Boston Globe (interview)
The Metro (interview)
have been called "the best laid plans".
the Brill bedroom...well, the Brill building was the office bulding
in NYC where all the great '60s writers and publishers
had offices: Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Lieber and Stoller,
Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, Neil Diamond, Paul Anka, Don
Kirschner -- the people behind some of the great pop songs of the
early '60s. Al Kooper points out that a lot of the important
offices were actually in another building around the corner,
but they still call it the Brill building scene. I call my home
studio the Brill bedroom because it’s where I got to pretend
that I can write with as much skill as those people. Sometimes
I do it just like they would have: “we need an A-side for
Lesley Gore by tomorrow.”
is no big whoop. It’s a state-of-the-art 1981 Otari MX
5050 1/2” reel to reel 8 track recorder and two mic pres.
I have a Joe Meek VC6Q pre that I use for British sounds and
a Universal Audio LA-610 that I use for California sounds. I’ve
also got a Mac with Pro Tools, but that comes into play much
later in the process. I try to get the essence of the song, the
really vital stuff, onto those 8 tracks. I figure most of the
classic hits that make up the soundtrack to our collective consciousness
were done on 8 tracks and less and it’s often useful to
impose limitations on oneself. It helps keep me focused.
the studio, I have my Hofner violin bass with black tapewound
strings, my Epiphone Casino, My Ric 12 string (are you seeing
a thread developing?), my Gretsch, my Baldwin electric piano,
my RMI electric harpsichord and my Taylor jumbo acoustic. I also
have a very vital plum shaped shaker and a green tamborine.
From The Brill Bedroom
A little 2 minute Abbey Road medley of snippets that I stuck together. Funny
how when you do those random things, you often impose a coherence just by accident.
Gin & Panic
This one is actually me railing at my own obsolescence at the tail end of The
Pills. It’s me just giving myself a good going over, like “Well,
what are you gonna do now, smarty pants? Move to another city or what?” A
good rule of thumb is that whenever I start getting nasty in a lyric, I'm
probably talking to myself. I save my deepest scorn for such situations.
This song owes a lot to "All Things Must Pass" an album I've
always loved, but listened to non-stop for about 8 months while making
Me Under Regret
There were two ideas going on in this one. I had this vague idea of writing
a show tune for Ad Frank -- almost an imaginary big finish to his imaginary revue
of American music of this century. Picture him decending on a glowing half
moon weraing a fabulous Bob Mackie gown like Liza. The other thing is that
I’ve always had a thing for the librarian in Tears For Fears’ “Head
Over Heels” video and I imagined something like that, but with a sceretary,
an office girl. So, this one is for all the working girls out there. And Ad
This is somehow related to “Dear Madam Barnum” by XTC, but sounds
nothing like it.
Written after a night of drunken karaoke at Lucky Jackson’s birthday
party a few years ago. Lucky is a beautiful guy, so I was inspired to pull
out all the stops that night and did a wailing version of “Without you” by
Harry Nilsson -- I think I pulled a muscle on the high note, actually. Another
song for the working girls, I suppose, but they’re sneaking out of work
in this one, so that’s good. I always think of my friend Melissa (queen
of air drumming) when I sing the line about a smoky lunchtime bar in the middle
of Rhode Island. She’s from Rhode Island, see? I wasn’t sure I’d
be able to get real string players for this so there is a track of an Epiphone
electric guitar in Nashville tuning, through a Leslie simulator, being bowed
with a guitar string. See what i get up to when left to my own devices?
Written in the secret Bob Dylan “Blood On the Tracks” guitar tuning --
DAD F#AD. He borrowed it form Joni Mitchell and I used it to write a faux Tom
Petty "Wildflowers" song. One of two songs recorded totally live during the mixing
of the album. I tied MattB’s right hand down so he couldn’t play
hi-hat or do any fills. He snuck a few in anyway. One can only guess what appendage
was used. He sounds great on this one, doesn’t he?
My banjo debut! Written as an unabashed Shins rip-off and then I did everything
I could to make it its own song. It definitely took a major step up
in the quality department when I sent the tracks to sunny California for a
special West Coast harmonic pixie-dust treatment by Paula Kelley and Aaron
Tap. Instant pop bliss with those two. I had an English teacher in 8th grade
who made us write a letter to our future selves with all our hopes and dreams.
Sometimes I see that little guy looking back in the mirror and I always want
to apologize for letting him down -- but then I see the same little guy in my
son’s eyes and I feel such a sense of hope. Er...but, yeah, I LOVE the
Shins, don’t you?
This is the direct result of me purchasing this amazing early '70s Baldwin
electric piano -- it’s a mini piano with a castiron frame and hammers and
everything, but wrapped in white formica. I hadn’t written a piano song
in years and immediately out plopped this...geez, I don’t know what you’d
call it. This is the other song recorded during the mixing and my voice was
crap -- I couldn’t do any of the Barry Gibb falsetto runs I had planned,
but MattB gave me the thumbs up, so I left the live vocal. You ever see “This
Boy’s Life”? At the end, the kid escapes to the Hill School in
Pottstown, PA. For the record, I know exactly what ironic means.
This started out as a sketch I did in Cardiff with my friend, Martin. I thought
it would sound like The Band, but it had too many f-ing chords (as always).
I finished it at home, but then thought it appropriate to send back to Martin
to twiddle and de-construct. I love Martin -- he always tells me my voice sounds
like Glenn Tilbrook and that endears him to me more than you can possibly imagine.
“Dandelion”, my favorite Rollng Stones song of all time, with a
bit of the Hollies as well. Based on a truly lysergic Halloween party I went
to once that was thrown by a champagne company. Everybody got way twisted and
all these yellow candles started raining down from the bookshelves like naplam.
Anyway, there was a girl in a ladybug costume.
Moment Of Weakness
Well, this one just has ridiculous chord changes -- I was trying to do a Bacharach
thing on the bridge, but see he’s really talented. I only have the option
of kicking up a lot of harmonic dust to confuse things. Special George Harrison
merit badge to Mike on the pedal steel. He does this one re-harmonization in
the bridge that is this really sour 6 chord inverted (or something) against
what I’m playing and it sounds like Aaron Copland. It’s one thick-ass chord, that’s for sure. It makes my cat nervous.
Cure For The Cambridge Common Cold
Some of these songs have been around for a little while, but this one goes
back to before The Pills. It’s so old that “Skyway” by the
Replacements was current when it was written, and thus I could not use the
song at the time. I saw it as an excuse to play some Nashville tuning acoustic --
and I’m always up for that.
Well, I love Roy. I’ve had more than one person come up to me at shows
telling me how much they loved my Roy Orbison cover, that it’s one of
their favorite songs of his. One friend even told me he saw him do it live.
I take that all as a compliment because I was really trying hard to write a
good one for Roy. If I was any kind of a man I would have tracked down Joe Nelson
to record this one, but I think we did our best to sound authentic. Now, quick,
somebody get this to Chris Isaak so he can have a hit with it. Isaac from the
Love Boat, even.
My man, Harry Nilsson. Sometimes, someone else writes a song that expresses
exactly how you feel and you’re better off just doing that song -- especially
on ukulele if possible. With the birth of my boy, Harrison, I realize that
the sadness in me (and in all of us) is a cancer that gets passed down form
generation to generation and all that I want for him in the whole world is
to be happy. I hung a painting over his crib witha big yellow bee and the words “Bee
Happy”. He hasn’t yet realized it’s an order.
like the album, I worked hard on it. Feel free to copy your favorite
songs for friends.