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Sunday, March 21, 2010

3: "Mr. Kennedy (Live)" by The Soft Boys

Well, I knew it wouldn't be long before The Machine spat out a Robyn Hitchcock composition for me to cover. Mr. Hitchcock is one of a handful of artists whose every release (and there are many) I own, supplemented by a healthy dose of unofficial recordings. You'll learn about the others soon enough, I reckon.

"Mr. Kennedy" is a song from The Soft Boys' reunion album Nextdoorland, a record I felt was underappreciated at the time and have recently come to regard as one of the most fantastic releases of the early 21st century. This live version is from a recording of a show at Maxwell's in Hoboken on 10/25/02. The main attraction is probably the amazing guitar interplay from Robyn and Kimberly Rew on the playout, and it was tempting in covering it to do an overdubbed dual guitar duel of my own, but I decided instead to honor the fact that this is a "live" recording by doing it that way myself, albeit in my living room. I've actually never "released" a completely live, unedited recording of myself before, so it's a first of sorts.

This is also an example of me "Bragging it", something that I started recently at some solo shows in the West Virginia/MD border area... singing solo with an electric guitar. I love acoustics and all, but I seem to be able to get a lot more dynamics out of an electric. Plus, it just sounds like me: when you hear me in a band it's almost always my voice and my Rickenbacker 330 with all the knobs all the way up, so it just seems a little less pretentious to keep it that way in a solo setting.

Rex ~ Guitar & vocal
Napkin art ~ Danielle Shriver



This was the first fully live 39-40 cover, meaning that I recorded the guitar and vocal all at the same time without overdubs. I wasn't really sure I'd be doing this very often. I had in recent years gotten good enough at playing and singing, often fairly sophisticatedly multitasking lead guitar and vocals even, with the cover of a backing band to distract from my performance glitches, and had even gotten pretty fair at solo performances... as long as they were just heard live and in the moment, with all the little glitches just blowing by, unpreserved in recorded form, because every time I'd heard a recording of such performances back, it failed to meet my standards, if nobody else's, as something I'd ever want anyone else to ever possess. And it did take me a hell of a long time to get this up to snuff, but it's not too bad. I do like the song, and I managed to put some dynamics into it.

Technologically, I definitely didn't have it together. This was recorded in Audacity rather than GarageBand, because I hadn't yet figured out how to record multiple tracks at the same time in GarageBand... that would take an embarrassingly long time, in fact. Instead I used two mics into the Behringer mixer, panned each one hard left/right, recorded it as a stereo track in Audacity, then broke that stereo track into two mono tracks which I could mix independently. Come to think if it, while using that mixer as my audio input, I couldn't have recorded two independent tracks into GarageBand even if I'd known how to... that simply requires independent input channels. Huh. Well, I guess I've just discovered that I had an excuse for not leaping that little technological hurdle to begin with.

Here commences the sometimes valid, sometimes just smugly faux-clever personalization of lyrics: the town name "Harrisburg" gets replaced by "Morgantown", and instead of "thinking that I must've been here once" I sing "I've only been here once". It's a reference to Morgantown, WV, home of WVU and a place where many of my friends from high school ended up spending a huge chunk of their lives while I went off to Los Angeles and stayed there. And in truth, I can usually only thing of having been there once, which must be strange to a lot of people. Mulling it over, I believe I have actually been there twice, once for some kind of odd drama competition in which, as far as I recall, I wasn't really participating, and then again to see R.E.M. in what basically counts as my first "real" "rock" "concert" in 1989. Neither trip was truly within the realm of my "adult" life and I never saw anything other than the interior of the buildings in which the respective events were being held.

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