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Saturday, July 31, 2010

135. "The Little Drummer Boy" by Miracle Legion

Huh. I wish I'd gotten just about any other tune by Miracle Legion, who are a fairly obscure band I happen to really like for fairly obscure reasons, to cover. And not just because of the Christmas thing, although that really is the most persistent thorn in my side in this project. Anyway, this doesn't even sound that much like Miracle Legion. Neither does Johnny Cash, and I'm submitting that as my rationale for why this cover sounds the way it does.

Personnel: Rex

Friday, July 30, 2010

134: "This One's On You" by Ken Stringfellow

Definitely the quickest turnaround between a purchase and a 39-40 cover thus far, this comes from a Stringfellow album I picked up last month fer cheep. The tune is a little overlong in its original version and even more so in the acoustic format I'm sort stuck with for now, so I cut a bit here and there (and picked up the tempo).

Personnel: Rex

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

132. "People Do It All The Time" by Stereolab

So I'm thinking, what would make this sound a lot less like Stereolab? And what I come up with is having it played exclusively on a whole bunch of acoustic guitars. And then I'm thinking, what would then make it sound even more like Stereolab than it did to begin with? And what I come up with is changing the time signature to something weirder. It's not very nuanced or anything, but I think it works well enough.

Along the way I did some preparatory experimentation with what kind of bass sound I could get without a bass. It didn't exactly work, but it created a kind of insane noise that has its own use.

Personnel: Rex

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

131. "Hands on the Wheel" by Willie Nelson

This one was going to be a Braine track, but time ran out and all that made it onto there was Miranda's bassline. So a lot of what ended up on here was meant to be my sloppy guide tracks for the kids to play correctly. It's not ideal, but at this very moment I have to work even more quickly than usual.

Red Headed Stranger has also been covered in its entirety by Carla Bozulich, just a little before the whole-album-cover concept started to get ever so slightly played out. I can't recall offhand what she did to this particular track, but the whole record was quite good. If I were to pick an entire album to cover like that, I'm not quite sure what I would go for... John Cale's Paris 1919 comes to mind; Tom Verlaine's Dream Time would be fun, and if I had to turn it out in really short order I could always do Zuma or Fables of the Reconstruction. I could probably come up with some more interesting ones if I had to, but I gotta go record some Stereolab while I still have a modicum of energy left...

Personnel: Rex, with Miranda on bass

Monday, July 26, 2010

130. "Dammit" by The Kelley Deal 6000

This one took on a life of its own as I was recording it. I like the way it turned out... in many ways it sounds more like what I would've thought a "typical" 39-40 cover might sound like before I actually started doing them.

Personnel: Rex, with additional background QWERTY keyboard by Gen

Sunday, July 25, 2010

129. "Levi Stubbs' Tears" by Billy Bragg

Considering how often I've cited Billy Bragg as an inspiration for my entire approach to solo performance, here on 39-40 and in any live setting, it's a damn shame that I didn't have time to do any kind of real justice to this song, which is... well, it's great, really just one of the great songs of forever times. And something that should be heard by anyone who thinks Billy's all politics. It's easy for me to love his political stuff, since it's right on and also incredibly doesn't suck in the least, but there's too much heart and soul to him for that pigeonhole to fit, or something like that.

Personnel: Rex

Saturday, July 24, 2010

128. "F Is For Fiend" by Famous Monsters

I think... well, I'm actually sure that I put out about as much surf guitar as I have in me for at least a month's time on the Beausoleil tune last week, so I arranged this one as an acoustic tune. And somehow I made it substantially longer, which was the least of my intentions. Sorry about that.

Personnel: Rex

Friday, July 23, 2010

127. "Cowgirl in the Sand" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

A few procedural things before launching into the usual nonsense. Firsty, today marks the last belabored tribute/parody cover art for a while. The hiatus is necessary because I'm about to go on vacation to my hometown in West Virginia, and not only do I need to focus on getting ready for that, I also have to bang out a bunch of extra cover songs just in case I end up in a travel situation which won't allow me to record anything within a 24 hour timespan. Probably won't happen, but you never know... however, I'm quite likely not to have the time to crank out the cover images to go with said recordings, so I'm putting them on hold until I return. It's also a function of having to leave some of my hardware behind... I am taking mixers, mics, mic stands, guitars and all manner of other paraphernalia, but there's a limit, even for me.

