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Friday, December 31, 2010

288. "Whip It" by Devo

No , I do not like the pattern into which I've fallen of missing days and then playing catch-up on posting recordings. That, along with the fact that I've basically chosen my own covers for almost two months now, seem to fly in the face of the original concept of 39-40, and I seem to be operating under the very definition of "limping to the finish line". I'm trying to do something about it, but I'm hesitant to promise anything.

This one is from the nearly-bare vaults. The original recording was from the set Heckman and I did as a guitar-bass duo at our 20 year high school reunion last year. It was supposed to be a full band, but, you know, it wasn't. This one track, however, got a special reworking by Heckman a few days later when he added the drums and keyboard to it (without changing anything on the original tracks, I'm pretty sure). He did this thing he's been talented at for decades and of which he is now an undisputed master, which is playing a drum machine live and in real time along with previously recorded drumless tracks and having it sound good. You sort of have to see it to be properly amazed. In any case, the weird vocal effects, off the cuff keyboard track, and the crazy ambient noise provided by our classmates partying in the background give the whole thing a really unhinged, chaotic feel which is, believe me, many times more exciting that what we did in the room at the reunion.

Tom Heckman ~ Lead vocal, bass, keyboard, live drum machine
Rex Broome ~ Guitar, backing vocal
Basic tracks recorded live, August 2009, at the Wind Lea in Keyser, WV

Thursday, December 30, 2010

287. "Kotton Krown" by Sonic Youth

I can't move my laptop for another six hours... it is tied to two external hard drives, serving as a conduit for backing up data. It doesn't demonstrate great foresight that I chose to set it up to do so in my bedroom. For all practical purposes I didn't have any other options than to record straight into the mic on my Mac for the first time in quite a while. I chose to do so experimentally, at least, with one blind and weird overdub, some ambient doubling of the original track via its tinny echo in the room, and a sampling of the feedback sound that greets me every time I open up a project without having remembered to close down all the mics the last time I put it away. Not easy on the ears, necessarily, but, it is to be hoped, interesting.

The song may well be called "Cotton Crown", but it says "Kotton Krown" scrawled right there on the artwork. Of course, it also says the band name is The Sonic Youth on one side, so it's up to the individual listener whether or not I got that bit right. I first did this acoustic arrangement of this song as a wedding toast quite some time ago. The lucky couple are still together, and I do believe they appreciated the effort I put into it.

Personnel: Rex

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

286. "Lysander" by Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians

Another recording done by "earballing it" (recording without headphones), a process which seems to push me to use uncharacteristic guitar sounds. This one is a preset designed for an acoustic guitar (and no fucking way would I ever use it on an acoustic), but slathered on top of my Tele Deluxe's two Fenderfied humbuckers it seemed to suggest some of the solo electric tones on Hitchcock's solo albums (the awesome ones with the green covers). It probably has a little too much delay and chorus on it to sound truly authentic, and I probably could have twiki'ed it around a bit better, but given the compromised listening situation that would probably have just mucked it up yet still more, so I left it alone, figuring I might as well put some weird-sounding stuff out while I have the excuse.

The Perspex Island record comes in for a pretty severe drubbing from a lot of Hitchcock fans. I like it a great deal myself. The guy's got a deep catalog and doesn't seem to be slowing down, so it's easy enough to cherry-pick the best stuff. Just play nice, okay?

Personnel: Rex

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

285. "The Wagon" by Dinosaur Jr

Spent most of yesterday trying to put together a studio for the band at our drummer's place of business (in a former meat locker, to be precise). There's nothing high-tech about this deal... we're basically pooling all of the resources we've purchased, scavenged, or otherwise accrued throughout the year at the most logical central location, the place where we rehearse, and gearing up to take on the project of recording ourselves more or less properly. That is, in large part, what I had in mind when taking on this project: forcing myself to learn how to do this stuff. By the end of the day, through a lot of troubleshooting and trial and error which was a good deal more rigorous than we can usually muster, we managed to have ten tracks clearly recording simultaneously. Sounds like a little thing, but it's a big deal to me.

Since a lot of the heart of the control room is the my laptop and my (well, Heckman's) MOTU unit, and my mics and stands are forming part of its gear complement, I'm going to have to get used to sorting out which stuff I can leave there and what needs to go home with me to keep 39-40 afloat when I'm not "at the studio". I managed to get a good slimmed down cross-section of what I need, including that new pop screen about which I'm so excited, but somehow I managed not to bring home a pair of headphones. So this recording was done entirely based on what I was hearing out of the laptops's shitty little speakers. Yeah, I should have "real" speakers to properly mix stuff anyway, but hey, I don't. I tried to create a track that came as close to using that kind of "blind mixing" as a positive. The acoustic and vocal were actually recorded on the same mic in mono. I don't know it it worked or not, really.

