"Doorway To My (Musical) Past"
Musicians, mainly , may appreciate some of these excerpts.
Over the years , a lot of people have been curious about the songwriting process. How it’s done, what comes 1st, words music, groove….do bands “jam” and come up with songs,does a song come out completely finished or , if not, what are the steps along the way etc. ?
For one thing , it’s
very different now than it was, say, in the ‘70’s. In the early 70’s,they hadn’t yet come
out with an affordable tape recorder that one person could own, which
would allow you to add new
parts to previously recorded stuff. But they did have cassette players.
So in my very early days, I would maybe sing a beat or groove idea into one
cassette recorder, and then play that one back, while I sang a riff idea or
something along to the cassette that was already playing …..and
record the whole thing to a 2nd cassette recorder
In those days, I always had a cassette recorder with me. Lots of times, when an idea for something would come into my head, I’d scat into the cassette and try to give an idea of the melody, groove and maybe some “stream of conciousness” babbling idea of what the words would be as well. I usually did this , and still do, on a sort of automatic pilot. I really don’t have, at that point, any clear idea of what I’ve just done. It just "comes out".
I’d collect hundreds of “snippets” of ideas like this, and than at some point, when I had a few cassettes worth, I’d go through and pick out what I thought were the best ideas on each tape and make what I called a “prime” (master) tape which was a compilation of these “keeper” snatches and bits and pieces. There were probably at least 20 or 30 more- or - less partial and semi-complete songs for every one that actually got recorded and released.
There are a whole lot of ideas where I would say, “God, that one could’ve been cool..”
Before the introduction, about 1973, of an affordable “home” “sound on sound” recorder that you could record multiple parts to at separate times, the only way to fully arrange a piece was with a band. You might have the ideas for riffs, tempos, drumbeats, time signatures, melodies, chord changes…..but it was necessary to sit down with a groupand teach them the song piece by piece. If they wanted to chart it out, they did, usually just a simple chord notation or something…but I usually had the essence of any song arrangement in my mind well before I sat down with the band.
Arrangements were always evolving however, and usually changed right up to the last minute, when the song was “committed” to tape in the “real” studio.
I’ve tried to give some examples of all these processes with the example mp3s I’ve put up.
Many times the producer would have suggestions. If you listen to the “Outskirts” Teac 4 track demo , you might notice, if you’re familiar with the song, that the lyrics are mostly completely different on the released version, and the melody is ….just a bit different. And...there's an indistinct "bridge".
This is because producer John Carter and I re-wrote the lyrics because-we both agreed the “work” lyric was too “spacey” . Then , while recording the vocal, Carter might suggest making the melody a little different, here and there. Carter wound up getting co-writing credit .......which he deserved..
It was possible to become over-obsessed with the craftsmanship part of this, and spend hours or even days working and reworking a tiny phrase , or changing 1 note in a riff etc. A lot of bands blew a lot of money this way, back when recording was very expensive.
The situation today is vastly different, and for me, much better.
I rarely “sing into cassettes” any more. What I do now is sit down at my “sequencer”with some kind of nice keyboard sound layered up, and try to get a mood going while the sequencer’s recording everything.
Today, mixing and matching ideas, which used to be hard is much easier because in the old days ,you either 1. had to write everything down and/or 2. keep it all in your head or, 3..scrap your preliminary versions, and start from scratch on a newer version. A limited version of "cutting and pasting" (editing) was possible on the $100,000 pro machines , but impossible with cassettes.
Today's computerized cutting and pasting has eliminated all of those routines .
Something that used to take weeks of analyzing and re -shuffling in real time can now be done in days, or even hours.
The technology has created some new forms too ; rap for example , wouldn’t really be doable without the machines that allow what are essentially non-musicians to make “music” although rap really just “uses” music as a support for the rhythmic rhyming.
And bands like “Limp Bizkit” with their hybrid of sequenced and played parts probably could never have happened without the tech.
I even made my “Fleetwood Mac Years and Beyond” CD with sequencers…..but people have told me it “sounds like a band” , which, I think…it does. Like I often say to my friends in Nashville who ask me “man , what…you don’t like live players anymore ?” “Sure”, I say…”give me $25,000 for 2 weeks of rehearsal space and the player's salaries, food, drink , and per diems , and I’d be glad to play with “real-time” humans” ;-)
But maybe there’s a downside…..sometimes I think that some of the technology itself is way better and more creative than the music that’s being made ON the technology.
Also, sometimes people assume that because it’s really simple to get a little bass , drum and keyboard thing happening in a sequencer, because , “it’s cool…..we’ll just take what the Korg Electribe (or whatever…no disrespect to Korg !) gives us”. But the problem with that is, you’re getting the Korg programmer’s ingenuity on your song….NOT your own.