You'll still get a unique cover image for each song. It's just more likely to be a snapshot of something related to the creation of the song or whatever, which, given the different situations in which I'll be recording and the people with whom I'll be collaborating ought to be interesting enough.

So, "Cowgirl in the Sand". Well, I've known how to play this one for more'n twenty years, most like. I pretty much learned to play lead guitar by developing scales as I played along with Neil Young & Crazy Horse records. Over the years I've gotten better. And then worse, and then better again. By all rights my chops should be at an all-time high right now, but one can still have an off night, you know.

Personnel: Rex

Thursday, July 22, 2010

126. "Show Me The Way" by Dinosaur Jr

I don't know if I've ever heard the original Peter Frampton version of this song. I think I may have very recently and remarked upon it in passing, but it didn't stick to my mind enough to displace this version, which I've heard really quite a lot over the years. It's a weird thing about my youth that I didn't really ever hear the pop music of the time for which a lot of my peers have a great deal of nostalgia, ironic or otherwise. In my house we basically heard the country radio of the day, which had both great stuff (the Outlaws were out in force) and not so great stuff (it was also Urban Cowboy time), and I didn't really get out to other kids' places much, living way back in the woods as I did. Later on, at about 14 or 15, we got cable, and I checked into MTV very briefly, but for the most part Talking Heads, R.E.M. and the voracious consumption of rock lit steered me right out of mainstream pop music and within a year of starting to listen to rock and roll I was all about Sonic Youth and Husker Du, the Velvets and Throwing Muses, Television and the Voidoids. There are some really popular arena rock songs that I don't know which of those bands it is. Now, I don't think this makes me really cool or anything... it's just how it worked out. But it has some nifty advantages... lacking that haze of nostalgia, I can experience a fairly real thrill at realizing belatedly how awesome Fleetwood Mac often was, meanwhile not having to justify my non-existent prog-rock phase to my punk rock self. That sort of thing.

Um, what was I saying? Oh yeah. Anyway, I purposefully didn't look up the Frampton tune and to further solidify this as a cover of Dinosaur's cover, I recorded myself playing and singing along to the original in the headphones. I may have overdone my J. Mascis impersonation, but the point of it was to be sort of singing it on the fly, not intimately familiar with the melody line Mascis wasn't entirely locked into himself. I love Dinosaur Jr. and some of their covers are truly brilliant, but they really took a dump on their contributions to two of the early, good tribute albums with their vivisections of "Feel a Whole Lot Better" and "Lotta Love", so they sorta had this coming.

Personnel: Rex

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

125. "The Night Is Very Soft" by The Church

A rare instance of the tribute album cover image dictating the specifics of the cover recording, and I am glad of it.

Quite a few of the recordings I've done for 39-40 sound rather a lot like songs by The Church despite the fact that none of them have been Church covers. My methods and playing and instruments and the way I use my lower vocal range just kind of tilt that way. But I really didn't want to just do a slavish cover for the first song by the band selected for me by The Machine. It was very tempting nonetheless, not least because the original recording starts with solo drums, making it very easy to create a perfect drum loop and build from there.

But before I started I gave some thought to recreating the iconic cover image of the Hindsight compilation. Well, I don't know, it's iconic enough in the real world that there's a t-shirt of it, and it's iconic to me because I used to stare longingly at the cover of the double-cassette edition of it that I couldn't afford as a young Church-head. Doesn't matter, the point is that my electric 12-string, which is ironically more or less the same one Marty Willson-Piper normally uses, just doesn't have a headstock that looks anything like that thanks to Rickenbacker's distinctive perpendicular-to-itself way of installing tuners on their twelves. But my Epiphone acoustic does. So that's the guitar I ended up using on both the cover image and the recording. Except for the raging feedback bit; that involves an electric and moreover two Fender amplifiers facing each other and mic'ed in stereo. It made my stepdaughter's brain explode even though she was a flight of stairs and a closed door away... she told me so.