Personnel: Rex

Monday, December 27, 2010

284. "Why Can't I Touch It" by The Buzzcocks

I've been thinking recently that I should do a week of 39-40 with no guitars. There are plenty of instances of my having done that during the project, but not lately, and never for a sustained period of time. I'm not starting such an endeavor right now, but this song was a case where I needed something that could be done quickly and I just couldn't abide the idea of strumming my way through another anything. I learned the bassline to "Why Can't I Touch It?" a long time ago, and I really do think it's one of the best, most insanely hooky bass parts ever written, and I thought I could make something out of it in a dub sort of way fairly quickly, so that's the story with this one.

In an effort to atone for the recent rehearsal takes which have extended a song or two well beyond their original lengths, this cover is well shorter than the Buzzcocks' version. Make no mistake, though: by Buzzcocks standards, the original is incredibly long and jammy.

Rex Broome ~ Bass, vocal, radio controlled Dalek
Eden Hain ~ viola

Sunday, December 26, 2010

283. "Shake Some Action" by The Flamin' Groovies

When I first met Gen, she was just coming off of a period during which she'd been rehearsing with a reformed version of her old band Backstage Pass. Backstage Pass never put out a proper album, but its members would go on to release records in other bands (most notably Holly Beth Vincent of Holly and the Italians, Marina Del Rey of Vivabeat, and the drummer Spock whom I was quick to discover had played percussion on the excellent and obscure Rainy Day record, to which I was listening a lot at the time). Gen had played in other bands as well, but not for some time, and the Backstage Pass reunion had gotten her working on music for the first time in a while. One of the things she and the band had been working on was a cover of "Shake Some Action". The reunion unfortunately didn't pan out, which is doubly a shame as Gen also wrote some very good songs during that time (and since).

I asked her to do a song for me for the first time in a while, and she was very keen to do Paul McCartney's "Junk". I really wanted her to play guitar on the track, though, and "Junk" has some pretty weird chords on it, so I suggested reviving "Shake Some Action" instead. Gen had the privilege of being the first singer to record a vocal using my new pop filter, a very useful Christmas gift given to me by Gen herself.

Genevieve Broome ~ Vocal, 12-string guitar
Rex Broome ~ Mandolin, backing vocal

Saturday, December 25, 2010

282. "Regenisraen" by Game Theory

Merry Christmas to all the faithful who've followed me this far. Thank you for your patience... your call is important to us.

Personnel: Rex

Friday, December 24, 2010

281. "Mississippi Kite" by Kristin Hersh

Not the first instance on 39-40 of the original artist appearing on the cover, but a unique one thus far, and hells of fun. Kristin Hersh is one of my very favorite songwriters and performers of all. I have met her, and stammered stupid stuff in her general direction on those occasions, but I've never actually collaborated with her musically in the traditional sense.

However, for the past three years or so, Kristin has released most of her material online accompanied by stems from the recording sessions so that fans can remix the tracks and share them with each other. I know a few other artists have done this type of thing, sometimes temporarily in the interest of competition or promotion (as with the recent Byrne/Eno release), and there probably are other artists doing this sort of thing, but Kristin's the only one I've tracked personally. It's rather extraordinary, really, and a bit overwhelming to think that one's Kristin Hersh library cannot be complete without tracking down every last fan-created reimagining of these songs, and I haven't tracked the developments as closely as I'd like to have done. It's been in the back of my mind to work with this stuff on 39-40, though, in a more-sophisticated-than-karaoke fashion, and I was just reminded of that idea when taking a look at her website to see what she got up to this year.

So here I worked with the stems from her recent song "Mississippi Kite", which first appeared as part of a work-in-progress record then called Speedbath which seems to have gone through a number of subsequent iterations, but which in its original form was my favorite work by Kristin in quite some time. Initially I intended to do all the vocals myself and add a little lead guitar spiralling around and answering the snaky lead lines Kristin played on the original, but as I got into it I started mixing it as a fake duet for us, with me bouncing between lead lines and harmonies with melodies. That engendered a not entirely successful attempt to match the recording tones between her vocal as recorded and mine, but after the initial shock of the contrasting qualities it seems to settle down and start to sound normal. The second guitar worked pretty well, I think, and it was fun to do the whole project... I just hope the new, homespun stuff I added integrates itself into the original tracks without calling attention to its living room origins.

