April 18, 2007

Home Recordings: When Music Attacks!!

Over the weekend, I discovered that Mia had turned my music room upside down (metaphorically). Strewn everywhere were blank and homemade CDs and spare jewel cases. Whilst cleaning up, I discovered something that both horrified and excited me. No, not Ann Coulter. A CD hand-labeled Home Recordings.

I've been writing and recording music since I was a wee lad. The day I discovered that I could haul my dad's ancient reel-to-reel tape recorder with the long, phallic Bob Barker microphone on top of the piano and actually record whatever it was I was playing was a magic one. I played the piano through middle school, after which I switched to guitar (a much cooler instrument, no offense to the pianists in the crowd). I played with bands but I kept recording solo, me and my little four-track mixer picked up at a local Radio Shack on a whim. Then in college, like Ross Gellar, I found my sound.

My sound. I think I sprained something from the ridiculousness of that sentence. And my sound was what filled that CD. At least, that's what I discovered as I put it in the tray, pushed play and listened. And laughed.

See, I went through lots of phases and almost every one of them was somehow represented on that CD. There was the Art Rock New Age Phase which is best represented by an eight-song concept album which, as I recall, had the words soft stars and perhaps solitude in the title. It was, without doubt, complete and utter bullshit. Spacey keyboards over percussion courtesy of a lame drum machine packed tightly with plodding bass guitars. I think I threw in one solitary guitar solo. It sounded like medically sedated cats had hijacked my equipment. In other words, it blew a stable-full of donkeys.

I hit the Cover Phase somewhat later. During this phase, I performed and recorded an obscure collection of songs. The alt-country sound of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Lucky Man, complete with reverbed-out vocals is a shining testament to the need to destroy old home recordings. Later came a rather nice version of Stone Temple Pilot's Plush followed by a completely x-rated version of Alice In Chains' Don't Follow (if you must know, the revised title rhymed with the original and involved oral sex...you can noodle it through). I have no words to explain the acapella version of an early 80's U2 track. It did not represent my best work and I shall never do it again.

Later came the ProTools Phase. Primarily computer-generated using sound samples, it wasn't my best work. Anyone age five and over who owns a computer and has mastered the demanding skills of drag and drop could have pretty much nailed my sound. My favorite phase of all has to be the Naked Eye Phase. Somewhere around 1992, I happened upon an insanely cool Pete Townshend riff from a live version of The Who's Naked Eye. I proceeded to beat it to death in almost everything I recorded for the next ten years. Hell, who am I kidding? I still trot that old thing out.

I guess everyone goes through tragically embarrassing phases in their life, some recorded in some fashion for posterity, some not. Mine are all on CD. Before you ask, no, I'm not posting them. Unless you guys post the most fantastic comments ever. Even then, I'm not so sure.

Posted by Chris at April 18, 2007 7:08 AM

rip! rip! rip! We need some of these online, for your descriptions are insufficient for complete appreciation of the music.

Posted by: SciFi Dad at April 18, 2007 7:25 AM

I feel for ya Dude. I don't know what I'd do if the time I got stung by a bee on the butt in 4th and then the teacher pulled up the back of my dress to look at it IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY was on tape.

Excuse me, I need to go lie down now. I'm reliving the trauma and it ain't pretty.

Posted by: Contrary at April 18, 2007 8:13 AM

I just wanna hear the acapella version of the U2 song. That's all.

In college, my best friend and I found a videotape of her boyfriend (now her husband) and his brothers making all sorts of home movies--skits and concerts and stand-up comedy routines. They were young teenagers at the time. Perhaps the best was the segment of him doing the Superbowl Shuffle, singing the lyrics and dancing in a horribly bad way. At least you have talent :-)

Posted by: Alissa at April 18, 2007 8:15 AM

Oh, come on, you show me yours I'll show you mine. Somewhere here I have a cassette full of poetry that I read. I ran my vocals through a guitar effects system which made it all the more spectacularly lame! I'm sure I could figure out a way to get some of it online!
Yes I used to write poetry and no I really sucked at it!

Posted by: Jeff A at April 18, 2007 8:55 AM

As much as I would love to hear yours, I am just not willing to give up the recordings of my garage days. It's just not worth it.

Posted by: Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah at April 18, 2007 9:01 AM

Most. Fantastic. Comment. EVER.

There, now you hold up your end of the bargain.

Posted by: Fraulein N at April 18, 2007 9:07 AM

How about I trade some horribly embarrassing videos on my site for some tunes on yours?

Posted by: Hope at April 18, 2007 9:11 AM

You simply canNOT bait a fellow home-brew multitrack recording artist that way. I demand mp3s! Demand, I tell you! I put all of my horrible (and I do mean horrible) stuff online for the world... it isn't (that) painful. Try it... you'll see. :)

Tell you what, if you post your a-capella U2, I'll post my version of Tracy Chapman's "Baby, Can I Hold You". There is nothing worse in the world than that, I assure you. *snirk*

Posted by: martin at April 18, 2007 9:18 AM

Ah please please, pretty pleeaaaaheaaase!?!?!?

