Wednesday, March 5, 2008
(part 36) RECORDING THE CHRIS LUCEY ALBUM 1965
Along with Randy Wood and Abe Somer there were others who shared the offices that made up Mira/Surrey Records. Phil Turetsky, one of the better people I met in the music business, also had an office in that suite. Phil had, among other things, Pacific Jazz Records. He was also a business manager and his primary client and music partner was Johnny Rivers, who at the time was doing very well with both with live performances at the Whiskey A Go Go, and hit records like "Memphis."
I got to know Phil pretty well. I would watch him sitting behind a desk reclining in a chair like he was on vacation. He seemed to know where all the bodies were buried, let's say. He wasn't like anyone else I knew in the music business. He didn't make moves on you, or if he did, they were so subtle and well placed that you either didn't notice or didn't care. I liked Phil and we got to be pretty close over time, as you will see later.
I continued writing the songs for Chris Lucey and ended up with nine completed songs and a tenth one without lyrics. It was good enough for Randy who was chomping at the bit to get into the studio and start recording them. Like I said, Marshall Lieb was not a pleasant guy to work with, so when I would try to get him to talk to me about what his plans were for the album he refused to tell me anything and would not allow any input from me.
I complained bitterly about this and threatened not to cut the damn record if he kept it up. Randy intervened to some degree, but not enough to give me much of a chance to have any real say about who was gonna play on it. Marshall had his mind made up from the outset, and I guess it worked out OK in the long run. I did not know any of the players that he got for the Chris Lucey album, and to this day I can't tell you who played on that record. I don't know if it was a union date or if it was done under the table.
We recorded it at American Studios on Ventura Blvd. in North Hollywood. It had been a house and was converted into a recording studio by the engineer who I believe owned it. I do not remember his name. This may all sound pretty vague to the reader, but that's the way this record was done. Everything about it was hit and miss. Randy was so cheap that I would assume the whole thing was done non-union and recorded at a relatively cheaper studio on purpose. He just wanted a record any way he could get it. In the end I was not paid any more for playing on the album or singing all the songs. All I received was the original $200 or $250 for everything I did on that record.
As we began laying down the first basic tracks, I was pleasantly surprised to hear how Marshall had charted them out. They began taking on a distinct personality from the beginning, and I was able to interact with the musicians more and more. Randy Wood was pleased with what was happening. I think he was surprised that the whole project was ending up a lot better than what he'd originally anticipated. Marshall's choice of instruments was odd to me at first, but created a unique texture for the songs. We thought up creative ways to use them in the best possible way, like the echo on the piano in "That's The Way The World Has Got To Be." "I Got The Blues" was distinctly folk rockish and was most likely influenced by the recently released Byrds version of "Mr Tambourine Man" which came out in 1965.
The album's problem, in a way, was that it couldn't decide whether it was blues, jazz, pop, or folk rock, so what you get is a combination of all those elements mashed together. The song "Saline" has a guitar part that was played, by the engineer, directly into the mixing board so it has a distinct and very alive sound. The echo chamber in this place was an old tile covered shower stall with a stand up mic in the middle of it. Patch cords everywhere and things that worked and didn't work with great regularity.
The song "I'll Remember Them" was the tenth song I mentioned, which I hadn't written lyrics for. I told them just play the track and I'll make something up. So the lyrics to that particular song were made up as I recorded it. One take, one song. That more than anything else sums up Chris Lucey. If you don't have it, wing it. The whole damn record was "wingin' it." It's also part of the magic, if there is any, to the process. Everybody was inventing it as we made it, and that's what gives it it's particular feel.
Various changes in music were occurring everyday in the industry, and Chris Lucey was being created as these changes were happening. This is not an over statement! One day no Byrds, the next day The Byrds, or Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone". Everybody was scrambling to try and figure out what was happening musically. At the time, this was a state of massive confusion. It is far easier to look back now than it was to see forward back then. Anyway, in the midst of all this upheaval Chris Lucey was born out of a mistake with contracts, with another artist, and a printer who changed the letter D into an L. That's why and how Chris Lucey even exists. It was born out of a fluke and I became it's voice and it's music and words.