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!

 

 

 

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Blur’s Clear View of Real Life ~ Sunday Song Series

Our Sunday Song Series, Week #44 selection (aptly titled Sunday Sunday), features alternative rock band Blur’s 1993 musical interpretation of traditional, Sunday activities. While some might deem drawing upon a slice of real life yawn-worthy, who, among us, would not also find such a thematic “hook” relatable?

Of course, some of us will be able to free associate Blur / Beatles comparisons considering how this track features [1] a musical arrangement reminiscent of the genius and sensibilities of the late Sir George Martin and [2] a storylined, frenzied videography evocative of the late Alun Owen… the gifted, imaginative screenwriter renown for A Hard Day’s Night.

Or, are my drawn parallels broad-brushed and/or overly charitable? If so, I guess we could chalk that up to my [1] now eyeballing far more days in my rearview mirror than on the road ahead, [2] wishful thinking that time travel could take us back to those magical, mystical Beatles yesterdays and [3] belief in Quantum Theory that suggests possible crossovers into alternative timelines… i.e., to points, somewhere in the vast Multiverse, where John Lennon had never been assassinated and George Harrison had not smoked himself into an early grave… where Owen and Martin, too, now enjoy a substantially enhanced longevity.

Don’t let me be misunderstood, either. Broaching such Beatles similarities is not to, in any way, detract from Blur’s own considerable body of work, created by singer/keyboardist Damon Albarn, guitarist/singer Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree. One must never blur Blur’s own, stand on their own eight feet, noteworthy talents.

If Blur blurring Beatles boundary lines occurs unintentionally, they could hardly be faulted for being under the Fab Four’s influence. I mean… one needn’t even be a musician to experience something so unavoidable.

Even if Blur’s blending occurs by design, it would be still be Albarn, Coxon, James and Rowntree clearly paying homage to Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr. And who, among us, could not wholeheartedly offer up our “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” to such a sentiment?

And while we’re on the subject, why not say, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” to our next Sunday Song, too? You are cordially invited back here… seven days from now…

 

 

 

 

Try DownPlaying This

The Beatles’ 1964 Stateside Tour involving their February 7th arrival in NYC (at the newly christened JFK International Airport) and appearance on Ed Sullivan’s nationally televised variety show (on the 9th) could not have been better timed.

Americans, still in deep mourning following the 11/22/1963 assassination of our youngest, ever, 35th President… John F. Kennedy… desperately needed a reminder that life could go on.

To all horrified by that grotesque gun violence… especially this (then) 9-year-young boy and my contemporaries… John, Paul, George and Ringo were the embodiment of youthful exuberance. While their prime-time TV debut showcased their unique interpretation of rock ’n’ roll… one eventually becoming the soundtrack of life for an entire generation… something even more significant was in play… namely… how their raucous energy / high decibel music was the perfect Rx for blowing away that lingering, pervasive, suffocating, Dealey Plaza stench.

So… why the need to rehash this nearly 56-year-old tragedy?

Because of the swamp monster, who has been masquerading as the 45th president. Even though he is alive and (physically) well… well…

Ever since the orderly transition of power to that disorderly doofus, We… America’s critical thinkers… have been mourning the 01/20/2017 death of the presidency… the death of democracy, decency, intellectualism, logic, liberty, peace and genuine patriotism… the death of joy, itself.

From that day forward… uh… better make that backward… We have been in deep mourning… in desperate need of a lifeline. But, where to go to find that?

My reader(s)… just when I had begun to suspect those DC Washington Woes had indelibly stained my mood… my entire outlook on life… a deep shade of blue… somehow… someway… on some entirely different plane of consciousness… I wound up free associating the power of music… its stain remover / curative capabilities. Lo and behold, the Fab Four came to mind.

True, I could not step into a time machine to re-witness the birth of the Beatles. But, the next best, equivalent was well within reach… my access to CDs representing JPGR’s entire, recording studio produced discography.

Last week… I decided to PB that massive, Beatles soundtrack in chronological order. No sooner had Sir Paul’s 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 counted in I Saw Her Standing There than I felt my much needed grin begin… followed, a scant nanosecond later, by my buoyant mood… those lofty spirits persisting while tracking (at a clip of one or more CDs per day) until I polished off all 13 Beatles albums plus the two Past Masters volumes. And there were a couple of bonus tracks, too… namely… Free as a Bird and Real Love (McCartney, Harrison and Starr’s 1995 collaboration / overdub of their tracks with the late Lennon’s two previously recorded vocal tracks).

Even upon completion of my musical adventure last Friday, I could still revel in the fact that this was far from over. Hence, my spending the better portion of this week listening to these bonus Beatles albums… [1] Star-Club Live! in Hamburg, Germany 1962, [2] Live at the BBC, [3] Yellow Submarine Songtrack, [4] 1! [5] Let It Be Naked / Fly on the Wall and [6] LOVE.

My parting recommendation… should you ever find yourself feeling down about anything, try taking your fave recording artist / band out for a spin. Once that smile returns to your face, I’m sure you’ll concur that the healing power of music can never be downplayed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November BlogCast ~ Feast Your Ears on 5 Fab-4 Covers!

Welcome to my Thanksgiving Day BlogCast. My thanks to The Northmen for their too brief rendition / arrangement of Over the River and Through the Woods. Now, admittedly, while I am musically knowledgeable, finding other tunes tailor-made for this American holiday did prove to be a bit of a challenge. I realized that I was rapidly getting lost… deep in “those woods” as it were… and would need to come up with a new BlogCast theme.

So, free associating my thoughts wound up going along these lines…

Hmmm… Thanksgiving… what am I thankful for? Well I am thankful to my late, loving parents for having gone into debt to purchase a piano and pay for my music lessons and… hmmm… I am thankful that I had been born at just the right time to have eye and ear witnessed the birth of the Beatles and… hmmm… that band did provide the soundtrack to nearly my entire life and… hmmm… I do include dozens of Beatles songs in my keyboard repertoire and… well… that’s when everything suddenly fell into place!

Why not devote my entire monthly show to the Fab Four? However…

I then realized that this, too, could prove problematic. You see, mainly due to copyright issues, Beatles videos are too frequently yanked from YouTube. Yet, not being one to give up easily, I did find a cool way to circumvent this issue… namely… feature both big name and not so famous musicians’ superb covers of Beatles tracks.

About the only other comment I can add, here, is that the songwriting genius of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, as presented below, is not only timeless, it also leaves their compositions wide open to interpretation by a diverse community of musicians… all of which you will notice immediately as you click onto each of those play buttons.

So… the time has arrived to feast your ears and eyes on these music videos and have a Happy Turkey Day!

 

Stevie Wonder ~ We Can Work It Out

(Oh, BTW… Paul McCartney is in the audience)

Annarin ~ Revolution

Amy Winehouse ~ All My Lovin’

Santana ~ While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Phil Collins / George Martin ~ Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End

 

If you LIKE what you heard here this day, click back here for my next BlogCast on Sunday, December 24, 2017.

Past programs are archived in my BlogCast and Music categories.

 

 

Tracking Down ALL The Beatles’ Studio Tracks

Lately, this 63-year-young, Beatles fan has been riding incredibly high upon a massive wave of feel good nostalgia… fueled, in part, by the fanfare surrounding the 50-year anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

However, in order to get to the root cause of my deep-seated feelings, we’d need to turn back the hands of time a bit further… to be exact… to arrive in my living room on Sunday, February 9, 1964, 8 p.m.

It had been at that merger of space/time, where/when I had been 1 amongst 73 million viewers in TV land tuned into the Ed Sullivan Show.

“Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” That’s the night where the Fab Four had begun to weave their unique, brilliant British sound into the drab fabric of America’s formulaic, pop music scene… forever changing it for the better. Their first set opened with All My Lovin’… followed by Till There Was You and She Loves You. Their second set closed out that historic broadcast with I Saw Her Standing There and I Want To Hold Your Hand.

