Posts Tagged ‘music’

chp 29: The Craig Russell Project

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Around 1987, not long after I built The Workshop (my little recording studio in North Hollywood), I was contacted by a songwriter named Craig Russell who wanted to record five of his newest tunes; all rough sketches when he first brought them in. What Craig expected was an engineer. What he got was an engineer/producer/collaborator who was also the rest of the band. Craig and I got along great and had a lot of fun with these songs. So much so that a year later he came in again to record six more.

We recorded the tracks at my studio, as well as Bob Worster’s 2 inch, 16 track joint in the Valley, and did the mixes at my studio and at Chick Corea’s place in Silverlake called Mad Hatter (They had an amazing Neve console!). We mastered with Eddie King (Bruce Hornby’s engineer) at King Sound. Below are all eleven of those tracks.

Details: There were no more than 4 musicians on these tracks at any given time, but mostly it was just Craig on acoustic guitar and vocals, and me on everything else. For about half of the tracks we brought in Dave Meros to play bass, and Skip Edwards played keyboards (mostly Hammond) on about 8 or 9 of them.

Personnel and individual song details are listed with each track (Hope I got them all right!). The ultra-curious will find more details after the last song (like equipment, etc.)

It should be noted that the Craig Russel project was about the last thing ever recorded in The Workshop. My wife and I were in the process of getting a divorce in which the house and all the studio gear had to be sold. None of it was my choice, but a lot of it was my fault, which made the loss all the more devastating, and when The Workshop died, so did an important part of me. For the next 12 years I didn’t write a single song.

“Equal Ground”


(1989. Craig Russell, Skip Adams, Dave Meros and Skip Edwards. Recorded and mixed at The Workshop)

“Walk Like A Man”


(1989. Craig Russell, Skip Adams, Dave Meros, Skip Edwards. Basic tracks recorded at Bob Worster’s place. Overdubs recorded at Bob’s and at The Workshop. Mixed at Mad Hatter)

“Things We Do and Say”


(1989. Craig Russell, Skip Adams, Dave Meros. Basic tracks recorded at Bob Worster’s place. Overdubs recorded at Bob’s and at The Workshop. Mixed at Mad Hatter)

“Jewel In Your Crown”


(1989. Craig Russell, Skip Adams, Dave Meros, Skip Edward. Can’t remember the conga players name. Recorded and mixed at The Workshop)

“Here Today”


(1989. Craig Russell, Skip Adams, Dave Meros. Basic tracks recorded at Bob Worster’s place. Overdubs recorded at Bob’s and at The Workshop. Mixed at Mad Hatter)

“No Kiss Goodbye/ Pray For Love”


(1989. Craig Russell, Skip Adams, Skip Edwards. Recorded and mixed at The Workshop. Note: The beginning of the original “No Kiss Goodbye” master was damaged. What you hear is all there is. Also, in case you don’t notice it, this track is actually two songs that were made to “cross over” during mastering.

“Another Thing Coming”


(1987. Craig Russell, Skip Adams, Skip Edwards. Recorded and mixed at The Workshop)

“Lead Or Follow”


(1987 Craig Russell and Skip Adams. yes, that’s my plunking on the piano and organ, too. Amazing what you can do with midi! Recorded and mixed at The Workshop)

“The Naked Truth”


(1987 Craig Russell and Skip Adams. Recorded and mixed at The Workshop)

“Too Many People”


(1987 Craig Russell and Skip Adams. Recorded and mixed at The Workshop)

“Way Back When”


(1987 Craig Russell, Skip Adams and Skip Edwards. Recorded and mixed at The Workshop)

Equipment Details:

The Workshop: Fostex 16 track recorder with Dolby C (15/30ips), Otari 2 track recorder, Allen & Heath 24 input/8 buss console, 2 Neuman U87 tube mics (and an assortment of lesser mics), Urei 1176 compressor, a homemade mic pre using a vintage API 312 circuit, and a couple of Lexicon reverbs and delay units.

