The hit song, “Take Me Out,” by the Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand is like a slug to the head. In fact, that was what helped originate the idea.
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The track, which was released in 2004 as the band’s second single from their self-titled LP, is likely the band’s biggest song to date. It reached No. 3 on the U.K. top singles chart and it hit that same number on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks chart. It also hit No. 66 on the Billboard Hot 100.
But where did the inspiration for the song come from? How did the band, which included frontman Alex Kapranos, conceptualize the tune? For starters, it all began, Kapranos says, with a sniper movie.
American Songwriter caught up with Kapranos to ask him about the origins of “Take Me Out.” Here’s what the songwriter, guitarist, and frontman had to say about its beginnings and fitting the sonic puzzle pieces together.
American Songwriter: What was the genesis of “Take Me Out”?
Alex Kapranos: I love playing it, it’s a banger. It’s a good song. So, I wrote it with Nick [McCarthy]. Nick and I were sharing a flat at the time. I’d watched a film the night before. It was called Enemy at the Gates (2001). And the essence of the plot was that two snipers were in position waiting to literally take each other out. One of them was a Soviet sniper and one of them was a German sniper.
I found that to be a good metaphor for romantic situations that you can sometimes find yourself in in life, kind of like a romantic stand-off you might stumble into if you were particularly of a shy nature and the other person was, as well. And when your intentions are both apparent but neither of you wants to give away your position.
And the tension is almost unbearable and you want to the other person—you’re almost desperate to the point where you want the other person to literally take you out or figuratively take you out. So, that was the lyrical idea for it. And the guitar line I had, which became like the hook in the main part of the song, that came when I was singing the words, as the words were coming out of my head.
I was trying to do that Hubert Sumlin and Howlin’ Wolf thing of like singing a line and then playing the guitar answer to it. I’ve got a very mixed attitude to blues music. Some of it I really, really love. And some of it kind of—eh—doesn’t really engage me so much. Some of it just feels. not for me. But some of it I really, really love.
It’s that dark stuff. The really sinister-sounding stuff like “Smokestack Lighting,” that kind of stuff. There’s a real dark, sinister element to it. I love that. Those answering lines is what I was trying to do there. But at the same time, I wanted it to be dance music. Nick was playing along on an old crappy Yamaha synthesizer sort of thing.
But when we wrote it, the temps were wrong. The verse was too fast. And that was when the chorus was at the right tempo. Originally, it had a more traditional structure. It was kind of like the verse and then I say don’t you know… But we couldn’t get the temp right. We had this problem, whenever we tried to play it with the band we just couldn’t get it to seem to work.
Then I said look if we half the tempo, it’s going to sound better in the verse. So, we halved the tempo and then it sounded just a little bit too slow. So after we halved it, we sped it up a bit. Then it sounded too fast. But the vocal scanned at the right time. Because that’s what’s got to be right, the delivery of the vocals has to be natural. It’s got to feel as if you’re being spoken to as much as sung to in the natural cadences of conversation.
So, we then put ourselves in a situation where the verses were too fast and the choruses were too slow. I was like, “What the hell are we going to do then?” But I said, “Oh, you know what? Let’s take all the verses and put them at the beginning of the song, and play them at the right speed. Then we’ll slow it down, we’ll do some hits, which are the musical manifestation of the hits that are being alluded to in the lyrical content of the song. And then we’ll play the chorus and the riff.”
And fuck it, it sounded cool! That’s a very truncated version of the story but that’s more or less how it happened.
Photo courtesy The Oriel