Friday, February 1, 2019

John Lennon - Oldies But Mouldies

John Lennon – Oldies But Mouldies
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  Here We Go Again
2.  You Can’t Catch Me
3.  To Know Her Is To Love Her
4.  Be My Baby

Side B:
5.  Bony Moronie
6.  My Baby Left Me
7.  Angel Baby
8.  Sweet Little Sixteen
9.  Just Because

This is a reconstruction of the unreleased 1973 John Lennon/Phil Spector collaboration album Oldies But Mouldies, recorded in the midst of Lennon’s infamous “Lost Weekend”.  Put on hold when Phil Spector mysteriously disappeared with the mastertapes, the album was later recovered, mostly rerecorded and released as the Rock ‘n’ Roll album in 1975.  This reconstruction attempts to not only present a more listenable product, but to present what the album would have sounded like before it became Rock ‘n’ Roll. 

After being literally inseparable for five years, Yoko Ono sensed John Lennon’s wondering eye and questioned if he was able to remain loyal to her.  Her solution was to kick him out, allowing him to “sow his wild oats” and get “it” out of his system.  Accompanied by his assistant May Pang (who was essentially authorized by Yoko to be Lennon’s mistress), Lennon departed to Los Angeles in September 1973, looking for a good time... and more.  What was supposed to be a two-week stay became fourteen months of chaos and debauchery—both in the clubs and the recording studio.

The seeds of the Oldies But Mouldies album—which was also provisionally titled Back To Mono—were apparently two events: Lennon meeting his heroes Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino, and a lawsuit by music publisher Morris Levy.  Lennon had nicked a line from Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me” for The Beatles classic “Come Together” and an out-of-court settlement stipulated that Lennon was to cover three songs from Levy’s Big Seven publishing catalog, earning royalties for Levy in lieu of any further litigation and the embarrassing co-writing credit to the Lennon/McCartney song.  Drunkenly giving in, Lennon decided to make a party of it and record an entire album of 1950s rockers and ballads that had influenced him as a teenager.  To top it off, he invited legendary producer Phil Spector to oversee the project, promising him complete creative control and even allowing Spector to choose the songs!

Sessions began in mid-October at A&M Studios with Spector creating his recognizable “Wall of Sound”, using an absurdly large group of the top session musicians in LA.  But the combination of Lennon’s destructive, drunken antics, Spector’s insane eccentricities and the revolving door of studio musicians, celebrities and hanger-ons, more lunacy was recorded than actual music.  Spector famously arrived with bodyguards, armed with a handgun, dressed alternatingly as a surgeon, karate master or a priest.  One night Spector even fired his gun in the studio, causing Lennon to dare to scream back at Spector, in fear of losing his hearing.  Other nights Lennon would go into violent, drunken fits, many believing in anguish over his separation from Yoko.  And of course, the backdrop to the proceedings was always a studio ridiculously full of musicians and a control room full of celebrities along for the ride—and the open bar. 

Throughout October and a final session in late November at A&M, eight songs were recorded: Larry Williams’ “Bony Moronie”; The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”; Rosie & The Originals’ “Angel Baby”; Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”; Lloyd Price’s “Just Because”; Martha & The Vendellas’ “A Love Like Yours”; The Chordettes’ “Born To Be With You”; and The Teddy Bears’ “To Know Her Is To Love Her”.  Additional sessions at The Record Plant Los Angeles in December produced three more tracks: Arthur Crudup’s “My Baby Left Me”; the song that started this whole mess—“You Can’t Catch Me”; and John Lennon’s only original composition during this period, “Here We Go Again”, co-credited to Phil Spector.  With the backing tracks to eleven songs more or less in the can, the album came to a crashing halt when Phil Spector mysteriously disappeared after telling Lennon the studio had burned down.  With rumors that Spector had suffered a serious car injury and might not even be in the country anymore, Lennon resolved to finish the album himself… Until he found that Spector had stolen all of the master tapes!  Oldies But Mouldies was officially on hold until further notice.