Personnel: Rex

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

124. "Atchafalaya Pipeline" by BeauSoleil

This one turned out completely wrong, but in as good a way as possible. The concept of the original tune is the "Cajunization" of a surf song, which is cute, but I don't have the instruments or chops to really produce anything vaguely Cajun sounding. I do have the stuff to produce a low-rent surf track, but I was again stuck with the problem of how irritating listening to 3 minutes of my own playing can be to me. So I tried to enlist someone else to play at least some of the solos, and got no response at all. I also considered doing all of the solos on oddball instruments I can barely play for a really weird sound, and even just dropping a message into the tune saying, "Okay, play your own solo here" or something.

But when I got to setting up the basic track, something clicked. Specifically, it was the process of recording the Fender Twin, which was basically born to do this kind of thing, and then tweaking it for two different sounds. While testing out the "lead" sound I ended up with an actual "riff" that sounded pretty good for a surf tune, and I just rolled with that idea. What I got in the end may not be a completely stellar example of the genre, but nobody's going to mistake if for anything else, so in that sense, mission accomplished. Especially given my lack of tremolo bars and single-coil-up guitars!

Personnel: Rex

Monday, July 19, 2010

123. "Mama Lion" by Crosby & Nash

I know David Crosby is kind of a punchline and a punching bag for a lot of people, but I can't help but like the guy. First of all, if you're going to tell me he's not talented, I'll fight you. He's the most inventive rock rhythm guitarist I can think of (and if you thing that's damning with slight praise, you haven't listened to his guitar work on the Byrds records as closely as I have). And it may be true that the harmony work of CSNY is often overrated, but Crosby's part in it, and certainly that of the Byrds, sure as hell isn't. His songs are baffling... the distance between "Everybody's Been Burned" and "Mind Gardens", written around the same time, is almost precisely the distance between the sublime and the ridiculous. He has a weight problem, and a drug problem, and basically rather a lot of problems, but writing him off as a dated hippie joke is just not right.

Graham Nash seems a nice enough fellow with a pretty voice who deserves your sympathy just for how much shit he's taken from Stephen Stills over the years, and what's not to adore about the early Hollies records?

Spoilers: This is probably the first recording I've ever created which switches time signatures, at least in any kind of planned or organized fashion.

Personnel: Rex

Sunday, July 18, 2010

122. "The Daily Planet" by Love

And then some days I get to do a song that I totally love and would've like to learn eventually anyway.

Odd side effect, though. I've always thought of Forever Changes and Ocean Rain as total twin albums, and this song and "Silver" as particularly joined at the hip. I've gotten into a bad habit of quoting other songs in the course of my 39-40 covers, or at least of overdoing it, but since the direct link between these songs has long since existed in my mind, I decided to be deliberate about it this time. And it was thus that I discovered that some awful accident has caused all of my Echo & the Bunnymen records to disappear from my hard drive. And that's a big deal, because I had *all* of them... the box set, the reunion records, the weird but good album without McCulloch... quite a crisis here, and the big downside of having your music in digital-only form. I back my library up frequently, but in this case there must have been some unnoticed accidental dragging and dropping of a single folder that just happened to contain one of my favorite bands' entire output. About this I am not at all pleased.

Othewise, this one was a blast to do.

Personnel: Rex

Saturday, July 17, 2010

121. "Standing Around Crying" by Muddy Waters

One of the challenges of 39-40 at almost four months deep is to produce the occasional track that actually sounds a little bit different. In theory this shouldn't be too hard... one should have plenty of time to think up ideas like "I'll play this whole song on a rake" or "How about recording it and then rerecording it playing on the computer from 20 feet away" or whatever. The reality is that when you have so much stuff set up and so little time to work, and a chunk of your time is spent just plain learning the song, you really tend to use the same guitars and basic setups fairly frequently. Well, I do. Maybe someone else would do it better, and if so, they should please demonstrate it, because I don't see anyone else doing this shit.