Guitar: All the electric guitar parts were recorded using an Ibanez Pro-line with Ultrasonic pickups through a dual signal path. The first went through a Cry Baby wah-wah, a Boss OD2 and a Tube King overdrive pedal into a 1959 Tonemaster amp (one 8 inch Jensen speaker, one power tube and one preamp tube delivering 10 watts. The amp only has one knob; volume) miked with a close Shure SM57 and a U87 room mic. The second path went through a Korg A1 (guitar processing unit) and a rack mounted SansAmp straight into the console. Both mics and the processors made up three recorded channels. The signals were then mixed to taste.

Other gear included the Steinberg Pro24 DAW for recording and editing midi, a Roland S-50 sampling keyboard, a Fender Precision Bass, and various synthesizer modules. One thing to note is that the drums for the 1987 sessions were programmed on an 8bit Korg drum machine, and the 1989 session were split between an Alesis SR16 drum machine and various samples on the Roland keyboard triggered using the Steinberg DAW.

Autotune and/or micro-editing? Ha! Dream on ’cause it didn’t exist.

There ya go! More than you really needed to know :)

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chp 28: Love Bomb!

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

This chapter proves that a great sounding demo isn’t everything. “Love Bomb” is a solid, fun R&B song, and it did a whole lot for me as a songwriter, but its demo has got to be one of the worst sounding ever made!

It was recorded in 1983 on the old-school TEAC Portastudio (an inexpensive 4 track cassette recorder) using a Roland TR-808 for the drums (later made extremely popular in the rap genre), and a Scholz Rockman for the guitar sound. All of which was “state-of-the-art” home-demo at the time.

As if those ingredients didn’t make it cheesy enough, the “bomb” sound you’ll hear in choruses was made by my co-writer, Lenny Macaluso, blowing into the microphone!

However, none of that stopped the song from winning first place in THE important national songwriting competition of the time (NAS/LASS), which got us on the radar of several big publishers, record companies and producers around Hollywood, which helped to open the doors that eventually led to the Sam Harris cut at Motown – and more.

Details: Lenny played bass, rhythm guitar and sang the BG vocals. I did the rest.

LOVE BOMB

Words & Music by Lenny Macaluso and Skip Adams

(V1)
I’m not the kind to go crazy
Over everything in sight baby
Honey, whatever you’ve got
It makes me lose my mind

I tried to use my early warning
But it didn’t work with you
You snuck right in a lit the fuse to my heart
There was nothing I do

(Chorus)
You hit me with a
LOVE BOMB BABY
You blew my world apart
You hit me with a
LOVE BOMB BABY
I feel your love exploding
In my heart

You caught me when I was defenseless
One look at you and it was over baby
Your loving really knocked me senseless
Cause what you’ve got is TNT

Oh baby blast me with your kisses
Every day and every night
What you do is so delicious to me
I’ve got to have your dynamite

(Chorus 2x)
(Solo)
(Chorus, out)

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chp 27: Better Man In Me

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

“Help Mr. Wizard!” That’s what Tooter Turtle used to cry when he was tired of time travelling into the past in Mr. Wizard’s “Wayback Machine”. Like Tooter, I’m tired of the 80′s for the moment, and so we come back to the future with a song that Gene Reynolds and I wrote called “Better Man In Me”.

Gene brought this song to me as a finished demo, but I knew it could be better. It was “almost” a great song, but almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, and if you’re going do anything in life you should always give it every shred of talent you’ve got.

This adage is especially true in the crazy, wonderful world of songwriting and the entertainment business in general. If you are obsessed with pushing yourself to the limit, you’ve got at least a snowballs chance in hell of having some success. You might even hit something big every now and then. Otherwise, you might as well get off the bus now and start that day job before it’s too late! :)

Anyway, the music was basically fine the way it was. The lyrics were the problem. So we set about tearing them apart and putting them back together again, adding new stuff, screwing down old stuff, and after about two months of obsessing and almost giving up two or three times along the way, we finally arrived at a version we were satisfied with.

Now, if you’re just here to listen, you can skip this part and go straight to the mp3. But, if you’re a songwriter, I thought you might be interested in seeing how the lyric progressed from the original version to the final. Keep in mind that the seven sets of lyrics on the links directly below are by no means everything we wrote, but they do represent the most significant steps along the way.

