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!

 

 

 

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…

 

 

 

 

A Lazy Afternoon Spent With Queen (Sunday Song Series)

Welcome to Week #11 of our Sunday Song Series. This time, we’ll be giving a listen to Queen’s Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon.

Considering its (approx) one minute tracking time, everything will all be over so rapidly that you might even opt to hang around to check out the following companion video… one which relates this song’s fascinating backstory and reaffirms that the groundbreaking influence of engineers / producers Roy Thomas Baker and (the late) Mike Stone, had both been every bit as vital to Queen’s sound / success as (the late) Sir George Martin’s innovative impact on the Beatles.

The Backstory to Queen’s “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon”

If you can spare a scant minute more, also check out The Diamonds’ lead vocalist Lucie Halamikova… her performance enhanced by some really cool CGI and vintage video clips.

The Diamonds cover Queen’s “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon”

I now thank you and invite you to return for installment #12 of our Sunday Song Series… a mere seven days from now.

 

 

The Sound Barrier Breaking 5th Beatle

 

 

On Tuesday, March 8, 2016, George Martin died at the age of 90… walked the final stretch of life’s long and winding road up to and beyond Earth’s exit signs… destination… not knowable to mere mortals.

I had never met him… sure as hell wish I had… and… yet… it feels as if I had been best of friends with him. Maybe you feel that way too? Well, most of us had known him well… heard of / heard all he had done. After all… he’d been the producer running the audio mixer / multi-track tape decks during the Beatles’ recording sessions. But he had been so much more than a button pusher and lever shifter.

Martin had long been referred to as the fifth Beatle… without question, an apt appraisal… for it had been his musical sensibilities, which had inspired John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr to musically transcend the conventional… experiment with / explore instrumentation far beyond the realm and reach of mere guitars and drums. Although it’s in a non-aeronautical connotation of the phrase, he had successfully challenged the Fab Four to “break the sound barrier”.

He had rescued the Beatles from the pitfalls of marching in lockstep to Sixties era, formulaic rock and roll. Without his inestimable influence, they could’ve easily become just another mop top, British boy band… merely vying with their musical peers… trying to chart mostly forgettable, here today / gone tomorrow songs. In short, Martin had been the key to first unlocking and then throwing, wide open, the doors of what could’ve become this band’s recording studio prison.

The Beatles eventually gave Martin’s musical masterpiece ideas a chance and a “come together” communal spirit soon flourished. Working as a quintet, they wound up laying down tracks, which guaranteed that their spinning records would spawn and spark an entire revolution.

Had J, P, G & R not placed their credence in Martin… i.e., stuck, exclusively, to grinding out guitar driven, three-minute, three-chord rock? Well… I do believe this group’s novelty would’ve faded long before they had disbanded in 1970.

Digging more deeply, George Martin’s formal training / musical upbringing (inclusive of classical) had made a world of difference. I, too, can identify with such centuries old, uplifting of spirit, full orchestral sounds… for my parents had introduced me to this music at a very early age.

As a preschooler, my 331/3 rpm LP copy of Johann Strauss’ works… especially… The Blue Danube Waltz track… had nearly melted down on my Zenith monaural record player.

I had even performed my impromptu rendition of that waltz for my kindergarten classmates… “singing” that wordless melody in ¾ time while “accompanying” myself on a toy cash register (playing it as if it were a piano). All my classmates and even my teacher had gathered into a tight circle to surround me… where they remained transfixed… right up to my crescendo from that composition’s final movement.

So explains my lifelong love of classical music… my testimonial as to how and why it has always been so easy for me to get into “rock” incorporating full orchestral arrangements… such as the Beatles’ A Day In The Life, Golden Slumbers Medley, The Long And Winding Road and Goodnight.

Well… I suppose there’s little sense in trying to digress my way out of ending my tribute / farewell any longer…

I had never met George Martin… sure as hell wish I had… if for no other reason but to have thanked him for producing the mind blowing music, which motivated and defined my generation… tracks which have comprised and shall continue to make up the soundtrack of my life… songs that’ll endure long after I have made my own final journey upon that long, winding, outward bound road… recordings that’ll live on for as long as humankind manages not to self-destruct…