 1. Rockabilly, 2. Blues Rock and 3. Dirty Rock (you can probably hear that Rockabilly is the last version recorded, since the song is a bit more nuanced here).
Listen, and cast your vote below.
1. Birdparty – Rockabilly mix. Guran Guran. 2016
2. Birdparty – blues rock with funky guitar. Guran Guran. 2016
3, Birdparty – dirty rock Guran Guran. 2016
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Birdparty and Meståg YouTube Videos.
Once the final BirdParty version is set, it is quite clear we are going to need to make a video. The song may reach some birders, but to truly become viral a video will be necessary. Since the video is telling a story we would need a lot of footage. So here is the challenge. Video-film any scenes in the lyrics, send your video snippets via email or wetransfer.com to firstname.lastname@example.org and we shall put it together as a video. You may film to either the Swedish version Meståg (if you understand Swedish) or the English version. Anyone contributing will get an mp3 of either Meståg or Birdparty – and those who get their contributions into the final video will also get a HD video of the end result of either song. Stills may work for some parts as well.
So film your feeders, your birding excursions, do some crazy birding. We are in particular need of the winter scenes, so you best hurry up before the winter is over.
Now you have a good reason to twitch Ivory Gull in Svalbard, if you had no good reason before this. But perhaps you are one of the lucky ones to have old footage? Send it all to us!
My former band is getting re-united partly because of the recordings of Birdparty, but also partly because I am going to Sweden in August-September in connection with the British Birdfair. So I have been digging into old demo-recordings we did between 1986-1991 and found altogether 18 songs, which will be released digitally on-line as an album – “Guran Guran Greatest sHits” on April 18 and on a CD in August.
In Sweden we shall be recording additional songs (there are over 20 songs that I performed regularly that never got recorded). and also make a small tour in Sweden.
While in Europe I am also scheduling a few birdtalks at the BirdFair, Falsterbo Bird Show, Norwich and Stockholm. It is possible there will be some combo with music as well.
Alas, I will miss the Birding Expo in Ohio in September as it collides with the tour in Sweden, but I am strongly considering going to the Biggest Week 1st week of May.
Wherever, let’s have a BirdParty! And if you join on a Kolibri Expeditions birding trip, I promise a private concert (if you like!)