Ladies and Gentlemen Nelson Motherfuckin' BRAGG!!

Yeah, he's th' one in the lower left with the glasses. Yeah, that's Brian Wilson. See, Nelson's in his band.

Yes! Nelson rocks. Let me tell you why. Not only is he an old musical colleague who made my band sound TITS in the early '90's, he has Succeeded. He went to LA a few years after me, must have been '97, '98. However, instead of trying to shove a fat man through th' eye of a needle like Yours Truly, he apparently had the sense to be open to things. Me, it was always my songs or th' highway. I never thought of working in any other capacity. Nelson fuckin' ended up doing percussion and vocals for Brian Wilson's Smile album and touring with the live show. God damn. Go to his MySpace page. He's got a new album out that's pretty Lightfootesque i.e. 60's inflected ambitio-pop. There's all these pictures of him hanging out with sundry musical legends and playing Glastonbury and shit.

Guy called me once in the late '90's to tell me he was in LA but I had my head too far up my ass with my careeer to follow up. I think it's fucking brilliant that Nelson has ended up kicking so much ass. And I never would have expected it- not that he isn't a gifted motherfucker but I've just known so many cockier, more arrogant, pushier, more self-confident dudes who are slingin' hammers now. Nothing against slingin' hammers. But it ain't playing fucking Glastonbury or playing with th' Negro Problem and all that.

I say good on you, dude. And you're so cool and so deserving that I can't even be jealous which is the greatest gift of all. It's not like when those fucking nipples The Supreme Dicks got signed to SubPop or when that asshole Charlie Clouser joined NiN. And you look like Peter Asher now- th' specs are happening. And your girlfriend probably looks like Jane. And you told me that fuckin' hilarious story of how this girl was giving you head once and when she was done you were like are you O.K.?

Dude, if you come to this post leave me a link or something- John did a boffo remaster of Th' Mr. Sherwood album and I'll throw it up for you since I was too much of a self-involved asshole to give you one last time you asked.

Hey, here's Nelson making my band Mr. Sherwood sound TITS in '92 when I was 26. What a cool band that was- I, of course, was the only one who realized it at the time. Actually, I think Nelson realized it. He's drumming and singing, Johnny Tomorrow is on electric guitar and vox, Paul Rocha is on acoustic 12-string and vox, and I'm on lead vox and bass:

"Blue All Over"

Woah! That's a fun song. It's so filigreed and so unapologetically, breezily complex. Haven't listened to any of this stuff in a coonz age. I have to dig all this old shit out. I've avoided it for so long because it always tended to make me sad the way it all came to nought. I'm getting closer to being out of that depressive tunnel at last, though. I could probably enjoy some of this stuff now- I've been an also-ran for long enough that it's sort of status quo, you know? And I've seen enough that I just can't get much of a boner over th' whole biz any more. I still get a boner out of doing good music, though. And I feel like I'm sort of just starting. It isn't as easy as it was before, you know? I haven't put pen to paper in months. I've been really musically busy but it's all for money. And not much at that.

I really need to write a song. Or at least dig one out of the vault and shake th' cobwebs off it. I want to do a rock album. I've got a dozen or more really good driving forward-looking rock songs that have just amassed in my head over the last ten years and I've never so much as demoed them because I've been so sick of rock.

At first I couldn't hang with it. Th' dismal failure. The dismal failure and the wasted time and the bad faith. Not at all. Jesus Christ was I sad. Shit like this, though, where fuckin' Nelson gets to do the Smile tour makes it easier. He's in that movie and everything, the asshole. What a fuckin' blast.

Rock on, dude. Tell Ringo I said hello.

High Congress Presents #3: "Another Day" by Joe Cifarelli

Woah! Back with another exciting installment of Lightfoot Sings Cifarelli! I give you the Monday Sucks ode "Another Day".

This was another interesting project that gave a couple of starts before I got with th' program. It wasn't until I mic'd up a snare drum and some brushes that I really got the picture. I was inspired by a recent Soulfinger show where some oldsters were complaining about our volume and Alonzo Washington pulled out the brushes. The resultant sound, was, across the board, hip, intense and very musical. Some drummers just can't cut it with th' brushes or the quiet dynamics- their groove disappears. If anything, Alonzo and the whole band sounded better and groovier and it was really easy to sing over.

So I based this groove on a circular, insistent little brushed snare pattern and brought in some drum loops and live percussion as needed. Also some deep-mixed timpani for a little distant thunder. The shaker takes to brushed snare especially well, as does acoustic rhythm guitar when you really crank the pick noise.

