Chinese Whispers

Album: Option Paralysis (2010)
Play Video


  • "Chinese Whispers" is a popular game played by children and sometimes adults at parties. In this game the participants, seated in a circle, whisper a message to each other until it arrives back at the person who started, usually changed beyond recognition. A famous example is the military message: "Send reinforcements, we are going to advance," which emerged as "Send three and four pence, we are going to a dance."

    Especially popular in late Victorian England, it was called "Chinese" because of the exotic connotations, the difficulty of the language and because the process of whispering sounds reminiscent of the language when spoken. In the United States, "Telephone" is the most common name for the game. In other countries it can be called, Broken Telephone, Whisper Down the Lane, Gossip or Arab Phone. "Chinese Whispers," a track from The Alan Parsons Project's 1985 album Stereotomy, was inspired by the game.
  • Bassist Liam Wilson told The Associated Press about this electro-tweaked number: "For me, this is the most self-contained song on the record, drawing inspiration seemingly only from itself. At times schizophrenic, this one seems comfortable in its ever-crawling skin. It's dark and mysterious, atmospheric and thick. Is it the blackest pop song ever crafted or the lightest metal ever forged? It's gear-shifting and key-changing. To plow or not to plow? To stop or to start? I think this song lands every trick it attempts with style and grace. It casts its sharp and seductive hooks like an irresistible lure into bleak waters and nets something previously unheard of."
  • The song was debuted on Full Metal Jackie's syndicated radio show broadcast on 29 stations throughout the USA on the March 5, 2010.
  • Wilson explained to CMU the process the band goes through in creating a track: "Personally, as a bass player, I feel like my role is to sonically glue all the other components together. Typically, our guitarist Ben, or in this record's case our drummer Billy, will come in the rehearsal space with an idea, either on guitar/drums or as an idea sketched out with the help of programs like Cubase or Reason. Once we're all familiar with the idea, have all added our two cents as far as arrangements and layers are concerned, the song just organically builds from there. We demo it, and move on to the next song(s). For this record, most of the lyrical-vocal ideas were introduced as the songs were being tracked, and the songs all go through a rebirth in the studio. The bass usually gets recorded last, which is somewhat unusual for most heavier music acts, but seems to work best for us since I get to be objective about what the songs really need from me to 'seal-the-deal' so to speak. Every element plays a different role, and often that role is constantly shifting between something rhythmic, something melodic, or both simultaneously."


Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

How "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" Became Rock's Top Proverb

How "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" Became Rock's Top ProverbSong Writing

How a country weeper and a blues number made "rolling stone" the most popular phrase in rock.


DevoSongwriter Interviews

Devo founders Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale take us into their world of subversive performance art. They may be right about the De-Evoloution thing.

Kip Winger

Kip WingerSongwriter Interviews

The Winger frontman reveals the Led Zeppelin song he cribbed for "Seventeen," and explains how his passion for orchestra music informs his songwriting.

16 Songs With a Heartbeat

16 Songs With a HeartbeatSong Writing

We've heard of artists putting their hearts into their music, but some take it literally.

Yacht Rock Quiz

Yacht Rock QuizFact or Fiction

Christopher Cross with Deep Purple? Kenny Loggins in Caddyshack? A Fact or Fiction all about yacht rock and those who made it.

Gavin Rossdale On Lyric Inspirations and Bush's Album The Kingdom

Gavin Rossdale On Lyric Inspirations and Bush's Album The KingdomSongwriter Interviews

The Bush frontman on where he finds inspiration for lyrics, if his "machine head" is a guitar tuner, and the stories behind songs from the album The Kingdom.