Today I present the crown jewel of my high school band years: The Spring ’89 version of “Run Away.”
I’ve previously blogged about this song, which is pretty cheesy, but pleasurable, I think. This version owes a lot to the keyboard programming of the last couple of albums by The Cars (my favorite band at the time). The story of The Backdrop, the band that gave rise to this, can be found here. The important point was that with this band, and the maybe four songs we programmed in this way, I had pretty much total control over orchestration, and in this case, this was the third studio recording I’d made of this with my keyboardist Brian Greenfield, and the fifth recording overall. Previous to this (and after all those four other recordings) we had put together a large group to play this at the school variety show, but for this version, I reasserted control, doing all the nine vocal parts myself and all the guitars except for the guitar solo (played by Mike Goldberg, which solo I complained about at the time as being too much like Chuck Berry and having little to do with the song, but which I like just fine now; I may have been responsible for putting it through my phaser pedal, but I’m not sure). The sax is by one of my best friends Sanj Ghogale, playing a part I wrote out for him.
We had a more elaborate drum machine program that we’d used for earlier versions; this version just leaves in the hi-hat and hand claps and a couple of other things. I think the plan was to have a real drummer overdub the rest of it, but we never got around to it, and I think I thought it was fine as is. Now that I’ve added a mess of noise reduction, it actually makes the piercing drum machine hi-hat sound more like a shaker, so I actually like that.
Some of this was actually recorded on the school’s 8-track reel-to-reel recorder, but then it got bounced to Brian’s new cassette 4-track for the last couple of overdubs. This makes it just about the only recording of mine from before ’91 that doesn’t sound absolutely terrible.
When we played this live (for the variety show in spring ’88; I forget whether we revived it for our one of our few other gigs, at the “gym jam” near the end of ’89 where we played covers by U2, Huey Lewis, R.E.M., etc.), there was some conflict in the band between the whole “Mark is the composer and gets to tell everyone exactly what to do” faction and the fact that I had two guitarists playing very simple parts and a drummer who initially was asked to play along with this drum machine part (later in the process, the drum machine was eliminated, but the synths still used a sequencer, so the drummer had to use headphones with a click track on them; very 80’s!). This taught me a more hands-off approach to arranging that I’ve since used with bands, and given that I don’t typically take 2 years arranging a single song now, I don’t have time for that kind of detail work anyway, but I’ve long wanted to get a real mastery of computer music programming now that it’s so much easier (i.e. software I currently possess but haven’t figured out how to use can do it) and do some really complex arranging. It’ll happen some day.