Friday, January 14, 2011


Me at Carol Paulus's apartment 1985

In L.A., in 1985, I was engulfed in the writing, playing, singing, and recording of half a dozen, or more, new songs.

I'd taken over Carol's den and made it into a mini recording studio, as well as my bedroom. It was more like a prison cell with instruments and speakers than anything else.

I would lay down a guitar track first, in most cases, with each new song, and then begin the tedious job of adding other instrumentation and my vocals. The bass and drums were played, by me, on a keyboard with various voices, as they're called, or instruments built into the keyboard.

Learning to keep track of everything at once, drove me crazy at first, but improved as I kept at it. When I'd overdub something, because I was working with analog equipment, I'd pick up a lot of tape hiss from the recording heads.

I had to EQ it out of every track I added to keep the recordings as clean as possible, and not let that build up. It wasn't like I had real good equipment, so hard work and patience proved invaluable over time.

On Voodoo Blues, which was a basic Bo Diddley beat, I used a tremolo effect on the electric rhythm guitar parts. The maracas, or shakers, were actually a bottle of vitamin pills I used for that effect.

On the lead guitar parts, I used a Rockman effects box, which could also be used for various reverb, distortion, and echo effects.

For those who haven't worked with analog, or don't know what I'm talking about, I'll try to explain.

In analog tape recording you literally have a piece of magnetic recording tape running across, what are called recording heads on the tape recorder, which cause noise or hiss on the recording.

Initially that's not too much to worry about, but as you add more tracks, overdubs, you begin to re-record the initial noise, or hiss, picked up from the previous tracks recorded.

You can use Dolby to knock the hiss down, but it squashes a lot of the good sound you may want to keep, so I don't use it. That is why I had to EQ, or equalize, each separate track with a piece of equipment called an equalizer.

It was imperative to do this on some songs more than others, to ensure in the final outcome that I didn't end up with recordings that had enormous amounts of hiss on them.

Once I added a new track to the recording, I had to make sure it was OK, because I could not go back later and fix it. It became part of the overall recording as I went along. I only had four tracks, so I had to keep combining tracks to create room for another overdub track.

As you might imagine, this kept me on my toes, and tense as hell, while engaged in the effort of recording. Any outside distraction would cause me to lose sight of what I was doing, or worse yet, get recorded onto tape as I tried to overdub.

These kinds of distractions were: telephones ringing in the middle of recording, airplanes, dogs barking, someone bursting through the door, or knocking on it, etc.

Voodoo Blues was fortunately a purposely noisy recording with high-end noise, like the maracas, which could join in with unwanted sounds, such as hiss.

Again it was a blues song, and once more, deterred Carol from any real support for what I was doing.


  1. Man, I love this stuff. I like the two voices on this one, the high, background wail and the low Bo Diddley/Tom Rush growl on the lead. Very cool.

    You really did a marvelous job on reel to reel overdubs.

    In 1977, my generic Christmas gift was a cassette of instrumental improvs that I recorded on reel to reel. Nothing as serious or ambitious as your work; really just a lark done because I love acoustic guitar instrumentals. A few had specific licks and progressions that I had worked out, and a couple were full-fledged compositions, but most were just the result of letting the recorder run while I noodled for an hour or so until the tape ran out. Then I cut individual segments into "tracks."

    One of the best pieces that I fell into was a spontaneous version of Corrinna, Corrinna which started with a reminiscence of Bruce Langhorne's playing on Bob Dylan's recording followed by an echo of the structure and pacing of Taj Mahal and Jesse Ed Davis's very different version. Between the two versions was a little random variation ala John Fahey-type fantasias.

    I had been playing something else in the D-tuning when this thing just popped into my head. Right at the end of the second run through, you can hear the phone ringing in the background, a quick one-second ending with guitar harmonics, and me saying sarcastically, "Sure!"

    It was actually a fortuitous and funny ending. I wound up calling it "Corrinna Calling" and included it on my "Instruments of Torture—Cruel and Unusual PUNishments" collection. My piece from "Undress Ye Hairy Gentlemen" called "Duet for Birds and Guitar" you might have heard on my Instrumental Travelogues section on my YouTube site. That one was literally opening the window to the backyard and improvising to the birds chirping. Unfortunately, at this point all I have is a third- (or fourth) generation cassette copy, and the tape hiss and electronic buzz are terrible. Thus concludes my tales of the "analog days."

    You really have done a marvelous job of preserving and restoring these terrific recordings. They are a joy to hear.

  2. I agree too, with what Tim said here, and if I may, I'll quote: "You really have done a marvelous job of preserving and restoring these terrific recordings. They are a joy to hear." Yes, Bobby, absolutely, they are!
    These "Closet Recordings" are truly among my favorites, not just of your work, but anywhere.
    Also, I don't think I've commented on this blog in a while, so I wanted to let you know that I have been reading, and re-reading, every chance I get.