1. BMIM (original lyric – June 6th)

2. BMIM (June 22)    3. BMIM (July 3)

4, BMIM (July 6)    5. BMIM (July 10)

6. BMIM (July 12)    7. BMIM (July 17)

And here’s the final lyric and demo…

BETTER MAN IN ME

Words and Music by: Gene Reynolds and Skip Adams

(V1)
I’m trying hard to do you right
But I’m a fool come Friday night
I like my whiskey and my friends
You’d like all that to end

My shirt is checkered like my past
Folks say we’ll never last
Your mama said, “I told you so”
There’s something she don’t know

(Pre-Chorus)
There’s a better man inside me
Just a’waitin’ to be unleashed

(Chorus)
Come and set ‘em free
The better man inside of me
Needs a bit a pushin’ and a whole lot of lovin’
Like a country mule, he’s so dang stubborn
But you can bring him out
Girl don’t ever doubt
I need you and I love you and I really wanna be
The better man in me
The better man in me

(V2)
Sunday you drag me off to church
Preacher says, “don’t drink or curse”
Then ‘til Thursday I’m a saint
The weekend comes and then I ain’t

Saturday I say I’m done
Head is pounding like a drum
Don’t throw my clothes out on the lawn
Cuz girl you’ve known it all along

(Pre-Chorus)
(Chorus)
(Solo)
(Pre Chorus)
(Chorus)

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chp 26: Trouble

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

One of the most popular films of 1984 was a Sci-Fi feature called “Night of the Comet“. Here’s the synopsis: Two Valley girls wake up to find that a passing comet has turned everyone to dust, except for them, a truck driver (who looks like Eric Estrada), and a pack of mean-ass cannibal mutants.

With the help of the truck driver, the girls save the earth from a villainous government “think tank,” karate chop and Uzi their way through flesh-eating zombies, and, of course, find time to go to the mall.

The movie has since become a cult classic.

Anyway, I can’t remember how I came to know Don Perry, the Music Producer/Supervisor of the film, but when I played him a couple of songs I’d recently written, he immediately wanted them in the film. One of them was a song called, “Strong Heart” (See Chapter 7), which was covered specifically for the movie soundtrack by John Townsend of the Sanford Townsend band.

The other song is the subject of this chapter, “Trouble”. They not only wanted the song, but they wanted me to sing it (yikes!), so into the studio we went with Don and his hot-shot engineer brother, Tom. It was a great experience, and it was especially cool to sit in a crowded theater and hear my songs (and my voice) blasting on the big screen.

Details: I wrote this song by myself, plus I played everything on this demo — which was done before I had my own studio, before drum machine stopped sounding like drum machines, when one of the best sounds you could get on guitar was with a Rockman, and when Autotune was only a dream.

Here’s my original demo of the song:

“Trouble”

And here’s a link to a Youtube video with the finished recording that appeared in the film. The movie is still available for rent and for sale just about everywhere, so if you ever rent it, “Trouble” plays when the girls are walking into the creepy radio station.

TROUBLE

Words & Music by Skip Adams

(V1)
I can tell by that look in your eyes
That you’ve had your way before
And I’ve heard about those broken hearts
Leading to your door

Baby I’ve got your number
So you’d better watch your step
Cause if you’re looking to break my heart
You’re gonna need some help

(Chorus)
You just found trouble
Trouble
I’ll be watching you tonight
My name is trouble
Trouble
Oh yeah you better treat me right
Cause I’ve learn from all those night I cried
There’s a thief that steals your heart with lies
And you can run but you can never hide
From Trouble

(V2)
Well you better have some magic
In that dusty bag of tricks
And don’t ever say you love me
Unless you plan to make it stick

Now I feel my heart is slipping
So if you want to keep your health
Don’t you let me fall in love without
Going there yourself

(Chorus)
(Solo)
(Chorus Out)

And here’s a Youtube video of John Townsends recording of “Strong Heart” from the movie.