Oh, and despite having listened to this song for a year or so, I had no idea that a Mississippi kite was a bird until I did a google search for images to use in the artwork. Always educational, those KH lyrics.

Rex Broome: Male rock vocals, lead guitar (stereo right), mandolin
Kristin Hersh: Female rock vocals, rhythm guitar (left), rhythm guitar, bass, drums, organ

Thursday, December 23, 2010

280. "My Beloved Monster" by Eels

If this seems more appropriate to the holiday back in October than Christmas Eve Eve, that's because Michael J. "Monkey" "SayntMykyl" Simpson and I have been planning on doing it since just about then. Monkey and I were just reminiscing about our first attempt to do a Holiday recording some years back. It ended poorly. This went better. Michael's a multitalented individual, responsible for, among other things, the art design of the Skates & Rays CD and the fine photography available for viewing here. I feel stupid in retrospect (among other ways in which I feel stupid) for not setting aside time in this session to photograph the unique group of players... I have instead stolen an image from his photo gallery for use as the cover art. So Happy Holidays, whatever be the holiday for which you deem this recording appropriate.

There were a number of cool things about recording this, not the least of which was the fact that Michael had never played, perhaps not even touched, a banjo prior to this recording, and one of my favorite things in recent 39-40 memory is his exact replication of the brief banjo intro on the original (which sounds more like a fragment of deleted track, and never fails to remind me of cruising past the dilapidated Cajun shack in the Bayou section of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland). His dead-on E-style vocal really brings it all together. Another watershed of sorts was how Miranda and Eden printed their contributions to the track... they both did it totally on their own while I was cooking dinner. We're starting to have a fully functional music making household around here, apparently.

Michael J. Simpson ~ Lead vocal, banjo
Rex Broome ~ Guitar, backing vocal, programming etc.
Miranda Broome ~ Bass guitar
Eden Hain ~ Ukulele

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

279. "Dinosaur" by Mark Gloster & Big Rubber Shark

And completing the dividends from this past Tuesday's highly loose Skates & Rays rehearsal, we have... this. Which has no right to be make as much sense as it does. This is actually an extract from a very extended ending to a run-through of our song "Fort Ashby", which we did primarily because Eden was there with her electric ukulele and she knows how to play the song on ukulele. What I didn't know when we started it was that Eden was going to insist on playing the ending inna raga stylee. Yes, it's her and not us old relics steeped in our Crazy Horse and Sonic Youth who propels this... erm, "jam" isn't quite the word, is it? Weirder still, owing to my mic setup, her uke is barely audible (I overdubbed a substitute track) and owing to me kicking over the mic on my amp, my guitar is heard only in the most ghostly of manners. And that works pretty well... it's the Derek and Cliff show, which is not a bad thing.

I sent out a call for requests for the first time in forever, and the winner was, thankfully, this song by Mark Gloster, which lends itself quite well to this restructuring. The original has some elements of spoken extemporaneousness itself, and is hung on a musical piece which also can't quite be classified as a "jam" (because it has way better things to worry about) but certainly has a lot to do with live musical chemistry. It's actually possible that what this version of Big Rubber Shark is doing on the source track is pretty much the same thing as what Skates & Rays are doing on our version... ours just naturally turns out whooshier and wussier. In what I hope is a good way, though.

Rex Broome ~ Guitar, vocals, ukulele
Derek Hanna ~ Drums
Clifford Ulrich ~ Bass
with Eden Hain ~ Electric ukulele

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

278. "Neon Meate Dream of a Octafish" by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

Yet another Skates & Rays rehearsal, and yet a few more refinements to our recording setup. This time I managed to get an actual discrete mic on the kick drum and better sounding stereo drums in general, but between having forgotten a few key cables at home and having Eden along with me this time (we had the band cut backing tracks for demos of her most recent songs, which is a pretty cool development), I failed to check the signal I was getting from a few of the more obvious sources, so I ended up with too little guitar signal and a frequently overdriven bass sound (which I just rolled with here by converting it to a full-on fuzz bass, a choice I doubt Cliff would have made, but damn does it sound good on the type of stuff he played here). Personally, I was in an off mood in terms of my own playing and couldn't think of a good cover for us to do as a troubleshooting experiment, beyond the vague idea that a Beefheart tribute might be cool.

