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Monday, January 31, 2011

319. "Internet Love Song" by Tom Milsom

This one's a bit of a summation of a lot of what's ended up happening with 39-40. A friend of mine recently told me that one of the things he's enjoyed most about the project has been watching me foster and respond to the musical development of my daughters. That's been important to me, too, but sometimes it's easy to forget how far they've come with me during the project. I wouldn't at all claim credit for Eden's powerhouse uke-and-vocal solo performance skills as she demonstrates them here, but hey, this right here was her first-ever time picking up a uke, and she's logged a lot of time on lead vocals on the blog. I am mighty proud of her. The harmonies on this thing she put together on her own, too... pretty impressive. We've all come a long way.

A measure of that is the fact that I'm not even entirely sure I should be posting this as "my" work on the blog... and the best argument for me doing so is probably that all the work to get to this point has been cumulative. My general definition of what qualifies for a 39-40 entry has been "a recorded work that wouldn't exist at the end of the day were it not for me", meaning that as long as I'm the primary motivating factor nursing it into reality, it'll count. And as long as it's a cover. There's usually not much stretching of that definition required, but it's allowed me to feature other vocalists and players, or to do what amount to "remixes" of the original work, or to offer up "repurposed" older recordings from time to time, all of which have, it is to be hoped, stopped the blog from becoming a parade of acoustic renditions of '60s garage psych, '70s punk/postpunk and '80s college rock tunes. For that you should all be grateful.

Eden Hain ~ Everything except:
Rex Broome ~ Harmonica and half of the handclaps

Sunday, January 30, 2011

318. "I'm Going Home" by The Kingston Trio

There are a few more songs left from the Thunderhill concert for me to work up to specs for CD release, but this one, as always, was the last one of the set. This song has been the closer and, usually, the opener for any Thunderhill set since the band released their single of it in or around 1965. Often referred to by the title "West Virginia", it's been called the "true" national (sic) anthem of the state and apparently to this day is blasted at tailgate parties outside of every WVU home football game in Morgantown (and I can take a certain pride in that, since any and all CD or digital copies of it trace back to my digitizing of the Thunderhill catalog in the early '90s). So it's pretty well known for what it is now. What's less well known is what it was orginally.

It can't be any surprise at this point that the original is a song made popular by The Kingston Trio. What might be a little more surprising is that if you listen to the "original" version, you'll discover that it was not written about my home state of West Virginia, but rather my other home state of California! The two states have the same number of syllables in their names, so switching that over, along with a few other geographical tweaks in the lyrics, is a pretty simple thing.

It'd be interesting enough if it stopped there, but the origins of the song get even murkier. The California version of the tune was written by a fellow named Fred Geis, whom I've just learned passed away only two years ago. The Trio version was actually on its way to becoming a decent hit record when Geis was sued for lifting the tune to the song from another source, causing the single to be withdrawn and cast into obscurity (which ultimately made a lot more people think the Thunderhill guys had written it). Accounts vary as to what tune Geis had allegedly (and probably subconsciously) stolen; some say it was folk tune incorporated into an opera, and others have it as the title tune to the Broadway musical Milk and Honey, which is itself sort of hard to come by thee days (although you can hear Eddie Fisher, the massively popular '50s vocalist (and father of Carrie Fisher) doing a version of it here). That's a lot of controversial authorship right there. What's fairly certain is that Thunderhill have gotten the most mileage out of it for the past 45 years, and it's traveled far and wide throughout at least the northern part of West Virginia as a beloved anthem for most of that time.

Jim Broome ~ Lead vocal, rhythm guitar
Rich Frush ~ Drum, backing vocal
Rex Broome ~ Lead guitar, backing vocal
Tom Heckman ~ Bass, backing vocal
Jerry Marsh ~ Tambourine
The Honi Honi Chorus and Drunken Vocal Ensemble ~ Backing vocals
Recorded live at the Honi Honi, Deep Creek, MD, Summer 2010

Saturday, January 29, 2011

317. "Violet Town" by The Church

About the cover artwork... there are at least five different covers for Remote Luxury, although one of them (the best one, really) only applies the the five-song EP by that title. Comes in handy for keeping the visual side of things a little more interesting. Better still is the cover image for my cover of this song, which, were it an actual 45 sleeve, would seem to imply that Skates & Rays is covering an entire Green Day LP as the b-side.

