When I wrote the song in the 90s it was really just the lyrics and those rolling chords and chorus. The coda was always part of it as it catalyses all the yearning in the words and the eventual meaning of the song. It could be strummed out on acoustic like any folk song and people always got it – I felt it was one of the best things I’d written.
I was recording a solo album in 2002 with Mark Austin producing. He wanted my best ballads and Frida had to be part of it so I worked up a demo at home on my 8-track. It was good and we used that demo and added Riki’s drums and Andy’s bass to make the final mix but there was something missing.
Walking down the hill into town one day I came up with a melody. It was simple and beautiful and I knew right away it was exactly what the song needed. I don’t know where it came from but I’d been traveling around with the chord sequence in my brain for weeks trying to find it and suddenly it was like it had always been part of the song.
As the Spines we’ve gone on to play Frida at nearly every gig we’ve done since – usually opening the set with it and that little riff has become like a call to arms. It’s only six notes but it rings right through the song.
A couple of weeks ago I was working with Duncan – my best friend’s son. We were painting a big complex built for students who were on their summer break. Duncan had been overseas for some years and had seen the Spines for the first time the previous night at our gig at Bodega.
We sat down to lunch in the big empty cafeteria. There was a piano in the corner and a young cleaner sat down at it and began playing this random stuff. She was Samoan and very shy – the daughter of the head cleaner.
At a certain point Duncan and I looked at each other – she was playing those six notes!
Duncan heard it too – he’d heard the song that once before at the gig and he totally got it.
I don’t know if these things just float around in the ether or it’s the collective subconscious or I stole the line unknowingly but there is zero chance that she could have heard Frida as such before.
Music seems to float in this shared but invisible part of our perception well outside conversation or logic and I feel blessed to be one of those that can pull these things out and make sense of them.
Happy New Year
Postscript: To read Frida (Part 1) click here