Tag Archives: Walter Becker

Sound Mines: The Outfield “Taking My Chances”

The unfortunate thing about massively successful albums is there's songs on them that never see the light of day.

 

Stated another way, if these songs were written by another band or artist, they would have been released and became their signature song in an alternate parallel pop universe.

 

The Outfield had their breakthrough album with their 1985 debut Play Deep. And it was all about some girl named Josie after that.

 

The band have so many instantly recognizable songs: "Josie's on a vacation far away..." see what i mean? And from there, bassist Tony Lewis became known as the lead singer. But there was another singer in the band who you only heard in their signature harmonies, which we'll come back to in a moment.

 

But first: The pop world is still wondering, "Is this same "Josie" Steely Dan hung around in the 70's? Did Josie also attend Bard College with Walter Becker and Donald Fagen then do a semester in London?"

 

Play Deep was huge with 4 singles becoming radio mainstays: "Your Love" (AKA that tune about Josie), , "Say It Isn't So", "All The Love" and "Everytime You Cry."

 

Like Cheap Trick, The Outfield have so many interesting songs buried in their respective catalogs. Do yourself a favor and dig into their deeper tracks. You'll find veins of auditory ore that'll turn you into a more active fan of both bands. Okay I used to live near Robin Zander for those of you full disclosure purists.

 

The Outfield were a brilliant blend of power pop, new wave and pop rock with trademark crisp, clean positive vibes. A band from London and apparently not pissed off about anything when the prices of hotel rooms there alone are enough to piss off most tourists.

 

The vision behind The Outfield was guitarist/keyboardist/songwriter and yes, vocalist John Spinks. And it is John who is lead vocalist on our featured track here "Taking My Chances." John Spinks was a regular "jack" of all instruments like that Canadian Aldo Nova or that Prince guy you may have heard of.

 

For those fans who missed Canadian Musicians 102, Aldo Nova had a major hit with the tune "Fantasy" off his 1982 self titled debut Aldo Nova. You can now safely go back to your Rush, BTO, The Guess Who, Céline Dion, Bryan Adams and Corey Hart with or without OSHA approved sunglasses.

 

While main Outfield vocalist Tony Lewis showcased a high piercing positivity like Jon Anderson of Yes, John Spinks had a deeper introspective voice which made for a rich vocal blend with and classic counterpoint to Tony Lewis.

 

On top of that, John Spinks' guitar tone is among the happiest guitar tones I can think of. The matrimony of Lewis's soaring vocals and Spinks's guitar tone and style is something that often goes unnoticed and understated for why The Outfield have legions of fans outside the English speaking world.

 

Close your eyes (You Canadians take your sunglasses off) and imagine that "Taking My Chances" was the first tune you ever heard from a new band called The Outfield. You'll see that John Spinks could have fronted his own band as guitarist and lead singer:

Hey Rick Springfield did it. So did Bryan "Sandpaper Larynx" Adams. John Spinks easily could have done so too with all the demos he made that eventually became Play Deep. But The Outfield was a project he enjoyed with his pre–fame bandmates since the late 1970's, bassist/singer Tony Lewis and drummer Alan Jackman.

 

"Taking My Chances" reverses the traditional vocal order of The Outfield winning formula but it still works great. It also demonstrates how well John and Tony blended their vocal harmonies and could expertly weave in and around each other no matter who was the lead off hitter in the song.

 

It's this classic blend of high range and low range vocals which worked superbly for other successful acts generations a generation earlier like Hall & Oates and Kiss. Daryl Hall & John Oates and Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons gave the ear fix for high and lows plus the chorus blends of each. Coincidentally, The Outfield and Hall & Oates both had a hit song titled "Say It Isn't So."

 

This "Master Blend" also worked well for Journey although briefly. The Tony Lewis and John Spinks blend was also similar to Steve Perry and Gregg Rolie. the former vocalist for Santana and original Journey vocalist. Rolie has such a beautiful deep soulful voice, and is best known or singing "Black Magic Woman"  but gives stellar performances on tracks that have been largely unknown and forgotten which is  another story altogether.

 

For just 3 people, The Outfield packed a lot of power and wattage. Their incredibly full sounding choruses weaved from the tapestry of harmonizing between John and Tony gave songs their characteristic punch.

 

The Outfield wrote great pop music and weren't pretending to be anything they weren't. In fact, the same 3 bandmates which became the classic Outfield lineup took a hiatus in the late 70's because the Punk Movement was becoming more popular in England.

