Self-Retrospect #9: ‘Virgin-Like’

Episode 9 of Self-Retrospect, the series of posts in which Older David looks back at some of Younger David’s music. Sometimes with pride, but mostly with deep, deep shame…

After the barrage of musical activity in 2002, followed by the still-reasonably-productive 2003, things got a bit quiet. The main reason for this was my getting involved in a proper, serious, long-term relationship. This affected musical productivity in two significant ways:

  1. Time – spare time that would previously have been spent writing and recording music were now being filled in other ways.
  2. Subject matter – almost all of my material was based on unrequited attraction and feelings of inadequacy. I just wasn’t able – or didn’t have the urge – to write about the opposite kinds of feelings. Also, it’s a bit dicey writing songs about someone you’re going out with, because there’s a strong chance they might actually listen to them – and read into them.

So there wasn’t a huge quantity of material. And this, unfortunately, wasn’t compensated by any big surge in quality. When I compiled Projects, covering nearly five whole years of output, 80% of the tracks came from the first two of those years. The three-year stretch from June 2003 to June 2006 was represented by just two songs.

The first of these was a somewhat bizarre guitar-led track whose lyrical jumping-off point was the pair of dungarees I was wont to wear at the time.

Virgin-Like - Dungarees

I specifically mention the guitar, because there was a fair amount of non-guitar stuff happening at the time. After ‘Sentimental Baby’, there was a bit of keyboard stuff. Although actually, my main thing in late-2004/early-2005 (well, only thing, given how little I was doing at the time) was chopping up samples of older recordings. That and looping my voice. Key inspirations at the time were Liars’ They Were Wrong… (which I’ve written about before) and Björk’s Medúlla.

My first recording in 2005, entitled ‘Sewing Skills’, reflects these influences quite readily:

[audio:|titles=sewing skills|artists=david ding][download ‘Sewing Skills’ mp3]

(Needless to say, that track didn’t make the cut for Projects, nor even my less-selective Selection compilation)

The dungaree song, though, brought guitars back into the fold. And in a way I hadn’t really done before, too. Most of my songs just had strummed chords or basic, rhythmic riffs. Any “lead” guitar was either some one-note accompaniment in later verses, or the occasional, very primitive guitar break/solo. This new song, though, had lead parts through almost the entire song, somewhat rudely intruding upon the vocals.

It sounded like this:

The title, ‘Virgin-Like’, was definitely a Madonna reference, but I can’t really remember why. In fact, I can’t really remember anything about how the lyrics came together. I know it started with the dungaree reference – and that the verses went through two or three different versions before I settled on the disjointed end result.

It seems quite easy to infer that it was all something sexual, but I really don’t think that’s what I was going for at all. Honestly, I’m not sure if there’s any coherent meaning in this one.

So just forget about it…?

Virgin-Like - Just forget about it

‘Virgin-Like’ was somewhat notable in being one of the first of my own songs I was able to perform confidently (and competently?) on stage. The first solo gig I did, I was very nervous and ended up forgetting loads of words and giggling as I sang. My second happened about a year later – and in the interim, I’d gained some live experience playing bass in a band. Accompanied by Mr Gerard Lynch on drums, I worked through my nerves on the first song of the night. And by the second, I think I was doing ok:

[audio:|titles=virgin-like (live)|artists=david ding][download ‘Virgin-Like (Live)’ mp3]

The song was also significant in that it aided my further forays into electronic music. Songs like ‘Sentimental Baby’ and ‘One-Sided’ involved electronic instrumentation. But they were recorded exactly like the guitar-based stuff I was doing: multi-tracked recordings of me playing. In late 2005, however, I started delving into software synthesizers and sequencers. I began to learn about programming and constructing songs, rather than recording them.

One of my first experiments was to redo an existing song electronically, using an “acquired” copy of FL (Fruity Loops) Studio. ‘Virgin-Like’ just seemed to lend itself to this kind of treatment. And thus, we got ‘Virgin-Like (Version-Like)’:

I think the song – in each of its guises – holds up ok. It definitely lacks the emotional drive of some of the other Projects tracks. Indeed, lyrically, it’s rather silly. But I think, sound- and structure-wise, it’s unusual and fun enough to warrant its inclusion.

Or maybe I just felt I needed to include at least one song from 2004/2005 on that compilation…