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chp 25: Rock Me Lord (In The Arms Of Freedom)

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

I once played guitar on a live Gospel record for Atlantic Records at the 1st AME church in Los Angeles. Believe me when I tell you that being on stage with an 80 voice black choir is an experience you won’t soon forget. I get goosebumps whenever I think about it!

That experience made me want to write at least a couple of songs for choirs, so when my friend — and Stanley Clarke’s keyboardist — Steve Bach, suggested we write a couple of pieces for Alfred Music (a well known publisher of choral music), I jumped on it.

We wrote two songs for that project; a unapologetic patriotic song called “The Heart of America”, and a up tempo gospel number called “Rock Me Lord” (which became “In The Arms of Freedom”). I’ve included our simple piano/vocal demos of both songs here, but “In The Arms of Freedom” was the only one that got picked up by Alfred.

Also, you’ll only hear my solo voice in these demos , but both songs were intended and written for large mixed choirs with solo male and solo female voices trading verses. Try to imagine that 80 voice AME choir while you’re listening! I always do.

Here’s our demo of “In The Arms of Freedom”…

And here’s “The Heart of America”…

It was a gratifying experience to see our demo turned into professional looking sheet music. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before, and I was kind of proud of it. All in all we sold over 100,000 copies, and school choirs all over the country performed our song for many years to come.

In fact, it’s still being performed. Just out of curiosity the other day I Googled the song, and low and behold I found two separate videos of school choirs performing it!

Here’s a very young (and very white) middle school choir giving it a go…

And here’s a high school choir with a bit more polish (the video is messed up on this one for some reason, but you can hear the song clearly)…

Honors are few and far between for most of us songwriter types, and while most wouldn’t consider choral music to be the pinnacle of our career, I do consider this song and what became of it a definite feather in my cap.

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chp 24: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The U.S. isn’t the only place where an American songwriter can ply his trade. The European markets, particulary the United Kingdom, Germany and France, are quite respectable — and they buy lots of American made music. This was especially true for me in the late 80′s.

I’ve had several chart records in Europe, including some top tens. One of them was this chapter’s song, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”, performed by Bonnie Bianco in 1987 on the German label, Metronome. This song made it as far as number 7 on the high energy charts, and was on her “Just me” album that sold 500,000 units in Germany. That’s a LOT of records for that territory.

Now, let me pause for a moment to point out that my favorite songs are not always the ones that have charted. Sure, this song is a good, solid Europop tune, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best song I’ve ever written. When you write songs for a living, sometimes you just have a job to do. You find yourself writing all kinds of songs in all kinds of genre’s, and sometimes it’s good enough to know you’re writing for a decent artist that you’re pretty sure is going to record and release it. It’s a matter of pride and professionalism to do the best you can do by that artist. That was our goal with this song, and I believe Todd (Cerney) and I accomplished that. I’ll take a very short bow for that now, thank you :)

Trivia: A great source I’d found for coming up with song titles was Leonard Maltin’s Film Guide. Browsing through it one day I came across the 1968 film “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”, which was adapted from the 1940 novel of the same name by Carson McCullers. My lyric has nothing to do with the story of the novel. I just thought it would make a great song title, and so away I went (FYI, titles are not copyrightable, and doing this sort of thing is a pretty normal practice).

THE HEART IS A LONLEY HUNTER

By Skip Adams & Todd Cerney

I press my face against the window of my heart
Staring through the pane my dreams
Of love seem cold and dark
I must keep searching though
I walk this road alone
Oh the heart is a lonely hunter

Am I the only one who’s never seen the light
This endless quest just keeps me
Running through the night
I keep believing that someday love will arrive
Only the strong survive

Oh the heart is a lonely hunter
Hungry like a beast that stalks the night
Beating the signal drum
Waiting for love to come
Oh the heart is a lonely hunter

My heart is pounding as I’m slowly closing in
I know he’s out there I can feel it in the wind
I must keep fighting just to keep the dream alive
Cause only the strong survive

(Chorus)

BONUS!! If you’ve come this far you deserve to hear the original demo of this song. It’s a primitive demo done on a 1/4 inch 8 track deck (!), but the singer, Mona Moore, absolutely KILLED it. It was this demo that got us the cut.

