Not Lives

Joey O posted this article from David Byrne’s site on the Boards and it got me thinking to my thought process concerning record lengths when I was a teenager. Perhaps I am thinking about getting older with turning 30 next week.

When I was in high school I used to tape copies of CDs from my friend who had a CD player. At that time I felt there was little to no benefit to a CD over a record or cassette tape sonically speaking. There was a Sony CD player my friend had in middle school and it did sound great on headphones, but perhaps my friend Jordan’s CD player in high school was simply a Radio Shack boombox. But his CD player never impressed me and it took until college to purchase one. Or rather my mother bought me one for graduating high school. Right out of the JC Penney’s catalog. And to this day I still feel moderately guilty about it. There was and still is something about vinyl records and then cassette tapes that were permanent, to me. Well at least then, more so.

But what annoyed me was the end of the album as an album. A cohesive linear piece of art or music or both. People would now speak of “Track 4” or “Number 8” – not even knowing the title of the song the artist cleverly chose. Yeah, sure people would say, “The 3rd cut on Side B,” on a record – but it was more the fact that there was that button called “Skip.” It killed the flow of records. Now you clearly didn’t have to listen to songs you didn’t want to. Granted you could do it before with a cassette or vinyl record, you just had to really REALLY not like the song to make the effort to push past it. It had to make your blood boil.

I remember driving to Ocean City once with my parents with the boom box strapped around my father’s driver’s seat. I’d listen along with the liner notes in hand. Warner Bros. Records has this varnish that they would sometimes use on one side of the notes and it smelled delectable. I can smell it now. It was almost sweet. But every time that damn Mötley Crüe song, Sticky Sweet, came on, I had to press stop and hit the fast forward button. It drove me nuts. I did the same for Here, There and Everywhere on Revolver by the Beatles. To this day, I skip it on the CD and when I play it on the same record I used to listen to with my father when I was in the single digits.

I think I am missing the point. The point was that when we would listen to the CDs, I’d copy certain records from him on to cassette. Nothing pissed us off more as when there was a CD longer than 45 minutes and you couldn’t fix two records on a Maxell XLII – you’d always have 1-2 songs on side b – and then what would happen to the rest of Side B? It was a complete disaster of filler bullshit!

Since Jordan and I were in a band together we thought if we ever made records the maximum length would always be 45 minutes so that people could copy it nicely on to their Maxell XLIIs. And of course there’d be no filler. We were rock stars, right? You’d never have to fast forward to the next track. In theory it really made sense to us, albeit a horrible business model. I think I actually lived by that rule for for a couple years after high school, if not practiced 100% of the time.

I am listening right now to the only full length record I ever recorded together with Jordan. It was actually just recorded with the two of us. I can remember pretending to be in a real studio by running extension cords in to the work room while Jordan would be in the band room singing his vocal overdubs. I guess that’s how the pro’s did it! In all the other bands I was in I would typically engineer the records with a borrowed 4 track. My friend John, who was in some of the bands with me, would teach me stuff he knew about bouncing and EQing and turning the tape around to get the backwards sounds. I feel this record was the beginning of a new sound for me. Up until that point it was the best recording and most reaching sound I had put to tape. As awful as some of the songs/lyrics are, I am actually proud of some of the recordings. Sadly not too much in my time keeping.

Without further adieu I give you the band Jordan and I were in briefly in 1994 that primarily started out as a joke. I was probably barely 17. We called ourselves NOT. And the T would extended out like an arrow, of course. And there would be a peace sign in the O, because we were a political band. Duh. The horrible and I guess ironic fact is that the record ended up timing in at just under 47 minutes.

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1. Joy – Don’t you love the 4 track hiss. That sound in the beginning was one of those keychain sound effect things held up to the guitar pickup. It was in serious need of new batteries. Jordan learned how to control his feedback that week, I guess. I also liked using my china cymbal. A lot. Can anyone say WHAMMY BAR!