As 1974 rolled in, Lennon went on to work on different projects during his “Lost Weekend”.  Firstly, producing an album with his old friend Harry Nilsson that spring, Pussy Cats.  Secondly, Lennon began preproduction on his follow-up to Mind Games, demoing newer compositions.  Suddenly (and appropriately in the midst of the Watergate scandal), Lennon received a mysterious phone call from Spector, claiming that he “had the James Dean tape.”  For a sum of $90,000 Lennon was able to secure the masters to nine out of the eleven songs recorded; Spector chose to hold on to the masters of “A Love Like Yours” for Cher & Nilsson and “Born To Be With You” for Dion. 

After reviewing the Back To Mono/Oldies But Moldies/James Dean Tapes that summer, Lennon concluded that the recordings accurately reflected the actual sessions—they were a catastrophic, drunken mess.  Spector’s "Wall of Sound" was overblown and Lennon’s scratch vocals were over the edge.  Setting the tapes aside, Lennon instead focused on his new batch of songs, using much of the same session musicians as on Oldies But Mouldies.  This album, called Walls and Bridges, seemed to be a return to form for Lennon after a series of forgettable albums, songs that largely concerned his longing for Yoko.  With the fate of Oldies But Mouldies in question, Lennon used it’s intended cover art for Walls and Bridges instead: a drawing he had made in 1952, when he was 11 years old. 

Since Lennon felt that the Oldies But Mouldies tapes were basically unusable, he chose to appease Levy’s original lawsuit by including a short, impromptu cover of the Levy-owned “Ya Ya” to conclude Walls and Bridges.  Levy was not amused—nor satisfied.  Having to return to finish the Oldies But Mouldies project, Lennon and his backing band relocated to Levy’s own Sunnyview recording studio in order to sober up and focus on the project.  With Levy approving of the rehearsed material from his songbook, Lennon and his band entered The Record Plant New York in October 1974—one year from the start of the project—to record the additional songs intended to round out the salvageable material from the Spector sessions.  Nine songs were completed: Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula”; Ben E King’s “Stand By Me”; a medley of Little Richard’s “Rip It Up”/”Ready Teddy”; Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame”; Bobby Freeman’s “Do You Wanna Dance”; Little Richard’s “Slippin and Slidin”; Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue”; a medley of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me” and Little Richard’s “Send Me Some Lovin”; and a proper version of Lee Dorsey’s “Ya Ya”. 

Now titled Rock ‘n Roll, Lennon used the leaner and sober 1974 New York sessions as the basis of the album.  Additional work was needed to some of the LA sessions: “Sweet Little Sixteen”, “Bony Moronie” and “Just Because” received new vocals; an edit was made in “You Can’t Catch Me” to reprise the first verse, extending the song’s length; likewise “Angel Baby” was edited to lengthen the track, although it did not make the final cut for the album; conversely, the intro to “Be My Baby” was cut short and an entire verse removed to shorten the song by over a minute, although it too did not make the album. 

Finally, a reunification between Lennon and Ono, orchestrated by none other than Elton John, put an end to “The Lost Weekend”.  Choosing to focus on promotion for Walls and Bridges, Lennon provided a rough mix of the assembled Rock ‘n’ Roll album to Levy in good faith, promising a release later in 1975.  Not satisfied to wait a year, Levy proposed to release the album in advance through his own mail-order service, Adam VIII, believing that would circumvent EMI’s ownership of the master recordings.  Initially approving of the idea, Lennon gave his consent and Levy issued his own cut of the album—Roots: John Lennon Sings The Great Rock & Roll Hits, using his tape of rough mixes.  Of course EMI did not approve, and with Lennon quickly switching sides, slight alterations were made to the master and Rock ‘n’ Roll was rush-released in February.  Levy was later sued for breach of contract.  Lennon and EMI ultimately prevailed but not after 1,270 copies of Roots made their way into the market, making it one of the most valuable Lennon collector’s items.  A curious effect of these competing albums was that they each had different edits of the same songs.  But did either represent the original Spector-helmed Oldies But Mouldies album? 

