Friday, December 9, 2011

December 9: The Moody Blues, "Ride My See-Saw"

Artist: The Moody Blues
Song: "Ride My See-Saw"
Album: In Search Of The Lost Chord
Year: 1968

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

Though there are many, one of the biggest misconceptions about the psychedelic movement is that it was a separate sound from that of rock and roll.  Many attempt to write-off the psychedelic sound as little more than mellow, drug-infused musical explorations, and yet some of the heaviest grooves and hardest rocking riffs of the entire 1960's can be found under the umbrella of this classification.  In fact, many years before bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were defining the hard rock and heavy metal sounds, one can find psychedelic groups already deploying such tone within their sounds.  Among the many great bands that worked all across the spectrum of the psychedelic sound, few showed as much range and pure talent as when one looks into the recorded catalog of The Moody Blues.  Whether they were deploying deep, soulful sounds that pulled a great deal from the r&b style, working through extended concept records, or spinning a hard rock edge onto the psychedelic sound, the band seemed to know no musical limits, and due to this reality is is rather difficult to pin down a single album, let alone song as their finest or most definitive work.  However, there is no question that when it comes to hard rock and deep grooves from the late 1960's, few songs are better than The Moody Blues' brilliant 1968 single, "Ride My See-Saw."

While the studio version of "Ride My See-Saw" comes in seamlessly from the albums' opening track, the single version enters at the "end of the laughter."  Regardless of which version one hears, the fact of the matter is that the mood and energy of the song is present from the very first moments.  There is a tone and presence to the guitar of Justin Hayward that is completely unique, and it is the slight fuzz combined with the simple, yet unforgettable riff that makes the song so fantastic.  The over-dubs are almost impossible to pick out, and the various parts flow perfectly into one another.  However, one cannot understand the amazing sense of the dramatic that comes from the interaction between this sound and the string section that is mixed slightly to the back of the song.  It is this element that gives "Ride My See-Saw" an almost regal feel which give it a larger sound than most other songs of the time period.  Along with these fantastic elements, the bassline played by John Lodge is without question one of his finest, and the amount of movement that it lends to the song is second to none.  It is within this aspect of the song where one can find the influence from the bands' early sounds which were far more in the r&b school of music, and this tone sets the song further apart.  Finished off by a range of percussive instruments, "Ride My See-Saw" has an upbeat swing that injects a vibrancy into the listener that is rarely heard elsewhere.

Along with the uplifting and energizing music, the way that the vocals are mixed and recorded on "Ride My See-Saw" gives the track a completely distinctive sound.  The echo that runs throughout every vocal part enables the track to grow even larger in presence, and there is no question that this is one of the finest examples of the balance one needs in a song to give it a mood and tone all its own.  However, the actual singing cannot be overlooked, as the leads and harmonies are easily some of the finest in the entire psychedelic movement.  It is the way that the echo makes the lead part almost sound like a harmony onto itself that is so fantastic, and when the rest of the group joins in for the bridge and chorus sections, "Ride My See-Saw" takes on an almost religious sound in terms of the singing.  There is also a spirit of freedom and joy that runs throughout every vocal part, and it is this element that manages to completely captivate every listener.  Furthermore, the lyric to "Ride My See-Saw" can easily be interpreted on a number of levels, and one can assume that for many youth of the time, the rather obvious choice of hearing the song as a reference to an acid trip was probably the most common.  However, one can also read the words as a commentary on life from many angles, and it is this diverse range of interpretations that serves as the ideal final element to a superb recording.

However, even if "Ride My See-Saw" were not as magnificent a recording as it is, the song would have been important regardless, as it has a massive historical significance.  The fact of the matter is, "Ride My See-Saw" represents one of the first rock-style singlse to utilize an eight-track recording method in the studio.  While this technology had been used on a number of rock records previously, its use for "only" a single had rarely occurred before, and its use here would set the standard for decades to follow.  Yet one cannot deny the reality that the method with which it was recorded quickly became a side-note, as the song itself is easily one of the most vibrant and overall fantastic recordings of all time.  The fact that the band is able to keep this positive energy going from end to end sets them far apart from their peers, and one can also argue that the feeling keeps building and building, never hitting an apex or moment of release.  While in most cases, such would lessen the overall impact of the song, the way that The Moody Blues make this structure and approach work on "Ride My See-Saw" is yet another way that the band stands so far beyond their peers.  Whether it is due to the absolutely captivating and invigorating musical arrangement or the almost blissfully echoed vocals, there is simply no other song in music history that has a sound and presence quite like that found on The Moody Blues' sensational 1968 single, "Ride My See-Saw."

No comments: