At the half way point of this 2010 experiment, I’ve got something very special to post: my first ever intentional recording of a song, which was also my first experience playing with a band that I put together. It’s from spring ’86 and called “Venus on Earth.”
I had some little music composition program on my Apple IIe that let me type in notes and play them back to me, and so I mapped out a bunch of variations of this little progression, only the simplest of which actually made it into the song. The introduction was inspired by some music from the movie “Something Wicked This Way Comes” that I’d seen on cable a few times, plus the cheesy wind and laser noises that were built in sounds on Brian’s Casio CZ-5000 (used to much greater effect in our later effort). The guitarist (Pete Catsaros) had never actually played guitar before doing this with us, and didn’t know how to play any chords; he just played the same riffs I played on bass, though not always at the same time, with the keyboard covering the chords. Then the lyrics… god, the lyrics are bad, and sung with a weird, quirky English inflection that can only be the 80s at work in me. I can’t imagine what inspired them other than thinking that the words themselves just sounded cool apart from any consideration of their meaning: “I have the indication it’s not infatuation. It’s a different situation that’s worthy of your station.” My favorite part is where I go “…for all eternity- he-e-e hee hee.” Just unintentionally f’in funny.
We didn’t know any drummers, but were referred to a guy a couple years older than us who was in the marching band (whose name I don’t recall), and he came in and was actually the most competent of the lot of us. He said my song was too monotonous and suggested the alternate chord progression that comes in in the middle of the song, so he gets a co-writing credit, not that he would want it. The song was recorded with instruments live to boom box, with no external mics involved, and then with one tape-to-tape overdub for me to do the singing and Brian and Pete to do some lame backing vocals near the end.
Our impetus here was to record a song to try out for the school variety show. We were not accepted. We met a few times over the rest of that school year to play some songs by The Cars and jam with a few different musicians, like the guitar player (whom I new as an accomplished cellist through orchestra) who dropped to his knees before his amp and wailed away the whole time… very much not our style. At one point, I tried to get the group to learn Billy Joel’s mostly a capella doo-wop song “For the Longest Time” despite the fact that I was the only one in the group who sang. We added my friend Sanj on sax, who could only play parts I wrote out for him (and I didn’t figure out the whole “you have to transpose for sax” thing until a session or two in) and a second keyboardist, but never another drummer. Finally Brian dissolved the thing as simply pathetic, and it didn’t start up until the following fall, when we put together the first group version of “Run Away” to try out for the 1988 variety show. In that case, we were successful.