Anyway, I return, finally, to the task of covering the entire LP by The Church. This is the second track on the album. Again, I hope to have relieved it of some of its original stiffness. The track was really difficult to craft, though... in some ways is was a throwback the the difficulties in the earliest days of 39-40, when stuff just didn't come out right and I had to backtrack and rethink things on the fly, and even then it was a struggle. My first plan was to have Eden and Miranda play a couple tracks each on viola and cello to give me a nice fake string quartet as a bed for the whole thing, but scheduling didn't allow for that. And it just got tougher from there. The final arrangement is very good, I think, but unfortunately all the performances betray the clunkiness of all that retrenching and reorganizing, not to mention a few drum loops that kept slipping off tempo before I caught them. At some point, though, you have to call it a day.

I guess at this point I should start to talk about my take on the songs on Remote Luxury, which strike me as really, although probably accidentally, of a piece with each other. It feels to me very much a "coming of age" album. There are, as always with The Church, songs of travel like this one, often songs of a deluded group on some kind of fool's errand in exotic but tiresome territory; in this case, though, it's just a town in Victoria, AU, and I therefore relate it to a lament on the grind of touring as a small, poor band. This one might be a sort of "Pleasant Valley Sunday" type of thing, although the vibe is of a bit of a sinister, seemingly deserted place. My relationship with the lyrics is a bit pretzel-like: what I found on the internet corrected a few things I've always misheard in the words, but was clearly totally wrong on a few other points, so what I sing is a hybrid of the real, the imagined-by-me-for-decades, and a few on-the-fly inventions depending on what I felt best fit the theme I imagine for the original LP, and which really will pervade my "re-imagined" version of it (more on which as the album develops).

Personnel-wise, this is by any measure a solo track by me, but I am crediting it to Skates & Rays as the full Remote Luxury cover album will be attributed to us as a band and this'll just be one of a few tunes on it on without the rest of the guys.

Friday, January 28, 2011

316. "Old Time Rock & Roll" by Bob Seger

And now, I double the size of the available Rich Frush lead vocal performances with Thunderhill by presenting this here live favorite, never before available on any album. Anyone paying close attention could by now have assembled a pretty fair bootleg of vintage 2010 Thunderhill performances. In fact we're only three songs away from having presented the entire setlist performed at all three shows last summer. Stick with me people. The end to ever so many disparate forms of suffering is nearly at hand.

Rich Frush ~ Lead vocal, drums
Jim Broome ~ Rhythm guitar, backing vocal
Rex Broome ~ Lead guitar, backing vocal
Tom Heckman ~ Bass, backing vocal
Jerry Marsh ~ Tambourine
Live at the Honi Honi, 2010

Thursday, January 27, 2011

315. "C4(Ever)" by The Exploding Ninjas

This is one of a number of pieces which has been on deck and partially finished for a while now... multiple projects are well and truly leapfrogging one another on 39-40 in its last days. "C4(Ever)" dates back a couple weeks to my stint teaching at band camp. On one of the last days I taught an impromptu songwriting class. It resulted in a complete song that a bunch of the kids were able to perform at the final concert. The funny part was that the song was basically about explosions and disasters and grisly deaths. That's apparently what you get from a bunch of boys that age... I'm far more familiar with the female side of things, which really isn't universally girly, its just... I don't know, less single-minded about these things, perhaps? In any case, I was able to get the guys to frame their images of mayhem and destruction as something vaguely recognizable as a mirror to an emotional state. Sort of. I'm not sure if it mattered.

The "original" recording is the final live performance of the song at Burbank Music Academy. I started out my "cover" of it hoping to create something which sounded sort of like the demo for the song, a sort of backward-engineered faux 4-track. It didn't quite stay that way; toward the end I was just basically trying to make sure nothing sounded like a "real" rock band. I wanted to reserve that glory for the kids who rocked it on stage that week.

The personnel on the original were Austin on lead vocals, Marco on drums, Stephan (who wrote most of the riffage) on bass, and a whole bunch of other kids pitching in on vocals and auxiliary instruments, with me filling in the guitar.

Personnel (on the cover version): Rex

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

314. "Ah, Woe! Ah, Me" by The Kingston Trio

Continuing the documenting of the Thunderhill show last year, here's another one where many fans of the band will be hearing the original version for the first time. Like many such songs, it's from the album-track side of the Kingston Trio catalog. This one hasn't changed too much from the original version, which is really sort of racy for its time. I have a pretty vivid memory of my parents telling me not to play this song (and a few others) when I took my Thunderhill LP in to my kindergarten class for show and tell. I didn't get it, but I got off light compared to my brother, who apparently got into some trouble in second grade for innocently singing "It take a horny man/To sing a horny song". It's these kind of experiences that led me to make a little time to record "clean" versions of three of the songs on the Skates & Rays record... not that the kids have ever asked to take one in for show and tell or anything.

