September Songs

One of my most cherished, technically challenging, recording studio projects, ever, transpired on this very day in 2002. I owed my project’s success, in part, to being under the creative influence of…

Jose Feliciano: 8-time Grammy Award winner / musician / singer / composer
Sir George Martin: record producer / trailblazing, recording studio wizard / 5th Beatle
Mike O’Brien: DJ / poet / critical thinker (wellknown to Michigan’s 60s Era hippies)

To tell you my story, I need to tell you their stories…

Mike O’Brien had worked in an era where FM jocks were free to program their own music… free to speak their own minds, too. Both his musical and ideological tastes were frequently in tune with my own. Unbeknownst to him, he’d even played a minor role in my choosing broadcast arts as my college major.

He worked the 6 to 9 p.m., M-F gig and, along about 8:55 each night, concluded his broadcasts by playing two Jose Feliciano covers of Lennon / McCartney compositions… the instrumental Here, There and Everywhere [HTE] followed by the vocal In My Life [IML] (both of these tracks culled from the same album… titled Feliciano!).

His DJ MO: With HTE faded low, he’d [1] open up the talk-over mic to deliver his heartfelt, spoken interpretation of IML’s lyrics, [2] wish his listeners a goodnight, and [3] cross-fade / segue to track, fully, thru IML. In time… for reasons unknown… he stopped playing HTE. Perhaps he’d accidentally damaged / rendered un-listenable one of the record library’s, vinyl album copies?

Within two years… again, for reasons unknown… on a late September, Friday evening, O’Brien aired his farewell broadcast. Fortuitously, I had my monaural Sony TC-100 tape recorder rolling… a device (about the size of a Classic Star Trek tricorder) that boasted a fairly respectable frequency range of 50 – 10,000 hertz. Not bad, considering the snail’s pace tape speed of  4.7625 centimeters per second / 1.875 inches per second! Additionally, since I had also purchased that era’s state-of-the-art, Scotch brand, blank cassettes, I was assured sound quality par excellence.

Fast forwarding to 1995… with my own vinyl copy of Feliciano! now stylus damaged / rendered un-listenable, I was thrilled to discover an available CD reissue. However… one OH NO moment did reveal itself during the initial playback. AGAIN…for reasons unknown… reasons that defied all reason… In My Life’s ending had been radically shortened.

It was within that same era that the three surviving Beatles, courtesy of a recording studio, high tech exhumation, had been reunited with their old bandmate, the late John Lennon! How bittersweet that must’ve felt. Although the longtime Beatles producer, George Martin, had not been in charge, undoubtedly, his flair for trailblazing studio wizardry had rubbed off on co-producers Jeff Lynne and JPGR. Their project had resulted in the first new Beatles studio recordings since the band broke up in 1970… namely… Real Love and Free As A Bird. None of this would’ve been possible without Lennon’s home demo cassettes, which, ultimately, breathed new life into his old recordings. All in all, the word extraordinary does come to mind.

Fast forewarding to this day in 2002… It was while reminiscing about those long gone FM radio days of 1970, that it suddenly occurred to me that I possessed all the source material, audio gear and know-how necessary to produce an extraordinary recording of my own. As I brainstormed the procedure, it kinda / sorta felt like I was treading upon Sir George’s hallowed turf.

My Mission: To recreate / restore / enhance the last five minutes of Mike O’Brien’s final broadcast and simultaneously restore the musical measures missing from the Feliciano! CD reissue. The individual parts of the source material could all be played off each other… wind up complementing each other.

My DJ MO: engage my audio mixer to [1] playback the monaural cassette where O’Brien recites the IML poem while mixing in the absent HTE track (at a decibel level he would’ve chosen), [2] wait for O’Brien to cross-fade to IML, [3] at that point, seamlessly cross-fade my synchronized CD copy of IML (to eliminate the FM hiss / static, improve the signal to noise ratio and expand the frequency range), [4] execute a second seamless cross-fade back to the monaural cassette to restore the CD’s missing, song concluding measures and [5] utilize the finished master to burn a CD copy.

