Overdub this!

Overdub: to add other recorded sound or music, as a supplementary instrumental or vocal track, to a taped musical track to complete or enhance a recording.

I recently purchased a CD set containing 78 songs by the late Glen Campbell, perhaps the best all-around musician I have ever seen perform. My objective was to create a playlist on my iPhone of maybe 10-15 songs. My music library that I use when driving or working out at the gym is a large collection of classical music, too much of it. I wanted some diversity, and so lately have added the Carpenters, Charlie Haden and Hank Jones, and now Glen. Man have my tastes changed over time! For each song on the Campbell CDs, the people who assembled the body of work gave full credit to the musicians who worked over the song before, during and after the vocal tract was laid down. (With Campbell, it would have been vocal and guitar, as he was among the best guitarists in the world.) Then other musicians and engineers go to work on it. For Wichita Lineman, for example, we get this:

(Song written by Jimmy Webb)

Featuring Campbell, Donald Bagley, Al Casey, Jim Gordon, Carol Kaye

Overdub musicians: Samuel Boghossian, A.D. Brisbos, Roy Canyon, Joseph DiFiore, Jesse Ahrlich, Virgil Evans, Bob Felts, Anne Goodman, Jim Horn, Dick Hyde, Norman Jeffries, Willilam Kurasch, Richard Leith, Leonard Malarsky, Michael Melvin, Wilbert Nuttycombe, Jerome Reisler, Ralph Schaffer, Sidney Sharpe, Robert Sushal, Tibor Zelig

Other than Campbell and Carol Kaye, the bassist with the Wrecking Crew (and the one who created the bass line for the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations), I do not recognize any names. Webb and Campbell would receive royalties for so long as the song was publicly played. All the rest are “session musicians” who get paid for that day’s work, and then nothing thereafter. Campbell started out as a session guy, but was so good and in such high demand that he said he would have made a good living doing session work even if he never became famous. Most session people, even as they are usually much better musicians than the ones in the famous rock bands we know, labor in obscurity. Ever heard of Tommy Tedesco?

He’s the guitarist behind that introduction to an episode of Bonanza, a huge hit TV show back in the 1960s. Maybe you’ve heard the song even if you’ve not seen the show. I realize that I am now 72 years of age, and that you are all younger. Anyway, my point is that Tedesco was a superb musician who labored in obscurity.

Campbell alone could fill up a room with music. Overdubbing is done for most to enhance and fill in dead spots, and often enough to create the impression that a mediocre singer/instrumentalist possesses more talent than he/she actually does. Since most famous musicians are of the peerage, it follows that even though given fame, they are not always that talented. Right, Taylor?

Campbell was interviewed by Bob Costas in 1991, a 40+-minute feast full of humor and charm. If you want an example of his ability to fill a room on his own, without overdub, go to minute 40 in the presentation.

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Standing Stone

Campbell could not read or write music, but he had a natural ear and could play with others who were more classically trained. He was that gifted, worked that hard. Here is something that has always puzzled me: “Paul” McCartney is credited with having written classical music, even as he too does not read or write music. In addition, he is not as naturally gifted as was Campbell. He is said to have written a symphonic piece called Standing Stone, based on a poem he wrote. I bought it, listened to it. One time. I did not care for classical music at that time, had no ear for it. I thought that since it was McCartney, it might be melodic. Maybe it was, maybe I did not give it a chance. But, as testimony to my “one time” only attitude, the work went nowhere, and is barely remembered.

I’ve written three pieces now called “Sir Faul,” the last in anticipation of his coming concert tour as he approaches age 80. Because I know he is a gifted stage performer, I am perhaps a little too interested in his work. We will never know, even as we do not know with any certainty how much of Mozart’s music was written by “Mozart”. Here is an essay about Mozart by IsaacLuria, Exploding the Myth about Mozart, in which he claims that Mozart was credited posthumously with a lot of work by other composers. There was a nationalist theme about it, German publishing houses wanting the world to think that the best music ever composed was done so by Germans. Unfortunately, it is a 10,000 word essay, and only wonks like me will ever read it. But if you are a wonk too, have at it. It is actually interesting and enjoyable.

In the comments under the last Sir Faul, I mentioned that in 1985 the Beatles’ song book was sold to Michael Jackson for a price far less than its actual value. The story at the time was that the Beatles were young and did not know how to negotiate. That does not fly. They were surrounded by powerful business interests. I said in the comments that the Beatles and Jackson were mere window dressing, and caught hell from a Jackson fan. What I meant was that it was not the Beatles who sold the music, and not Jackson who purchased it. It was hidden persons, maybe a Wrecking Crew-like assembly of song writers and musicians who actually wrote the songs and played the instruments. Maybe they wanted a payday too. That’s the only way it makes sense to me.

Paul McCartney writing classical music strikes me as an unchained ego, a man so full of himself that he thought he could do anything. Or maybe he was compensating, knowing he had taken so much credit for the work of others that he wanted to prove to himself that he was as good as his fans thought. But if you have some spare time, if you have maybe an afternoon to blow, get hold of the work called Standing St …. no. Don’t do that. Watch a baseball game instead. Watch the Cincinnati Reds, current record 4-23. It’s a far better use of your time.

