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Deconstructing “Dirty Little Secret”

January 17, 2013

Child-in-Shadow-Bright-Light-by-woodleywonderworks-450x299Track five on “Other People’s Hats” is a very dark song titled “Dirty Little Secret“.

In this song I’m trying to tell the story of abuse as told by a victim who vows to haunt the abuser for the rest of their days. It opens with the device that has allowed abusers get away with this: fear and secrets. Always dirty little secrets that cannot be spoken of. I should make it clear at this point that I am not a survivor of abuse nor is it taken from any true story.

Your dirty little secret, your filthy little lie
No, I won’t tell no-one I’ll keep it till I die

Your face at my window hide under the bed
Stay there for a little while
Not a word is said, not a word is said

The song is built on an E minor chord with semitone movement to build tension. The track uses vintage synth sounds mostly the Arp 2600 plug-in… I can’t afford those old analogue synths so have to rely upon software emulations. The drum machine is a simple loop. I added some tremolo’d and distorted guitar to the chorus to lift it.

Fear turns to anger in the chorus

When I die look out for my ghost
You know why
You should fear me most Fear me most

The only point of reference I have is what I have read of the abuse of children in Ireland at the hands of authority figures (primarily priests). Victims weren’t believed.

Jumped up attention whore
Look at me look at me
The black the blue the uniforms
Nobody believed, nobody believed

For the middle 8 the victim gets to hit back at the abuser and lays out what’s in store for them.

I’ll be the face at your window I’ll be the noise in the night
I’ll make you jump at shadows Every wrong you did I’ll put right

I struggled with the last verse and was chatting online with someone (the name escapes me, I think it was another musician) and they helped with this last verse. When the secret is out in the open the abuser loses their power over the victim.

Our dirty little secret from the night before is doing the rounds all over town
A secret no more, a secret no more

I have to admit that sometimes this song is too dark to play and it wasn’t pleasant recording it. At the back of my mind was a voice asking me if I was sure I should be going with this subject matter. Not that it’s difficult to listen to but that I might inadvertently cause hurt to a victim of abuse with cack-handed ideas and words.

Here’s a video of an acoustic performance of the song recorded in a mobile video studio in Dublin’s Phoenix Park on a winter Saturday.

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