Sunday, February 28, 2021
Out of everything ever recorded by the Out Of Bodies I'd say the Unicorn Song is the most collaborative effort between Dan and I - especially when it came to one particular effect we used during the recording process - in which we borrowed heavily out of the Beatles/George Martin handbook of psychedelic recording techniques! Inspired by songs like "Rain", "I'm Only Sleeping" and "Taxman", which all feature backward guitar licks, I thought it'd be interesting to see if we could pull off the same trippy effect using Dan's ole' Fostex 4-track cassette recorder.
Kickin' it old school
If you're at all familiar with how those old 4-track mixers worked, then you're also probably a member of AARP - - I mean, AHEM!! Sorry 'bout that - I meant to say you're probably familiar with how BASIC they were. Kids, listen up, because the more you know what we had to work with, the more you'll appreciate what we had to figure out! Remember, this was an analog recorder - as opposed to DIGITAL. Some would say the difference between the two was as evident as CDs are to VINYL. I know, I know... WHAT'S a CD? I think I've just lost half my audience - - ha ha!!
Okay, hang in there with me. I know this is all defunct old school talk - but still, pretty cool stuff if you ask me. Okay... Dan's 4-track recorder worked with cassette tapes. Now there are plenty of YouTube videos out there that will tell you about the problems associated with cassettes (they'd unravel, they'd stick, and in time the tape oxide that recorded your music would deteriorate - all true) but you'll ALSO find videos praising them for their unbelievable sound and "punch". Okay, now considering you probably have at least seen a cassette tape in your lifetime - remember that they could be played (and likewise recorded) on two sides. There was side A and the flipside was side B. Each side utilized 2 tracks each - a left and right channel, which gave you stereo. 4-track cassette recorders simply utilized ALL 4 tracks at once - recording in one direction only.
For the Unicorn Song I knew that if you recorded a guitar solo on one track, and then turned the cassette over and listened to it, you'd hear how it sounded going backwards. If you then listened to that track and again played (and recorded) what you were hearing - you can then DISCARD the first track and replace it with the track you just mimicked - and played backwards THAT would give you a backwards guitar - only it'd ALSO give you the FORWARD playing melody! Get it?... Okay, you can come off that window ledge now - I'm sorry! I'm sorry... I know that was a LOT to handle all at once...
Just know this - - we tried that and it WORKED - - and you can hear it for yourself here in our brand new video... ENJOY!!
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
As any Beatles fan worth his weight in salt knows, "Please Don't Ever Change" (Yes, I know I added the word "please" - I'm very polite!) was a song written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King in '61, which was recorded by Buddy Holly's backing group The Crickets in '62. The Beatles (who were big Buddy Holly fans, especially Paul McCartney who ended up purchasing the publishing rights to his song catalog) recorded Holly's "Words Of Love" on their "Beatles For Sale" album in '64 - but aside from that, in spite of being huge fans of Holly, they never recorded any other Buddy Holly songs on any of their albums during their Beatle years.
They did, however, do a few Holly/Crickets covers for the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation - nicknamed the BEEB) on their own "Pop Go The Beatles" radio program in '63, before most of the world knew who they were - "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" and "Don't Ever Change". Before eventually finding their way to an official Beatles release titled "Live At The BBC" in 1994 these rarities, and many other gems, circulated the bootleg market for over 20 years.
Digging for treasure
My buddy Lloyd and I would always dig deep into The Beatles unreleased booty - and we'd make frequent trips into the city looking for Beatles bootlegs (which were, of course, illegal) going store to store, scouring through dusty record store bins. When the heat was on, and the word "bootleg" became a dirty word, you'd have to find a way to ask for them *differently* by asking the store owner if they had any Beatles "imports" (wink wink) - which he'd then proceed to pull out from somewhere behind the counter. We felt like criminals... it was very... "naughty!"
