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23 April 2016

Bad Business

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I wrote Bad Business – the 8th track on my new album, Lost Soul – in early April 2011. A slow-but-lively waltz in the key of C, it takes place in a bar, where the genderless main character weighs a move that feels good in the short-term but will have serious long-term consequences.

I built the lyric around business terminology, which is re-purposed in the chorus to apply to a relationship:

The price of admission
The cost of doing business
The risk of exposure
Bad business

Interestingly, the first track on Lost Soul – I Think I’ve Taken Enough Shit From You This Year – applies the language of relationships to business. But I digress! Here’s the original Bad Business demo, recorded as a voice memo on my iPhone:

 

I sent this version of Business along with 24 other demos to Peter Case in early 2015, when we decided to work together on a recording project. I had plenty of other unrecorded songs – my latest album came out in 2006, and I’d been writing pretty much that whole time – but those 25 seemed like the best candidates. In each case, there was something I liked and thought Peter might react to. It’s worth noting that I didn’t tell him which songs I liked best, or comment on them in any way. Instead, I waited to see what he’d gravitate toward, unburdened by influence.

Peter did, in fact, gravitate towards Bad Business, which fit into the “restlessness of middle age” theme that was percolating. During pre-production, it was decided that we would shift from 3/4 time to 4/4, speed up the temo, and replace the bridge with a second chorus. Here’s the final recording:

 

Needless to say, the album version is a lot different from the demo: in addition to changing the time and tempo, we added a rocking band. I love Joseph Arthur’s industrial-sounding loop, drummer Danny Frankel’s three-verse build – can you hear how what he plays at the end differs from what he plays at the beginning? – and Danny McGough’s super-aggressive, all-over-the-place keyboard approach. Peter Case contributed background vocals at my insistence – I wasn’t going home without getting his “signature” on the project – which I think added a ballsy element. And, finally, what about that crazy jam at the end?

If I recall correctly, we wrapped this one up in just a very few takes. It’s not perfect, but it’s not meant to be. The third or fourth time through, Peter – who knows how to judge a performance if he knows anything – emerged from the control room in an excitable frame of mind, shouting that we had it and should move on. Why argue?!?

In case you’re interested, here’s the final lyric:

It’s later than expected and your friend behind the bar
Listens well—there’s time to tell him why you’re where you are
Move your lips and train your eyes
The deep connection justifies

The price of admission
The cost of doing business
The risk of exposure
Bad business

Home is where the heart, in parts, dissembles and resents
Having been receiving insufficient sustenance
Seek attention! Empathy
Can trigger muscle memory

The price of admission
The cost of doing business
The risk of exposure
Bad business

A primitive decision in an ordinary dive
Will become the one defining moment in your lives
Fight the power, seize the day
But then, of course, it’s hell to pay

The price of admission
The cost of doing business
The risk of exposure
Bad business

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Bad Business // Lost Soul
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