STAGE ONE: THE ORIGINAL LINE-UP (DON CHRISTENSEN, JODY HARRIS, PAT IRWIN, GEORGE SCOTT)
When the Raybeats started working together, they found themselves faced with the task of composing original material for their instrumental undertaking. In some respects, it was a daunting task for the musicians. But, with the original line-up, it proved to be a fairly collective undertaking.
“[We] write our songs in a thoroughly cooperative manner born of mutual respect and strong individual paranoia,” joked Jody Harris in a 1980 Cover interview. “We usually focus any composition on George Scott’s distinctive grinding clanking noisy bass line.”
“We didn’t really know how to write songs,” Pat Irwin confided in a 1985 Guitar Player interview. “One thing that we all brought into the band was sort of a melodic sense that was dormant in the previous bands we’d been in. Consequently, there were several melodies going on at the same time [laughs]. And we thought it didn’t matter, you know – you were bringing your own little touches.”
STAGE TWO: GUITAR BEAT LINE-UP (DANNY AMIS, DON CHRISTENSEN, JODY HARRIS, PAT IRWIN)
The writing process was something that Christensen, in particular, felt creative frustrations over. When the Raybeats originated, it began with Christensen and Scott working out rhythm patterns, then Harris and Irwin were recruited to round out the sound. But, with George gone, the main songwriting duties fell onto Jody and Pat, not due to lack of interest from Don, but due more to the frustration of working alone.
“It became harder for me to present material to the band,” Christensen recalled. “Both Jody and Pat were very encouraging whenever I’d bring anything in, and they were generous and patient with their time and talent while we’d work on it. But, being the drummer, the one I work with the closest is the bass player. After George died, our original plan was to continue as a trio and just hire a bass player. In retrospect, that probably wasn’t the best decision. And then, when we did get a bass player [Danny Amis] to replace George, he wasn’t really a bass player.” (Amis, by his own admission, hasn’t even played bass since leaving the Raybeats.) Due to the succession of bass players, Christensen found the situation to be “rhythmically frustrating” at times.
Christensen wasn’t the only one to miss Scott’s musical input.
“Creatively, George was a real force,” Irwin said. “He was a real inspiration. After George died, it was just harder to write because he was such a catalyst for the band.”
Even so, the opportunity to explore other sounds presented itself with the new line-up.
“George really dominated our sound,” Irwin said, “and he kind of dominated what we could do. A song like ‘Holiday Inn Spain’ probably never would’ve been done with George. It just wasn’t his thing. It was just too straightforward for him.”
STAGE THREE: IT’S ONLY A MOVIE! LINE-UP (DON CHRISTENSEN, JODY HARRIS, PAT IRWIN)
Whereas Guitar Beat was centered round the live show the band was doing at the time, most of the songs on It’s Only A Movie! “were kind of developed in the studio,” Irwin said. “A lot of the material was written around the beats that we came up with on the [drum] machine – ‘Doin’ The Dishes’ in particular, but also ‘Instant Twist’ and ‘Buddy Lonesome.’”
“I don’t know why we split up credits the way we did,” Irwin said. “‘Doin’ The Dishes’ was definitely an idea that Don had. ‘The Big Country’ was something that I had and ‘It’s Only A Movie’ was Jody’s idea. But, we all contributed.”