For this then 9-year-young lad, the Beatles could not have made the scene at a better time. After all, only a scant eleven weeks (+ some temporal “change”) had passed since the assassination of President, John F. Kennedy and we Americans were still deep in mourning… continued to feel haunted by November 22, 1963’s raw TV news coverage… all of that ghastly black and white imagery bleeding out from our TV screens… figuratively staining our living room carpets and searing sorrow into our gray matter.

But being ear-witnesses to John, Paul, George and Ringo’s upbeat, feel good music sure as hell had helped us with our healing process.

Now, to get back to Sgt. Pepper’s 50th anniversary and how I celebrated…

Somehow… just playing back that one, particular album didn’t seem to go far enough. Instead, I wound up tracking through, start to finish, the Fab Four’s full discography… the one, which encompasses the totality of their incredible studio output. If one opted to binge listen, that’d clock out at approximately 10 hours. I have done that before… but… this time around, I chose to spend a week to savor everything a bit more.

Now, if you don’t own this collection and would like to, the data I’m providing, below, will help you immensely. “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” I know it’s an old fashioned notion to actually own physical copies of anything… BUT… in an era fraught with talk about looming government censorship… well… need I say more?

My search to secure these precious albums began and ended in 1990. I had gotten into the CD revolution rather late in the game, but, once in the thick of things, I made it my top priority to assemble the Beatles’ complete body of work. At that juncture, the record stores (remember those?) were stocking the Fab Four’s CD’s, as presented in their U.K. released format, which was (still is) totally cool with me.

I’ve always felt that recording artists should maintain complete, creative control over presenting music in the order they see fit. In other words, not entrust that task to corporate bean counters, who don’t see the notes on the treble and bass clefs… only the dollar signs on their spreadsheets. And… to be sure… during the Beatles’ early years, stateside, Capitol Records had opted to carve up and repackage the Fab Four’s UK albums… resulting in play lists that would not necessarily have amused JPG&R. But I digress…

The following discography features all 13 of the Beatles’ UK released CDs, listed by catalogue number along with a linked album title (which will provide you a wealth of data re the musical content plus historical fun facts).

The 14th and 15th entries are for CDs that include songs, which had been originally been released as 45s, EPs… etc. The liner notes from both of these Past Masters compendia will further clarify…

“If you have the other 13 CDs, and these two, you have everything that the Beatles, the most successful artists in the history of recorded sound, commercially issued during their remarkable reign.”

Well… almost everything… re the 16th and 17th entries on my list, this data will help you find the two songs where Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr had laid down their tracks… added their talent to that of the late John Lennon’s solo work… resulting in the first two “new” Beatles songs released in 25 years: Free As A Bird and Real Love.

 

01 ~ CDP7 46435 2 ~ Please Please Me

02 ~ CDP7 46436 2 ~ With The Beatles

03 ~ CDP7 46437 2 ~ A Hard Day’s Night

04 ~ CDP7 46438 2 ~ Beatles For Sale

05 ~ CDP7 46439 2 ~ Help!

06 ~ CDP7 46440 2 ~ Rubber Soul

07 ~ CDP7 46441 2 ~ Revolver

08 ~ CDP7 46442 2 ~ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

09 ~ CDP7 48062 2 ~ Magical Mystery Tour

10 ~ CDP7 46443 2 & CDP7 46444 2 The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) Disc 1 & 2

11 ~ CDP7 46445 2 ~ Yellow Submarine

12 ~ CDP7 46446 2 ~ Abbey Road

13 ~ CDP7 46447 2 ~ Let It Be

14 ~ CDP7 90043 2 ~ Past Masters Volume One

15 ~ CDP7 90044 2 ~ Past Masters Volume Two

 

16 ~ CDP 7243 8 34445 2 ~ Anthology Volume 1

17 ~ C2 7243 8 58544 2 2 ~ Real Love