This is a tricky reconstruction, because the existent rough mixes of the Phil Spector sessions simply do not sound very good; to that extent, both Roots and Rock ‘n’ Roll are neither great sounding albums in the first place!  Relying on purely the rough mixes found on Roots or The Lost Lennon Tapes bootlegs reveals a tiring listen, based on Spector’s overblown production and Lennon’s drunken rambling; the original rough mix of “Just Because” is really all you need to hear to understand this point!  Thus, we will choose to generally utilize the more sensible and sonically palatable remixes found on the 2004 reissue of Rock ‘n’ Roll, commissioned by Yoko Ono.  While the mix itself is not historically accurate—using the new vocals Lennon cut in 1974—the result is a much more enjoyable listen! 

Side A begins with Lennon’s sole composition, the lush but lackluster “Here We Go Again” taken from Gimme Some Truth.  Following is the culprit “You Can’t Catch Me’, taken from the 2004 remix of Rock ‘n’ Roll but re-edited to match the original rough mix of the song, effectively removing the extra verse.  Next is “To Know Her Is To Love Her”, taken from the 2004 Rock ‘n’ Roll, although it is apparently in its original mix.  The side closes with what exemplifies the album’s madness and excess: “Be My Baby”, using the most refined mix of the full nearly-six minute version, taken from Phil Lip’s Delux Rock n Roll bootleg.   

Side B begins with the ruckus of “Bony Moronie” taken from the 2004 remix of Rock n Roll, a highlight of the album featuring a Lennon vocal teetering off the edge.  Following is “My Baby Left Me”, the remix also taken from the 2004 Rock ‘n’ Roll.  “Angel Baby” from the 2004 Rock ‘n’ Roll follows, again re-edited to match the original rough mix, effectively removing the extra bridge.  The remixed “Sweet Little Sixteen” follows, and the album concludes with the rambling weak-link “Just Because”, using the 2004 remix just because, to put it simply, the original rough mix from 1973 is unlistenable due to Lennon’s drunk ramblings.  


Sources used:
Gimme Some Truth (2001 CD)
Rock 'n' Roll (2004 CD Remix/Remaster)
Rock 'n' Roll Delux (2018 fanmade bootleg, Phil Lip)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR Pro & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Beach Boys - SMiLE (upgrade)

The Beach Boys – SMiLE
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)
December 2018 UPGRADE

Disc 1 – SMiLE ’67 Reconstruction
Side A:
1.  Our Prayer - Heroes and Villains
2.  Vege-Tables
3.  Do You Like Worms?
4.  Child is Father of The Man
5.  The Old Master Painter
6.  Cabin Essence
Side B:
7.  Good Vibrations
8.  Wonderful
9.  I’m In Great Shape
10.  Wind Chimes
11. The Elements
12.  Surf’s Up


Disc 2 – The Beach Boys Present SMiLE + Vintage Brian Wilson Mixes
1.  Our Prayer - Gee
2.  Heroes and Villains
3.  Do You Like Worms?
4.  Barnyard
5.  The Old Master Painter
6.  Cabin Essence
7.  Wonderful
8.  Look
9.  Child is Father of The Man
10.  Surf’s Up
11.  I’m In Great Shape
12.  Vege-Tables
13.  Holidays
14.  Wind Chimes
15.  Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow
16.  I Love To Say Dada
17.  Good Vibrations
18.  Our Prayer (December 1966 Comp Reel)
19.  Wonderful (December 1966 Comp Reel)
20.  Cabin Essence (December 1966 Comp Reel)
21.  Child is Father of The Man (December 1966 Comp Reel)
22.  Do You Like Worms? (December 1966 Comp Reel)
23.  Vege-Tables (1967 Track Assembly)

