Ever wondered what would be the perfect track to lip sync on a moon rat while doing a space dance across an alien planet? Well, I’m glad to say Guardians of the Galaxy pretty much nailed the answer. In the opening scene the Star Lord rocks out to the infectiously joyful and funky tune, “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone.
If you’ve never heard of Redbone before, they’re one of the first all-Native American rock bands, and they produced a string of albums in the late ’60s and ’70s. In fact, “Come and Get Your Love” was the first single by a Native American group to hit the pop charts. The song features heaping servings of syncopated vocals, Motown influences, electric sitar, and a great call-and-response style hook.
In this first installment of our new “Song Kitchen” series, we’ll take a look at everything that goes into creating one of our favorite songs. If you can’t wait for the next article, check out our course “The New Songwriter’s Workshop” and learn more about the fundamentals of songwriting.
- A generous portion of bass line
- A slapdash of bright guitar pumped through a Leslie
- A chunky yet simple drum kit
- Honky-tonk piano to taste
- A catchy verse and melody
- An enthusiastic backing band ready to repeat whatever you say
- A whirlwind of strings
- A taste of electric sitar for effect
- Tied together with a classic ii V I vi vamp
Step 1: Set Your Groove to Simmer.
This song is all about that cool strut held down by the drums and bass at an almost lazy 106 BPM. It starts the song (at least, the re-recorded version that I’ve been listening to) and keeps the whole thing going. The bass line in particular really anchors the verse, with its steady walking between the root notes of the harmony (E to A to D to B and back to E again). And then there’s the persistent tok-tok-tok of the woodblock. The ’70s really loved its auxiliary percussion, and this song is no different. Christopher Walken would love it.
Step 2: Pick a Classic Vamp and Give It Some Flavor.
The harmonic progression for this song draws on a classic jazz vamp — the ii-V-I. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can hear it in Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll” or “Honeysuckle Rose” or about a million other jazz tracks. The chord changes (Em, A, D, and Bm) are the second, fifth, first, and sixth chords of the D major scale respectively. The last chord (Bm) serves as a kind of turnaround that brings us back to the Em that starts the whole thing, creating a circular feeling.
Redbone uses this classic progression but gives it some extra flavor by using a lot of non-chord tones in the melody. For instance, the first line of the verse starts on a D — adding a seventh to the Em to create an Em7 vibe. The chorus starts on an F# adding a ninth to that same chord. These melodic choices give the whole song a much jazzier feeling than you’d otherwise get, and help carry the repetitive vamp through to the end with some more interest.
Step 3: Stir in Some Honky-Tonk Piano.
As soon as the groove is established, the verse kicks off with some light guitar strumming and the over-excited honky-tonk rattle of a distant upright piano. The piano is almost all attack, creating a wonderfully percussive response to that persistent woodblock. The guitar is panned far left and almost inaudible — a steady strumming on the beat.
Step 4: Pulse the Syncopated Vocals.
Lead singer Lolly Vegas nails the lyric delivery on the verse, clipping his lines rhythmically and accenting certain words to emphasize the downbeat at times and the offbeat at others. He comes right out of the gate with that rhythmic emphasis, hitting the very first beat of the verse with the opening “Hail” (pronounced hay-il). The result is this sort of “no one can ruin my day” vibe that would accompany a strolling gait down Main Street, hands sitting lightly in the pockets of your bell bottoms. Check it out.
Step 5: Use the Sitar for Call-and-Response.
One of the most enjoyable parts of this song is the bright, slightly-psychedelic tone of the electric sitar that responds to the main chorus vocal line. We’ve talked a lot about call-and-response in our Theory for Producers series, but the basic idea stems from church music. The preacher states an idea and the congregation responds. In this case, the chorus acts as the preacher, descending in pitch, while the sitar plays the role of the audience, ascending back to the starting note and giving the whole thing a nice circularity. Here’s a transposition (I bumped the vocal line up an octave just to make it clearer as distinct from the sitar line).
Step 6: Season with Strings.
The final step is the strings. The addition of strings to funk and soul tracks was an integral component of the Motown sound in the ’60s and early ’70s. Tracks like Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and “Ain’t Nothing like the Real Thing” or The Four Tops’ “Baby I Need Your Loving” all featured a full orchestral string section. Redbone is definitely referencing that tradition with the super-prominent string tracks, floating in and out of the various melodic lines. That said, the strings on this track are much brighter and more prominent than traditional Motown strings with a more playful mood that features lots of staccato to support the rhythmic thrust of the song.
Secret Sauce: The Vocal Verse
This song is full of joyful funk, but I think it wouldn’t reach the same heights without Lolly Vegas’s masterfully delivered verses. The way he alternately bops, whines, cringes, and swallows notes drives the overall feeling of this song in a way that just can’t be taught. I mean, the dude’s loving it so much that by the end of the song the verse has been reduced to a blathering bundle of “lalala-lalas,” “dada-dadas,” and “boom-boom-bam-bams.” How can you not want to join that?
Best Served With a Heaping Plate of Get Out of My Way…
For some reason I imagine myself listening to this song with a mint julep in hand and a wide-brimmed hat on. It’s the sort of song that makes you feel like you’re in charge and nothing’s going to get in your way. So with that, stand aside while I go make some serious sh*t happen…