2013 ABC Sing! Bike biz

On Jan 2, 2013, my joy for my song Bike being included in the 2013 ABC Sing! book was swiftly dashed on seeing that the transcription they published was very wrong. I was almost sick with disappointment. They'd written it in odd times (5/8, 7/8, 3/4...) and added odd beat rests here and there, so what should be in 4/4 throughout was almost unplayable. They'd also majorly changed the melody and phrasing too. And the recording they made was of their transcription, so it was dodgy too. If it were a simplification I could sort of understand it, but they actually made it more complex and very awkward.

Via the agent, Music Sales Group, I'd sent the publisher, HarperCollins, these instructions:

"Beware how it's written out: I wrote it so that the melody shifts subtly against the groove going from section to section. It's really just 4/4 all the way (with a 1551 progression for all of it except for the "Push on a Pedal" intro). I only mention this because it can confuse people and many folks have written it out it in odd times. It might make more sense to more people to have a 2/4 bar after the intro and thus make the progression 5511 for all the rest of it. Tough call!"

I'd given my phone number and a link to my website, where there's my transcription of the song (which in hindsight I should've just sent to them). I can now see how these instructions could be misinterpreted by a baffled and maybe flustered transcriber, but really, it's no excuse. And they'd obviously been to the Bike page on my website, because they use the "... conga line theme..." quote from it and the link to my transcription/arrangment has been there for years.

I've already had several primary school teacher friends contact me saying, "wow, how did they stuff up Bike so badly? Did you approve that?" and "people are going flip the page as soon as they see that 5/8 bar". I've asked these kind folks to send their concerns straight to the publisher, HarperCollins, and many people already have (thanks for that!)

I've had legal advice and it seems the transcription is indeed in breach of my "moral rights" to the work, so if the publisher doesn't give a satisfactory response to my concerns expressed through the agent, I'll be taking it further. Not just for my own sake... the world is littered with inaccurate transcriptions of music and I'd like to draw attention to the problem.

If you think I'm being a princess, decide for yourself: My versions of Bike can be found here and below is their version (note that it's fully credited to me... damn it!)

They've written the intro as a bar each of 5/8, 7/8, 3/4, 7/8, 5/4 (with an added dotted crotchet rest to make it up), then after the repeat (for which the 1st and 2nd time bars are identical), there's another bonus rest (of a minum in cut common time) before "Get on you Bike" (with "Bike" wrongly landing on the bar). The melody is then wrong for most of it and the chords change in the wrong place relative to it. Then the brass melody (horrid synth brass on their recording) starts 2 beats late and the last phrase is wrong. The verse, amazingly, starts on the right beat and chord, but it's mostly wrong and their recording is significantly different to their own transcription! It then misses the "Oh oh, get yourself a bike" section altogether and goes back to the chorus 2 beats early. I think I have a right to be miffed.

January 25, 2013 Well, I've had a response from the publisher which is satisfactorily apologetic and I've suggested a solution involving an erratum (with a correct transcription and a link to a new recording of it) being sent out to existing recipients and also being added to future deliveries of the book... we'll see where that gets me! Here's my most recent transcription of it (in F: Nice and high for enthusiastic bellowing!)

February 4, 2013, the publisher emailed apologising for the delay in responding to my suggestions.

March 3, 2013, Terry Noone from the Musicians Union has sent an email to someone higher up at Harper Collins and we'll see where that gets us!

March 12, 2013, I had a good chat with Tegan from HarperCollins today. It seems most of the print run was pretty much distributed by December. They will put an apology and apropriate links on their website and send an email erratum to whomever it's possible to find (there are many separate distributors involved). But the best thing is that they're willing to put an erratum (with my printed transcription) in every one of next year's Sing Books!
Feb 25 2014 The erratum went into the 2014 Sing Book with my transcription, which is great. Sadly, the link they provided for the audio of Bike still doesn't work... ah, the not quite rightness continues!
April 10 2014, and the link still doesn't work... how very annoying! I'll continue pestering them til it doesn't, but it doesn't help the folks who have wanted the audio of my song in the past month (several of whom have sought me out for it).
December 21 2014: I just checked and they've updated the site. I'm not sure when it happened... probably soon after easter like she said it would! She'd said she'd send me a message when it it was done, but didn't. Oh well, now we can all get some sleep!

  Click here for my new recording of it (and here's for the karaoke version!) It's in F, which is good for kids voices, ukulele and Orff instruments too. I've simplified the rhythm of one phrase in the verse, but otherwise it's like the original... 4/4 all the way! Yes, you may feel the one in different places as the piece progresses, but that was my intention when I wrote it and everyone feels it slightly differently! Oh, and listen out for all the ukulele parts and anything that sounds like drums is me drumming on my uke (you can change the pitch by pressing your hand over the sound hole... try it!)

Thanks to Terry Noone, Tobias Cole, Carl Pannuzzo, Brigitta and Tegan for their help in all this.

Sing Bike