Now - Prima Donna

Go to content

Main menu:

Gems & Tidbits
*** Now ***
The Visionary
Woody originally proposed an electric guitar for what is now the French horns during the intro. After listening to his demo, I thought the guitar part sounded majestic so I decided to try it with French horns. After I heard it with French horns... I never looked back.

For the longest time, the new version of this song had new lyrics at the end of each verse. I was OK with them. I did change them slightly from what Woody had written so each verse had its own twist on the words. But one night while lying in bed, I decided to listen to the original album again. I realized I really liked the OOOOs much better. So a few days later I recorded the OOOOs. I did leave one round of Woody's “Analyze” lyrics in, I just slide it to the second half of the first guitar solo.

One of the bonus tracks is the Woody version that has no OOOOS, but the “Analyze” lyrics instead.

This is the first of two songs with artificial singers. I used my real voice for the three-part harmony backing vocals, but added a sequenced male choir to thicken the sound.

The way I sang the second to last “He was just a bit” was different than the other three times. I had gotten to the S of just too quickly and held it longer than the rest. So instead of rerecording it, I copied the first line and replaced the bad one.

Future Feelings
This song has been shortened by one minute and eleven seconds from its original length, yet is still the longest song on the album at 6:44.

The chanting crowd during the intro is the 2016 Plainfield East High School Concert Choir and a few variations of my voice. I also recorded the choir doing the ooohs and aaaahs for the body of the song, but the quality was sub-par (the recording, not the singing). That is why I had to find a choir I could program with the sequencer.

This is the only other song that uses fake vocals.

I'm not sure why the original version never got the harmony vocal on the second half of each verse. I think I've always heard it this way in my head.

Most of the time-saving was in the outro. Much, much less guitar solo, but I added a piano and drum solo.

I asked Woody for a piano solo for the outro and said “Kind of ‘Honky Cat’ style” meaning more of a funky upbeat piece. While waiting for his idea, I started writing my own solo piano part. When Woody sent me what he came up with, I listened to it and immediately said to myself “This is horrible.” It was slower and far more laid back than what I wanted or had already come up with. Maybe I should have said “Crocodile Rockish.” I gave it about five more listens, giving it the benefit of my doubt. It was on the sixth or seventh time through when I had my EUREKA moment. Woody wrote the LEFT hand for me. I dropped what he wrote an octave and played it with what I had for the RIGHT hand. It was exactly what was missing from what I wrote. Now that’s collaboration.

Each of the five solos in the outro ends with a slide (for lack of a better term) from a higher pitch to a lower pitch. Even the drums. No real reason. I just thought it would be fun that way.

The Messenger
In case you missed it, this song has three violins for the first verse, two for the second verse, and one for the third. The fourth verse has three violins again, but they are plucking their strings, and no violins are in the fifth verse. This is to symbolize the messenger losing hope. When I first thought about the “losing hope” concept, I was thinking full orchestration. Then as the song progressed, we would lose the brass section, then the woodwinds, then strings, etc. until all that was left was the guitar. But it wasn't very long before I decided that would have been way too big of a sound for a song that's supposed to be rather somber.

While going through instruments on the sequencer for the “Melodica solo” I listened to 8 or 9 different instruments. Then I saw in the list “Woody Reed.” No joke. I listened to it, and it sounds nearly identical to the Melodica that Woody played in 1980. I got a huge chuckle out of that and decided it was the instrument to use.

Although the guitar you hear in this song is sequenced, I did record my real fingers moving from chord to chord on my real guitar, so all of the string squeaks you hear are real.

Most of our songs that have a key change go up in pitch. Future Feelings goes up, then back down to its original pitch. This song has a single key change which goes down in pitch. Yet another symbolic representation of losing hope.

Quiet Before the Storm
It was not until working on the new album that I realized the first big chord in the intro of this song is the same as the last chord in The Messenger.

One of Woody's suggestions for this song was to change the melody on the first line of each verse. As I was trying to figure out how to do it, I had a “Sherman Brothers” moment. Anyone who has seen Saving Mr. Banks” and remembers the “Spoonful of Sugar scene will know what I mean. The first verse lyric, “As the sun sets in the western sky” and the third verse lyric, “Clouds grow darker, heavy with rain” both speak of things that would be getting lower, but the melody goes higher instead.