Anyway, a long time ago Gen bought an old Kay guitar and its matching original amp, a thing that looks sort of like a sewing machine and features among other distinctions a combination on/off/tone knob. The guitar has basically become Eden's and she generally plays it through the Vox amps her patrons at the Burbank Music Academy provide. But I always felt like that guitar/amp combo might make for a nice dirty blues kind of sound if recorded right. Eden's at her dad's house with the guitar today, but the amp's still here, and I decided to put my idea to the test with this Muddy Waters tune, substituting my Tele Deluxe for the original guitar. I also came sort of close to my original idea, which had to do with how totally apocalyptic certain passage of these really slow early electric blues tunes can sound, easily the equal of the more harrowing passages or Confusion is Sex; I wanted to slow a drum loop down to the point where it was all skronky and digital-artifacty all over the place to mirror that in a way. It didn't quit read as I wanted it to, but it's not too bad.

Personnel: Rex

Friday, July 16, 2010

120. "A Magazine Called Sunset" by Wilco

In the end Wilco kind of pisses me off. And I loved them, truly I did. In the fallowest period of the '90s and on a whim I picked up a rilly cheap used copy of Being There and was pretty well floored by it. It was rock and roll, and it was good, and it had that good rock and roll feeling I hadn't felt since, let's say, the heyday of the Replacements. The band and its lineage-- I had missed Uncle Tupelo the first time around-- stood me in good stead for quite some time, as lineups changed and critical darlinghood peaked, culminating in what I thought was a fascinatingly rough-hewn semi-masterpiece in A Ghost Is Born. Some very intriguing krautrock influences were peaking through, and there were Television- and Crazy Horse-inspired passages that seemed inspired, and the lyrics were going places. They added Nels Cline, one of my favorite oddball guitarists, for the tour and then as a permanent member, so I'd hoped for more out-there adventures on the first record featuring him as a full member...

... but Sky Blue Sky was an abomination to my ears. Bland, inert, uninspired and uninspiring; comparisons to '70s soft rock did a serious disservice to Glenn Campnbell and America, and the faux-soul numbers were just about unlistenable. On the online mailing list I've tended to call home for many, many years, both of the other major Wilco fans agreed with me completely, and I felt sure this was a quantifiable bomb. But to my amazement, people liked it. It ended up on tons of end-of-the-year Top 10 lists and to this day I see it cited as a career highlight. And this is unusual for me. It's a rare work that's widely appreciated in which I can find no value whatsoever even if I don't like it, particularly by one of my favorite artist, but here it was. I slogged my way through the whole records another few times after the praise started pouring in, but somewhere in the first ten minutes I could still feel rigor mortis setting in. There was no hope. And then within a year or so, one of the two ex-fans to whom I alluded above suddenly and tragically passed away, at last notice still as disdainful of Nu-Wilco as ever, and that to me sealed it. If she wasn't going to get to hear anything else by the band that might restore her faith, why should I?

Anyway, this one's for Natalie Jane.

Personnel: Rex

Thursday, July 15, 2010

119. "Music for Evenings" by Young Marble Giants

I finally heard Young Marble Giants maybe three years ago, after frequently stumbling across them being cited as an influential and seminal group and almost always misunderstanding what that influence actually was. I initially got the impression they were somehow proto-grunge, and then that they were trip-hop precursors, and exactly neither of those ideas were even close to the mark. Nothing prepared me for the bewitching sparseness of the actual YMG; they really don't sound like anything else, and that almost restores, to the extent that it ever existed, my faith in the gatekeepers of musical hipsterism... it's amazing that this music was ever recognized as being quite as great as it is, and that its reputation has persevered, however warped the associations might have become.

I'd guess that the obvious approach to covering almost YMG song is to make it "bigger", since the original recordings suggest sketches to begin with. I don't think they're sketches at all... I think they'd pretty much fully arrived as they are. Nonetheless, my cover got bigger. I tried not to make it bigger in a stupid way, though. Well, stupidity does leak through in one area, but I'll leave that for you to discover on your own.

