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August 29, 2008 6:21 AM   Subscribe

Classic tracks: Can't seem to face up to the facts? Searching for the heart of Heart of Gold? Mix Online delves deep into your favorite jams, to find out what was in the air when they were conceived. Know what I mean? via
posted by Eideteker (24 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
These articles are interesting, thanks!

Just a quick story about "Psycho Killer." As a kid we had a crazy kitten and we'd sing only "psycho kitty, better run run away," because we had no idea what the rest of the lyrics were. Now I know why!
posted by artifarce at 6:28 AM on August 29, 2008

Whoa, lots of good reading there. Thanks.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:30 AM on August 29, 2008

Damn you Eid - I actually had some important things to do this morning, and I just keep opening new windows of Classic Tracks pieces I want to read. I'm impressed at the variety of tracks they have here - I was expecting it to be the usual "story behind the song" titles, but this is so much better.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:54 AM on August 29, 2008

posted by chillmost at 6:58 AM on August 29, 2008

Awesome post, great title.

See also, over at Sound on Sound.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:59 AM on August 29, 2008

> If you see someone playing air drums in the car stopped beside you at the red light, there's a decent chance they're playing Phil Collins' “In the Air Tonight.” The song is the quintessential air drum number. In fact, during his live concerts, Collins plays the song on piano and leaves the drum fills for the audience to play — in the air.

I would pay good money to see video of a concert audience doing this. But in the meantime, I'll look for it on YouTube.

Great post, thanks!
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:12 AM on August 29, 2008

This is fantastic. I don't know how anyone else experiences music, but for me, I've always got a song, or part of a song, running through my head. Not a melody, not the idea of a song, but the canonical, according to my memory, recording. I don't have perfect pitch, but I can tune a guitar to within a few cents by thinking about Dave Matthews' "So Much to Say." So when I read one of these, for a song with which I'm familiar, I get the nice treat of being able to hear the song while I read. It's fun. Thanks for this.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:18 AM on August 29, 2008

Good stuff, thanks!

The money quote from Byrne on Psycho Killer:
"I wanted it to be like Randy Newman doing Alice Cooper."
posted by Herodios at 7:40 AM on August 29, 2008

Interesting role played by the infant Maya Rudolph (SNL) in the making of her mom's (Minnie Riperton) song "Loving You." According to wikipedia, you can hear Riperton singing her baby's name at the end of it.
posted by luser at 7:51 AM on August 29, 2008

Fantastic post.
posted by Damn That Television at 7:55 AM on August 29, 2008

I would pay good money to see video of a concert audience doing this. But in the meantime, I'll look for it on YouTube.

I saw it on the broadcast of Live Aid. Phil Collins played both locations -- he played London in the morning, hopped on the Concorde, flew across to the US, and played again in Philly. He had a stripped down set, just him and a piano.

And at the Philly performance, when he got to the point in IN THE AIR where there's the drum break, he just left dead air -- except for the however-many-thousand people in the audience all screaming "BA-DUM BA-DUM BA-DUM BA-DUM-BUM!!!!"

If you see someone playing air drums in the car stopped beside you at the red light, there's a decent chance they're playing Phil Collins' “In the Air Tonight.”

I saw this too -- my bus driver in 7th grade hooked up a huge set of speakers on her bus and tuned into a classic rock station. One morning "In The Air" came on, and maybe only two kids noticed -- the rest of the bus kept on with their conversations or their homework or whatever. But when it came to the drumbreak, EVERY SINGLE LAST KID ON THAT BUS turned to face the back of the seat in front of them, beat out the drumbreak on the seat, and then went back to whatever they'd been doing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 AM on August 29, 2008

Awesome post, great articles!

As someone who has musical aspirations but no discernible talent with any instrument, I have always been fascinated by the music production process. In my youth, through various connections, I got to sit in on many recording & editing sessions at the BBC, both in studio at Maida Vale and on location, and loved every minute of it. I hung out with musicians both during and immediately after college and ingratiated myself with them by pretending to be a studio technician. Naturally, I love playing with Garage Band now and the MIDI keyboard we bought for the kids (yeah, right), and Brian Eno is my hero - a multi-talented producer and musician who has created or re-invented whole musical styles without (he claims) being able to play a note. I was and still am AV geek at heart.

