Ever hear a song and think, “What could possibly have made him write that? Did someone dare him?” Well, in this case, you would be right. Actually, it was half-dare and half-threat. And it all came out of a semi-drunken afternoon.
The time: Early Pandemic Stupidity Era. The place: my front yard. The suspects: me, Mary (my wife) and our neighbors, Mary and Brian (hereafter inconsistently referred to as “Freighbors.”) When the lockdowns all started and everyone was basically living my beautiful shut-in lifestyle and not working all that much, we would occasionally set up our lawn chairs at the end of our respective driveways and yell at each other across the street.
We then decided that yelling across the street was both stupid and too much work (though it did amuse other folks in the neighborhood who were out actually exercising instead of drinking), so when the really nice weather showed up, we started having happy our in one of our yards. We had fun, our neighbors were less likely to hear every word we yelled, and the dogs were really happy getting to lay in the sun.
- Spicy Bee Ray Toler 2:40
One of our dogs was a German Shepherd named Rose. She was the smartest dog we’ve had, and a fairly typical German Shepherd – loyal, protective, and alert to anything in her domain. She also liked to hunt flies and bees, snapping them up and eating them whenever she found them.
You see where this is going.
One afternoon, we were all in a decent state of non-sobriety and having a generally enjoyable time, when Rose got up, calmly walked over to a low, flowering bush in the yard and watched it intently. I didn’t see anything, but she was definitely interested in it. After a moment, she walked into the middle of it, lunged deep into the plant, and flushed a bee that she then snapped up and ate. After a few bites, she crinkled her nose up and did that thing we all do with our tongue when we eat something not entirely pleasant, trying to scrape the taste off with her teeth.
Freighbor Brian, simply said, “SSSSSSPICEaaaaaaayyyy” at which point we all lost it and cackled for a good five minutes. Then it became and in-joke.
We lost Rose that December, and when it came time for Song-A-Day 2021, Brian said that I should write a song and call it Spicy Bee. Obviously, I didn’t do it. I don’t remember if it was because I was sad, wasn’t feeling it, couldn’t find an idea, or simply ran out of time.
Because If You Don’t…
Fast forward to last month. I had mentioned that I was about to embark on another Song-A-Day and Brian said (paraphrasing), “All I’m saying is that there better be a Spicy Bee song this year. Because if there isn’t…” and just left that threat hanging in the silence.
So, entirely of my own volition and without being under any form of duress, I wrote today’s song, Spicy Bee.
These are always fun songs to do, and it’s great to have an excuse to be overly stupid in the name of writing music. I do enjoy writing this style of lyric; I think I get that from my mother. Since I already knew the subject and the hook, it was simply filling in the blanks and solving the puzzle. Thinking about spices and flavors, I wrote the first line and the rest of it pretty much wrote itself.
I had a cadence, but no melody. The first chord I hit started that off on its way and, again, it pretty much wrote itself. There’s a reason tunes like this are a bit predictable. It’s the same reason we watch romantic comedies, even though they all do mostly the same thing: we enjoy them.
A scratch piano track was the first thing I put down, and as I was doing that, the natural arc of the song led me to the “it’s a small trio in a sing-a-long piano bar type club.” I then added the bass and drums.
About this time, the freighbors had swung by for a quick visit. I debuted the song in its draft state and invited them to be part of the sing-along with Mary. Once again, we were all in a light state of non-sobriety, so these vocals are pretty authentic.
Next, I started on getting the drum and bass arrangement cleaned up. The scratch piano survived because I was too lazy to record it again. My rationalization is that it’s a sing-along band, and they’re probably not the tightest group.
For the drums, I used a jazz kit from the Roland Integra-7. They’re modeled and really sound nice – it’s one of the kits I typically go for when I want control of the drums rather than using loops. The downside of using it is that I’m spoiled by software with multiple channel outputs. I could wire it up to do that, but I’d also have to reprogram all of the drum kits to have things going to the right place and it’s just faster to do it my normal way: I separate all of the MIDI notes into separate tracks so that I have the ability isolate kicks, snares, high hats, toms, and cymbals. I then mute the parts I don’t want to record and go through each one. This is slower than software, but it’s the only way to be able to get control over mixing the kit.
From an arranging point of view, I like that the energy level keeps rising, and love how the band turns into this swinging crew at the end. The crowd vocals completely make the track come alive and turn into a rowdy good time instead of just a funny song. From a technical standpoint, they already sounded pretty good, getting a sense of space from my studio, but I beefed that up a tiny bit more with a small club convolution reverb. There’s a tiny bit of Eventide pixie dust on my lead vocals, but it’s all pretty dry and straightforward.
This was a really fun song to do, and I suspect it will be a favorite in the future. It’s a fun tribute to Rose and a memory of a happy day. Most importantly, I’ve avoided a thinly-veiled threat from someone who keeps a table saw that is stained with his own blood, just to show that saw who’s boss.
Some people like pepper, some people like salt, Some folks like cilantro, but it’s not their fault Some use habenero, cayenne, even cheese But when it comes to my flavors I like bees! Sitting outside on a beautiful day Chomp! Chomp! Spicy bee! Something flying near me when I’m trying to play Chomp! Chomp! Spicy bee! Some people are worried Some people might stare Some people will tell me no but I don’t care Need to put a little pepper on it? Chomp! Chomp! Spicy bee! What’s that buzzing over in that bush? Chomp! Chomp! Spicy bee! What’s that flying all around my tush? Chomp! Chomp! Spicy bee! Some people look away and Some people frown Ask if I want bees and I am down to clown Need to put a little pepper on it? Chomp! Chomp! Spicy bee! Smelling all the flowers out in the yard Chomp! Chomp! Spicy bee! You really should try one, it’s not that hard Chomp! Chomp! Spicy bee! Some people don’t understand Most think I’m strange When it comes to my bees I like 'em all free range Need to put a little pepper on it? Chomp! Chomp! Spicy bee! Some people are horrified Some think it’s wrong If there’s a bee near me, won’t be a bee for long Want to kick it up a notch You gotta listen to me Need to put a little pepper on it? Chomp! Chomp! Spicy bee! Copyright © Ray E. Toler, Jr. All rights reserved.
- Piano: Kurzweil K2600XS
- Bass: Trilian
- Drums: Integra-7
- Inebriated party vocals: Mary, Brian, Mary, & Ray
- Effects: Eventide H3000 Factory, MOTU ProVerb, Pro-C 2
- Mixing/Mastering: Brainworx SSL 9000 J, Gullfoss, Pro-L 2