I put the picture of Dad and myself conferring between songs as the cover image for two reasons:
1) I'm frankly running out of photos from the concert, and
2) Much of the song is a dialogue between a father and son. In fact, this is one of at least three songs from Thunderhill's set that involve questionable paternity. It's not something I worry about on my end, since I show evidence of the Broome/Pratt genes in spades. But if some shady psuedo brothers worm their way out of the woodwork at some future date, I guess I won't be able to say I wasn't warned.

Jim Broome ~ Lead vocal, rhythm guitar
Rich Frush ~ Drums, backing vocal
Rex Broome ~ Lead guitar, backing vocal
Tom Heckman ~ Bass, backing vocal
Vic Marsh ~ Tambourine
Recorded live at the Honi Honi (as with previous tracks)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

313. "Junk" by Paul McCartney

The last time I had Gen sing a song on 39-40, I even mentioned that the tune she wanted to do was Paul McCartney's "Junk", but I was too lazy to work out the chords. Well, since then, Gen, in her wanderings on YouTube, found a performance of McCartney's band doing an instrumental version of the song. I asked her to forward me the link, thinking that in a pinch I could hijack the audio from the clip and have Gen sing over it, satisfying a number of needs at once.

The pinch now being that in which I am, I decided to take a second to so see if I could scare up a slightly more hi-fi version of the instrumental. And I discovered, much to my embarrassment, that an instrumental version of "Junk", entitled "Singalong Junk", has comfortably resided alongside its vocal counterpart on McCartney since it was orginally released, a year before I was born, and I've had a copy of it for quite some years already without registering it.

So here we have Gen with the finest backing band she's ever had... better even than Golden Earring, but that's another story altogether.

Genevieve Broome ~ Vocals
Paul McCartney ~ Backing track

Monday, January 24, 2011

312. "Out Behind the Barn" by Little Jimmy Dickens

What might be a little bit more interesting than the sketchy performance from the dead middle of last summer's Thunderhill show, even for longtime Thunderheads who can't get enough of the song, is the opportunity to hear the original version of it, which I'll admit I had never heard myself until I put this post together. And that's saying something... I've done a lot of research into where the hell a lot of those oddball Thunderhill songs that most people thing the band wrote actually came from (just wait until we get to The Kit-Kats, dear readers). As for Mr. Dickens' version, hell, it don't sound much at all like what Thunderhill's evolved into over the years. That has a way of happening.

I should mention that the Thunderhill live tracks which are being burned off on 39-40 at the moment are really just rough live mixes, because that's all they need to be. A select few songs have been or are being reworked pretty extensively for the upcoming CD compilation; they tend to be the ones which aren't featured in studio versions on any original Thunderhill release, and a couple of songs where Dad's particularly fond of the "reunion band" arrangements. So far the possible keepers I've posted have been "Okie from Muskogee", "(Ghost) Riders" (which, if released, would require a new lead vocal due to the original signal being all gnarly and distorted), and "Sloop John B". All the others are for entertainment or educational purposes only, or however my pretend lawyer would tell me to word that.

Jim Broome ~ Rhythm guitar, lead vocal (second and fourth verses)
Rex Broome ~ Lead guitar, lead vocal (first and third verses)
Rich Frush ~ Drums, backing vocal
Tom Heckman ~ Bass, backing vocal
Jerry Marsh ~ Tambourine
Recorded at the Honi Honi, Summer 2010 as with previous tracks

Sunday, January 23, 2011

311. "Flesh Number One (Beatle Dennis)" by Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians

The Robyn Hitchcock online mailing list "fegmaniax" was one of the first "places" I frequented when I first went online in the mid nineties (I put "places" in quotes because, and I mention this because it's personally reasonable that many people reading this wouldn't be familiar with the archaic notion of e-mail mailing lists, and one of the essential characteristics of such lists is that there's even less "there" there than there is with, say, a website) and the only such community of which I'm still a part all these years later. Today a lot of the interactions of it members (fegs) and traffic take place off the list entirely and on Facebook instead, so while those connections continue, it's a little sad to see the list itself finally fading after all this time, going grey in a museum as our boy might have it.

Nonetheless, it was on the Feglist Proper this morning that I saw this notice this morning:
As I was driving in this morning, I heard what I thought was a Robyn Hitchcock
song on the radio. It sounded like 'Flesh Number One (Beatle Dennis)'. But it
wasn't. Musically, it was identical, lyrically, it was different. I called the
station (88.9FM KXLU). The DJ said it was 'Is It Cold In Silverlake' by Buddy.