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2. Your Resistance – I am making up the title as I have no earthly idea what this track was called. I figured out what happened when you cranked the gain and distorted the vocals. You can hear the feedback that must have made his ears bleed in the headphones when he was not singing. I think all these vocals were 100% ad libbed.

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3. Falling – A complete and blatant rip off of a Poster Children song from their Daisy Chain record. I’ll be the first to admit it. I think it’s even the same chords. Shhh. You also gotta love the horrible lyrics we’d write. We’d called it poetry because we were sensitive 17 year olds. Right? This was the 2nd take. I think the 1st take was better and was included on this record.

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4. Golden – I think there are three guitars. One in each channel and then one in the center that was recorded backwards the whole way through on the first take without knowing where he was in the song. I remember telling my mother who was upstairs making dinner, “20 more minutes” – as it was cranked to all the loud reaches of the earth. There’s also a keyboard part I play that was supposed to be “bass”. If you listen carefully it’s really Tristessa by the Smashing Pumpkins really slowed down.

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5. Why – This is where it falls apart. This was a song about an ex-girlfriend telling me a story that I never knew was real or not. Again, aside from the gist of the song, a lot of the lyrics are ad libbed. This was our weird attempt at being funky. Yeah, it’s true. Really. Two white Jewish guys from the suburbs. Seriously.

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6. Tails Must Die – If you played Sega Genesis you know what I am talking about. A cut we stole from the real band we were in together. Twisted Fish forever, man.

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7. Three Holes – I remember writing the lyrics to this song while I was in Montgomery Driving School. Jordan ad libbed a lot of the vocals. Clearly there was no need to record a 2nd take. I think Jordan also loved his wah wah pedal like no other.

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8. Time – Our weird trial with pretending to write a song that Metallica would write. We were that good. It’s hard listening to my flams and hearing how my time is so fucked up. But cool that Jordan made it through the guitar picking. You have to love the solid state Peavy amp.

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9. Found – The one keeper on the record, IMHO. I still kinda think it’s pretty catchy. Can you tell we listened to a lot of Smashing Pumpkins and Poster Children? Like, a lot. Again, lots of Jordan ad libbing on the vox. I love the chorus effect on his voice – Does it sound like he’s underwater too? The drum fill at 1:35 just made me cringe. Next.

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10. Falling (1st Take) – A little slower than the first version. I like Jordan’s vocals better in this even with the bum notes on guitar & drums, etc. And we clearly messed up a few cues in there. Listen, it’s kinda funny. I do like this take better. Woah, random Jimmy Chamberlin rip-off fill at 1.59.

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11. (outro) – I have no clue. Maybe it was the drugs. This apparently really made sense then.

4 Responses to “Not Lives”


  • This is great. I love going back and listening to those old 4-track cassettes I used to make with my friends in high school. About 95% garbage most of the time, but all of a sudden there will be a moment when I’ll sit up and think, “Actually, that little part wasn’t that bad.”

    You guys should have pressed “Found” onto one side of a 7″ b/w “Why.” The former sounds like this band Larva I used to listen to in high school and I love your opening fill on the latter.

  • Great that you have these so you can play them for the zygote one day and say, ‘That thar’s your pappy!’

  • Dude…this page took me back. Way back. Do you still have some Twisted Fish? You should post that too if you’re feeling up to it. This is awesome. Even back then, you were a musical wizard, and now you have your own recording studio! And perhaps not surprisingly (based on my inability to memorize lyrics), I performed in a completely improvised musical in the fall (www.imusical.org).

    And on a totally unrelated topic, congrats on the pregnancy! I just found out recently, that’s how out of touch with things I am. Couldn’t be happier for you – I trust he or she will be a brilliant musician one day.

  • Man, listening to all of these again today makes me realize those voice lessons were worth every penny. Now I can actually sing the notes I think I’m singing!

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