 

Instead of getting mohawks, bleaching their hair fluorescent orange, or piercing their nipples with nunchucks, John  Spinks, Tony Lewis and Alan Jackman took a long 7th inning stretch into the mid 80's when the music industry, now steadily dating it's new flame MTV, became more favorable to their original style of songwriting. The strange thing being, even though the English speaking world was all over British Pop/New Wave acts like Duran Duran and The Fixx, The Outfield were never as popular in their native England as they were in the United States.

 

What I've always enjoyed about The Outfield is the production quality of their songs is always crystal clear but never hospital sounding sterile. There's always a vibrance and energy to the music and instruments in the mix. The recording quality is always bright and shiny, it's like listening to sunlight reflecting off chrome. People just feel good listening to them, just like a simple Beach Boys song. And that's all the proof anyone's ears need.

 

Sadly the creator and songwriter of The Outfield, John Spinks died of liver cancer in 2014 at just 60 years of age.  Later in early 2016, liver cancer also claimed David Bowie. But John's legacy lives on as does his pleasantly hypnotic vocal tonality on this track which never made it out of the band's batting cage of potential hits.

 

"Taking My Chances" is great song that got overlooked because it was a track on a album filled with great pop songs. Play Deep quickly went triple platinum and continues to be a Must Have 80's album for new generations of fans.

 

Indeed The Outfield knocked it out of the park on their first album. They could have also hit more singles.

© Composer Yoga

Related Posts To Check Out:
Closet Singles: The Outfield “New York City”

Recommended:
Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”
Closet Singles: Hall & Oates “You’ll Never Learn”
Sound Mines: Bihlman Bros. “Dream”
Closet Singles: Devo “Later Is Now”
George Michael: The Careless Whisperer
Closet Singles: Billy Idol “Hole In The Wall”

 

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Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song Vol. 1

For those unfamiliar with our organization, DPAC, the Dork Prevention Advisory Committee has been entrusted with the ardent task of upholding, maintaining and preserving standards of cultural coolness & integrity for successive generations. We conduct ongoing policing of pop singers recommending safeguards and protocols with the noble aim of curbing, avoiding and eliminating Dorky Dialogue in popular music.

 

Our panel of experts have compiled a series of reports entitled “Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song: Case Files And Conclusions.” In addition to this website, copies of our reports will be available at all Federally funded government offices and institutions including but not limited to your local DMV, Post Office, and Public Library.

 

DISCLAIMER: DPAC should not to be confused with 2–Pac, nor is in any way affiliated with Self Help author Deepak Chopra.

 

Abstract & Origins

Dorky Dialogue is indeed a razor’s edge many have slipped from iconified grace and wound up impaled on Dork Stalactites in the corny canyon years or decades later. Such dialogue risks launching self–inflicted salvos at their own careers and creates blundering boomerangs as their own “Towers of Babble” return to sender. CAUTION is the watchword for unfiltered enthusiastic utterances in the studio or onstage, impromptu or planned.

 

DPAC aims to erect a “Speech Line: Do Not Cross” Auditory Police Tape so future musicians and entertainers may refer to maintain a successful “Bell Curve of Cool” throughout their careers as well as protect the airwaves and internet from Nerdy Noise Pollution. Our Publication SM 58: Dampening Dorky Dialogue (see below), provides helpful guidelines for singers to learn when to palm mute their given instrument. The Singer Modification 58 Protocols outline safe and unsafe lead vocal territories in regards to unnecessary chatter, gibberish, babble, bragging, ego stroking, superfluous filler, fluff, Paul Stanleyisms, etc.

 

Publication SM–58

 

Showing Some Love Towards Cover Bands

The first thing such Inter–Song Socializing (ISS) or Inter–Band Dialogue (IBD) on a recording does is it renders a particular song Cover Tune Unfriendly (CTU). Before engaging and risking such utterances, ask yourself “What are the odds cover tune band members will have the same names and/or play the same instrument?” Or be the same gender for that matter. If you are not good with math like a singer, the odds are about that of a Beatles reunion, Charlie Manson getting a record deal, or another Tiffany album.

 

Acceptable Usage and Examples

Neneh Cherry saying “Hey DJ…” in the intro to her hit track “Buffalo Stance” is one such example. Note that this is acceptable as Ms. Cherry refrained from naming the particular DJ, and just telling him (or her) to “Stop that effing scratching and give me a beat!”

 

Vanilla Ice prodded “Yo VIP–let’s kick it!” to get his DJ to press a button and get the the synth drums going on “Ice Ice Baby.” Again no one is insinuated by name and thus cannot be charged as an Accessory to Nerdy.