Apparently the song was on an episode of 'Ghost Whisperer'.

Does Robyn know about this?
Indeed, when we all got to hear it, as you can here, it was a total clone of one of Robyn's very best tunes, which is really saying something when you have as many great tunes as he does. I was doubly vexed because the title presumably refers to hipster haven Silver Lake, the neighborhood in Los Angeles where I just happen to live. Thing is, it's properly two separate words, Silver Lake, not Silverlake (although in fairness a lot of local business make the same mistake in their advertising and storefronts).

Admittedly, Buddy (sometimes it seems to be a guy and sometimes it seems to be a band) may totally admit in some contexts to borrowing the tune, and for all I know they credit Hitchcock in the liner notes, but it's still a little irritating that this thing is floating around in the virtual world positing itself as a different song. It ought to at least have the original title in parentheses and a very prominent tag in the info of the mp3 identifying the original source.

Anyway, I already did a cheap reference to Bono's "song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles" thing on some dimly remembered 39-40 cover last year, but the situation calls for me to repeat it: I'm stealin' it back. And I'm glad I did; there was a lot more to the song than I'd thought for all these years.

Pointless Personal Trivia: The harmony on the original recording was sung by Glen Tilbrook of Squeeze, who was once my wife's boyfriend. That marks the second time in the history of this blog that I've sung a part originally performed by one of her exes. Who was the first one, you ask? Why, that would be telling.

Personnel: Rex

Saturday, January 22, 2011

310. "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash

From my flubbing of the iconic (and incredibly easy to play) you can pretty much tell how this is going to go. Calling it a pisstake is in some ways an insult to piss: in olden times, the Thunderhill Johnny Cash tribute was a medley of about five or six Sun era classics with two modulations, bookended by "Folsom". It got a little hard to keep track of the sequence with Thunderhill's infrequent live performances and even less frequent rehearsals, and frankly we weren't sure if anyone noticed the other songs anyhow, so these days it's just the one tune.

The legend behind the medley has Thunderhill performing at a prison, in grand Cash style (and that part of the story is certainly true). Apparently some of the inmates were very adamant, in a kind of life-threatening kind of way, that the band play some Cash. In between sets they scrambled to put a single song together, only to realize that they knew the first verse of almost every Cash tune, but didn't know the whole thing of any of them. Thus was born the medley.

The Broome family and J.R. Cash go way back: the earliest recording I have of my dad singing is from before Thunderhill, in about 1958, and it includes "Train of Love". And through my Thunderhill association I got into the Man in Black well before the Rick Rubin days, when most of my peers still thought of him (and probably most country music in general) as sort of a cornball figure; I got to see him do his unvarnished, unhipsterized touring show at the Rocky Gap Bluegrass festival in Maryland in 1991, and I am now the proud owner of a bootleg of that very show.

Jim Broome ~ Vocal, rhythm guitar
Rich Frush ~ Drums
Rex Broome ~ Lead guitar
Tom Heckman ~ Bass
Jerry Marsh ~ Tambourine
Recorded at the Honi Honi, Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, Summer 2010

Friday, January 21, 2011

309. "Long Haired Country Boy" by The Charlie Daniels Band

Continuing the posting of the newly mixed Thunderhill tracks from last summer, this one is, amazingly, the first Thunderhill track featuring a lead vocal by Rich Frush ever to be "released"! Rich played drums and sang harmonies on the two LPs the band cut in the late '70s, but he didn't really start singing lead on anything until after they were released. So there are no studio versions of this one, "Hard to Be Humble", "Old Time Rock & Roll" or the whole bunches of others he sang on. Hard to believe that this is the first time the general public will be able to get ahold of one, but it's true.

This is another unvarnished mix of the performance that day with no new overdubs and a minimum of editing. Rich really digs in on the vocal toward the end. It's a cool thing.

Rich Frush ~ Drums, lead vocal
Jim Broome ~ Rhythm guitar
Rex Broome ~ Lead guitar
Tom Heckman ~ Bass
Jerry Marsh ~ Tambourine
Recorded by Heckman at the Honi Honi, Summer 2010

Thursday, January 20, 2011

308. "Common Reactor" by Silversun Pickups

I guess this might seem like sort of a mainstreamy song for me to do, but my listening habits with regards to "new" music are on the random side. Aside from my general eternal browsing through and clicking with older music I'd not gotten into before (which is usually the bulk of my listening) and following the artists whom I've liked forever but have fallen off the radar for most, I tend to sort of pick up random records based on what I've read or heard people talking about. Most of those don't stick, but the ones that do, I play to death with little heed to the cultural context. And so it was that some years ago I was alternating Carnavas, the first Go! Team album, Charlotte Hatherley's solo debut and big rafts of vintage Paisley Underground and early UK postpunk scratch-guitar bands. That's just how it goes.

