In the studio today and tomorrow working on Ahad’s record. Today we were on backing vocals and all three of us were in there, singing our hearts out, first Dare, then me and then Olivia. Harmonies, like percussion, are tricky, keeping the beat, staying in tune, singing along with another voice and trying to match the inflexions whilst singing different notes. The singer sings and you have to follow, stretching out the word and the end of the line like he or she does but you also have to be careful with the letters – for example the letter ‘S’, if you don’t say the ‘S’ sound at exactly the right time you get an elongated staggered hiss, if you don’t say ‘D’ at the right time you get ‘D-D’, it sounds wrong. So what we often do is try to infer the letter at the end of the line, slightly mouth it, caress it, suppress it. Think of those great harmony bands like The Byrds, Crosby, Stills And Nash, The Everly Brothers, The Andrews Sisters, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, all these people were highly skilled in singing harmonies and were famous for it.
You may know about the documentary film 20 Feet From Stardom that tells the story of the faceless backing singers that support the famous lead singers. These people are incredible singers in their own right but remain unknown to the masses (not the nerds like me but to the masses). The film documents the talented backing singers that stood next to major stars but never got to be the focus of attention despite their talents. Then there’s the story of Clare Torry who jammed the wordless vocal on Rick Wright’s The Great Gig In The Sky on The Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) and was paid £30 for her trouble. She eventually sued for royalties and co-authorship and settled for an undisclosed amount.
Talking of backing singers, David Bowie’s remastered Low (1977) arrived in the post today, it’s the second time I’ve bought it, the first time it was returned because the courier couldn’t find the archive. The reason I mention it is because of the backing singer on the song Sound And Vision which was none other than producer Tony Visconti’s wife Mary Visconti aka Mary Hopkin. Remembered fondly by those of us that had ears and eyes, a beating heart and a television for winning the talent show Opportunity Knocks presented by Hughie Green (Paula Yates’ father) in the sixties. We fondly remember Mary as the Welsh lass with the beautiful voice who had hits on Apple Records with the McCartney produced Those Were The Days (1968), Temma Harbour (1972) and the McCartney penned Goodbye (1969). She sang Knock Knock Who’s There, the 1970 entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, she came 2nd. She later joined Oasis, no not that Oasis, the other band called Oasis that also featured the late Peter Skellern who was best known for his mega seventies hit You’re A Lady (1972), the song my mum hated above all others.
Out there in the awkward world of weather, I braved walking to the pool in shorts and T-shirt, waistcoat and an extra shirt, knowing that when I got there I would be able to fit everything in a small cramped locker. If I took my warm coat it would be awkward so I didn’t wear it. It was just bearable to wear so few warm clothes on a rainy, slightly windy, chilly day and yes, everyone else was wrapped up. It was a day of showers and drizzle and trips to pasty land were grim, trips to the greengrocers laborious, standing in a long queue with wet hair holding a cauliflower and bag of chestnut mushrooms, the three older women in front of me all with walking sticks and chatty.
At the studio, the pasty arrived and it was so hot that we were looking for cold metal objects to cool it down. It was almost nuclear and when I took it out of the bag it was in another bag so you didn’t scorch your fingers. It eventually cooled down and once we had checked it for any renaming radioactive materials I devoured it like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Which reminds me of the Tyrannosaurus Rex collection I purchased from the charity store opposite the bakers the other day – see, everything’s connected!
Music today was always going to be David Bowie’s Low because I’ve been dying to get my hands on a pristine copy of this eclectic album. Side 1 – short weird vocal songs, Side 2 – long weird instrumental songs. I do have this record about five times in different pressings but getting it brand new is really great. I’ve been buying up the back catalogue of remasters from the beginning and I now have everything up to Lodger apart from Stage and David Live. I love this arty music made for all the right reasons, searching, following inspiration and in this case we probably need to be thanking Jerome’s Dad as the Berlin trilogy goes wandering into Tangerine Dream territory as well as its own wonderful exploratory journey. Buy the remastered vinyl right now.
Concert Of The Daze
David Bowie doing Low live in 2002.