I had an unusual conflict about how to present what turned out to be our version of "Neon Meate Dream of a Octafish". The full track is close to 15 minutes long, and, frankly, I like it that way. The recognizable Beefheart part only surfaces around nine minutes into it, though. I've posted quite a few epic-length Skates & Rays tracks since rehearsals recommenced, so it didn't seem fair to those expecting to hear us doing Beefheart to saddle them with ten minute of not that at all, but what in fact starts off as a bit of stiff white funk. Now, like I said, I like it, but that's partly because we started this thing of with me literally calling out to Derek and Cliff just lay down some kind of groove, any kind of groove. Once they get going, it's pretty good stuff they're playing, and I'm able to keep up enough to fill it out... but it was only about halfway through the "jam" that I decided that this was going to be the Beefheart tribute, and I switched to a more Magic Bandy approach on the guitar. My favorite aspect of this is that the rhythm section really had no idea of my change of heart, so they kept on cooking up what they'd already thrown on the grill.

Anyway, if anyone is interested in the full performance, they can find it here as yet another 39-40 Appendix Track. And there's absolutely nothing to stop you from retagging it as 39-40 track 278, and pitching the truncated version.

Guitar & Vocal ~ Rex Broome
Bass ~ Clifford Ulrich
Drums ~ Derek Hanna
Additional commentary on the biology of the octafish ~ Miranda & Ridley Broome
Recording assistance ~ Eden Hain

Monday, December 20, 2010

277. "Star of Bethlehem" by Neil Young

This is the second of the three aborted Skates & Rays Christmas tracks from the 2007 Heckman project. The third was a slightly sleigh-bell-laden version of my song "Double Blades", which I'd love to get before the ears of the listening public in some form, but can in no way justify as a cover, so this is it for vintage Christmas tunes, I guess. We're working on getting some new Skates & Rays stuff on a release schedule for 2011 as 39-40 winds down, though, and a superior version of "Double Blades" recorded with Bradley Cain is on deck for that.

This time around we have backing vocals by both Cliff and Derek. And interestingly, I didn't have to replace all of the guitar. I just added an acoustic and that was it. I retained the original guitar leads from three years ago for my own personal satisfaction: I really worked to be able to do those leads at the time, and it was literally the first time I made an effort to play something that came from a true place of "country" picking. I've done a great deal more of honing that style since then, firstly for a few tracks on the You Are My Home, then in a few rounds of intense learn-on-the-job effort as the substitute lead guitarist or Thunderhill, and recently on quite a few rootsier tracks for 39-40. Much to my surprise, this really early effort was pretty solid, especially when it trades off with Cliff's harmonica playing, so I was pleased to preserve it. The whole thing is still a lot murkier than I'd like it to be, but it's interesting as a Crazy Horse-like version of a non-Crazy Horse Neil tune.

Another small piece of trivia here: Derek's drum part on this tune was previously edited into another structure by me and used as the loops for the Dwight Yoakam tune "The Big Sandy" early on in 39-40, a tune I tackled in a similar fashion (electrifying an acoustic tune) with no real idea that I would resurrect this one at the time. I hope I may be forgiven... it's good drumming.

Rex Broome ~ Lead vocal, guitars
Derek Hanna ~ Drums, backing vocals
Clifford Ulrich ~ Bass, backing vocals, harmonica

Sunday, December 19, 2010

276. "Didn't Know Where I Was" by Jack Frost

I simply got sick of being a day behind, and decided to record the first thing that came to mind as some kind of deal that I could probably do without thinking much about it, a guaranteed one-taker. This song, from the obscure-ish Grant McLennan/Steve Kilbey collaboration Jack Frost's self-titled album, rose to the surface for reasons not immediately apparent to me, although it is a great favorite of mine... this track was a mainstay on the French radio station Oui FM during my time in Paris in 1991, although at the time I didn't know who performed it and only later began to suspect it was a Kilbey solo project (and I wouldn't even become a Go-Betweens fan for another four years or so after I picked up this record). In any case, it was indeed a first-take affair, and by the time I reached the lines "Torches search the heavens/It's raining out at sea", I realized that that was probably what was behind the whole thing. It's been raining for days in LA now and I'm starting to feel a bit washed away by the whole thing.

Personnel: Rex

Saturday, December 18, 2010

275. "It's Cold Outside" by The Choir

There are a couple of ways in which this one might disappoint you, so I'll get those out of the way: this is not a cover of the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (for which I would be grateful, were I you). It's also not a cover of a song by the '80s Christian rock band The Choir. It's a cover of the classic single by the '60s garage band and Raspberries precursor The Choir. If you don't know of that song, at least I've done one bit of good today by pointing it out to you.

