I'm coming to the end of a little project, and I think it only fair to share the joy -- or pain -- of it with you, my loyal readers.
Back more years than I care to contemplate, I started a band with my cousin. To be sure, it wasn't much of a band; there was just the two of us and a drum machine. I played bass and rhythm guitar and was the main vocalist and songwriter. My cousin had to play lead guitar. (Mainly because he wouldn't let me play lead guitar, in spite of the fact that my nom de stage was "Eric Crapton.")
(Now that I've mulled it over, I'm beginning to think that that was one of those "backhanded" compliments.)
We didn't even have amps, let alone a full PA setup. I rigged up a way to play through my stereo (not recommended, if you value your speakers). Nor did we have any adequate rehearsal space, pretty much a necessity once you start adding real drums and amps into the equation.
To fatten up our sound somewhat, we'd multirecord. That is, I had two cassette decks and a cheap 4-channel mixer. So we'd record the first track with, say, bass on the left channel and guitar on the right, with the drums spread across both. Then we'd play that back and add, for example, lead guitar and vocals. Then maybe a third pass with more guitars, percussion, backing vocals, or whatever else came to mind. More layering than that became problematic, with cumulative tape hiss tending to muddy up the initial recording, especially the bass and drums.
We lasted about a year and-a-half together; the first third of which was devoted to long, noodling jam sessions that I will not further trouble you with. But like the proverbial thousand monkeys hammering on a thousand typewriters, we did eventually produce some things of interest. I wrote maybe 200 songs in that time, a handful of which today stand up (i.e. don't send me crawling under the kitchen table with embarrassment). We didn't have great ambitions of being the Next Big Thing. There never was an effort to recruit a drummer, and we knew nobody in the business. We never even discussed naming the band. (Though I finally did think of a good name, twenty years later.)
There were other distractions, like my cousin's girlfriend (or as I nicknamed her, Damn Yoko). But the biggest stumbling-block in our way would have been was a certain bass player and vocalist. I don't know if that guy had stage fright, but I had no intention of finding out.
Actually, I probably could have handled playing an instrument, and bass would have been ideal. You just stand there and plunk away, the invisible man. You could go wander off behind the Marshall stacks and do a couple of lines of coke or your new girlfriend and nobody would notice. (Well, your new girlfriend would, ideally.) John Entwhistle and Bill Wyman had the best jobs in the universe, if you ask me.
That would have been fun. But singing? Three syllables: For-get it. It took me two months to work up the courage to sing in front of my cousin, and for some time after that I could only manage it by screwing my eyes shut and pretending he wasn't there.
As you know, the lead singer has to be out in front, jumping around like a Ritalin-deprived baboon, wiggling his butt and dodging thrown gifts of panties (or beer bottles).
Well, phooey to that. I am an introspective songwriter, sort of like James Taylor, without the wimpy songs. So such antics are beneath my dignity.
That would have been a problem to most record companies, who, to my knowledge, have only ever bankrolled two bands who declined live performances: The Beatles and Steely Dan. Even at my most delusional, I doubted we were in that category.
My vocals? Meh. Nothing to write home about, but serviceable, I guess. I could sing like a choirboy in the upper register, but that's only useful if you're auditioning for castrato in the Vienna Boys' Choir. Midrange I'd usually hit the right notes, but with no real oomph behind them. So, no power ballads. Which is OK with me, 'cause I sucked at writing power ballads.
My voice is rather nasal and flat. That's the bad news. The good news is that rock vocalists depend more on timing, tone and 'tude (or was that timing, tone and 'ludes?) and that I can deliver a perfect Johnny Rotten sneer any time I want. Believe it or not, this is only a significant advantage if you intend to become a rock singer. Witness:
Boss: Is the paperwork on the Anderson leases ready?
Me: [gesticulating wildly] Right! Now? Hahaha! / I am an anti-Christ! / I am an anarc--
Boss: You are unemployed.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I've been converting the tapes to MP3s (with
Audacity, a very good open-source audio recorder). This is the first of them. There will be more, unless I get massacred in the comments. Be gentle.
To forestall the inevitable drunken arguments about whether I am including secret Satanic messages, here are the lyrics (no, I have no idea what the first verse is about either, but it sounds profound, so I'm sticking with it) (Oh, yeah: I'm aware that Bob Dylan had a song with the same title; but titles can't be copywrited, and anyway I sang it with a Dylanesque twang to pay him proper tribute. Maybe he can sue me for that.):
Life is short but love is long
And love is a tune with a fatal sound
She was perched on a rock in the middle of the sea
I loved the siren and the siren loved me
We were forty brave men, brothers all
Through tropical storms and dockside brawls
We faced unblinking the horror and noise
And we were happy to be just one of the boys
But then a woman
Ended the camaraderie
Just like a woman
She broke our solidarity
She won't let me drink
It's one of her whims
I can't punch her like my buddies
Get paid back with a grin
She holds me up
And says to me:
It's time to start
A new family
Adrift in a world
Of curses and sweat
I gotta get out
If I hafta hijack a jet
I'm tired of beerhalls
and football and the guys
I'm bored with bravado
And swaggering lies
But then a woman . . .
Though if you play it backwards, God knows what you'll come up with. Here's the
link. Warning: Embedded QuickTime audio.
Update: The review
s are is in! Andrew Dodge of Dodgeblogium (where I crosspost some of these pieces), a man with a band of his own, and not inconsiderable contacts in the music industry (alas, not considerable enough to get me a recording contract), offers this:
Sounds like a pretty good demo mate. Get thee into a studio and you might be onto something. I got stuff in my review pile that is far less appealing tha[n] this track.
UpUpdate: Stupid file-sharing company has been down for the last day or so, allegedly for maintenance. Well, you get what you pay for, I guess.
However, if you've got a (free) Yahoo! account, you can upload pictures and songs to your own little piece of its giant disk drive. You're limited to 30MB, but it's a fairly good bet that it'll be working a week from now. While the above link is broken, you can play the song here.
UpUpUpdate: Now the Yahoo! link is dead. So try the stupid file-sharing company link instead.