I'd class the album as somewhat of a guilty pleasure, mainly because the band gets compared with Smashing Pumpkins so much, and I fucking fucking fucking hate Smashing Pumpkins in every way they can be hated. It's the Sonic Youthy, My Bloody Valentiney vibe that pulled me in, along with the fact that the melodies and lyrics are far more palatable than the best Corganisms I've ever heard. The funny thing is, I don't know if I would have liked it as much had I not accidentally burned my CDR of it with the tracks in the reverse order, with "Common Reactor" as the leadoff track instead of the grand finale. The song itself is just great, the little occasional hiccup in the drums was a bit of an obsession for me, and I loved the way it ended with like two minutes of just rrrrrrrrrrr and then on to the rest of the record. Except that it doesn't, at least in the way I heard it for a month or so in my car before realizing what was wrong.

I did a whole bunch of takes trying to rework the structure for my purposes, and I was getting frustrated, when Eden walked over and read the dedication she'd just written for a painting she'd just finished for her friend Anastasia. The tape was rolling, and I just started the song after she was done, just as you hear it on the final recording.

Rex ~ Guitar and vocal
Eden ~ Invocation

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

307. "Freight Train" by Elizabeth Cotten

At this point, 39-40 is primed to become a series of leapfrogging subprojects and albums-to-be. Here's the next viable track in the Thunderhill collection. This one is not slated for inclusion on the upcoming compilation, but it's the next song from the concert I'm pillaging for the ones which are, and it seems silly not to have a record of the entire show. The difference is that I'm not manicuring these with overdubs and corrections... they're basically decent mixes (by my standards) of what we played that day, warts and all. I won't be posting all of them (a few are redundant), but you'll hear almost all of it eventually.

Apparently this song is better known than I'd thought; throughout Thunderhill's career it's been obscure enough that a lot of people think it's a band original. Certainly they got it from someone other than Elizabeth Cotten, who wrote it; the fact that they sing "Bleecker Street" in place of "Chestnut Street" is a clue to the general milieu it most have come from, but I forget whose version it was. Anyway, a few years ago a solo performer (and I wish I could remember her name) on the same bill as The Chiggers dropped this song into a set of mostly originals, and that was very cool to hear. It's a fun one to play.

Jim Broome ~ Lead vocal, rhythm guitar
Rich Frush ~ Drums, backing vocal
Rex Broome ~ Lead guitar, backing vocal
Tom Heckman ~ Bass, backing vocal
Jerry Marsh ~ Tambourine
Basic tracks recorded by Heckman live at the Honi Honi, Deep Creek Lake, MD, Summer 2010
Additional recording and mixing by Rex at Minco Records, Silver Lake, CA, January 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

306. "Maybe These Boys..." by The Church

Barely two months remain in the 39-40 project, and surprisingly my overwhelming attitude is one of... not having enough time left to do half of what I'd hoped to. That may be a response to the last few months of lackluster space-fillers, but I did feel as if a new challenge was due before the whole thing wrapped up.

So I decided to try at least a couple of full-album covers, as that's been a popular artistic move over the last few years. I was briefly determined to do a record apiece from each decade from the '60s (maybe the '50s) to the present, but I don't think that's going to be practical; the two I settled on were from the '80s and '90s, although not necessarily over-representative of those decades: Remote Luxury by The Church, and Fox Base Alpha by Saint Etienne.

This, then, is the first track completed for Skates & Rays' full cover of the Remote Luxury album. I picked it as a spinoff of the fact that I just plain wanted to do "Into My Hands" with the band, but when I looked at it more closely, I realized that it was sort of a redheaded stepchild among Church releases. In some ways, the material on it is as close to a straight revision of the band's '60s psych and beat antecedents as they ever got, but in other, more casually apparent ways it reflects the more dubious aspects of its '80s vintage more than any other single LP in the band's catalog. I feel that as a band S&R is in a pretty good position to bridge that gap, and maybe do a small bit of extending its reach forward as well. But the other, and frankly more important thing that grabbed me about the record is how thematically linked so many of its songs appear to be, how they seem to largely circle around a singular stage of emotional development, and how that stage is just about exactly where I was when I discovered the record at 17 years old (approx.), and that put in a mindset to get at all that personal stuff through reworking the record. So off we go.

