Singled Out: Matt Jaffe & The Distractions
'Armistice Day' was one of those songs whose creation stretched over many years, about four. For me, that kind of prolonged writing process can be painful, as it's tedious to find the same words and phrases lying around on my unused lyric sheets, never quite making it into a final product. However, when a lyric doesn't find its melodic match for a while, it often means that I'm not trying to force it to a tune, which can ultimately make the song stronger.
With 'Armistice Day,' I wrote the verses very early on, set to a different, moodier melody, and a more complex chorus line that probably just sounded convoluted. At that time, there was also a bridge that cycled through a few different key signatures, an idea that was based on the restless exploration of different keys in the Talking Heads song 'Don't Worry About the Government.' That version of the song did not yet have the 'waiting on Armistice Day' line (it was more focused on the 'meltdown' theme that only surfaces in the third verse of the final) and basically fell by the wayside for a few years, with intermittent attempts to revive it. The successful revival coincided with a renewal of my interest in Bob Dylan. While the new version of the song was not modeled on a particular Dylan number, the idea of a quasi-sing-along chorus, the elimination of the bridge, and the addition of a folksier verse melody all stemmed from Dylan's early ideas about song craft and structure.
Since its completion, the song has been played with a full band, with backup singers, with a trumpet, and with a few other combos, all of which I've really enjoyed, and I think have added to the song, but at its root, the song is the kind that is supposed to flourish with just an acoustic guitar and a voice.