 

Steve Perry shouting after the piano intro to “Don’t Stop Believin'”, “Neil!”  to Neil Schon to cue in the 4 note guitar lick build that increases in speed and crescendos with the drums entering. Steve did this live but NOT on the actual sound recording which would have definitely been North of dork and South of cool.

 

Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention could get away with lots of inter band conversation onstage because it was musical theatre and part of the show.

 

Rap & Hip Hop have taken Inter–Song Socializing to new plateaus, talking to and about themselves with a frequency density far greater than that of other genres as they do not seem concerned with having their material covered by bands in nightclubs. Since it is so much a part of the genre, we have determined a hands off policy is the recommended approach.

 

When did all this Inter–Song Socializing (ISS) start?

DPAC has determined its origins seem to have been with James Brown, shouting “MACEO!!” To Maceo Parker his horn player. However these were live recordings and part of the spontaneity of being in the moment.

 

Note that doing so on an actual STUDIO recording is a logical contradiction, since if a band member is dumb enough to not know when to solo or play a certain part, then why would they be in the band to begin with? One presupposes they ARE in the band because they are competent on said instrumentation. ISS on recordings is further innecessitated when hiring session players for an album, who it can be safely assumed, know their ass from their elbow.

 

Recommendations

One recommendation is yelling out the name of the instrument about to take spotlight such as “Guitar!!” In regards to such solos, riffs, fills and licks, fans already know it’s coming and who’s playing it, so doing this in substitute of a bandmates name can prevent a dork meter spike and keep you safely south of dork. Bret Michaels finally learned this wise strategy on Poison’s sophomore album with the track “Nothin’ But A Good Time” after his horrendous transgression to C.C. on “Talk Dirty To Me.”

 

Consider the fact that your band members will already be listed in album liner notes and also on your website. You also get to introduce them live on stage every performance. Is there really a need to have such a conversation during the song?

 

Just Shut Up And Sing!! Well, you know what we mean—avoid mentioning your bandmates by name and at all during recording sessions. (The SM–58 Gold Standard—our preferred recommendation)

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Sharpening Your Cool IQ

Imagine a Steely Dan recording session where Donald Fagen yells out to Jeff “Skunk” Baxter “Go Skunk!” Or to Elliott Randall, “Elliott!” on the opening solo of “Reelin’ In The Years.” A voice sample of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial saying “Elliott”, although getting points for originality, still fails to be a Trojan horse in the cool army.

 

Picture “Tom Sawyer” with Geddy Lee saying “Gimme a roll Neil!”  to Neil Peart right before his first gargantuan drum fill. Then “How about another?”, and finally a “One More time.” Or alternately after the 3 big drum fills, Geddy saying “Wow, Neil was on a roll!” in some form of schlocky musical slapstick.

 

Singers are most often the guilty parties. Think about how dumb it would sound for another band member telling the lead singer to sing. Can you picture Jimmy Page telling Robert Plant “Scream Robert!” Or Keith Richards telling Mick Jagger “Sing unintelligibly like you always do Mick!” ISS seems to be a symptom of Lead Singer Disease (LSD) as guitarists, drummers, bassists, pianists and keyboardists, etc. are not prone to such fanciful faux pas.

 

Did we ever hear Freddie Mercury telling guitarist Brian May “Go Brian go!?” In the classic Rob Reiner Mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, the track “Gimme Some Money” on the band’s CD makes fun of Inter–Song Socializing. It’s a retro 60’s Flower Power song, where lead singer David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) says to guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), “Go Nigel Go!!” as he begins a wimpy guitar solo replete with stellar garage band cacophony.

 

“Gimme Some Money” is a parody song. DPAC exists to prevent parody from unintentionally becoming reality, and any Careless Whisper or Momentary Lapse Of Reason from becoming a parody later on. That being said, we wish you a long and productive career filled with years of Certified Dork Free Recordings (CDFR).

–DPAC

SwimOutlet.com

 

Case Files:

 

Poison “Talk Dirty To Me”

“C.C. pick up that guitar and talk to me”

Bret Michaels yells out “C.C. pick up that guitar and talk to me” to C.C. DeVille on Poison’s debut album during the track “Talk Dirty To Me.” It’s like what the hell was C.C. doing prior to this in the song—NOT playing guitar? Sitting on his monitor amp painting his fingernails? It makes little sense. One needs to factor in and consider before doing so “Will this still sound cool 20 years from now?” Because unless you’re in a tribute band, and dress and pretend to be the actual members of the original band onstage, such lyrical appendages are better omitted.

