Fame, Part 7
Being desperate to remain ‘part of the music scene’ I held my peace and went with the flow without demur.
A rather good Zimbabwean bassist from Soweto who went by the kinda musical name of Herbert Falala was recruited as a part-time session player and we got a few songs together that weren’t too disastrous, or so we thought.
Bob informed us that he had secured a Kid Jenson session for us…on bull alone I must assume and that we needed to rehearse intensely for the next month, something we duly did. Our only slight problem was that we didn’t have a drummer, relying on a drum machine to keep a beat going during rehearsals. It was clear that we needed the human touch however and Simon, the Flowers’ former drummer was too busy with keyboard chores to fill the post. Bob called in a few favors and told us that he had managed to get Hugo Burnham from the Gang of 4 to fill the drum stool on the session.
I nearly ****** myself! Hugo…from the Gang of 4? If you had told me it was going to be Ringo I think I would have been only marginally more surprised. Regular readers of my wibblings probably know that I have a great love verging on worship for Go4 and to be told that I would be going into the studio with one of them well….to use an Americanism…”Wow, like ****** awesome dude!”
Bob gave Hugo a tape we had recorded in Hilary’s ‘music room’ to give him an idea of what we were ‘about’ and he assured us that Hugo had done a lot of session work and would be able to pick the songs up almost right away.
Ms Morrison had also recruited two female backing singers, as much on political grounds as on musical. Hilary explained that she wasn’t going to allow Heartbeat to become a ‘boy thing’..(despite the fact it was the boys who were doing all the flippin’ work!) Simon and I had never met the girls but Hilary assured us that they would be fine. Being acquiescent sorts of chaps we kept our misgivings to ourselves..after all we didn’t want to appear as if we were trying to oppress Hilary did we? ;-(
Now this wasn’t the first time I’d been in the studio, so I had a pretty good idea what to expect. Let me say that doing a session in a recording studio is one of the dullest, most nerve-wracking, and infuriating and revealing experiences I’ve ever had.
It’s dull because you spend hours whilst the sound engineer gets the drum sound right as the rest of the band sit around doing **** all. It’s dull because you have to listen to the bass player make the same mistake on every take. It’s dull because of the constant bickering with the engineer who just as he FINALLY gets the sound you want, insists on trying ‘just one more thing’…and is then completely unable to get the sound you originally liked back. It’s infuriating when you get an engineer who simply REFUSES to let any of the needles go into the red, arguing that it will cause distortion and remains steadfastly deaf to the band screaming a him; “But that’s what we WANT!”
It’s nerve wracking when it’s your turn to record the guitar track and find yourself turned into a quivering jelly of nerves. Your hands shake, you muff the intro, tape is re-wound…**** it up again. You eventually get three-quarters through in fine style then develop and unbearable itch on your nose that causes you to **** up the first note of the guitar solo..and so it goes on. It’s made worse by the fact that you can see the engineer and rest of the band watching you with increasing exasperation through a thick pane of glass.
In the studio you are truly alone.
It’s revealing too. Sometime it reveals the fact that what had sounded good to everyone live and in the practice room was actually just plain awful when heard ‘properly’.
It can also reveal just how awesome some of your band members are…invariably people who you always kinda took for granted. (Special mention to Woody, drummer from Portsmouth band The Frames…he was an absolute maniac but **** me, when we actually heard the complexity of what he was playing and how perfectly he could reproduce it take after take….well my respect for him increased a thousand fold)…(to be continued…)