So... what to do about the wind issue of 1980? I know... decide to flip flop the third and fourth lines of the first and second verses. Now the third line of the song is “The air so still no movement is seen,” so there wouldn't be any wind at all now. Problem solved! Ok, there was a light breeze, but just enough to make some wind chimes chime.

There is no longer a pause between the intro and body of the song.

The birds you hear are actual birds. I spent thirty minutes recording them in my front yard one morning. Grand total of time for birds and wind chimes in the song... twenty seconds.

The rain and thunder at the end of the song came from a “relaxation” CD, though there have been days this year I could have recorded that as well!

The guitars solo in this song earns the award for being the only guitars solo I have ever played where I never touched the B or high E strings. It is also the only guitars solo where I have played down to an F# on the low E string.

Why did I just write "guitars solo"? Because like the vocals, there are two guitars playing in unison. I liked the effect on the vocal, so I decided to do it with the guitar solo as well. I'm sorry; guitars solo.

The Age of Man
This song won the award for “Most Time Removed” by having 1:18 taken out.

This is one of two songs that have the exact same lyrics for both the 1980 and 2016 albums.

I had three options for when the tubular bell would ring before the first chorus.
1. Strike the bell with final guitar strum and have a two measure delay before the chorus.
2. Strike the bell one measure after the final guitar strum and have a two measure delay before the chorus.
3. Strike the bell one measure after the final guitar strum and have a one measure delay before the chorus.
I like the longer delay when the bell rings with the last guitar strum.
I don't like the longer delay when the bell rings after the last guitar strum.
And I don't like the bell ringing with the last guitar strum enough to keep the longer delay.
So I went with the shorter delay between bell strike and chorus. Hear them all in the bonus tracks.

In contrast to Quiet Before the Storm, this song earns the award for being the only guitar solo I have ever played all the way up to the last fret available on the high E string. The only way I could have played a higher note would have been to bend the string or hit a harmonic. I managed to get a beautiful high D that actually had sustain on it, followed by a nice slide down the neck just one time. I didn't like most of the rest of that solo though, so I kept doing the solo over and over until I had one I liked. I then tacked that high D and slide on at the end. Voila!

To avoid melody repetition during the guitar solo, I decided to use the same chords, but play them in reverse order. That forced the issue of creating a new guitar solo. The contrast between the solo here and QBTS was intentional. I wanted to go from a melancholy feel to a fingers on a chalkboard feel.

There were a couple spots where the backing vocals held a note a touch too long, so I went and shortened them up digitally instead of rerecording.

I never sang the “stand” portion of the last “withstand” of this song. My voice was shot by then. So I “borrowed” it from “understand” just two lines earlier in the song. (Oops I let the cat out of the bag)

The Legacy
The reason this song was not on the original album is because it was believed to not add anything to the story, and also because of the time limitation of cassette tapes. I have always liked it, and I think it fits as a sort of recap of the first five songs before getting to New Dawn.

My 1980’s version of this song is one of the bonus tracks. In that bonus version, I wanted a “mandolin” sound for the solo, so I recorded the guitar at half speed and played it an octave low.

New Dawn
This is the other song that has the exact same lyrics for both the 1980 and 2016 albums.

The guitar duet in the body of the 1980 version was pretty much a "verse" performed by two guitars. To make the 2016 version sound less repetitive, the second guitar starts later and plays more of a counterpoint to the melody.

Woody was looking for something to tie the body and outro together. With the last line of the song being “and pray that it won't end the same way it began” the only logical thing to do was make the outro a history-repeating-itself bit. The first thing you hear is the exact same picked guitar that started The Visionary. The original bass line only needed two notes changed. After that, it goes back to the original notes.

Though the guitar solo in the outro of this song goes all the way down to the low E, I'm not playing it, Ken is. Ken's guitar playing ability outshines mine by many leaps and bounds. As I was working on the outro I asked Ken if he would play the solo for me. I knew he could get it done in as many days as it would take me months.

There are three, thirty-two measure guitar solos in this outro. My request was “I want the first section played as close to the original as possible. I don't mind if you add some flare, but keep it close. I want the second section to start with the same four measures as the original, then after that, do what you want. For the third section I want the original first eight measures, then again do what you want.” With the outro of this song running nearly three and a half minutes long, Ken and I decided that the transition into each section would be a half step up in pitch. This helped keep the solo fresh.