"Maybe These Boys..." is one of the more glaring examples of '80s production trends taken beyond any logical or rational ceiling and possibly one of the toughest listens in the band's early output; if I'd had the record on CD rather than cassette I may well have gotten into the habit of skipping it. Why the band took on two idioms outside its usual strengths in the forms of towering synthscapes and bluesy shuffles I can't say, particularly when those two great tastes don't especially cry out to be tasted together. However, rearranging it wasn't very difficult, and considering how quickly we developed and recorded it I'm rather pleased with the results, a few iffy decisions in the lead guitar lines to the side. It is longer than the original, but not by much, and I'd like to think it's a little bit smoother sailing and can still serve as a bit of a waystation at the end of Side 1.

Procedural note on the Full Album Covers project: I'll be posting the songs from the albums as we finish them, but when they're complete I'll offer them up as self-contained albums, properly sequenced to match the originals and with their own artwork, etc.

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

Monday, January 17, 2011

305. "She Lives (In a Time of Her Own)" by The 13th Floor Elevators

Tried to play this a little unevenly, haltingly, until it really gets going. I probably should have done another two or three takes to really make it happen, but I liked where this ended... I was using the same session as the previous cover and I forgot to take off the automated fade, so the sound suddenly vanished on me... thus "What happened?", which is maybe a fitting conclusion to the trip the song takes.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

304. "Pretty Deep" by Tanya Donelly

One of those songs I had sort of forgotten that I knew. I got pretty emotional performing it (above and beyond the frustration that's evident at the beginning of the track). For some reason the phrase "I wish I carried a camera" caught in my throat every time, in a sort of teary way. That whole section, the bit with the helicopter as well, really gets me for reasons I can't articulate.

I discovered in the course of preparing this one that there's a really bad video for this song, and I wish I hadn't. No big deal, though. The album this is from is a mixed bag, like a lot of Tanya's stuff after that first Belly record, but I really don't want to miss the opportunity to praise her flat-out beautiful later album Whisky Tango Ghosts, which was hands down my favorite record the year it was released. No big pop songs like this one. Small songs. Almost a redefinition of "intimate". I might have a hard time listening to it now, and frankly I'm a little scared to try. But it's brilliant.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

303. "Sloop John B." by The Kingston Trio

Properly speaking, as Thunderhill originally adapted their version of this song from The Kingston Trio and not The Beach Boys (who also based their version largely on the Trio's), it should be called "The Wreck of the 'John B.'", which is its title on the Trio's debut album. But Thunderhill have always called it "Sloop", so there it is.

I'm almost certain this is the first time a single song has been done more than once on 39-40, and hopefully this is good enough to compensate for the first attempt, which was one of the early demoralizing failures on the blog. What's definitely a first is that the first 39-40 version was a cover of an earlier Thunderhill version of the song, and the second is in fact a Thunderhill version of the song recorded after the older cover of the older Thunderhill version. Right? Cool.

This is also, with any luck and a little judicious work, a rough mix of a track that'll probably make it onto the "definitive" Thunderhill CD collection to be released later this year. So start saving up.

Jim Broome ~ Lead vocal, rhythm guitar
Rich Frush ~ Drums, backing vocal
Rex Broome ~ Lead guitar, backing vocal
Tom Heckman ~ Bass, backing vocal
Jerry Marsh ~ Tambourine
Basic tracks recorded by Heckman live at the Honi Honi, Deep Creek Lake, MD, Summer 2010
Additional recording and mixing by Rex at Minco Records, Silver Lake, CA, January 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

302. "Mannequin" by Wire

The last time I did Wire, it was more than half the lifetime of the project ago, and a superobscurity even by Wire standards. This, by contrast, is probably one of their best known songs. I made it faster, a feat which would be difficult with many of the songs on Pink Flag, but works fine on this one. Come to think of it, R.E.M. did the same thing with "Strange". Really, the idea that all the songs on the record are fast and short is one of those weird cliches that isn't even true. It would be nice to think of Wire as a sort of artsy Ramones, but they've always confounded expectations... even retrospective expectations of their first release, I guess.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

301. "Lay Your Hands On Me" by Peter Gabriel

A triple failure, this one... a genuine strikeout. And it started so well.

Back during the preparation of Miranda's Christmas program, there was a bucket of percussion instruments in my car going wherever I went, inevitably circling back to her school. When it was removed, a single maraca escaped. At some point thereafter I found it and kind of stuffed it in the between-front-seats console. And last week, at a red light, for some reason I picked it up and idly gave it a few shakes at roughly the tempo I used on this cover. For reasons still not clear to me, this song came immediately to mind, and the idea for the cover was born: do this with as close to just voice and shaker as possible.