One other thing that this recording is is the culmination of a much-delayed project. Skates & Rays did the basic tracks for this one back in December of 2007, around the same time The Chiggers were doing "Frosty the Snowman". "Frosty", this tune, and two others were slated for a Christmas compilation Heckman was putting together in Morgantown, WV. I recall running myself ragged trying to get the recording setup figured out, and to make the sessions happen. I had no confidence in my mixing abilities and no gear to speak of on which to test them, so I was planning on sending the raw tracks to Heckman for him to mix them. The project fell through, and the basic tracks have languished on the Cinemelon server ever since (although I did pull them down early in the 39-40 project in order to convert some of Derek's drum parts into loops, many of which you've been enjoying for most of the past year). With the holidays rapidly approaching, it seemed like it was now or never to actually do something with these, so I have, re-recording every single one of my tracks in the process. And thanks to the magic of having done it a long time ago, this one actually *does* have some backing vocals by Cliff. Otherwise, I would record these tracks dramatically different if I were doing them today!

As a side note, the original version of the lyrics aren't Christmassy at all... it's rain that's falling down, not snow. I could have changed it back, but it seemed a shame to waste all of that enthusiastic three-year-old sleigh bell jingling, so a Christmas tune it remains.

Rex Broome ~ Lead vocal, backing vocals, guitars, percussion
Derek Hanna ~ Drums, percussion
Clifford Ulrich ~ Bass, backing vocals, percussion
Original tracks recorded by Mark Erwin, December 2007.

Friday, December 17, 2010

274. "Murder Me Rachael" by The National

Although this is the last song I'm posting from the most recent Skates & Rays rehearsal, it's actually the first one we recorded that night. It does, however, sport a second guitar overdub which I just tacked onto it today.

As I was driving around on my various holiday-oriented errands Tuesday, this song came on the stereo, and I thought, hey, I bet I can get the guys to play this pretty well without them even having to hear the original... two chords and a crescendo. I was essentially right about that, although I guessed the wrong key. The funny part is that, as we played it, I was aware that we were extending it a bit, but I thought we'd probably cleared six minutes at most... I had no idea we were closing in on ten minutes when we put it to bed. Sure was fun, though.

Again, it lacks the genuine backing vocals by Cliff and Derek that it should have... I'm going to have to work something out about that this Tuesday.

Rex Broome ~ Guitars & vocals
Derek Hanna ~ Drums
Clifford Ulrich ~ Bass

Thursday, December 16, 2010

273. "2000 Miles" by The Pretenders

What this really is is a recording of Miranda's class's portion of her school's holiday program, and the Pretenders tune only comprises a tiny little portion of it. Still, I put such an absurd amount of work into it that I felt it warranted inclusion in the project. The way it happened demonstrated, to myself if nobody else, how completely insane I am, and the extent to which I put a whole bunch of effort into something about which nobody has any specific expectations, or indeed much knowledge of any kind other than myself.

The setup is that Miranda's class was reading a pair of poems in the midst of a mostly musical program, and her teacher, with whom I worked on the PEMDAS song, asked me to provide some musical accompaniment and a few segues for their segment. I thought for a bit about what I could do as a solo guitarist as seasonal music while the kids were marching on and off-- I'm neither a classical nor jazz guitarist who can provide especially engaging melodic lines and chord progressions together, so I really had to think this through in order to choose a piece. I came up with "2000 Miles", a song where the guitar riff in particular has become a widely recognized instant holiday signifier, and also happened to be played on an electric 12-string, a sound which was right within my reach at short notice. Thing is, the riff was harder to learn than it might seem. I play a lot of arpeggiated "jangly" guitar and have done so for ages, but when it comes down to it I've basically been using the same 1o or 12 picking patterns, with variations for bass runs and hammer-ons as ornamentation, the whole time I've been playing. A "new" arpeggio pattern can therefore be a bit like reinventing the wheel-- way harder than it sounds.