The steady addition of instruments that marks the intro led to a stack of guitars that reminds me a little of "English Settlement" XTC. We end up with tripled electric and quadrupled acoustic, all hopefully weaving into a sort of guitar tapestry that is augmented with piano on the verses and Rhodes, leslied organ and piano on the choruses.

I angried up the lyrics on this a little bit. We'll see if I perhaps have finally overstepped my bounds as a song doctor/producer because I really sort of changed the tenor of the song. The original is more resigned than my version; the "cup of whiskey" was originally a cup of coffee; the "...little wife...little house..." stanza in the third verse is a much more discontented approach than the bleak acceptance of the original.

I guess I wanted the guy to be a little more fucked up. It scans better for me. Don't ask why.

The choruses are sort of baroque in approach. I was attracted to this song by the Am/F/Bb/Amajor cycle of the chorus- Am/F/Bb/E is one of my favorite 4-chord progressions in the world and I tried to make the E major work. It's a classic Roxy Musicism. I even tried taking the chorus into D minor so I could end on the tonic A major but I couldn't make it sit. I ended up beefing the slightly ambiguous A major final chord of the chorus with a major-tuned doubled acoustic slide that creeps up the neck a fourth to the verse key of D major. It ends up more implied than audible in the final mix.

I was less restrained in my use of compression on several aspects of this mix than I've been lately. I think the inspiration was the Emerick Beatles recording book- guy crushes shit and makes it sound really good. I ended up with some brutalized acoustic guitar using fast release times to accentuate pick noise. Also used one of my cheapie Beringer C- condenser mics- they're so toppy that they work great on acoustic guitars. Vocals are squished pretty hard too, as is the fretless bass. Heck, everything is squished.

I had originally looped the major electric guitar phrase from Joe's lofi demo because I couldn't play it- the first run at the song involved this loop set to a drum loop but I couldn't make it groove. I ended up committing a couple of hours to just mastering the lick. I added some variety with the simplified rootless pattern of the second verse where the distorted vocal and the ocean sounds come in. It seemed to evoke the warm and idealized etherealness of a distant beach for me.


Yeah, I Condmn That Shit Too.

I thnk he shld be excmmnctd.

Oh, fuck it- they probably did a lot better than I would tryin' to write their language.

I think that fuckin' Brownshirt Pope has just BEGUN to start trouble.

But NOBODY would listen to ME.

yeh, go there and hit th' scrolldown bar 6 times for all my suggestions for pope. And then go down further for th' true crux. No pun intended. See, it's all of a piece.

christ, we could've avoided all of this.

Actually, it's a little depressin' to go back to old Orchestra entries from a year and a half ago. I was so much funnier. Oh, well- at least th' cock transplant took.

I thought for sure my forehead would reject it.

That was funny, right? All is not lost.

"BTW", did you know that if you open your blog in a new browser window while your blog is republishing after a new post your WHOLE BLOG WILL BE DELETED FOREVER??

You don't believe me, do you? Go on- try it.

I had to rewrite my whole fucking blog from memory last week. I was like a one-man Colombian Export Boom.

Dude if it happens to you I know where to get blow.


Emerick and McCartney, Sitting In A Tree

Somewhere around 1989, marked roughly by the release of the astonishing Beatles Recording Sessions book, the Modern Period Of Revisionist Beatle History began. The milieu was perfect; everyone remembers the hideous sixties revival of the late '80's- it started with Paisley Underground bands like my beloved Malarians and reached right on up into the creative jugular of older, more popular acts of the day because it happened to represent the psychedelic landscape of their childhoods.

As with anything else of passing cultural interest it was over by the time it hit the cover of Time magazine and we had that whole wretched 20th anniversary of th' Summer Of Love in '87. And Elvis Costello teamed up with Paul McCartney and there was that whole Jeff Lynne Mafia from Th' Traveling Wilborings to the admittedly peerless Roy Orbison. And Petty started channeling Roger McGuinn.

And XTC, of course, was there first with the whole Dukes Of Stratosphear thing that bled into Skylarking so fetchingly. And I'm sure you will recall that George Harrison was like fuckin' Elton John there for a while with his Cloud Nine. 'Twas ubiquitousish. Dream Syndicate, The wretched Bangles, th' wretched 10,000 Maniacs, those rockin' geezers Th' Smithereens- a million bands, good and horrid, marched to th' neopsychedelic thing. I think Lenny Kravitz came out of that.

Brian Wilson put out his eponymous head-scratcher in '87- the Hallmark-Greeting-Card- Special-Olympics nightmare Brian Wilson. I of course got it and studied it no end and my girlfriend made fun of me by jutting out her chin and singing the retarded lyrics. "...Love and merceee that's what yoo neeed toniiight..." I still think it had some fine moments musically although lyrically it was just awful.