The first time I sat down to do it, my MOTU audio interface thing died on me. I thought it was really quite over with, and was trying to line up some kind of alternate means of recording (explaining, if not excusing, the extra-long break between recordings) when for no reason I can discern the MOTU started working again.

The second time I sat down to do it, I was abruptly seized by crippling heartburn. Heartburn is a bit of a new thing to me in the past two years, there being a reason for 39-40 as the title of the blog. Awful thing, heartburn. Sort of alarming that it's starting now, when I'm a lot less abusive of my physical being than I have been in the past, but there it is.

Third time I sat down to do it, the exact position of myself and the shaker relative to the mics having become strangely familiar, I got through it, except that it sucked. I gussied it up with a few overdubs, violating the original intent, but it's still closer to the original minimal concept than it would've been if I'd really gone in for "fixing" it. But then, I had a bunch more days to make up, so it'd have to do.

Image search trivia: Bon Jovi had a song by this title too? I must have known that at some point.

Personnel: Rex

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

300. "99 Red Balloons" by Nena

Another vestige of the '80s setlist cooked up by Heckman and myself for the class reunion last year. I think we actually performed it, too. The idea at the time, and the idea I've basically carried forward into this version, was to do it as a jangly, earnest folk ballad to try and restore some of the gravitas that it had in its day, but is difficult to hear now due to the production values, as if, perhaps, it was actually the same song as "Fall On Me". Perhaps it really didn't have any gravitas at the time, but it sure as hell felt like it... the Cold War was still on, and real, and we felt it. I don't think that whole fear of annihilation vibe survives very strongly in the perception of the '80s as it should, and the reason for that is simple and sad: unlike the '50s and '60s, the '80s didn't leave behind any preposterous "duck and cover" instructional films about how to survive a nuclear attack. Because by then we knew we were totally screwed no matter what.

Perhaps I'm being reductive about it, but sure as shootin' I was expecting the world to get blowed up real good any old day during my childhood. So this song was kind of a big deal in my mind, which is odd because it completely predates any true interest in pop or rock music on my part. I associate that with the way novelty music, or music related to films or TV, tends to involve kids before they start responding to music on an emotional level, and "99 Red Balloons" is sort of like a movie in and of itself, thereby standing out to me from the run-of-the-mill pop radio fare. The same is true, for in some ways the same reason, of, among others, "Mr. Roboto" by Styx, but "Mr. Roboto" pretty much sucks and offers nothing more these days than a laugh about how nuts we were to listen to such thing. "Balloons" is different, though, because underlying the story there is something emotional... profoundly emotional, in fact, although we might not have known it at the time, assuming as we did that global fatalism was the only reality we'd ever know. Whatever... both Heckman and I agreed that the song is actually pretty awesome and still produces some chills up the spine when we hear it now.

Personnel: Rex

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

299. "Broken" by Eden Hain with Skates & Rays

This dates back the Skates & Rays rehearsal at which Eden's ukulele playing powered the abstract jam that was turned into the cover of Mark Gloster's "Dinosaur". While trying to sort out a recording issue, I asked Eden to take over playing my guitar so I could concentrate on the board and the cables and all associated folderol. Within a few minutes we realized that we could be killing two birds with one stone by having her lead the band through a couple of her original songs that we'd needed to record as demos for way too long now. This one is the older of the two, as evidenced by the fact the she wrote it on guitar: she writes almost exclusively on uke these days.

A third bird is now being killed by yet again the same stone as I convert the recording, finished yesterday, into, to all intents and, if you will, and you will, purposes, a cover of itself. Given that I subsequently added the lead guitar to the band recording, it had already turned into Eden fronting Skates & Rays, and with me replacing her vocal, it turns out to be just plain Skates & Rays in its totally normal form. The second tune recorded this way will probably surface within the week.

Eden Hain: Rhythm guitar
Rex Broome: Vocals, lead guitar
Derek Hanna: Drums
Clifford Ulrich: Bass
(Personnel on the original identical except for Eden ~ Lead vocal instead of Rex)

Monday, January 10, 2011

298. "Badger Badger Badger" by Weebl

The original is the music to an old internet phenomenon from 2003 (prehistoric in that arena) that I somehow missed at the time, primarily meant to be experienced as an endless flash animation. Eden pointed it out to me a few days ago, and I assumed that it was a new riff on the apparent importance of badgers in the upcoming season of Doctor Who, but such was obviously not the case. Nonetheless it stuck in my head as something that would be easy to do as a stopgap for 39-40 (not that I ever need those, of course) and something that would just be a fascinating curiosity as a decontextualized recording amongst the others on the blog. A bit of variety, you know. I guess the sounds on 39-40 are pretty diverse, but it often doesn't seem that way to me, inside looking out.

