Friday, May 16, 2008

Name That Tune - Finally!

Your Weekend Listening • 5.16.08
Won't You Come Back to Me, 1992

This is a blog in progress - tune in Saturday afternoon for the full upload.

Oy. How about Monday morning? Apologies for the delay, people - this weekend turned out to be jam-packed with stuff, and I didn't want to give this feature short-shrift. Then I realized, well, my next week is going to be pretty jam-packed, too - in fact, there will be jams and they're packed in pretty tight - so I might as well get to it.

Not like it's going to be a big blog of revelations for this song. I have no recollection of when it was written or even what instrument it was written on. That's me playing the Rhodes on that, which would suggest that it was written on piano, but I know enough about my writing and playing style from the time to say with some surety that it was most likely written on guitar - the chord change and structure is just too 'simple' for me to have written it on piano. But why and when did the Rhodes enter into the equation? Fucked if I know.

See, the session these recordings came from was what I would consider my first album. Not that anything was released or marketed or anything, but after about five years of dicking around with all acoustic four-tracks (guitar and piano were all I could play at this point) and going through my entire time in college without getting a rock band together, I felt like it was time to blow a chunk of change and get something I could stand to listen to together.

To that end, I pressed into service the twins, Ansley and Bran Lancourt, and the drummer in their power trio (known at the time as The Good Fall), Craig Rogers. This was a band that practiced every day - Craig lived with them - and were incredibly tight, so the learning of the material went very quickly. I don't recall more than a week or so of practice before going into the studio, but I could be wrong. I didn't end up playing much on the final recordings - some little acoustic here, some keys there - because it was an airtight band and my playing style didn't really fit in.

Frankly, my playing style still wouldn't fit into what that band was doing. White-blues-funk-rock has never been anything that I could automatically sit down and toss off, as should be indicated by the slightly funkier Rhodes-with-Wah pedal part I tried to play on the chorus. Still, my playing on the verse indicates my playing style as contrasted with these other musicians - when confronted with a flurry of complex, aggressive musicianship, I fall back into my default mode of very laid-back comping.

What's particularly interesting on hearing this song and the eight others that were on the album - an album titled Agnostic Love Songs, btw - is that the country-folk angle was there in my writing as early as 1992. Which is odd, because I'd swear I didn't start writing in that vein for another few years, yet. Probably, if I'd had more of a sense of myself as a musician at the time, or a wider library of influences to draw from, this album would have been a much different beast - quieter, more contemplative. Lord knows the more rocking songs on the album - and The Good Fall could rock, let me tell you - show my singing voice and vocal meter in their worst possible light, straining to hit notes and pack syllables in, and failing to do so with depressing regularity.

Today's entry, therefore, is something of an anomaly on the album - a simple, straightforward and tuneful number that's about as heartfelt as I was capable of. Even the weakness of my voice at that point played to its favor, since the pretty basic plea for reconciliation and sense of loneliness aren't too hard to miss in the lyric, written with my college girlfriend in mind. It's an anomaly in that regard as well - almost all the other songs on the album are buried in unnecessary wordplay, and I recall specific comments from the twins to that effect while I was recording the vocals.

True, the songs would have worked better if the band had slowed down the tempos a bit, but trying to get The Good Fall to play in a more Dave style - at a point when said style was a big question mark - would have been a lot like trying to slow the Earth in its orbit by going outside and jumping up and down. When those guys took off, it truly was an unstoppable force of nature. And the playing is great, no denying. The Good Fall arrived at the Dave Matthews Band sound a good four years before that band broke.

Really, if I'd had more maturity as a writer and performer, I would have seen that I needed to simplify my own approach on every song, as I somehow did with this one. I'm making an educated guess, here, that Won't You Come Back to Me was written very late in the game, possibly just weeks before we went to record, while some of the other songs on the record date back as far as 1990. Perhaps not coincidentally, the older songs are the ones most in need of a syllablectomy, so at least I was working it out.

But it's recordings like this that help us all work things out. When you're a young musician, developing your style - and a young writer, developing a voice - the largest influence is going to ultimately be yourself and how you react to what you've done. and hopefully, you regard it as a challenge to improve, whittling away at the extra crap you think you need, until you find the songs within.

Tech info:
1992 - Recorded at Kevin Lacy's Freudian Slip Studios, on 1" 8-track.
Mixed directly to Analog cassette tape.
2008 - Imported to Logic Express, added Compression and EQ.


Addendum: I'd be remiss if I didn't point out Ansely's rather nice harmonica solo at the end - thanks for reminding me.


Anonymous said...

What's up? Been tuning in all weekend...

BTW, thanks for the Ames lettering doohickey, just got it.. really cool! Im gonna master the fucker as best I can..

Dave Kopperman said...

Sorry about that - KPMG comic and transcribing the interview all got in the way.

I don't know if it's mentioned, but getting a mechanical pencil to use with the Ames will make your life a lot easier. And the trick is not to force anything - just apply minimal downward pressure against the t-square with the pencil in the Ames, and it will stay flat and slide back and forth really easily.

They even make Non-Photo Blue mechanical pencil leads, if you like.

Let me know if you can remember anything specifically about the sessions for these songs - my mind is a total blank on most of those years.


Anonymous said...

Ahhh.. I remember this song.. good one. the lead guitar was pretty good on this if I do say so myself.. better than I wouldve thought.. forgot about my harmonica bit at the end too.. worked well..

again this could easily come out now by some pretentious twat indie kid from Omaha and he'd be called a genius.. fucking timing..

we all got fucked by it..

Anonymous said...

also.. something seem to be wrong on the rambler page.. theres a huge blank space before the post.. like its not fitting in the margin well..

check it out on a pc so you can see what im talking about.

dodo said...

I think you have to delete that animated student french film... its too wide.. its screwing everything up..

Dave Kopperman said...

WIll do on the PC - and thanks for mentioning the harp solo. When I first listened back to this, it definitely was a stand-out, and I had intended to make note of it.

I made a brief addendum to the post - I'll expand it more when these go over to the archives.


Dave Kopperman said...

I figured as much. It'll drop off the main page in a day or so - then I'll see.


Anonymous said...

Great song... I played the music man on this one, loved that bass.. funk-o-matic!

Isn't there a ballad that you did all by yourself from this session? I think you may have done 2 versions of it (not sure)... I think it may have been just rhodes and acoustic guitar.. I forget the name of it, but that was my favorite song.. oh yeah.. and steeple chase!.. I still play that riff practically everytime I pick up an acoustic..

Dave Kopperman said...

That ballad is called Intermission. It's the second to last song on the album. It's got me on acoustic, Rhodes and bass, which is most likely my first bass playing - and you can tell. Definitely the last thing written for the album, during the sessions, if I recall.

Steeple Chase suffers from rocking a little too triumphantly, both at a compositional and recording level. Talk about too many syllables to a line...


Anonymous said...

yeah.. it went sonething like.. 'morning's come, morning's come agaaAAiiiIInnn...'

I remember I always loved this paul simon-sy chord you had at the end of it..

Steeple chase did rock triumphantly, and was played a bit too fast... still it was fun.

Anonymous said...

Total triumphant rockage...

We played everything too fast I think...