Disc 3 – Behind The SMiLE
1.  Good Vibrations (March 1966 Reconstruction)
2.  Good Vibrations (May 1966 Reconstruction)
3.  Good Vibrations (June 1966 Reconstruction)
4.  Wind Chimes (Early Version Reconstruction)
5.  Wind Chimes (Backing Track Reconstruction)
6.  Wonderful (Chronological Reconstruction)
7.  Cabin Essence (Backing Track Reconstruction)
8.  Child is Father of The Man (Early Version Reconstruction)
9.  Child is Father of The Man (Stereo Backing Track Reconstruction)
10.  Do You Like Worms? (Backing Track Reconstruction)
11.  Surf’s Up (1966 Mix Reconstruction)
12.  Heroes and Villains (November 1966 Reconstruction)
13.  Heroes and Villains (January 1967 Reconstruction)
14.  Heroes and Villains (February 1967 Reconstruction/'Part II")
15.  Heroes and Villains (March 1967 Reconstruction)
16.  I Love To Say Dada (Chronological Reconstruction)
17.  The Elements (Excerpts from Psychedelic Sounds)

Merry Christmas and happy Holidays!  This is an UPGRADE to my reconstruction of The Beach Boys SMiLE album.  For this special occasion, I offer a special three-disc set...  Disc 1 contains the standard, upgraded mono and stereo versions of my SMiLE ’67 Mix, which attempts to recreate what the SMiLE album would have sounded like in 1967.  Disc 2 contains an all-stereo, all-Beach Boys version of SMiLE, structured in three movements just as 2004’s Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE; as a bonus, it also contains several vintage Brian Wilson mixes—mostly a reconstruction and remaster of Brian Wilson’s December 1966 Comp Reel, his first attempt to compile a series of SMiLE era mixes.  Disc 3 contains an hour of custom-made bonus material and reconstructions meant to showcase the making of the album—Behind The SMiLE. 

The upgrades in this December 2018 edition of SMiLE ’67 are:
- Remade “Child is Father of The Man” which follows the structure of Brian Wilson’s vintage three-minute 1966 test edit (both mono and stereo).
- Remixed “Cabin Essence” (stereo).
- Remade “The Old Master Painter” using the correct take 11 as the core of the song (stereo).
- Remade “The Elements” to be a completely self-contained track, separate from “Wind Chimes”, “Vege-Tables”, etc (both mono and stereo).
- All tracks banded as twelve separate, uncrossfaded songs, as per Van Dyke Parks.
- SMiLE 2004 reconstruction is updated with aforementioned sources and included on Disc 2
- Creation and inclusion of Disc 3, Behind The SMiLE, as well as remastered Brian Wilson vintage mixes on Disc 2

* See included essay ‘Behind The SMiLE’ for specific song, recording and argument information.

Much has been written about the unreleased album SMiLE; even more so in recent history due to The SMiLE Sessions boxset.  The first disc of that set was purported to be an accurate reconstruction of what SMiLE would have been.  But is it so?  Most likely not: the tracklist is based upon the sequence found on Brian Wilson’s 2004 solo album Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE, in which the great artist finally “finished SMiLE”.  Well surely, that was how SMiLE was supposed to sound?  Again, most likely not: that sequence was devised by The Brian Wilson Band musical director Darian Sahanaja for the purpose of the previous year’s SMiLE Tour, as an interesting live performance that showcased all of the known and popular SMiLE tracks.  Furthermore, his vision of SMiLE seemed to be greatly influenced by sequences found on known bootlegs in the 1990s as well as fan fiction on their own SMiLE mixes.  As a matter of fact, Brian Wilson himself has admitted that what we think of as the “finished SMiLE” is not what it would have sounded like in 1967; Wilson himself didn’t even know what it would have sounded like, even in 1967!  By spring 1967, the album itself was abandoned and he focused on two songs for a single release (“Heroes and Villains” and “Vege-Tables”) and the structure of those two songs changed from day to day!   