Personnel: Rex

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

118. "It's Got To Be Done" by Lonesome Valley Singers

This one' from The Happy Listener's Guide to Mind Control, a compilation of bizarre propaganda, agitprop and subliminal-message-like stuff that's entertainingly alarming to listen to in an "it couldn't happen here... again... could it?" way.

The original thought here was that it might be even more disturbing to have kids singing this song, but then, in the name of summer activities, I started to think it would be cool to have the girls really play all the instruments, and by the time we were done with that, I'd changed my mind and decided we needed a more relevant nemesis than the "commies". The girls and I agreed, as would everyone, I think, that the true enemies are "the stupids", so we constructed the song as a counter-revolutionary volley in the War Against Intelligence.

Personnel: Braine!
Eden Hain ~ guitar and vocals
Miranda Broome ~ bass and vocals
Ridley Broome ~ keyboards and vocals
Rex Broome ~ other stuff (not much)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

117. "Ici Les Enfants" by The Monochrome Set

I'd always assumed that when I finally hit a song that I "couldn't do" for 39-40, it would be because of some really difficult structural or musical issue. But that wasn't the case. When The Machine dropped this one in my lap, I knew right away I was going to have trouble performing it because of the lyrical content. It concerns a-- if not the specific-- Roman Polanski-esque case of child fixation and probable molestation, referring specifically to the age of the victim as 12, which is the age of one of my daughters. Now, it's not a bad song or anything... it's a critical indictment, in fact, just one that takes the often effective first-person perspective of the offender, like the murder ballads of old, country prison tunes, most of the songs on Peter Gabriel's melting face record, and countless other compositions. It's just that I can't imagine myself singing these particular words.

So last night I put some thought into how I was going to approach this. I thought I could perhaps sing the lyrics of the whole song in French as opposed to just the chorus; I thought about constructing some kind of found-sound collage about the topic-- and I even thought about what kinds of material I might want to use in order to create something more thought-provoking than didactic and bleeding-hearty, and realized that even looking for such sound bites might well put me in the same category as Pete Townshend a few years back, and then I thought, hey, why not use the actual text of Townshend's statement? Maybe have Anjali read it? And I had a piece of music set to go, a demo for a new Skates & Rays tune called "The Howlaround" which could be adapted easily...

But then I woke up and looked at the paper this morning, and guess who was back in the news! So the job got a little bit easier.

Rex Broome ~ musical content
The Liberal Media ~ as themselves

Monday, July 12, 2010

116. "Straight Answers" by Neil Young

As a cursory listen to the original-- and that's the only kind of listen possible-- will reveal, this isn't really a Neil Young tune. The soundtrack to the film Where the Buffalo Roam is credited to Neil Young, who created the score as such, but it also includes a whole bunch of other stuff, including complete tracks by Hendrix and the Beach Boys, and dialogue segments like this one. So I'm still no closer to getting to do a legitimate Neil cover for 39-40 than I was yesterday.

What I've done instead is to manufacture a completely illegitimate Neil cover. First order of business was of course to have the kids recreate the scene on the track The Machine had selected. And then I appended my idea of what an actual Neil Young song called "Straight Answers" might sound like. I didn't write the whole song, partly because of time constraints, partly because I thought that after a single verse my imitation songwriting abilities might flag, and partly because stylistic mimicry is an entirely different exercise from 39-40. It's just meant to suggest that such a song exists and nothing more. I'm also not specifically imitating Neil's voice-- believe me, I can-- but rather writing in his habitual chordal preferences and melody lines that seem to me, from my having listened to a hell of a lot of his recordings, like something he might hit on. The guitar playing is pretty much a straight-up imitation, but so is at least half of what I play on any acoustic guitar I'm given.

Rex ~ guitar and singing
Eden ~ dialogue, stereo left
Miranda ~ dialogue, stereo right
Ridley ~ sound effects and scuffle noises

Sunday, July 11, 2010

115. "Under the Sun" by The Buzzcocks

So it's summer and the kids are at home with me almost all the time. And we're having an excellent time. But every once in a while I have to sneak off and record a cover song, and, the layout of the house being what it is, that pretty much has to happen in the "family room". So I often have to ask then to be quiet for a few minutes and then try to not screw up a take so I don't put a damper on the summatime fun for too long.