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Speaking of overdubbing, I have been to many classical performances by the Colorado Symphony these past years. While we mostly attend to hear pieces we are familiar with, one thing is certain: There’s no trickery, no overdubbing, no Autotune going on. The musicians on stage, probably well-known in their musical circles, are not well known to the public. The only recognition they get from us are those standing ovations at the end of the performance. They surely like that, but I wonder if laboring in relative obscurity while playing at such a high level is its own reward.

Cutting a record, or whatever they call it now, is like watching an autopsy. Tracks are laid down separately. There are probably many, many takes before they get it right. Then it is mixed, with vocal tracks done last. Sage of Quay in a four+ hour video linked here talks about the work involved in creating a song, rehearsing it, getting it right, and then recording it. As an example, he uses the Beatles’ album from 1965 called Rubber Soul. They had just gotten off tour, took six weeks off, and arrived the the EMI studios with maybe thirty days to write, rehearse, record and mix the songs. Thereafter the records had to be stamped, the album cover designed, and then it all had to be distributed to music stores.

Could not be done, he concluded. What happened, as he sees it, is that George Martin or others unknown to us laid down the instrumental tracks, and then the Beatles came in and laid down the vocal tracks. They did not write the songs, they did not play the instruments. Sage plays a very interesting clip by Davey Jones of the Monkees where he says that his group was not the first “manufactured” rock group. It was the Beatles.

Performing live on stage in a rock concert, as opposed to a classical presentation, leaves opportunity for much monkey business. They can play silent instruments as studio tracks blast over the sound system. They can lip sync as a studio recording of their voices, possibly Autotuned, plays. They can be pitch-corrected even if singing live. The instruments and voices can be ghosted. It could be that the upcoming McCartney concerts are already in the can, the real musicians ready behind the curtains to ghost his voice and playing. I think that little of him.

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Finally, we put up bird houses on our property here, but do not have much luck attracting residents. They have to be placed in such a way that they are out of sight, and with plenty of cover around them. They cannot be near our feeders, as that generates too much traffic. They have to be high off the ground, and I just don’t have a ladder that I trust enough to use on uneven ground. Last year we put up four, and not one was occupied. Late in the winter we moved them all to new locations, and finally, we have a taker!

I have no idea what his going on here. This is a tree squirrel, and they do nest in trees. Is this now an active nest? Is that the mother feeding her brood? Is that just an animal who found a safe place to hang out? It looks fully grown.

We live in peace with tree squirrels here. They do not attack our flowers and vegetables, unlike chipmunks and ground squirrels. They do run off with bird seed, thinking they are getting away with something. They are not.

6 thoughts on “Overdub this!

  1. I see three distinct Paul’s in A Hard Day’s Night. The non twin was labeled ‘wise guy Paul’ by the chaps at the now defunct ‘The Beatles Never Existed’ forum. He had most of the actors lines in the film. His eyebrows are far less arched and he’s tall with longer limbs.
    That said, why wouldn’t they keep multiple Paul’s in play even to this day? It’s still some kind of cash cow/laundry. Ticket sales are the bulk of music income these days.
    I’m sure I mentioned this before, but a professional musician friend of mine saw Paul a few years ago and he was close enough (10 yards) to Paul to see and hear that the young drummer was lip-synching for his Faulness.

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    1. A complicating factor is that when people reach a certain level of fame, they hire body doubles. So you see a limo pull up to a theater and four moptops get out with heavy security, the odds are that the four regulars entered through an alley entrance. I think I did come across a body double at one time, perhaps as the group played Sweden.

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  2. Faul is on his 2022 tour, and I watched some of the performances on youtube which shows a very energetic 80 year old man playing those bass lines and hitting the high notes of course his band mates are helping with the vocals and there has to be background help. When many his age are usually bed ridden, can’t move their fingers, can’t talk very loud or passed away, it seems like both Faul and Ringo are beating the sands of time. I think Faul even had a child back in 2012 so everything downstairs must be werking. I’d say something fishy is in the mix or maybe it’s all in the mind. There are marathoners over 80 and I think a few over 100? That’s really amazing and I guess the saying goes you are old or young as you think you are obviously applies.

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    1. I’d forgotten, his birthday was changed from 6/18/42 to 1/8/44 (seeing two 8s?) when they made the switch … he really is going to be 80 next month. Marathoners as a group do not live as long as most people, nor do rock stars. But if he has lived a clean live, avoided vaccinations and takes no drugs of any kind, street or prescribed, then he could live well into his 90s. My problem with him is that he is a phony, and did not write the music attributed to him. He should come clean. He is no fucking Mozart, but then, neither was Mozart.

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      1. Some people will never come clean. Once the fame has gone too far, Like a shooting star…it’s gone to their head. Everyone is a “Boch, Mozart or Beethoven” once the ego kicks in… Then it falls on “deaf ears”.

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