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chp 23: The Sound of One Heart Breaking

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Of all the songs I’ve written, a great favorite of mine is this one I wrote with Steve Singer. What made me think of it and want to feature it in this chapter was listening to Dave Morgan singing on “Dream Girl” in the previous chapter. Dave sang this song, too, and brother, he sang the livin’ bejeezus out of it!

“The Sound of One Heart Breaking” is torch ballad about a great love lost and the bittersweet matyrdom of wasting away, trapped in the painful and poignant memory of it. (is that dramatic enough for you?!). Anyone who has a heart knows this story.

And so, with no regard whatsoever for whether this song would be cut or not (it never has), I tried to tell that story in the most eloquent and heartfelt imagery I could muster. Dave really got it, and he owned the song with this vocal. I don’t believe any singer on the planet could do a better job than he did — then or now.

Details: Dave sang lead and all the backgrounds, of course. Dan Sawyer (see chapter 4) played acoustic guitar, and I did all the rest in my North Hollywood studio circa 1986. I wrote it during my tenure as a staff writer for Warner/Chappell, and those useless peckers own it still.

THE SOUND OF ONE HEART BREAKING

By: Skip Adams & Steve Singer

Once I knew your kiss
Now I’m nothing but a whisper
On the lips of some
Forgotten memory
To feel but never touch
Like a lonely ghost in love
I hover over you
In your dreams

Out there in the night
A million heart are yearning
Why should one more matter more or less?

(Chorus)

It’s only the sound of one heart breaking
It’s nothing but an echo from your past
Just a noisy memory
Of a love that used to be
It’s only the sound of one heart breaking
The cry as the lonely die of a broken heart

Something that you heard
Sent a ripple through your world
It’s just the gentle distant thunder
Of a falling tear
Please don’t be alarmed
It can’t do you any harm
Just close your eyes and it will leave you
Like a childhood fear

It’s only the sound of one heart breaking
It’s nothing but an echo from your past
Just a noisy memory
Of a love that used to be
It’s only the sound of one heart breaking
The cry as the lonely die of a broken heart

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chp 22: Dream Girl

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

One writer I really enjoyed working with back in the 80′s was Jack Conrad. Jack was a cool guy with a sardonic sense of humor, and we used to spend as much time cracking each other up as we did writing. Jack was also the touring bassist for The Doors, and wrote that big hit song, “Isn’t It Time”, for a group called The Babys (John Waite and Jonathan Cain came out of that group).

“Dream Girl” is another one of those songs that should’ve gotten a nice cut but didn’t. It wasn’t for lack of great demos, though. The first one that Jack and I cut at his place sported local L.A. legend, Danny Peck, on vocals.

A few months later I gave it a go at my place with another L.A. legend, Dave Morgan, doing the singing this time around. Dave did a fantastic job, and this is my favorite version of the song. (I played everything on this demo. The horns are sampled, btw)

Now, tell me you couldn’t hear somebody like Hughie Lewis or Billy Joel singing this song back in the day!

Fast forward about 20 years later and I’m thinking this song could be a Country hit with a group like Big & Rich. So I modified the lyrics a bit and had Stacy Hogan do a slightly more laid back version with Mike Lusk singing lead.

And so I’m currently pitching this latest version to label artists in Nashville. Wish me luck!

Note: If you listen closely to each version you’ll notice that the lyrics in each are slightly different. The lyrics below are for the second version. Feel free to let me know which version you like the best.

DREAM GIRL

By: Skip Adams & Jack Conrad

Woke Up In A Sweat Last Night
Had A Dream About Paradise
A Gorgeous Vision From Another World
Has Anybody Seen This Girl?
She’s Tall And Blonde With A Golden Tan
She Can Do Twice As Much As Other Girls Can
She Cooks Like Crazy And She Sings The Blues
And That’s Not All, She’s Smart Too

Has Anybody, Anybody Seen My Dream Girl?
Has Anybody, Anybody Seen My Dream Girl?
There’s A Phone – Here’s A Dime
Call Me Up Anytime
If You See My Dream Girl

Doctor, What’s Wrong With Me?
Am I Living In Fantasy?
I Must Be Crazy, Or Just Going Blind
I’ve Never Seen A Girl So Fine
She’s Everything That A Man Could Want
So Refined, A Bon Vivant
She’s An Amazon Madonna With A High Iq
All I Need Is One Good Clue

Has Anybody, Anybody Seen My Dream Girl?
Has Anybody, Anybody Seen My Dream Girl?
There’s A Phone – Here’s A Dime
Call Me Up Anytime
If You See My Dream Girl

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chp 21: Calling All Girls!