And then everything starts sounding the same , the way all the “big band” singers sort of sounded the same, with minor variations, in their day. It was formulaic. And people eventually got tired of it.
I hope some of these mp3’s will give anybody who’s interested some insight into what my own creative process has been like over these many years…
Much of the following stuff sounds pretty rough quality-wise because 1. it's from old tapes ( cassettes mostly) and 2. I had to squeeze it down to very low bit-rate mp3's so my web hosting people won't insist I buy more space !
Many of these excerpts are things that were for my own reference, that only I would hear. Not even my wives or girlfriends ever heard (or wanted to hear) much of this stuff. But musicians , especially those just starting out, may be interested.
Some of the other , more "finished" demos are things that I would have played for a producer , or for the band in order to learn the arrangement.
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EBONY lo bit.mp3 This is the demo that I played for my producer, John Carter , when we were putting together the songs for "French Kiss". This is also what I played for French Kiss drummer, Alvin Taylor, so he could learn the song. When we cut the actual studio track, it was just me playing some "scratch" guitar and scat singing, yelling out the counts into the chorus;s etc. Probably about 5 people have ever heard this demo; Carter, Alvin Taylor , our engineer Warren Dewey, and a couple of assistant engineers.
BRIGHT FIRE lo bit.mp3 This was the demo of "Bright Fire" I played for Fleetwood Mac when we were putting together the songs for the "Penguin" album. The words on the final version are somewhat revised , as are some of the "transitions" and of course the actual musical parts, bassline, etc. etc.
Rev Alt Vers.mp3 This is a completely different version of the song "Revelation" than was used on the Fleetwood Mac "Penguin" album. I had totally forgotton about this . It's kind of fun to rediscover things that you don't remember ... Like looking at a picture of yourself in high school , when you can't remember who the other people in the pic are....although you are all smiling and appear to be good friends...
Nightwatch This was the demo that Fleetwood Mac heard when we were doing the "Penguin" album. Notice most of the sections, including the end riff, are in place. Some of the lyrics are a little tentative, and were changed in the final recorded version. I probably did this on a "Revox" 2 track reel to reel recorder in England.
HYPNO lo bit.mp3 This is a really rough reference tape for myself only, when I was starting to write "Hypnotized" for the Fleetwood Mac "Mystery To Me" album. I wouldn't have played this for anybody.....it wasn't complete enough , and was just a "germ" of an idea, so I wouldn't forget. The main thing about it that I needed to remember was 1. the tempo and time signature( shuffle triplets over 4/4) and the keyword "Hypnotized".
P LOVE lo bit.mp3 #1 This was the very first "idea tape" with chord changes , and partial guitar riff, that eventually turned into "Precious Love" from my "Three Hearts" album. Again, nobody would've heard this except me, for my own reference. The words are just "placekeepers" and bear almost no resemblance to the final finished song. I was just "indicating" the riff too...the notes weren't all worked out .
P Love full demo lo bit.mp3 # 2 This is the final "Precious Love" demo that developed from the above chord changes and lick idea. This was played for the producer(Carter), and our drummer Alvin Taylor.
SONWRITE lo bit.mp3 This is an example of how I used idea tapes... this particular idea never did get fully "worked up" ; but I was always making notes to myself, referring to other snippets that I thought might fit, and so on. Again, nobody would have ever heard this except me.
OUTSKIRTS lo bit.mp3 This is the demo that I played for Carter , that subsequently became "Outskirts". The words were completely different. The "working title seems to be "That's What I Say" or something. There was also not much of a firm melody for the "bridge". Carter helped me fix all this, and got co-writing credit.
B 666 lo bit.mp3 This is the demo of "B666" from my "Man Overboard" album. We later hired Jack Nietche to write a "fright movie" score for orchestra over the top of this song. We did the orchestra, and the whole record, in Capitol's famous "Studio B" ; where Frank Sinatra cut many of his records.
Three Hearts lo bit.mp3 This is the demo for "Three Hearts", the title song on my 2nd Capitol album.
1 ON 1 lo bit.mp3 This is a very long( 9 minute) rehearsal tape of me and the "Other One" album band (Donny Francisco, drums, Todd Sharp , guitar, David Addlestein , keys, Brad Palmer , bass) trying to figure out where to go with this song. We were trying all kinds of different sections etc. I really don't know why this tune, which ended up being called "One On One" wound up on the album. I guess it was cause it was in '79 , right during the advent of "punk" rock, and I was worried about putting another "too poppy" Ebony Eyes type thing on the record. So I opted for an instrumental instead.