How could we possibly assemble something that Brian Wilson himself couldn’t?  Fans and SMiLE aficionados have been spending the last 40 years making their own SMiLE mixes, so it’s not an unreachable dream.  After over fifteen years of research, I believe I have found a method to make an extremely educated guess to what the album contained and how it was structured.  First and foremost, I offer that SMiLE would have been a singular, two-sided album of twelve banded pop-songs, just as Pet Sounds was; not three conceptual suites or movements; it would not have been a three-movement suite as it exists today.  As much as we won’t want to imagine it, SMiLE is just an album.  Anything more might be succumbing to mythos. 

But of all the many pieces recorded for SMiLE, what would be included?  Our first clue is found in a handwritten tracklist addressed to Capitol Records, which was used to manufacture LP mock-up artwork for the album.  The tracks included, in this order: “Do You Like Worms?”, “Wind Chimes”, “Heroes and Villains”, “Surf’s Up”, “Good Vibrations”, “Cabin Essence”, “Wonderful”, “I’m In Great Shape”, “Child Is Father Of The Man”, “The Elements”, “Vege-Tables” and “The Old Master Painter”.  Any listener who can make a playlist will know this is a terrible track sequence for an album; there is no flow or cohesion and the two sides do not time-out correctly!  My theory is that this was not the specific intended track order of the album, but instead a shortlist of the songs that would be on the final album; note that the more completed songs are listed first and the most ‘under construction’ songs listed last.  Thus certain SMiLE staples not included on the list such as “Look”, “He Gives Speeches” or “Holidays” would be excluded from the final running order of an authentic 1967 SMiLE.  The one exception is “Our Prayer”, used as an (uncredited) opening track outside of the twelve, which was Brian Wilson’s intention at the time. 

The next step is to “finish” each of the twelve songs as close to how Brian Wilson envisioned the songs in 1966-1967.  Some already exist as finished mixes (“Wonderful”, the ‘Cantina Version’ of “Heroes and Villains”), while we have vintage test edits for others to base a reconstruction off of (“Do You Like Worms?”, “Wind Chimes”, “Child is Father of The Man”).  We will have to make educated guesses for the remainders based on primary sources and session information (“I’m In Great Shape”, “The Elements”).  Also note, no anachronistic digital “fly-ins” were used to complete songs; in my view, leaving some songs unfinished seemed more authentic than using sound elements recorded in 2004.  Finally, we will organize these twelve songs into two sides of an LP, unbanded (unconnected or unsegued) with each side beginning with a ‘hit’ and each side closing with an ‘epic’.

Side A of my SMiLE ’67 begins with “Our Prayer”, just as instructed by Brian Wilson on session tapes.  My mono mix uses the version from The SMiLE Sessions and stereo from Made in California.  It segues directly into the ‘hit’ of side A, “Heroes and Villains”.  Here we use what is called ‘The Cantina Version’, the mix of the song prepared by Brian on February 10th, 1967—what I believe is the version of the song truly intended for SMiLE; both mono and stereo versions taken from The SMiLE Sessions.  Next is also what follows on the Smiley Smile album: “Vege-Tables”.  My construction removes the third verse as I thought it was lyrically redundant and disrupted the gradual ‘winding-down’ flow of the song.  The mono mix is edited from The Smile Sessions and stereo mix edited from Made in California.  My own unique construction of “Do You Like Worms?” follows, based on Brian Wilson’s test mixes from December 1966.  Note that in my stereo mix—created from syncing the isolated vocals to the assembled backing tracks—the tack piano of the ‘Bicycle Rider’ theme pre-chorus travels stereophonically from right to left, reminiscent of the pilgrims and pioneers moving across America during the Western Expansion—who The Bicycle Rider presents!   All sources edited from The SMiLE Sessions. 

Next is a reconstruction of “Child is Father of The Man” based on the structure of Brian Wilson’s three-minute 1966 test edit, which featured a standard verse/chorus/verse/chorus structure.  All sources edited from The SMiLE Sessions.  Following is “The Old Master Painter”.  Although the song was known to conclude with the ‘Barnshine’ Fade from “Heroes and Villains”, here we utilize the rerecorded bird whistle Fade from March 1967 since the original Fade is already in use on “Heroes and Villains”.  Mono mix is edited from The SMiLE Sessions, stereo mix is a splice between that and the stereo master take from Unsurpassed Masters Vol 16.  Side B concludes with the epic song that cannot be topped: “Cabin Essence”.  While the mono mix is taken from The SMiLE Sessions, my stereo mix features the isolated lead vocals from 20/20 and backing vocals from The SMiLE Sessions, synced up to the stereo backing tracks from The SMiLE Sessions.  The result is a fuller stereophonic mix with the instruments panned left and right and vocals centered, rather than vice versa as per the common 20/20 version. 