Bearing all this in mind it's easy to see how a major reboot of Beatleology could go down. Ned got me The Beatles Recording Sessions in 1989 when I was just starting to plot my post-Malarian career and I opened that fucking book and I didn't come out for two years. This coincided with my first serious creative efforts to define myself as a song writing artist and I dove into recording with a vengeance in my beautiful loft in Northampton MA.

Homemade Leslie speakers, bathtubs used as echo chambers, tape flanging, backwards recording, creative compression, "wobble" chorus, double tracking- this was all stuff I was already doing without really realizing the legacy I was tapping into. It's just what you end up doing when you're working with analog tape and limited outboard processing.

We didn't have th' Intarweb back in those dark days and one had to scour album sleeves and book stores to find Recording Wisdom. For me one name kept popping up, usually right after Beatles producer George Martin: Geoff Emerick. Emerick was a child during his association with the Beatles, starting out as an assistant engineer/tape op at EMI studios in London in 1962 at the age of fifteen. Emerick was involved in various capacities throughout the Beatle's recording career, bowing out briefly for the Help! and Rubber Soul sessions. He walked out of the horrible White Album Sessions, missed the whole Let It Be/Get Back debacle and engineered Abbey Road and many post-Fab recordings by all four Beatles.

For sheer paradigm-smashing, this book ranks very close to the top of the list, topped only by Barry Miles' fantastic, eye-opening, detailed, McCartney bio Many Years From Now and Get Back: The Unauthorized Chronicles Of The Beatle's Let It Be Disaster, another fine gift from th' Nedster. What Here, There And Everywhere gives the reader is a paradigm shift in the clearest sense of the word: one is truly placed, at long last, on the other side of the glass. We experience the Beatles recording career not as insiders but as rank employees and it is an eye-opening experience.

There is ultimately no love lost between Emerick and the less-cute Beatles. Neither is George Martin spared as a credit-stealing power player. I'm reminded of my experience as a rock star roadie: there's nothing fun about the creative process when you're watching from the sidelines, knowing that if a guitar lead craps out in front of 20,000 people you're going to have a very bad day. When Emerick is offered the job of engineer on the Revolver sessions his misgivings are profound and his decision to accept the seat is accompanied by many sleepless nights.

In many ways Here, There And Everywhere emerges as a chronicle of Emerick's professional love affair with Paul McCartney. McCartney emerges as a respectful, smart, nice, patient dude with an ability to wrap his head around the finer points of record production that the other three Beatles do not share. While Emerick makes no attempt to hide his awe for Lennon, Mr. Peace And Love comes off as drug-addled, impatient, and sometimes just an asshole. Not to mention sort of mean at times. Harrison's insecurity as the Third Wheel disappears gradually over the years but initially is painful and off-putting. Ringo also comes off as profoundly insecure and actually as a bit of a cipher. One guy's perspective, you know?

The best parts of the book have to do with Emerick's interaction with McCartney, in particular the innovations they developed in recording and thinking about the bass guitar. Beginning with the "Paperback Writer" single in '66 the bass guitar was afforded an importance and harmonic prominence that was unprecedented and it is here, aside from his drum production techniques and psychedelic flourishes, that Emerick makes his greatest mark. Even more to McCartney's credit, Emerick is permitted to make his mark. Introducing room ambience to bass tracks, even over McCartney's objections, is something we haven't heard about and it goes a long way towards achieving the amazing, breathing, sinuous basslines of Sgt. Pepper.

I've always felt that one of the strongest qualities of a leader in any discipline is to trust his team members and to let them have whatever positive impact over the finished product they can. I've always worked and lived by this as a musician, especially in the late '90's when I found myself supported by publicists and producers and sidemen and engineers. I'll always look back fondly to all the work I did in fiction with our engineer Michael Head. Mike and I developed such a mutual sympathy and such a common language that we could work for hours without speaking. And I loved to let him try things because, well, you never know. And it's not about letting the help have their way- it's about getting help that you respect enough and that vibes enough with you that damn it, their way might be better. Being part of a great team is the highest calling of a man.

The living, breathing soul of this book is to be found in Studio Two at Abbey Road in the wee hours when the whole cast of characters have left and Emerick and McCartney are alone with the bass track. The dance of overdubs and punch-ins and retakes and arrangement-tweaking is recreated with such loving, positive recall and one realizes that this is the one time where Emerick gets to relax in his engineer's chair and enjoy the buzz of working with possibly the most fertile mind in all of modern popular music.

Anyone with a hunger for the more technical side of Beatleology will love this book- it's a whole new experience to be privy to their recording career from the other side of the glass. Good on yer, Geoff.