Our version is in a different key, not that it really matters, but I dig the fact that I added an actual bass part to the song. It's one of those "less is more" basslines, for which I have an ever growing affinity and appreciation. At least it feels like a recent thing to me; truth be told, the parts I come up with in that idiom are almost always akin to to the minimalist throb on "Papua New Guinea" by Future Sound of London, a track I've been obsessed with since shortly after it appeared, an even longer time ago than the whole badger thing. I also love the Au Pairs drum loop that powers the whole thing along.

Rex Broome ~ Male rock vocal, bass, loops and stuff
Eden Hain ~ Female rock vocal

Sunday, January 9, 2011

297. "Gentle On My Mind" by Glen Campbell

Another song built on the skeleton of a Thunderhill performance this summer... this time the only remnant of the original is Frush's drums and the original 12-string, panned way off to the side and mixed down for a little sugar. Everything else is me, today.

Anyone familiar with this song will notice right away that a lot of words are missing, and may wonder why I did that. Well, I didn't... my dad did, and the song has been that way since very shortly after Glen Campbell's version was released (which seems to have been pretty much at the same time as the very original, by the song's writer John Hartford, came out as well). The story goes that Glen's version was first released in 1967 and bombed, but Dad and the Thunder Hill Singers heard it on a camping trip and decided to record it for their next single. However, the company that pressed their records had a strict running time limit for 45 rpm singles (I've never understood that bit and sort of suspect it was some kind of scam on the part of the pressing plant, but maybe I'm missing something) and the band just couldn't get "Gentle" under the limit. They were faced with a choice of leaving out a verse, or, as they eventually did, dropping a few lines here and there in each verse, which explains what happened to the backroads of my memory and all that jazz. The song was basically unknown at the time, so it went into the live set in the "edited" version; the single was subsequently added to an LP they put out in the '70s, and the arrangement has stayed the same for 43 years now.

When Glen Campbell re-released the single to massive success in 1968, people would offer the band their condolences about how Campbell was getting away with murder by taking their song, adding some words to it, and getting a big hit out of it.

Rich Frush ~ Drums
Rex Broome ~ Everything else

Saturday, January 8, 2011

296. "Thought That I Was Over You" by Jack Frost

Another cover from the McLennan/Kilbey project's first album, which I apparently like a great deal. It's actually not that uncommon for me to pick up two covers from a record I'm really into... three from one album seems a bit much so it usually stops there, and then only one will tend to survive in my long term memory, but in this case two of them are still at my fingertips.

Also another dashed off direct-to-hard-drive-via-laptop-mic production. It's enlivened by Eden's uke and vocal overdub, which happened just as you hear it on the recording, at the end: I finished my take, and she walked into the room and asked to do the harmony, so I cued it back up and she did it right away. It's a cute novelty on the one hand, and a sweet addition to a great song that I didn't completely louse up performance-wise.

Rex ~ Lead vocal, guitar
Eden ~ Backing vocal, ukulele

Friday, January 7, 2011

295. "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day

This might be the only 39-4o post thus far in which I did not generate, even through digital manipulation or programming, any of the sounds present on the recording. It's the final live performance of the main band of kids I coached throughout the past week at Burbank Music Academy's Winter Camp. They named themselves Dry Ice and spent most of their time working up this Green Day tune, although they also crossed over into guest slots in some of the other bands thrown together at the last minute by the camp staff. Actually, at Dry Ice's practices throughout the week, I did play with them, holding down the bass slot (and managing Stephan's footswitch) while we pieced the song together. But Miranda, who's been out of town for the holidays with Ridley and her mother, got back into town on Thursday, and I asked her if she was interested in replacing me for the final performance (I think it just looks better to the parents and feels better to the kids not to have an adult ringer onstage with them at the end of the week) and she said she was into it. She learned the part that morning and dropped right into the lineup like a charm... I was mighty proud.

Teaching at band camp is a serious whirlwind and requires a bit of homework, and I'm embarrassed to admit that, as much work as I did with them, I didn't end up knowing all the kids' last names. Consequently they're all listed by first names here in the personnel section, although Miranda's surname ought to be obvious by now. None of the boys were older than 11, and Marco had never played drums before this Monday (he's a very good pianist, though).

Tristan ~ Vocal, lead guitar
Stephan ~ Guitar
Marco ~ Drums
Miranda ~ Bass
Bradley ~ Keyboards
Rex ~ Coach, offstage operation of overdrive footswitch