Joan Wasser Day 1.
I was out of Dan’s apartment before 9 and it was a beautiful morning to walk so I headed North looking for a diner. No joy, so I went to the Spring St Natural Food place around the corner from the Magic Shop. Food – good, service – no quite as prompt as most people need for breakfast… I text Geoff that I’m likely to be late – let’s start on If I Were A Song piano, get started without me. As I finally arrive (only 10 minutes late) I meet Joan in the street. She is dressed to do something significant – turquoise leather pants, fringed white leather boots and (sort of) matching white fringed knitted cotton top. I’m encouraged. I show her the chords and then run out to Balthazar to get her a double expresso (and I tea for me) as they get the piano sound. Apparently, while I’m out Joan asks Dave “What does he want from me on piano” which is a daft question from someone who has made such great music already, especially as keyboard lead, but Dave, very sensibly answers “Nick Cave” and Joan is satisfied, as apparently, that is all she can do. Nonsense. But fun stuff.
We run through the song a few times once JW has her caffeine and we’re away. She is great. I don’t want to fawn too much, but I do love her style. She’s not sure she’s playing what I want, so I tell her that it’s doing the job Mick Ronson piano did on the Spiders’ sessions. Which is true. It’s great without sounding like it’s a ‘piano player’ like Garson, or Wakeman. I prefer Ronno’s playing. See Lady Stardust. We get a great take, Pro Tools it, and overdub one small Satie-esque melody in chorus two. On to the la la las.
The rule is – if you can sing, and you play on this song, you must join the La La La chorus in the final verse. The first La La La was supposed to be me solo, until JW came up with such an irresistible harmony… Damn it. She and Dave add several tracks and it is now sounding just as I’d hoped – like a Bavarian beer cellar filled with great singers…
Next – Broken Record. I think a simple singer songwriter style piano will work on this song but I’m not sure. When am I ever 100% sure? I chart out the chords with Joan and she runs though the song until she’s comfortable. WE wonder for a while if the grand is too big of a sound, but I suggest she plays at no more than 70% force and it comes together. All of the other instruments are playing arpeggios and counter melodies so for the piano to play straight up the middle actually pulls the whole thing together just like the organ did on Why In The World? Plus JW adds some bass notes at just the right times that have Derby and I in high spirits.
We might just be making a not bad record.
Piano done we apply our attention to the vocals on Broken Record. My plan, all along, was than the chorus (everyone but me) should sing the first chorus, and then I should join in the second. So we set about building the parts. We start with DD singing my part, but sounding nothing like me, and as you might guess, quite lovely. He then adds his Blixa low melody and it’s Joan’s turn. From being Ronno/Nick Cave she is all of a sudden Joan/Emmylou and it’s just marvelous. I am so happy she accepted our invitation.
There are more bits which JW and DD hammer out through the song which are too many too relate in detail, but by the time we were finished, everyone was happy. I’m especially pleased that JW finds the lyric funny. Many folk are reticent to laugh at my jokes – Serious Artist, etc…
My pal Dan Dryden arrived during the recording of that song which reminds me – he was excited by the sound of the song which he’d been so used to hearing me sing solo for the last 6 months or so. He was especially exuberant about the intro section – I’d forgotten that I’d made a sketch track of a melody that might work across the ‘abstract’ arpeggios. It does sound good still, so I try to play it on piano, so that it can lead in Joan’s part. In the end a combination of the original guide guitar and piano works, and I’m finally not worried about that intro part…
It’s very late right now, as I write, and I have an early start in the AM, as Chelsea are playing Man U. DD and I will go to a bar full of hooligans at 7.45 to watch, so I must sleep soon. Less detail for the remainder of the day.
On to Man Overboard. JW adds a vocal harmony to the final chorus and violin along with the refrain accordion.
JW must leave at 5.30 so Geoff does some tidying up work on the tracks recorded today (there were some preamp issues and maybe more noise that we might normally expect…). I guess he has plug ins for this. I don’t listen. I go to the little computer booth to see if I can finish the lyric for Blair’s Tune.
Next DD and Geoff address the comp vocal&acoustic guitar on The Flipside. The guitar and vocal were recorded together for vibe, which means that an edit on one must have the same edit on the other…Dave has made a comp on Cubase at home a couple of weeks ago, but we’re worried that as it was done at 48k the sample rate conversion may or may not have degraded the signal, so DD and Geoff recreate the comp in Pro Tools while I work on that lyric.
It takes an hour or so and I’m finished (I hope) around the same time that they are the vocal sounds fine, great even. This song is going first or last on the record.
Bad news, the mic pre noises have left us unsure what is working properly and what isn’t. Earlier, it seemed that my mic was making the fried egg noises again, but now we’re not sure where the noises are coming from. However, at this late juncture, if we decide to play sleuth, and figure it out, it will be too late to sing. So we plug the Magic Shop’s U67 into my vocal channel and I sing what I’ve written.
As you have probably gathered by now, I find simple direct songs the most difficult these days (maybe I always did), and Blair’s Tune – ‘Oh, Genevieve’ is very simple – it makes Ice Cream Girl look convoluted…
Blair’s Tune originated in 1982 when B and I were in duo called FUN, maybe it was a little later than that, in the Casuals. Certainly a 4 track demo of a song called KIDS was on the same tape as The Power of Love (not the Huey Lewis song), and an amateur video was even made for KIDS, I think…
So B revisited this idea. I’ve no idea how or why, but I loved his new take on it. But what could I sing? Certainly not the 28 year old lyrics. But some of the old melodies were still strong. I’m not sure how this happened, but somehow I remembered an old pre-Mainstream idea called ‘Oh, Genevieve’. I guess all the song titles that I wanted to use but never did are still somewhere in the front of my brain. The word ‘Genevieve’ worked with the rhythm of the melody that I had so I set about trying to make it work.
The trouble with this sort of song is – once you have sung the first verse and the chorus, the idea is out there, and how can you sing more without just repeating yourself.
This is why it took me weeks, not minutes to arrive at something I was happy with. Saying less is often harder.
It’s late and I’m pretty sure DD and Geoff wish I hadn’t finished the lyric, but I sing it a few times and it’s working. An hour later we have a comp track.
20 minutes after that we’re in Odeon drinking whisky and ordering burgers and my favourite Steak Tartar. I even risk a Manhattan. We’re getting close now. Certainly not celebration close, but I’m fairly sure I can write two lyrics in the next two weeks…