Beyond that was the challenge of integrating what I was doing into the by-definition on-the-fly unraveling of an elementary school performance. And the kids needed some percussion instruments to provide a little more ambience to the readings, so I was also to be the provider of jingle bells and horse hoofbeat simulating cloppers to that end. So this is me, at an ungodly hour in the morning, loading up my car by myself with guitar, amp, percussion stuff, mic stands, cables, mics, laptop and outboard recording gear, which I then have to get down to the school and into the auditorium and fully set up before anything happens, not to mention distributing the percussion to the kids at some point. This will involve re-parking my car quite a few times, as almost any morning activity in a school zone is likely to do. And it should be remembered that, probably due to my own insistence on just dealing with stuff, basically nobody but myself has any idea what I'm trying to do or how I'm trying to go about doing it. I get a little concerned about myself when I get in these situations. Frankly, there was even more than that going on, but it's not that interesting... suffice it to say that I was doing an ill-advised juggling act just based on what I personally thought my daughter's performance deserved from me. I'm sort of nuts.

Anyway, halfway through the program and with one act to go before Miranda's performance, I was in the auditorium recording the school chorus, of which Ridley is a member. My plan was to capture that and then head up to Miranda's classroom to dole out the percussion. But once the chorale shuffled out, who should appear at the door on deck to perform next but Miranda and her classmates, sans percussion-- the order of the program had been changed. So now I had to go get their instruments right away... the problem there being that since they were going on at that very moment, I was also expected to be playing them on with "2000 Miles"! I made a mad dash across the room, found Ms. Wong and told her to send someone back for the instruments, raced back to my amp and started trying to play sedately as the kids filed in. During this process, a great many people asked me questions about what the hell was going on, to say nothing of several kids who desperately needed to know if I was really Miranda's dad. Amazingly, the instruments did make it into the students' hands just in time for the first reading, but the circumstances go a way toward explaining the shakiness of my playing.

The performance goes on to include the reading of Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" accompanied by some ambient, supposed-to-be-icy-sounding noodling by me; a very off-the-cuff walk-through of "The Little Drummer Boy" to stall for time; the Shel Silverstein poem "Snowball", and an even-more-off-the-cuff attempt at "Good Christian Men Rejoice" that goes on for quite a bit while the kids file out. And then I had to break it all down, return the cloppers to wherefore they came, attend a conference with the principal, grab the kids (adding Miranda's cello and bass to the gear jammed into the car) and race over to Burbank so Miranda could audition for a band, then to Eagle Rock to pick Eden up from school (adding a viola to the Musical Matrix), and then, I think... home? For the holidays?

Voices and percussion ~ Hancock Park Elementary School 4th Grade Class 2010
Guitar ~ Rex

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

272. "No Rescue Tonight" by Eden Hain

Eden turns 13 today. I got Skates & Rays to do this version of the first song that she wrote for her band Wye, just a little over a year ago. Seems fair to me. This one's for you, Eden... Happy Birthday!

Perhaps oddly, I only played bass on the original demo of the song presented here, whereas didn't play bass at all on the cover.

Rex Broome ~ Guitar & vocals
Clifford Ulrich ~ Bass
Derek Hanna ~ Drums

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

271. "I'm Going to Miss Her" by Skates & Rays

So here we have Skates & Rays covering Skates & Rays. Stupid? Perhaps. But not as invalid as it might seem. Our record You Are My Home (which, if you're not done with your holiday shopping, you can find here) consists of 12 originals, nine penned and sung by me and three written and sung by Cliff. The closing track "I'm Going to Miss Her" is one of those Cliff songs. At our last rehearsal we bashed through it without vocals so I could have a go at singing it myself. You also get a rough idea (and rough it is) of the difference between the recorded sound of S&R and the way we tend to sound at a live show.

I have actually performed "I'm Going to Miss Her", which I should say is a damned fine Gene Clarky kind of song in the best way, as a solo song before, much to my own surprise at the time. When I presented the rough version of You Are My Home to my good friend and high school classmate John Jack Parker, he immediately seized on "I'm Going to Miss Her" as the pinnacle of my songwriting career, towering over all my previous efforts. So when I told him I hadn't written it, we had a good laugh, extending to him requesting the song over and over again when Heckman and I played at our class reunion. After demurring several times, I spontaneously gave it a shot and turned out to know the words pretty well. I've had it in mind to take a crack at it ever since.

Rex Broome: Guitar and vocals
Derek Hanna: Drums
Clifford Ulrich: Bass

Monday, December 13, 2010

270. "Mama Tried" by Merle Haggard & the Strangers

This Skates & Rays session represented a major step forward in terms of multitracking on the fly in a plumbing shop-- the caveat being that we ran out of good microphones after five tracks, which we're working on-- but we still have a major hurdle to overcome in the vocals department. The fact that I haven't dialed the live recording of vocals in yet is no big deal when it comes to me singing, since I can just bring the recording home and re-do it here. What goes missing in that process, in terms of what makes Skates & Rays Skates & Rays, is the backing vocals from Cliff and Derek. That's always been a key part of our identity as a beat combo: everyone sings. It's surprising how often you can set up as a three piece band and tell the sound guy that "everyone sings", and then discover that the drummer hasn't been given a mic. Derek is possibly the best singer in the band (and if he isn't, it's still not me).

