Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Songs #31, 32, 33 & 34 of 9999 - A Quadruple play!

Transatlantic air travel and a nasty cold forced a two-day hiatus from my blog. Today, I catch up and then some with an unprecedented and truly ridiculous QUADRUPLE PLAY which links four songs, including one of my own just to add an element of shameless self-promotion. Let's begin!

Song #31 of 9999
Title: Be My Baby              
Artist: The Ronettes
Year: 1963
Album: Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes

This is the song that started it all with a drumbeat drenched in reverb and a production style that would become famously known as the "Wall of Sound." Phil Spector wrote, arranged and produced the song for the group The Ronettes, named for lead singer Ronnie Bennett who would later become Spector's wife. His unique production style included doubling or tripling instrumental lines, adding orchestral instruments and percussion, and projecting the sound into an echo chamber where it would be re-recorded. The song is considered one of the greatest pop songs in history and led to...

Song #32 of 9999
Title: Don't Worry Baby           
Artist: The Beach Boys
Year: 1965
Album: Shut Down, Volume 2

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys was obsessed with "Be My Baby," claiming he listened to the song 100 times a day! Wilson set out to write and record the "male answer" to "Be My Baby" and "Don't Worry Baby" is his effort. In my opinion, Wilson not only matched the Spector creation, but surpassed it. I won't argue which production is better, but those large-interval leaps in the verses and pre-chorus make me giddy every time I hear the song. Fast-forward a dozen years or so to... 

Song #33 of 9999
Title: Say Goodbye to Hollywood
Artist: Billy Joel
Year: 1976
Album: Turnstiles

Man, remember when Billy Joel wrote really great songs? Raw emotional songs that are arguably the equivalent of Springsteen's early work. Opening the track, we have the familiar "Be My Baby" drum beat married to the "root   root-root  5th" pedal bass line from "Don't Worry Baby." Although the subject matter has changed, Joel does manage to work the word "baby" into the chorus, which I appreciate. The only mis-step in this studio recording is the disco beat of the bridge, which Joel wisely toned down for the live version released in 1981 to great acclaim. Which brings me to....

Song #34 of 9999
Title: Stairway to the Moon             
Artist:Frankie Big Face
Year: 2006
Album: N/A

Click here to listen! (Sorry--my songs don't have awesome YouTube videos)

Listen, I'm not comparing myself to any of these artists so let's get that out of the way from the start. But when I first learned of the link between "Be My Baby" and "Don't Worry Baby," I was immediately determined to write my own "response song." My parameters were pretty simple: the song had to retain the original drum beat and tempo (I sampled it), the chorus had to have significant use of the word "baby" and there needed to be a ton of backing vocals. I kept the pedal bass at the beginning, wrote some typical FBF lyrics (with one particularly clever line--"I'm gonna find the devil who did this if I gotta check every mirror in this town"), added some "96 Tears"-style organ and voilĂ !

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