Got To Find A Way lo bit.mp3 People have asked me what the "Seven Souls" sounded like. This is "Got To Find A Way" which the 'Souls made for Venture Records , Motown's west coast subsidiary , in about '66'or '67. Larry Williams, writer of "Bony Marony" produced. The band at that time was, me, Tony Lytle trombone, Henry Moore tenor sax, Fred Murphy drums, Henry Thompson bass, and Bobby Hunt keys. Seven Souls Page seven souls 45s gemm page.htm
Groove In lo bit.mp3 This is a truncated version of the "b" side of the above Seven Souls single.
Hurry Up lo bit.mp3 This is "Hurry Up" , from the album Headwest released in Europe in 1970 on Disques Vogue. Headwest was me, and 2 other ex-Seven Souls members ; Bobby Hunt on B3 , and Henry Moore on drums and vocals.
Tired Of Hangin On lo bit.mp3 Another Headwest song. It's very "gospel-y" ; Henry Moore had sung in church as a kid.....and it shows ......
starchild mp3.mp3 Another Head West album song...To me , now , it's sounds like the "Chi-Lites"...or something.....
Chopin Op 3 lo bit.mp3 This is my guitar version (with liberties taken in the middle!) of Chopin's Op 3, which my wife Wendy, a classical pianist, played for my mothers funeral 14 years ago.
Rachmaninoff Op 3 lo bit.mp3 This is my guitar version of Rachmaninoff's "Op 3". I think if Rachmaninoff were alive today , he'd be in a "death metal" band ... His stuff is so dark it'd make Pantera want to commit hari-kari ......
ABRASIVE lo bit.mp3 One of the (Few !) fun things about getting older is that I can go back over ancient tapes.....and find things I had completly forgotten about. This thing , "Abrasive", was evidently a "snatch " of melody that I never developed, or took any further. I don't know what I meant when I say on the tape that it's sort of "abrasive". Maybe I meant that at the time , in the context of other stuff I was doing , the melody was a little too "angular" to fit in. It's kind of an interesting melody though....maybe I'll work on it , find some actual words etc. etc.
j lee welch lo bit.mp3 My favorite musical mood is, "dark...yet somehow hopeful" In food , this would be " bittersweet". This is a darker version of my old Fleetwood Mac song , "Bermuda Triangle" that I was fooling around with.
MANCRAZY lo bit.mp3 This is a track from my Arizona band "Avenue M" in about 1990. "Avenue M" was Bob Mylan drums, Glenn DeJongh/Fred Yates/Kevin Ichrist bass, Fred Robinson/Dave Gambrel/Glenn De Jongh guitar . "Avenue M" was my last attempt to do a Aerosmith/Van Halen type thing. "A M" had 1 actual release ; on the "Best Of Bob Welch" compilation that Rhino put out. This was probably the hardest I've ever worked physically on stage. I was jumping around like Steve Tyler et. al. might do. We did one 3 week tour in '90 , and had some interesting adventures like our guitar player Fred being threatened by a mafia-style clubowner because he (guitar player) had flirted with a waitress...who happened to be the clubowners "girlfriend". My wife was the roadmanager for this tour , and it made us both think ; "aren't we getting a little old for this s---? It was fun..and I never want to do it again.. !
fstein64kmp3.mp3 "Frankenstein"..Avenue M
liabtch64kmp3.mp3 "Love Is A Bitch" Avenue M...The Avenue M band I had in the late '80's early '90's was the last time I ever really tried to "chase the charts" , i.e. be competitive with what was being commercially successful. At the time , bands like Van Halen , Motley Crue , Quiet Riot etc. were all the rage and with Avenue M I was trying to compete "head to head" with that sound. Then Aerosmith made their rap record "Walk This Way" with Run DMC....and rap began to take over...At that point , I decided to stop actively competing , because rap was the 1st genre that I felt I honestly didn't understand enough to pull of authentically. Now , here in '05 , rap COMPLETELY dominates the "pop" charts. The whole P. Diddy/Britney Spears/J-Lo/Jay Z thing is like a foreign country to me....(Although I do love some of this kind of stuff ; Destinys Child's " "Say My Name" for instance just kills me ) But it's kind of like how my parents must have felt about the Beatles ; maybe they liked one or two songs , but in general , it was not for their generation....It happens to all of us sooner or later , guaranteed !
after cous.mp3 Used to like to pretend I was a jazz musician after rehearsals. This could've been roadies playing the other instruments , I can't remember.
greensleeves.mp3 Same as above , only trying to do "Greensleeves" a la Coltrane.
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