Still, good to do this tune. It's based in equal parts on the original version and the version that my dad's band did for years... it was a real staple of Thunderhill's live set, but it never made it onto one of their records. I still play the intro like Ed Jordan did, partly because I'm going through a period of being totally gobsmacked by the awesomeness of Roy Nichols.

Rex Broome ~ Guitar & vocals
Derek Hanna ~ Drums
Clifford Ulrich ~ Bass

Sunday, December 12, 2010

269. "Perfect Wizard World" by Eden Hain

Keen-eared listers and not-very-perceptive nimrods alike will note the the backing tracks, and indeed parts of the vocals as well, are identical on the original and the cover. That's because I produced them both at the same time with exactly such repurposing in mind.

This is one of Eden's newest songs, most of which are ukulele-based and examples of the "wrock" or "wizard rock" genre, which is dedicated to writing and performing songs based on the Harry Potter series. Most of the wrock bands have names following the formula of (Potter Character's First Name) and the (Potter Character's Last Name)s, but Eden and her friends intend to form one called The Silver Doe.

The lyrics here call for a little bit of translation beyond even the Rowlingisms. What she's saying on the chorus is "It has to be the jokes-est one of all". "Jokes" is a manufactured adjective meaning "cool" coined by one of the vloggers Eden follows (The Vlog Brothers, if I'm not mistaken). There's also a section where she lists her friends' crushes on various characters ("Anastasia likes Ron", etc.) and she seems to talk about herself in the third person. But she doesn't... one of her very best friends is indeed also named Eden, which explains my doubly third person reconfiguring of the line in my version.

Rex Broome ~ Vocals, bass, handclaps
Eden Hain ~ Ukulele, vocals, handclaps
Genevieve Broome ~ handclaps

Saturday, December 11, 2010

268. "The Little Black Egg" by The Nightcrawlers

This song's been an obsession of mine since I first heard it, which was, I then believed, rather late in the game (on the first Nuggets box set). I adopted it for my own in short order, not knowing just how many cover versions of it there were; it seemed an unlikely contender among Nuggets fare, being neither especially snarly and fuzzed-out nor overtly psychedelic, and altogether too primitive to get the baroque treatment. It's uniquely spooky, though, and in its simplicity about as appealing as anything quite so twee ever gets.

At some point I passed along my love of the song to Miranda, probably when I loaded it onto her mp3 player among a ton of other songs to get her started. She zeroed in on it without my pointing her in its direction at all (Miranda often finds her way to the same places as me via completely independent routes). She was starting to play bass at the time and immediately keyed into its memorable characteristic runs, and then, for some reason, even learned the lead guitar part-- that's unusual since she rarely picks up a guitar, being quite attached to a her bass, and tends to favor the uke as a strumming instrument. In any case, I started this recording intending to feature her as much as possible, assuming I'd be laying in a few overdub here and there, especially in the backing vocal department, but it didn't work out that way. As she recorded the lead vocal, we realized that she also already knew the low harmony on the record, so she ended up doing all the vocals, as well as, of course, the bass, and shared lead guitar duties with me. I am well pleased.

Miranda Broome ~ Lead and backing vocals, bass, lead guitar (6-string)
Rex Broome ~ Rhythm guitar, lead guitar (12-string), drum fakery and engineering whatnot

Friday, December 10, 2010

267. "Divorce Song" by Liz Phair

Okay, you bring up Liz Phair and there are, by now, a set-in-stone cluster of things you're expected to address, and I'm not going to address any of them. This is a hell of a song, though. I learned it, or at least constructed some kind of version of it, to perform at a "divorce party" some friends of mine threw when amicably dissolving their relationship. I didn't perform it there, though; I think I was too worn out from relationship stress in my own life to do anything other than show up and have a laugh. It was a good while ago... can't remember for certain.

The cover ended up miles from where it started. It's not too bad, though.

Personnel: Rex

Thursday, December 9, 2010

266. "I Wanna Be Sedated" by The Ramones

Here's something that I've known for a long time would happen eventually, but it wasn't premeditated as I would have expected.

