Then - Prima Donna

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Gems & Tidbits
*** Then ***
The Visionary
The octave vocal split was more necessity than planned. The song needed “something” and that was what we decided it needed.

Future Feelings
In an effort to make the background “chants” during the intro sound more like a crowd, Bob, Woody, and I stood about ten feet away from the microphone, hoping for some room echo. It failed.

In the body of the song, there wasn’t a cue for Leroy to start playing, thus the lack of drums through the first line of lyrics.

The last two lines of the second verse First I'll choose all the people I think I should save, and also the ones who'd do their best in a grave were really not liked by my mom. Nobody should play god! is what I heard on more than one occasion. I would always say It's just a song. Not reality. Dear Mom, I hope you like the new lyrics better.

Check out Whacka-Daka Bob on acoustic at the beginning of the outro. He was the newest guitar player of the group, and this lets that fact shine. To be fair, I have heard Bob play since then, and he has turned into a pretty good guitar player.

A lot of the repetition in the guitar solo will get removed in 35 years.

The Messenger
I have fat(ish) fingers. So again in an effort to get the best recording, I used my 12 string guitar with all the octave strings removed. That gave my fingers more room to do the picking and less tripping on strings while changing chords.

To get a distant sound for the Melodica during the solo (a Melodica being a small keyboard you blow into to play), Woody stood on a chair facing the corner of the room with his back to the microphone. As he played, he slowly turned around and stepped off the chair. Then as he was finishing the solo he turned back to the corner and stepped back up on the chair.

Quiet Before the Storm
I learned the intro bass line about 15 to 20 minutes before we recorded it. (Some spots make that obvious)

Oh for the love of wind. After the intro, we spun the tape forward “a little” because it was not decided yet how we were getting from the intro to the body of the song. Synthesized wind ended up being the answer. I don't think we realized at the time that there were two minutes and ten seconds of wind, and forty seven seconds of ONLY wind.

The doubled up vocals on this song were not planned. After the initial recording was done, the original vocal was just far too quiet. So as the drums were being recorded, I sang the vocal again. As it turns out, we all ended up liking the effect.

Probably the biggest debate of 1980 was A man and his dog slowly walk by (by me the lyricist) VS. A man and his dog walk slowly by (by Woody the music writer) I won. Of course I was also the singer... so that helped my case as well.

Another brief lyrical debate was about As the sun is setting in the western sky. Woody said something to the effect of We aren’t mentioning where this is taking place anywhere else. and wanted it changed. My counter was “It doesn’t matter where this is taking place. Everywhere in the world, the sun goes down in the western sky.” After all, I didn't say it was going down over the ocean, or desert, or Pikes Peak. Just in the sky.

There is what sounds like two picked notes on the guitar right after Main Street’s empty (5:09). The best we can figure is that Bob had a finger nail catch a string as he was changing chords. The notes fit, so we chose not to record the whole song again.

The Age of Man
Yet another song where Leroy had no audible cue to let him know when to start playing, so he starts later than what would seem normal.

How to destroy one's voice... sing the highest notes you can three times in a row for a six-and-a-half-minute song. It hurts my ears to listen to that last chorus.

We had no set plan for how we would finish this song as we were recording it. Once we finally figured it out we had to go back and record the ending. But we didn't quite get the volume levels the same (5:55).

New Dawn
This is one of my favorite songs, and my favorite “mistakes” are in it. I'll start this off by saying Woody and I each came up with a guitar solo for this song. I recorded both of them, then came up with the idea to play two measures of one then two measures of the other, doing this back and forth through the solo. After that, we came up with a harmony guitar part to go with it. So I learned both the newly created part and the harmony part. When it came time to record I screwed up the first guitar's part by landing a fret shy and sliding up to the correct note (1:15). Then after being flustered by the first mistake, I hesitated (1:23) afraid I would screw it up again. We listened to it and it didn't sound that bad, but I knew it wouldn't sound right if I played the second guitar part correctly. So I spent 20 minutes or so learning where to screw up the second guitar part so they BOTH slide up on the same note and hesitated on the same note. We are professionals after all.

The outro of this song is one of the few times where Leroy played drums as we played guitar. In that regard the drums are good. But since the guitar solo was not recorded until a few weeks later and there were no key changes as cues either, Leroy had nothing to base drum breaks or runs on. So you will hear some out of place (yet in time) drumming here and there.

We did have a weird recording incident which I still don't know how it happened. From 4:11 to 4:13 you hear the drum levels increase and then the hi-hat cymbal hit is real loud.

Deadlocked In Love
This song was recorded as a “Chipmunk Punk” song by me before we recorded it for this album. I also had a chipmunk do the “Ladies And Gentlemen” part. We all seemed to like it, so with the help of my Frampton Comes Alive album, Prima Donna had a live recording. The Chipmunk version is funny, so I included it with the bonus track stuff.

This song marks Bob's most recognizable vocal contribution. He played the role of MC.

Just a Couple of Fools (In Love)
I don't remember if Woody wrote the first verse of this song or me. But we pretty much each wrote every other verse, and worked together on the chorus.

We purposely wrote this as a gender-neutral song.

Rock and Roll All Nite
This is the only song where Leroy did any vocal work. Unless he was part of the chanting crowd on Future Feelings.

Ken also points out that we are not playing the correct chord progression. What do we know? Contrary to comments made above for New Dawn, we're not professionals!
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