Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon

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Confessions of a Session Musician

Tonight I finished the rest of that Elvis Presley karaoke project. I'm really pleased with the recordings we have, and am pretty sure the studio feels the same way. No idea when the book is coming out, but I expect each and every one of you to buy it.

No, I'm kidding. I'm getting paid in a lump sum after I invoice the publisher. I won't see any royalties from this.

It's been a good experience and may -- crossing my fingers here -- lead to similar gigs. This is my first time doing any professional work and definitely the first time doing anything like this where I didn't really know anybody involved in the project. I learned a lot about Elvis too, mostly that his songs are almost always in the key of C major, and they're so similar that you can't tell most of them apart before the verse starts. Apparently the King employed hacks.

Anyway, here's what we recorded, listed in order, with director's commentary which would be so much better if you had the recordings for reference:
  • Good Luck Charm: I thought I knew the words to this song, but even after listening to it nonstop during the weekend before recording, I still managed to make up my own version -- stupid little things like "I want a good luck charm hangin' offa my arm" when I should have been singing "hangin' on my arm." My lyrics were not subtantially better than the originals, but they fit the rhythm better.

  • Don't Be Cruel: This one was really difficult for me. It's full of staccato notes which are near the bottom of my range, and it's really hard to hit those on the right pitch. If offBeat were singing this, I'd be able to get away with changing the syllable being sung from "bop" to something else which would have helped me hit the right pitches, but I couldn't because the studio is trying to reproduce the songs verbatim.

  • (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear: This song gets the same criticism as Don't Be Cruel, except that I kept wanting to steer the bass part in directions where it wasn't supposed to go. I swear, I could make a much more interesting bass part of this song. There's some really interesting stuff going on in the background harmonies which I never realized before simply because I'm not crazy about Elvis.

  • Treat Me Nice: This is the last one we recorded last week. At first this felt like it was going to be really quick, but it took us nearly two hours because the bass in the original version is clearly babbling into the mic. We listened over and over to figure out what the guy is saying. I've transcribed our translation of the second verse below:
    Bip bay bep hey
    wep hep hey
    bop hap hey
    hep hey bep hey!
    I could probably write better lyrics than those (probably). In other news, it kind of figures that the song which most features my voice is also the one that most embarrasses me.

  • Can't Help Falling in Love: We thought this one would take forever, but in fact it's not difficult... as long as you're singing bass. It's not obvious on casual listening, but the original version is sung by a small choir (maybe 20 people). I just had to pick out a bass part and then sing it a couple of times. The other guy -- who has been recording separately -- spent hours and hours on it.

  • Love Me: I'm very serious about thinking that the Jordanaires' bass was probably making up all of his parts in the studio. Listening hard to this one, there are places where he stops singing for no apparent reason. It's not for effect, it doesn't sound any better, he just sings one verse and when he repeats it, he suddenly stops and comes back in a moment later. Crazy.

  • I Want You, I Need You, I Love You: There's a ridiculously low note in this song. Like, ridiculously low. Can I hit it? Yes I can. Can I make it full and strong when I hit it? Maybe. Depends on the day, I guess. Today was not the day, but it'll sound fine thanks to the magic of the recording studio.
The song Blue Suede Shoes will also be included, but there are no backing vocals on that one.

We'd saved the songs we anticipated to be hardest for today, and we pretty much whipped through them. This makes me very nervous. Did we get enough takes of the "doo wah doo wah"s in Love Me? Did we accidentally forget to record a huge chunk of Can't Help Falling In Love? I assume not, but I'm terribly paranoid about it. Anyway, I'm being paid per song not per hour, so I'm sure they'll call me if they need me to come back.

I imagine I'll post about the book when it comes out, but in case I forget, you'll be able to recognize it from the smug stench of egotism coming from my livejournal.
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