Aside from the legal standpoint there was an issue of quality and sincerity. You never knew what you were going to get. Bootlegs were VERY hit or miss back then, and often pricey - so you had to be very careful - and with the inherited "no return policy" of dealing with bootlegs, it was understood you were always taking a risk. You could find gold or something that wasn't even the Beatles. (case in point, Have You Heard The Word or Genius Is Pain). But even before we ever saw "Don't Ever Change" in the record stores (and way before the Live At The BBC album came out) Lloyd and I were introduced to it in the strangest of ways...
From Cowboy Boots to Beatle Boots...
I was commissioned to do some western-themed cartoons for some entrepreneur businessman from Texas in the early 80s - - which I know sounds like the beginning of a joke - but it's true... and I can't for the life of me recall how I got to know this man or how he found me - or what these cartoons were for (but that's really not an integral part of this story). All I know is I had some cartoons to deliver to this address somewhere in Greenwich Village, and invited Lloyd to come along with me. Before my scheduled cartoon drop-off we visited our usual record store and comic book pit-stops - and then headed out to meet this mysterious Texan.
Lloyd recalls the huge wood-paneled loft with western themed decor right down to the giant steer horns on the wall and horse saddle lamp shades. The guy was probably dressed normally, but my thwarted recollection sees him wearing a rodeo bolo tie and cowboy boots - but again, that's neither here nor there. After our cartoon transaction the conversation somehow went to The Beatles - and he showed us his vast collection of unreleased Beatles tracks on vinyl. But THIS is where our stories splinter off into two different directions.
Lloyd recalls the discs being what was yet to become "The Lost Lennon Tapes" and I recall specifically reading a record sleeve imprinted with the words "Beatles at the BEEB" (which as I mentioned earlier was the nickname given to the BBC.) He pulled out a few records from plain, unmarked boxes and played some stuff - and I believe this is when we first heard "Don't Ever Change" - although at this point it might've been John Lennon's "Real Life" - who knows? Granted, it was years before EITHER of these things were heard by the public - so, could we have actually heard *BOTH* of these things and BOTH Lloyd and I are right? It's possible... anything is possible... anyway, that leads us to the next part of this story...
Jump to the 90sOkay, so at this point you're probably wondering - Buddy Holly... Buddy Holly's back up band The Crickets... bootlegs... a Texan entrepreneur... and "Don't Ever Change" - where's this going? Well, now we're in Donald's attic bedroom in College Point with Donald, Lloyd, Dan and his Fostex Double Cassette 4-Track recorder. Dan suggested we do something from the Beatles - and somehow Lloyd and I gravitated towards - you guessed it - "Don't Ever Change". (I don't think we knew at the time it wasn't actually a Beatles song - but The Crickets!) Lloyd and I jotted down some lyrics - and in one take we nailed down the vocal track without so much as a single rehearsal - Dan was SHOCKED! Who would've guessed that mimicking the Beatles, singing over their records would've primed us for just such an occasion?
...and NOW ...it's 2021
Monday, January 4, 2021
Working on this re-edit of our 1986 music video for "I Wonder" was a surreal experience... particularly the dummy attack that happens midway through...
I was getting a real Zapruder film vibe working on this - watching a rabid ventriloquist doll go on a killing spree (in slow motion) and feeling the need to "liberate us" from our spleens... chilling, to say the least... "Back, and to the left.... back, and to the left" - 35 years ago and the footage still makes your hairs stand up on end.
But here it is, with all it's charming little "add ons"... the Batman TV-series word balloons that pop up to emphasize the horrors unfolding before your eyes... the behind the scenes photographs of Lloyd directing the shoot, and going over with Jerry - his "motivation"... and or course, that chilling newspaper story, which only gives you a fleeting glimpse of what really happened that hot, summer day.
The fainting and stumbling at the end of the video were all too real - after prancing, which turned into leaping, which accelerated into running (you'll see why) was too much for us - and by the video's end you can see it take it's course on all of us. For Jerry, it was like shooting fish in a barrel.