So Ken started working on the solo. A day or two later I get a text with a real pretty picture of Ken's finger that got “just a bit ripped from bending strings that were a bit too heavy for bending. So he needed a week or so for that to heal enough to play again. Lesson learned: Do not practice electric solos on an acoustic guitar!

At last, I received an initial demo of what he had in mind. Section one is all Ken. I left it as he recorded it. In section two he hadn't kept the first four measures, but it was a simple enough part that I could play it. I actually did the first eight measures of the second section, because for measures five through eight Ken did “Eddie Van Halen” styled triplets which I wasn't crazy about for this song. Though he did play it well. Once I got his polished version I did a little editing. Because of how I played the beginning of section two, I had to flip flop his left and right channels of that section. Section two actually runs eight measures longer than the other two, but those measures are a drum solo. Section three is all Ken again until “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” (or do you call it “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” or “The Alphabet Song”). While talking about what all would go in the solo, Ken mentioned that sometimes guitar players throw a nursery rhyme on the end of their solos just for fun. So when his final version got to me and the final eight measures was a loooong two note “Hammer-on” session, I decided I would fade that out quickly and add on “Twinkle”.

During the first section of the solo, there were two slides down the neck that in the original and in his first demo had two notes an octave apart. But on the final version, the higher octave note was missing on the second slide. So I asked if he could add that. He did and sent another file. I listened to it and it sounded just a bit too obvious that the note was added later. So I put just that part on a separate track in my audio editing software and played with the volume levels a little, and the final product sounds real good.

Back to the history-repeating-itself theme. The second and third sections do a "guitar duel" similar to the one in The Age of Man. When we get to the drum break, the drums play four different rhythms that come from various songs on the album. The first two are slight variants of what is played during this guitar solo and during the Future Feelings outro. The third is what is played heading back into each verse in The Age of Man and the forth is used in every up tempo song that has a drum break. Finally, the Twinkle, Twinkle guitar moves from left to right repeating what the Melodica and guitar do in The Messenger.

Deadlocked In Love
For 2016, it is the crowd from my “Eagles Live” album that is used. I found it to be a better sounding crowd.

After getting this song 60ish% percent finished with Ken singing the lead vocal, Bob really wanted to stick with me as the vocalist (Sorry Ken). So with the exception of the drum tracks, everything was trashed and then re-recorded with the song's key shifted down 2 full steps. That was low enough that I could sing it an octave higher than the original.

In Ken's original vocal recording, he had done what I call a primal scream leading into the guitar solo. I can't get that high. So in the final version of the song, I start the scream, but Ken provided the finish. Thank you Ken. Go to the bonus tracks to hear my failed attempt. We did keep his “Thank you very much” at the end of the song from his original recording.

Plainfield East High School Concert Choir is part of the clapping crowd after the first chorus. The rest of it is me clapping those ten beats. When I was recording the claps I was going through a device that added four additional sets of hands with varying effects each time I recorded. After about seventy times through those ten claps, Pam came down in the basement and asked “What are you doing?” A little math tells me that seven hundred claps was all she could take. In my audio editing program, I doubled (and at times tripled) each of those recordings. I think I got pretty close to having a believable crowd clapping in time with the music.

I asked Ken to sing the high backing vocal because it sounded way too strained when I sang it. But I then had to redo my vocals (yet again) because of how he wanted to add the effects for a “Live recording sound.

Just a Couple of Fools (In Love)
I really don't have much to say about this one. It took the longest to complete mainly because it was the first song we worked on. I'm pretty sure it also has the greatest amount of change done to it. Two of the four verses are completely different and one is half different. A small bridge was added after each chorus to break it up a bit.

The backing vocals are also different from 1980. According to Ken, the original song was “something I could hear the Eagles singing.” But he doesn't feel that way about the new version. I don't think he dislikes the song, it is just different and he likes the original backing vocals and lyrics much better.

Even though we said we were finished with this one in May of 2015, I changed the third verse in October 2016. It took me that long to realize I wasn't totally thrilled with those lyrics.

THIS JUST IN: The first "Finished" version of this song is now a bonus track. The song on the album has an improved version of the 1980 backing vocals and the October 2016 lyric change.
 
Back to content | Back to main menu