Warning: Lots of talk about guitars today.
Last day in the studio today for major guitar parts on Ahad’s record – after today it’s all bits and pieces. That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing left to do it just means that if a song has a solid bass part, a rhythm part, a riff, a major arpeggio or a solo then everything is pretty much done. We won’t be back in the studio for a week and then we’ll consolidate, go through the tracks and ‘brain on them’ till Ahad arrives to sing. We’ll probably come up with some more ideas, reassess, we’re making a record! I had a lot of electric guitars out today trying to figure out which was the right one for this last song. But I started with acoustics as there were acoustics on the demo and even then I had to try different guitars, settling on the Fender El Rio (the guitar I wrote Spark on) for the main part but then, later on, we added some Takamine 6 string. This is what happens, one idea leads to another and one sound leads to another, the blend between two guitars is often the answer and that’s why I have a range of different instruments that give you different sounds. Different guitars make you approach how you play, differently. You just can’t play an old Rickenbacker like a Les Paul.
So today we listened to the demo and then thought, Les Paul. This song is capo 2 so I have to retune all the guitars before I start. So I plugged it in, pedalboard, Vox AC30 – sounded awful. This is what happens, songs want what they want and this one didn’t want the Les Paul. On other days the Les Paul would have been the one but not today. Next, try the Strat, the Strat works on most anything, it’s the workhorse guitar, it’s great for most things, arpeggios, rhythms and great for soaring melodic guitar solos. Plugged it in, it just wasn’t right. So, what next? Of course, the Telecaster! It cuts through, it sparkles, it’s got some edge – nope. Then Dare suggested the Gibson 345, how could something from 1962 not be right? For a moment we thought we had it, but nah, not enough sustain. Dare then suggested Blondie! When in doubt go to Blondie. Dare loves this guitar and so do I. I bought it out of a garage in LA in the eighties for $750, it’s worth a lot more now and it sounds like a wise old tree with a pickup. Sometimes I imagine it bearing fruit, sonically it does just that. It was the one, but it took a while to figure it out and it wasn’t obvious, Rickenbackers never are. After the electric 6 string was done, I brought out the other Blondie, the Rick 12 string and played it on the chorus, a nice little arpeggio. We ended up back on the acoustic Takamine, finding that blend before the evening’s end.
So apart from the bits and pieces, we need to get some other musicians in to do some things that we can’t do, horns, piano, perhaps more Olivia on the violin. What we really need is Ahad and by the time we’ve tied up all these loose ends, it will be time to get him down here to sing. There will be backing vocals and there will be mixing, then there will be mastering, there will be manufacturing and then all you can do is hope someone likes it and buys it. Then you start the next project and go through the whole process again.
So I didn’t see the day today. I was of course keeping one eye on the courier that never came. I suppose he’ll be here when I’m swimming tomorrow but just leaving, turning the corner as I arrive at the archive door, missing him by seconds. I’m waiting for the Record Store Day releases, Cradle (the Quatro sisters), Exit North, wonderful moody Swedish band with Japan’s Steve Jansen (limited coloured vinyl). Groundhogs’ Split and another version of Mellow Candle’s Swaddling Songs to add to my collection of different reissues (an original album sold on Discogs for nearly £3,000). So tomorrow I hope to see the sea after swimming and before my next session – music and nature what a mixture!
Music today has been Paul McCartney’s three Fireman albums starting with Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest from 1993 which my friend Derek sent to me today as a donation to the archive (Thank You, Derek). At this point, McCartney and his collaborator Youth had not admitted to being The Fireman although it seems it wasn’t the best-kept secret. This first album is a kind of pulsating trancy electronic instrumental record with tracks averaging around 8 minutes in length. It’s an odd beast that seems to repeatedly bang on with the same idea, one might say it’s very 1993.
Rushes is different, it’s more of a charming instrumental album with synths and sitars and all kinds of exotic moods and atmospheres, a very pleasant listen released in 1998, it was 10 years till they went public with their third album, Electric Arguments. Rushes might have been more like something George Harrison would have released if he’d not had his mind set on – more commercial sounds. Fluid and others sound like Mike Oldfield. This is why McCartney is so frustrating because he’s so able to create on any level.
Electric Arguments is a long way from Strawberries and I suppose Rushes is the link. The moody quality extending into a sometimes very moody vocal record. It sounds very much like McCartney doesn’t care what anybody thinks and consequently, with this attitude, I believe he makes better records. Egypt Station being a major disappointment because it’s come from someone not just with his talents but with the imagination to make something great – when he tries. It’s actually hard to understand why he makes the tame albums because that audience, the audience that would like those kinds of records only want to hear The Beatles and Wings hits anyway. Imagine seeing McCartney playing the interesting newer stuff instead in a smaller venue with the show advertised as only the odd stuff. But they all do it, Gilmour does it, Robert Plant tries a little harder but live he seems to think he owes the audience something. I remember hearing a Bowie interview where he was suggesting that playing The Bewlay Brothers just wouldn’t work, well it would have worked for me, a lot more than the godawful Modern Love. What these artists don’t understand is that they only owe the audience one thing – to keep it interesting. Are they so in love with playing mega stadiums all the time? I don’t believe they can be, faceless, no connection between McCartney’s soul and their senses, just a nostalgic sea reliving the legacy. How about this, mega stadium tour every 5 years, great, all the classics but in between a smaller tour where there’s more songs from Chaos And Creation In The Backyard or Driving Rain and The Fireman albums and leave the hits alone, leave them for that audience. Of course, we love hearing We Can Work It Out and Penny Lane and, you know, the 150 other classics but what we really love is when you are creative and interesting and thought-provoking like Travelling Light, Is This Love? and Don’t Stop Running from Electric Arguments – I know you can do it, Paul, come on!