I am sure I have a tape somewhere with me singing "Cabaret", ten years old or something. One of those things i do not want my dad to find out because i am sure he'll use at some lame family event to amuse everyone.

So come on, we won't laugh, promise!

Posted by: mikkie at April 18, 2007 9:20 AM

I DID cut an original single recorded professionally. I have a MIDI tape (?...is that what you call an itsy bitsy cassette they use?) of that. Well, if by professionally you mean by a USC film student used me as a sound homework for music mixing, then yes. Did guitar, piano, and vocal...to a metronome...in the friggin' awesome Steven Spielberg sound stage.

That and one "Hey my Mac can record you singing" experiment freshman year that still haunts me. LOL.

The tape for anything else I recorded are either lost or destroyed...I hope...

Posted by: oakley at April 18, 2007 9:36 AM

I won't ask you to do anything that feels uncomfortable or embarrassing. But the mind does reel at the possibilities that lurk in your home recording library. And I confess that I'm curious. Maybe that's what Mia was looking for when she tore through your collection.

Posted by: wordgirl at April 18, 2007 9:44 AM

Oh Lord! Please post the Alice in Chains clip??? I'm quite certain that one is genius. What a great idea! C'mon... don't make us beg!

Posted by: coolchick at April 18, 2007 10:01 AM

Not to discount your story about your "sound," but I was wondering how long it would take for Mia to take care of that huge CD collection of yours!lol

Posted by: Kelly at April 18, 2007 10:15 AM

Ha! I love that Friends episode...

Posted by: Liz at April 18, 2007 10:19 AM


Posted by: sue at April 18, 2007 10:37 AM

Are you serious? A lead-in like that and not even a short clip of the fabulousness? You have totally ruined my Wednesday.

Posted by: dee at April 18, 2007 10:58 AM

Fine, then I choose to exercise my right to withhold the pudding video. No pre-teen tunes? NO PUDDING!

Posted by: smoness at April 18, 2007 12:17 PM

Um, if I can survive looking up at the tv Sunday night and seeing a picture of myself used in a commercial, you can certainly share a recording or two with us. Come on, pretty please?

Posted by: Traci at April 18, 2007 12:44 PM

I just lost all respect for you for slanding Don't Follow. That is my favorite song in the whole wide world.

Posted by: Bridget at April 18, 2007 12:51 PM

That should read 'slandering'. I'm not awake. Where is my coffee?

Posted by: Bridget at April 18, 2007 12:52 PM

Those things are great to find. When I was maybe 7 years old I used a tape recorder and taped myself reading children's poems from some book. I'm sure it was completely awful... but I wish I could find that tape.

I can share some of my husbands music that is "home recorded". He has a recording studio set up in our basement. He and friends from high school still play now. I guess that's about 20 years of playing together.


Posted by: Colleen at April 18, 2007 2:14 PM

You're such a tease! Now you have to post them. :)

Posted by: Zandria at April 18, 2007 2:16 PM

You know that these recordings are priceless:right up there with great-grandpa's letters home from the war, and grandma's attempt at recording family stories on paper. ALL must be retained and passed down through the generations. Someday, there'll be a great-grandkid that thinks ol' Pop-Pop Chris was pretty cool (or wonders what the heck a CD is).
Share with the internets before the medium is obsolete and all is lost! ;-)

Posted by: Jaycie at April 18, 2007 2:38 PM

That image of Geller is so fantastic. Nice.

Posted by: Pammer at April 18, 2007 2:59 PM

The studio where I'm currently (slowly but surely) recording is using ProTools heh. I think the program's come a long way...
And I <3 the Friends reference because I know that show way too well.

Posted by: Heather at April 18, 2007 3:32 PM

I will PAY to hear that.

Posted by: Tink at April 18, 2007 4:11 PM

This could be the start of a new career. Selling "YOUR SOUND"!

Posted by: Maribeth at April 19, 2007 6:50 AM

Yeah, I thought I was cool in college when I layered four tracks of guitar on my (you guessed it) four track recorder....all run through tons of effects. I'm glad those tapes no longer exist.

However, I did run across some old writing a while back. I couldn't bring myself to read very much of it, but I also couldn't make myself destroy it.

Posted by: Holmes at April 19, 2007 1:09 PM

I had a similar story when my oldest daughter (15 yrs ago) found my first edition "Teachers In Space" album by Feederz. Unlike your story, which has a silver lining my ends in years of sadness, searching and knowing better then to leave my music within the reach of toddlers.

Somehow my daughter had stepped on this rare piece of vinyl splitting the disc from hole to edge and after looking high and low in used CDs stores from NY to SF, I accidently stumbled upon a forum that led to a link where I could get a limited pressing on CD. While I was relieved to find this replacement, there's still a little piece of regret that I didn't use my noggin' and better protect my irreplacable music gem. I didn't make this mistake twice. Everything went up afterwards.

Posted by: Johnny Smoke at April 20, 2007 12:06 AM