 

 

Def Leppard “Armageddon It”

“Come on Steve, get it!”

Joe Elliott talks to one of his guitarists on the track “Armageddon It” off of the monstrously successful Hysteria album. He calls out to Steve Clark, “Come on Steve get it!” right before the guitar solo. Was this encouragement because Steve flubbed the last 5 takes in the studio? DPAC wonders if there could be some kind of curse in doing this—In Def Leppard’s case, this was Steve Clark’s last completed album (due to his untimely death) and our friend C.C. got fired from Poison later on as well.

 

 

Mötley Crüe “Girls, Girls, Girls”

“Hey Tommy check that out man
What Vince where?
Hey hey right there
(whistle)
Hey baby going somewhere?”

Vince Neil and Tommy Lee are obviously not at a strip club during this conversation even though that’s what most of the song is about—a tour of the world’s finest nude entertainment establishments. Unfortunately due to the global recession, some of the strip clubs mentioned in the song are no longer in business.

 

But does this dialogue have real world authenticity? Like any girl wouldn’t be like “Who are these juvenile douchebags?” Like they would say, “Oh that’s okay, they’re in a Rock Band so high school kinda stuff is still pretty cool. They’re socially exempt from being any more sophisticated than a cruder construction worker Cassanova to be successful with women. They’ve got motorcycles so they MUST be cool.” Ah, the ‘ol Harley hat trick.

 

Although the strip club bonding Bromance between Vince and Tommy was some drunken drooling over imaginary Double–D’s, fortunately the motorcycle starting up in the song’s intro was real as one of our Board of Directors knows the person who did it on the actual studio recording.

 

 

Rick James “Super Freak”

“Temptations Sing!”
“Blow Danny!”

Rick slipped up twice in his hit dance track “Super Freak.”  First he tells his backup singers, “Temptations Sing!.” We’re sure after a successful recording career prior to Rick getting his first pubes, that Motown veterans The Temptations know the difference between choruses and verses and when to get their backing vocals on. And hiring session musicians as experienced as The Temptations requires conductor caliber instructions from Maestro James during the track?

 

Rick also tells his sax player when to take a standard 8 bar solo, with “Blow Danny!” Really? Like Danny would do a solo during the verses when Rick was singing about some very kinky girl? We think not. There are “Lead Drummers” who inappropriately intervene thunderously real or imagined virtuosity over lyrics but the phenomenon of “Lead Sax Players” has yet to spike our grievance and peeve meters.

 

 

Prince And The Revolution “Computer Blue”

“Wendy?
Yes Lisa.
Is the water warm enough?
Yes Lisa.
Shall we begin?
Yes Lisa.”

Although we’ve never heard Stevie Nicks or Christine McVie yell out “Go Lindsey” to Lindsey Buckingham telling him when to rip into a guitar riff or solo, one example of women talking during the song is on the Purple Rain Soundtrack. Our research has indicated female singers don’t tend to talk to their band members by name as frequently as their male counterparts. The intro to “Computer Blue” being a notable exception. The track begins with a conversation between Wendy and Lisa with no discernible reference to even playing an instrument.

 

What does this “girl talk” conversation have to do with a song entitled “Computer Blue?” Your guess is as good as ours. Incidentally, you shouldn’t have water anywhere near your computer as it can short it out and damage the circuitry. Yet certain questions still remain as to what they’re actually talking about. Our panel has narrowed it down to the following possible scenarios:

  1. Making herbal tea
    2. Shaving their legs
    3. Making sure the pasta they’re cooking turns out Al Dente
    4. Visiting a day spa while on tour

Regardless, don’t let no thermometer stop you from purifying yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka:

 

This concludes Case File Installment #1. And remember:

Some singers get hip replacements, others need lip replacements.
Don’t get a D in Dork, score a C in Cool!
Loose Lips Sink Hits!!

 

The Dork Prevention Advisory Committee (DPAC)

© Composer Yoga

Related Posts To Check Out:
Prince Joke (Little Red Corvette)
Yoda’s iPod: “When Doves Cry” By Prince
The Prince Prophecy & The Let’s Go Crazy Code
Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”
First Recording Of Purple Rain In America




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Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”

If you’re a fan of the classic Prince sound congealed with his backing band The Revolution, you’ll definitely appreciate this lesser known track off the Parade album.

 

Released in 1986, Parade was the 8th studio album by Prince and also the final one with The Revolution. Tracks like “Mountains” are prized audio real estate since his passing for fans to nostalgically travel back in time to the 1980’s on a purple motorcycle.

