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Monday, 8 August 2011

Bad March - Michael Jackson v John Williams

Image and video hosting by TinyPicMichael Jackson 'Bad' v John Williams 'The Imperial March' v Michael Jackson 'Bad (Pepsi version)' (Including samples from Rupert And The Frog Song)

Written by Michael Jackson, John Williams

Arranged by IronicHide

(c) Epic 1987, Sony 1980 (Family Home Entertainment 1994)

The Cola Wars - everybody took that literally at ZooFights. I didn't.

It was the '80s. Space travel, a walking survival suit, a war (the non-definitive article). What was I supposed to think?

Don't tell me Star Wars is 1977, asshat. The Imperial March doesn't crop up until Empire Strikes Back, making it perfectly within range for an '80s-themed fictional animal barbarism online art project.

Oh? You wanted my debut album and don't care? Check out what's available here, then. No hard feelings. Asshat.

The idea struck me while walking down the street in Willesden. I could hear those very last two notes - the brass baritone semi-tone drop with "Who's bad?" over the top. A few days later I was looking up at the sky (the prettiest bit of Willesden) and tried humming that chromatic bassline to Bad with the March in my head.

A few minutes later I tried it in the audio editor. It worked first time. Within an hour I had a solid minute of music that I enjoyed listening to.

It's a great pleasure when a mashup is doing well from the start and contains two pieces of music neither of which you begrudge listening to. Regularly, I'll be working with a song because it will work, not because it's a favourite of mine, and working with another that I had previously enjoyed listening to until having to study minute and repetitive snatches of it for several hours.

While I have many songs available to me to reflect Crustal Pep Simian, the monkey combatant of the Cola Wars, it was very much his sponsorship by PepCo Inc that I wanted to bring out in the mashup.

And while there are many pop songs associated with Pepsi adverts in the 1980s, the fact that John Landis set the King of Pop's hair alight during the making of the Bad adverts has ossified it in my consciousness as a high point in 1980s culture. I should add it was a mistake before Landis sues me. Go, watch American Werewolf In London, it's great fun.

So, technical details. John William's March is sped up to fit, has the quiet string section chopped out and eight bars of the first phase are sampled and repeated (at 0:42) to match the chorus to Bad.

The whole piece has had its pitch shifted from F to E. Funny, working out how to play it on my guitar I always play it in F#. Also, Bad is in D#, not E.

However, the final phase (coming in at 1:32) is therefore significantly faster than Bad which was, in turn, sped up to match it. Though several other segues were tried, reversing Bad for four bars (seven notes, then one note, four times) worked best and was a call-back to the first mashup I constructed for Croak (and ZooFights). Or was I actually foreshadowing this work two months ago? Only I know and I'm quite partial to thinking of myself as an overlooked and brooding genius.

As for the ending, I threw that in as a joke for an early work-in-progress but the Major (he who what runs ZooFights) liked it, so kept it. Out of personal preference I replaced 'It's cool' from the Pepsi version of the song to the original 'Who's bad?'.

Just in case Darth Vader's Theme was not a strong enough analogy for New Croak - a vicious frog made of goop that had been spinning round the galaxy in a life-sustaining robo-kimono - I bookended the mashup with some froggy sounds snatched from Rupert And The Frog Song (just after Rupert discovers the magic amphibian grotto which also has cats in it for no reason). I nearly used Jizzlobber by Faith No More instead, which I have a better recording of, but the decision was made to keep everything '80s. Let's hope Paul McCartney doesn't sue me. Don't listen to The Girl Is Mine, it's atrocious pap.

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