Side B opens with the ‘hit’ of this half of the album, as it did on Smiley Smile: “Good Vibrations”, both mono and stereo mixes from the 2012 remaster of Smiley Smile.  Next is “Wonderful”, mono mix sourced from The Smile Sessions.  The stereo mix features the master from the 1993 Good Vibrations box set synced up with the isolated backing vocals from The Smile Sessions.  “I’m In Great Shape” is one of the many unsolved mysteries of SMiLE, and probably always will be.  Here we presume it to be the four-part ‘Barnyard Suite’ Brian alluded to in the 1970s, using “I’m In Great Shape” and “Barnyard” as its base; it is completed with “I Wanna Be Around” and “Friday Night”, both labeled as ‘Great Shape’ on their tape box and who also feature a slightly farm-like theme. 

Next is “Wind Chimes”, edited from the mono on The Smile Sessions and stereo edited from Made In California, but restructured to match Brian Wilson’s 1966 test edits.  Following is “The Elements”, a hotly-debated subject of SMiLE Lore.  Here we will create a self-contained piece that covers all four Elements without overlapping with previous songs (“Wind Chimes”, “Vege-Tables”, etc).  Fire is represented by the ‘Firetruck’ Intro to “Heroes and Villains”, crossfaded into “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” and concluding with the fire sound effects from the session; Earth is represented by the percussive “I Love to Say Dada – part 1” that brings peddles and rolling rocks to mind and concludes with vegetable chants from Psychedelic Sounds; Air is represented by “Second Day”, with its flute conjuring up images of the breeze and concluding with wheezing chants from Psychedelic Sounds; Water is represented by “I Love To Say Dada – Part 2”, it’s treated piano reminiscent of running water and concluding with underwater chanting from Psychedelic Sounds.  Finally, SMiLE concludes with the song Vosse stated was to end the album: “Surf’s Up”, mono and stereo taken from The SMiLE Sessions. 

If you find this reconstruct a bit hard to swallow, I don’t blame you; fifty years of SMiLE mythology has very much overshadowed the facts; hype has become reality.  So on Disc 2, I have also included an updated version of my all-stereo reconstruction of SMiLE based on 2004’s Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE.  If you feel that was how SMiLE should be, well, here it is!  Following are a set of bonus tracks, my own remaster of Brian’s original December 1966 Comp Reel, his first assemblage of SMiLE era mixes. Also included is my remaster of Brian’s test edit of “Vege-Tables”; not originally a part of the reel but is included for historical relevancy. 

But the real fun can be found on Disc 3, Behind The SMiLE.  Meant as a ‘making-of’ audio documentary, it is an assemblage of stereo backing tracks, alternate versions and possible variations.   Included are what I call ‘chronological reconstructions’, in which the many modulations of a specific song are organized in the order of when they were recorded.  In effect the listener can understand Brian Wilson’s ideas for a given song in real time.  Behind The SMiLE is also meant to be listened along with the included Behind The SMiLE essay, which includes recording notes for each song.   

Lossless FLAC (Disc 1, Disc 2, Disc 3)

Sources used:
1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow (2017 CD)
Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys (1993 CD box set)
Good Vibrations (2006 40th Anniversary CD EP)
Made in California (2013 CD box set)
Smiley Smile (2012 CD remaster)
The SMiLE Sessions (2011 CD box set)
The SMiLE Sessions (2011 LP, son-of-albion vinyl rip)
Unsurpassed Masters Vol 16 (1999 CD)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR Pro & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included