My Results: Sound-wise… my sector of the universe was, once more, in balance… everything back in its proper place! There were even a few hints of the very FM hiss / static, which accompanied O’Brien’s last show… so long ago. And somehow, even extraneous noise made it seem all the more real! Project-wise… all in all, the word extraordinary does come to mind.

My wish: For you to hear My Results. However, at present, that wish is not possible to fulfill. Even so… it’s still possible for us to get Jose Feliciano’s cover of In My Life into our lives. Play Back and Enjoy!

 

 

 

Playing in the E Major Leagues

Shortly after awakening, I found myself greeting the dawn of the new day seated at the piano. In a Lennon / McCartney mood, my mini recital… performed before a backyard audience of birds and bunnies… began with All My Loving.

Unexpectedly… along about mid-piece… I began wandering off onto the musical road less traveled… i.e., by transitioning an excerpt from another E Major, Fab Four composition… and then another and another and another… at which point, I “brought it all home” by polishing off the All My Loving selection.

Medley Working Titles:
A 5-Movement Fab-4 Mini Symphony in E Major
The Beatles in E Major

Total Tracking / “Travel” Time:
5 minutes

Lennon / McCartney Compositions:
All My Loving
Nowhere Man
With a Little Help From My Friends
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
Please Please Me

My Gratitude and Kudos to:
YouTube Piano Virtuoso Ryan(692)

Seeing how I had made this all come together so effortlessly, I began to suspect that my playing All My Loving just prior to last night’s golden slumbers had been of great help. It’s now my belief that… at some point during one of last night’s REM stages… I wound up experimenting with the juxtapositions of these five compositions… perhaps even playing out these abridged passages and perfecting their transition points on the keyboard of the subconscious mind.

Hence, my heightened belief in the positive power of creative dreaming.

While my own application of this phenomenon has been music-specific, there’s little doubt in my mind that what we all learn, while playing upon the REM field of dreams, can be applied, more generally, to many other areas of our lives.

“So long ago”, the late John Lennon, in his song, #9 Dream, lyrically posed two questions. Based on last night’s experience, I believe my answers to be valid…

“Was it in a dream?” My emphatic YES!
“Was it just a dream?” NOPE! There’s no such thing as “just a dream”!

 

 

 

Musical Compositions “Decomposed”

The above clip aurally sums up a recent plagiarism lawsuit… the case where the estate of Spirit’s guitarist / songwriter, Randy Wolfe (a.k.a. Randy California) had claimed that, in 1971, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” composers  Robert Plant & Jimmy Page had ripped off the guitar riff to Wolfe’s 1968 instrumental song, “Taurus”. Well, yesterday, a jury settled the matter in favour of Led Zeppelin… and I’m not totally convinced they decided correctly.

In this next clip, guitarist TJR, further showcases these two songs, practically “decomposing” them down to their atomic structure. He also demonstrates the similarities between Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and Beatle George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

Of course, forty years ago, Harrison, himself, had been found “guilty” of subconscious plagiarism re his 1970 recording, “My Sweet Lord”… that song being deemed a musical clone of Ronnie Mack’s composition, “He’s So Fine” (recorded by the Chiffons in 1963).

There have been other similar sounding tracks, which have caught my ear, as well, over the years… including “Things We Said Today” released by the Beatles in 1964 and the Hollies’ 1966 track, “Bus Stop”.

 

It was only about a week ago, while I was playing the John Lennon / Paul McCartney composition, “Help”, on my piano, when it suddenly dawned on me that George Harrison had kinda / sorta, “ripped off” his own band mates… had employed the exact same chord progression [A – C#m – F#m – D – G – A] for the bridge to his composition, “Something” (once the key signature shifts from C to A).

 

So… why does this happen? Well, I’d say with our brains, for the most part, all being wired in a similar fashion… with multiple millions of musicians limited to playing within the confines of western music’s 12-note octave, the possible (pleasing) sequences of these notes are not infinite and, as such, whatever plagiarism issues which arise… well… let’s just say that this should not come as any big surprise.