Saturday, 19 January 2019

C64 High Score with Rob Hubbard

A while back I arranged and played Rob Hubbard's "Commando High Score". If you were born circa late 60's early 70's and had a Commodore 64 you are probably just started humming it in your head. Danny over at No Reason got in touch with me - another fan of the song - he was doing a podcast on this obscure little song and wanted to interview me! Of course I said yes!

During the interview he mentioned he was interviewing Rob Hubbard, the composer. I was dumbfounded and awestruck...yes I am a huge fan of Rob's chiptune work in the 80's, he was a monster in the scene, so many terrible C64 games but with fantastic soundtracks. His music had an impact on my life that remains to this day.  What he could get out of the 3 channel SID chip in a C64 was simply incredible.

Now "Commando High Score", circa May '85, has what I consider a sibling tune in "Monty on the Run High Score" circa June '85. Both have the very familiar doo-wop 50's chord progression I-vi-IV-V (eg Stand By Me), albeit in different styles, but the "feel" is very familiar between them. I mentioned to Danny to ask Rob if after creating "Commando High Score" (which apparently he did very quickly) if he then took a bit more time and expanded it into "Monty on the Run Game Over". I look forward to the answer!



Both songs feature a soulful melody but it's what else is happening in there that is really interesting. The doo-wop chord progression is found in the bass note. But there is a mid ranged arpeggio that plays exactly the same notes throughout the progression, so those notes move between being minor/major/7th/etc in the underlying changing chords, a very clever "trick". The internet tells me this trick is called "ostinato" derived from the Latin for "stubborn" which is both apt and funny. The melody also stays in its own same notes, also creating fascinating chord sounds.

Anyway, I then was inspired to arrange "Monty on the Run High Score" as well, it's much longer and as per usual I have made it very difficult to play.

...but I also arranged it for my kids to play as a trio. My kids primary instruments are double bass, cello and alto sax which is perfect for this arrangement. They have been on holidays and their brains have turned to mush, but I've made them play it through in 3 separate sessions, it needs plenty of work but I'm loving the sound of it. Dare I say I like it more than when I'm playing it myself! The part for the girls is very easy and they pretty much nail it, the melody is on the edge of playability for the lad, he's getting there though. Decided to record an "early version, warts and all" so that one day we can all look back and laugh :-)

JAW