So, yeah, I love the details and trivia about the birth of so many awesome, genre-defining tracks - once again, thanks for this outstanding set of links.
posted by kcds at 8:27 AM on August 29, 2008

This is one of the best links of the year.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:33 AM on August 29, 2008

A great story on the origin of Guns N’ Roses’ "Welcome to the Jungle."
posted by exogenous at 10:31 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I particularly enjoyed reading about "He Stopped Loving Her Today"...when I was a kid (in the late '70s, early '80s) my parents listened to almost nothing but then-contemporary country, so I heard that song a lot. I didn't really like it at the time, and therefore never really listened to the lyrics that closely. As a result, I always thought it was about a man falling out of love with his wife after many years of marriage. When I got a bit older, rediscovered the song and actually realized what it was about...damn.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:47 AM on August 29, 2008

Good post, Eideteker. I'm reading every article while listening to the subject song so I can pick out what's being described. The one on California Dreaming is really good: you can hear the male and female vocals on separate tracks, then suddenly John Philips is singing with the two women while Doherty solos on the other microphone. I'd not realized that until reading the article. The rest of my day is now fully booked.
posted by joaquim at 2:12 PM on August 29, 2008

When I got a bit older, rediscovered the song and actually realized what it was about...damn.

Definitely the saddest song I can think of. It makes Morrissey's "Seasick, Yet Still Docked" sound like ABBA. As relayed in the article, Jones quipped "Nobody will buy that morbid sonofabitch!" immediately after recording it.

This is some AWESOME stuff. I especially liked the one on Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up" (really more about the whole "This Year's Model" album), because the sound on his first two records is my idea of the perfect recorded sound for a rock band. Reading about everything they used down to the individual mics is absolutely fascinating. Even reading about songs I don't even like is great, like the way they pushed the available technology for Toto's "Africa" or Boston's first album. Total overproduced rubbish, but the process of the overproduction is interesting.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:13 PM on August 29, 2008

So apparently the gated reverberation in "In the air" is all natural.. I always thought it was digital.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:54 PM on August 29, 2008

I have zilch musical talent and zilch idea of what goes into recording a song and read every one of those articles while listening to the track at the same time. Pretty awesome.

I just love the minutiae of the particular microphones being used, and similar details. It reminds me that in any endeavor or hobby involving instruments, equipment, tools and machines of any sort--the more you're involved, the more passionate about your equipment you get. It eventually gets to the point where you see your tools as living entities, perhaps even having a soul. It's heart-warming to think that a particular sound-board simply cannot be replaced; even its stable-mates from the same workshop simply don't sound the same. If you want to get a cynical old agnostic like me to really wonder about whether there's a higher power, that's a good place to start.
posted by maxwelton at 9:18 PM on August 29, 2008

I am incapable of reading these stories without picturing them as new episodes of Yacht Rock. Which is a good thing.

Awesome, awesome post.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:24 PM on August 29, 2008

A great story on the origin of Guns N’ Roses’ "Welcome to the Jungle."

Great story, yeah, but if it's even remotely true I'll eat nothing but my own feces for the rest of my life. In about 20 years I may be as full of shit as Axl Rose.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:56 AM on August 30, 2008

Great post. Some time ago I found a page with some background on Bowie's Life On Mars and a few other famous songs and I thought of doing a FPP about that site, but the site lacked enough meat. Yours is what I wanted mine to be. (and it's also a good excuse to finally post that link to Life On Mars). Thx for the post, Eideteker.
posted by micayetoca at 7:24 AM on August 30, 2008

Thanks for that "Heart of Gold" link. It was interesting to read that version of the story, having heard Neil relate a different version, just last week. Neil made it sound like the session for Heart of Gold was a spur-of-the-moment thing, and he was just in town to do the Cash show. (as for the track itself, I liked it, at first, then stopped liking it, way back when it came out).
posted by Goofyy at 8:56 AM on August 30, 2008

I just clicked through to the Welcome to the Jungle article, and I think that "As Axl Rose purportedly makes final preparations to put out Chinese Democracy any minute now," should see widespread adoption as a general-purpose lede for articles of all divers natures. It has a delightful sense of optimism and fantasy about it; reading it, one is fairly awash in the sense that almost anything could come after that comma, that nothing is implausible. Ah, the power of words.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:15 AM on August 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

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