Category Archives: Producing

secret weapon

Don’t recall what his final mark was but the marking system bugs me, flawed, suggests if you fail you aren’t someone who could be successful or if you get a high mark you should be but that isn’t reality. Better to just be pass/ fail or even just drop marking altogether. Pourquoi pas?  You sign up to take the course, that’s good enough. After that school year, I invited him to come sing on a record I was producing, he came and was like a secret weapon.  Adding improvised parts, adding counterpoint I never asked for, riffing off the lyrics. Couldn’t ask for more.  Then disappeared. Wrote him three times during the year to say hello and remind him anytime I would help record or assist whatever he wanted, he did previously say he wanted that. He only wrote me back once acknowledging my position and offer, it was over a year ago. Another weird thing about that guy, seriously, he liked Elton John. He performed I’m Still Standing when they had to do a cover. Broke my heart but I tried to keep my mind on the bigger picture, his talent.

birds of fire

Made best tomato sauce ever this morning, going to mark it in my calendar so I can celebrate every year from here on. Still, my daughter won’t like it compared to ketchup. Youtube tutorials, I follow at least 6 different cooks. Bet Youtube is an advantage to be a young musician today, consuming videos about how to do anything you can imagine. When I was a kid the idea of playing John McLaughlan’s solo from Birds Of Fire was absolutely impossible but one guy I knew could do it, Clayton – this made him a bonafide shaman. Maybe now even the esoteric is available in a simple search, I’m going to check right now, don’t go away.
Yep. There were at least four different people playing it on guitar. Amazing.
Different rules. You would think it might mean one would be even more accomplished nowadays. Truth is, the bulk of the music students I have worked with, the last 5 years at Centennial College, have music software containing the equivalent of $70k worth of bells and whistles (if we went back in time to the 80s or 90s) and one might think that means they are positioned to make remarkable music but most I’ve met focus using it for very simple tasks like importing a factory made loop. I bet it is an old story, living without the shortcomings one doesn’t get the value of the improvement.

rip it up

When John Lennon released Rock N’ Roll it threw me for a loop. I liked his solo records and his previous record, Walls and Bridges, was only a few months old, surprising another new record came out so fast. At that time in my younger life, I couldn’t stand the sound of 50s music, it seemed hokey but Rock n’ Roll was a revelation. The horn sections, the unexpected percussion on every track melding with the Jim Keltner kit, José Feliciano on guitar and Lennon’s voice in it’s best shape. Sort of ironic the record I admire most by him is just a bunch of covers but at the same time totally transformational. To this day I can’t enjoy the original Stand By Me compared to the other worldliness where John Lennon placed his version. The little chugging upstroke at the 5th fret does so much more for whatever part of my brain buzzes when happy.
Peggy Sue is as interesting as the best Buddy Holly work but that rendition has a psychedelic aspect that propels the idea of the singer’s infatuation into surrealism. It made me think differently about the power of music. I could gush forever about each track. The cowbell on Bony Moronie, the nonchalant voiceover jokes to the intro of Just Because, the off mic whisper at the end of Be Bop A Lu La, the crazy compressed piano sounds everywhere, the echo congas on You Can’t Catch Me and the way the horns align themselves with the drum kit or with rhythm guitar tracks and still reserve moments to punctuate ends of phrases. Sometimes I think that whole record is a reference for how to think about using horns in popular music because they are so creatively placed whether supporting or soloing.
Later, I realized for Lennon the music of the 50s was his adolescence and for Spector it was his 20s. They brought such punch and insight and hilarity and respect to those songs and I think on some level this is part of what they hoped, that people like me who didn’t get it, would be awestruck and grasp something else, maybe inspiration.