A long, long time ago, and I mean in the very earliest days of my rock music listening and guitar playing, I had this rather boneheaded idea that it would be funny to do a Ramones cover like a Donovan song. At the time, which would've been maybe 1986 or so, there was a really earnest faux-folky tinge to a lot of music coming out, and punk proper was in a bit of a hibernative phase, most of its early exponents having moved on to other things and the hardcore bands of the time being largely self-ghettoized, but I probably wasn't too cognizant of that: I knew the names of some punk bands, but the Ramones were probably the only ones by whom I actually knew any songs. I thought, as a fifteen-year-old might have (then; I think my not-quite-13-year-0ld stepdaughter is already more sophisticated than this) that it would be funny to hear something that started off like a Tracy Chapman song but turned out to be all about pinheads and freaks and going down to the basement, etc. For some reason, although I went on to find millions of reasons for that to be stupid, the idea still comes back around every once in a while, so, desperate to finish the job of getting back on schedule, I decided to move the concept from acoustic guitar (which I honestly use too much on 39-40 for too many different purposes for it to really signify, like, anything) to ukulele and work it out.

Now, the thing that I knew was going to happen is this: since starting this enterprise, I've been conscious that for every finished take I post there must be on average between three and twenty false starts (and far more if you count every individual fluffed overdub) where I just crap out and exclaim something really foul-mouthed. That's just the way it is; I once worked with a singer who was one of the sweetest, most devoutly mormon of persons, and marveled at how unfailingly she said "fuck" immediately after making a mistake on a vocal track. Feeling that this integral part of the process would eventually require some kind of acknowledgment, I thought that maybe some recording would see me collecting all of my anguished profanity and weaving it into an oral collage to be used in place of a keyboard solo or similar. But when this tune crapped out as it does, I felt like, hey, that's it! The Ramones are famous for their short songs... here, I've made this one shorter and documented the ever-present false start phenomenon without causing any undue frustration to myself, or, it is to be hoped, the listener.

Personnel: Rex

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

265. "Crazy" by Pylon

In the midst of playing catch-up to cover the dry spell of the last week and a bit-- for those reading along and trying to make chronological sense of this, all songs from Dec. 1 - Dec. 9 are being posted on the ninth, meaning this writing in some senses comes from the future, although this track was completed on the 8th-- I stumbled on this song quite by accident, in the list of randomized stuff used to generate the Pere Ubu cover, and thought, hell, I can knock that one out in no time, and it's awesome. It took a little longer than anticipated, for good reasons... my whim to overdub the super-postpunky lead guitar on a banjo really took off and I decided to integrate it into the arrangement a little more fully.

I sure do love Pylon. They get a fair amount of credit as originators, but I don't know that they're listened to as much as they are namedropped, and that's a shame, because their material stands up as well as only the very best of the postpunk stuff, your Wires and Gang of Fours and Joy Divisions (the stuff which to me truly answers to the term "angular"). It is, to me, totally crucial. I'm still quite frustrated that I didn't make more of an effort to catch them at an LA festival a few years back... within a few months of that show, Randy Bewley would pass away, effectively ending the band forever. Dammit.

Personnel: Rex

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

264. "Tomorrow Never Knows" by The Beatles

It's basically ill-advised to attempt to cover such an incredible-sounding song from what to me is the finest record the Beatles ever released, especially given that the tune has already been sodomized by Phil Collins, but my attempt evolved from a conversation on FaceBook about the tune's implied chord structure (seems that a lot of folks hear it as a one-chord drone) and how one might, theoretically, arrange it for acoustic guitar. It occurred to me that I was in a position to try it all out and get it out there without having to go too far out of my way, so I did. In the process, I thought it might be cool to do the entire acoustic part backwards... leaving the listener with a recording that was unquestionable an arrangement for a single guitar and a single voice with a minimum of processsing (a bit of delay and reverb are inevitable, but I stayed away from flanging, phasing, distortion, or anything which in my judgment fundamentally altered the natural timber and tone of what was in front of the microphone), except that one happened to be occurring in reverse. Had I had more time, I would have done the vocal backwards as well, recording my best Twin Peaks midget voice pronouncing the words backward and reversing them to play surrealistically forward, but this will have to do... it was hard enough to play what I intended as a constantly building crescendo in the guitar line (for the sake of the dynamics a straight reading of the song would sorely lack) as a diminuendo instead whilst counting the measures to keep the progression going in the proportions which would play back as "correct" when reversed for vocal tracking purposes.

The result may still be a little too much on the "psychedelic cliché" end of the spectrum, but I hope it gets the job done.

Personnel: Rex