But when it came down to it today, I decided to let them cruise, and even put a mic on them, so they wouldn't have to be annoyed, and I'd get a unique sound on what would otherwise have been a fairly routine Buzzcocks cover. So here they are, enjoying the ever-popular pastime "Watching Each Other Play Videogames". In this case Eden is playing Okami, and I believe Miranda is assisting by consulting an internet site with tips and cheat codes and suchlike. Somwhere in the background I'm recreating a track from a 21st century reunion record by some punk rock pioneers. Summer!

Rex Broome ~ guitar and singing
Eden, Miranda and Ridley ~ the important stuff

Friday, July 9, 2010

113. "Jenna Jameson's Letter to Santa" by Jenna Jameson

I've gotten away from explaining how my covers come to be as they are, but this one requires some background, I fear.

For years I collected the limited-run Christmas compilations issued locally in Los Angeles by the KROQ morning show hosts Kevin & Bean, whose program was at times pretty funny; there were some brilliant pieces on the early compilations, mostly created by Jimmy Kimmel, who was their sidekick/comedy writer at the time. Over the years the returns diminished significantly and by this record, in 2002, you would usually have a lot of rather weak sketches and a handful of salacious "Dear Santa" letters read by celebrities, including this one by Jenna Jameson, whose apparently practiced the pre-internet occupation of "porn star".

So, what to do when The Machine gives you something like this? Well, the initials of the performer jogged my memory back to a Holiday "remix" I made many years ago, combining some hilarious dialogue by Stephen Root as Jimmy James on News Radio with a rather cheesy instrumental version of "God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen" on one of my then-wife's Mannheim Steamroller records, which got some laughs around the office where I worked back then. (Please note that at that time, "remix" meant that I had a record player going into the left channel of an old Radio Shack mixer, and a Walkman with a tape of the dialogue recorded off the air into the right channel, and that's what you get here.)

So I dug up the tape and added a few modern touches, incorporating some of Ms. Jameson's "letter" into a newly crafted bridge section, and there you go, instant holiday cheer. Actually, the new part is pretty lame, but some of my old friends will probably be glad to have the News Radio bit available for public consumption for the first time ever.

In a bizarre instance of full-circle, I went looking for the name of the actor who played character asking Mr. James the questions, and while I did not find him, I did discover that, according to the IMDB, another noted adult film performer, Ron Jeremy, was an uncredited guest star in the same episode. Huh.

Rex Broome & His Holiday Fun-Time Pals are:
Caitlin Blackwood as Amelia Pond
Stephen Root as Jimmy James
Mannheim Steamroller as the Musical Accompanists
Rex Broome as All the Other Stuff

Thursday, July 8, 2010

112. "Right Here" by The Go-Betweens

Another completely classic song by Grant McLennan, one of my absolute favorites about whom I've rhapsodized plenty already. Sometimes you just get out of the way of the song, and that's largely what I did here, other than having some fun endensifying the harmonies here and there. I love this song.

Personnel: Rex

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

111. "Lady Madonna" by the Beatles

After a few days of relatively respectful or at least considered covers, I often feel the urge to do one of those more randomized deals. I hit on the idea of walking into record store (in this case Rockaway, within walking distance of my house) and walking up to the super-budget used-and-totally unwanted shelf, finding the first thing that clearly contained instrumentals I'd never heard of, and taking it home for mutilation as a backing track.

And so the dubious new age composition which has replaced the original melody and structure of "Lady Madonna" is actually track called "On My Wings" by an outfit named Nightingale, taken from the sampler compilation The Higher Octave Collection: Music from Around the World for Around the Clock. See, one disc is for day, and the other is for night or something. I added a one-pass gnarly guitar which doesn't really sound gnarled enough in context, and some warped vocals, which do.

Nightingale ~ backing track
Rex Broome ~ guitar, vocal