 

“Mountains” starts off with the familiar Linn LM–1 drum machine used in several earlier Prince hits like “1999” and “When Doves Cry.” This drum machine was also used by other artists in the early 80’s as it popped up on Billy Idol albums as well—Say for instance, if you’re going to be dancing with yourself, you’ll probably need a drum machine.

 

“Mountains” was written by Wendy & Lisa with Prince which demonstrates just how much The Revolution was the integral formula that produced the classic 80’s Prince sound which reached it’s commercial peak with Purple Rain.

 

Prince’s earlier solo records didn’t have the same “real world” orchestration as when he was backed by The Revolution. Being a multi–instrumentalist although impressive, it’s still ALL YOU playing every instrument and this can be perceived by other musicians and astute listeners. Having other musicians play and collaborate with adds an additive synergy one person cannot create by themselves alone.

 

Case in point, Steely Dan could have recorded everything (keys, bass, guitars) by Walter Becker & Donald Fagen and used an electronic drum machine. Instead they hired the best A–list studio musicians in the business which made all their albums sound all the more varied than if the two did everything by themselves. That’s how one band can turn into and sound like a handful of bands with the same 2 core members.

 

Thankfully Prince realized this after a few solo albums as well. That he could still record all by himself in his home studio and also with a band. Each has it’s pros and cons but having both puts more globs of color on a artist’s creative palette. Then there’s the blatant reality that if your’re going to play out and perform live, you cannot just be a studio band—you’ll have to have an actual band so you might as well have a group of other musicians to bounce ideas off.

 

Another thing is you can only overdub yourself so many times before it becomes overkill and listeners want to hear another biological entity vocalizing something—like that chimpanzee in the beginning of Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” for instance.

 

Outside of Freddie Mercury and Brad Delp of Boston, there’s not too many singers that still sound cool nuanced and interesting overdubbed 20 times. Having two or more vocalists creates tension and resolution within a song and having male and female vocalists adds another layer to the audio onion. Prince nailed this concept on “1999”; If only one vocalist sung the entire song it wouldn’t have had the same impact and appeal. There’s not too many songs like “1999” that use 3 vocalists to split the verses.




“Mountains” only reached the #23 slot on the US Billboard charts, but it’s definitely a buried track in Prince’s catalog that deserves greater recognition. The earlier single released from the Parade album “Kiss” became more popular having become a #1 hit. However, I prefer the groove and mood of “Mountains” as it has more emotional depth and introspection than “Kiss.” It holds up better for me during repeated listenings and on replay which helps to “get inside the song” and integrate a song into your life.

 

“Mountains” is a “sister synth” song to “1999” and “I Would Die 4 U.” It uses the same Prince falsetto we all know and love as in “Kiss” but it’s a more seriously toned falsetto instead of a “playful south enough of lecherous” for AM radio one. “Mountains” is the track where Prince unleashes his full array of vocal tricks. It has the trademark Prince Wooo!! like on “Let’s Go Crazy”, the Owww!, and the Purple Banshee Screams like on “When Does Cry”:

 

Lollapalooza Tickets


Guitars and drums on the 1 Huuuh!!!

“Mountains” is my favorite song off the Parade album and the track I listen to most frequently in several of my iPod mixes. Plus I always dug the lyric “Once upon a time in a haystack of despair” in the song’s second verse. It evokes a cool jagged image where I wonder why any metal band hasn’t jumped on writing a song called “Haystack Of Despair.” If there’s a “Harvester Of Sorrow” according to Metallica, then it follows logically there should damn well be a “Haystack Of Despair” right? Nuff said.

 

“Kiss”, with it’s stylized falsetto, is like a hybrid pop/novelty song—it’s like Prince walked the fence between those two genres on that track, which isn’t surprising as he was never the poster boy for musical purists. He lived to experiment in the Paisley Park fire pit and create new sound stews. And besides, blind obedience to purism and “genre parameters” makes for a lower ceiling on Creativity. And that leads to starvation like what’s whispered towards the end of “Mountains” before the fade out. If there’s Diamonds And Pearls and Gold Experience in them there hills, my ear definitely hears some Purple Rain in them “Mountains.”

© Composer Yoga


Related Posts To Check Out:
The Prince Prophecy & The Let’s Go Crazy Code
Prince Joke (Little Red Corvette)
Yoda’s iPod: “When Doves Cry” By Prince
First Recording Of Purple Rain In America
Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song Vol. 1

Recommended:
Sound Mines: Bihlman Bros: “Dream”




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