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Misha Segal (see chapter 19) and I were plunking around in his studio one day and stumbled across the groove, concept and melody for this cool little song. Before the day was out, I’d come up with a solid lyric for the chorus (Misha only wrote music) and a sketch of the verse lyrics.

We continued to refine the changes and arrangement for the song over the next couple few days, but I was struggling with lyrics, so we called up Harriet Schock for some help.

Now, Harriet is a Grammy nominated songwriter for a reason; that girl can write lyrical circles around just about anybody! She came over to my studio one afternoon, and we had a finished “Calling All Girls” lyric before rush hour got started (So Harriet had a stress free drive back to Hollywood from the Valley :).

The next day I went to work on the demo, and pretty much had all the tracks cut before we’d even thought about a singer – which was a bad idea. Normally you’d want to know who’s going to sing the song first so the key will work for them. Considering the melody, the key I’d cut it in was only good for a high tenor.

About the only one we knew who could sing the bejeezus out of it in that key was a guy named Mike Terry – who sounded very much like Michael Jackson. So “Calling All Girls” wound up sounding like a Michael Jackson song – which you’ll no doubt notice.

Michael Jackson didn’t cut the song, but we did manage to get it placed it in a Peter O’Toole movie that made me a hundredaire, and continues to bring in the pennies to this day. In any case, it’s a good, fun song that I’m proud to include in my personal body or work.

Details: Mike sang all lead and BG vocals, and I did everything else – including the sax, which was a sample.

CALLING ALL GIRLS

By: Harriet Schock, Misha Segal and Skip Adams

Lookin’ for a lover
Lookin’ all night
I’m in need of another
Who’ll treat me right
Gonna find somebody
To take my mind off her

I’m in need of a teacher
Who won’t play rough
A delicate creature
Who knows her stuff
Gotta fill this empty space
Since she’s been gone
I’m lookin’ for a heart
To help me carry on

Calling all girls
All around the world
Help me to forget about her
Got to be a girl
Somewhere in the world
To show me how to live without her
Calling all girls

Gonna do it better
The second time out
Get myself together
I have no doubt
Gonna get amnesia
Where she and I are concerned
The lady of leisure
Will find her bridges burned

(Chorus)

Bridge:

Calling all girls
I really need some help
I can’t get over her myself
Calling all girls

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chp 20: If You Were Here

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

These days I’m a busy music publisher with a 6000 song catalog to take care of, so I don’t get to write as often as I’d like. When I do, it’s often because one of my writers has brought me a song that’s almost there, but needs some work to knock it over the top. If we both agree, I’ll come on as a co-writer to finish it. “If You Were Here” is a good example.

Gene Reynolds (see chapter 6) brought this song to me as a male/female duet, but it just wasn’t working in that setting. So, I suggested we break it apart and re-write the lyrics for a single female vocal. That meant re-writing whole verses, as well as tweaking subtle bits in every part of the song so the story would work with the new point of view.

Now, a song lyric – like a novel or a movie script – is 95% a work of fiction; a “beautiful lie”, if you will. And if you’re going to spin a tale it better not have any holes in it or you’ll be busted. A bad song is only bad because the story hasn’t been told well enough.

So, to that end, Gene and I talked a lot about our character’s back story; What kind of person is she? Where does she come from? Is she rich or poor? Were they married? What caused the break up? Why does she want him back? And a hundred other questions.

Even though none of the answers appear in the song, it was important to know who our girl was so we’d know how she’d behave in our story. Once you know that, a well told story is likely to follow.

So here’s our story (and we’re stickin’ to it)

IF YOU WERE HERE

By Gene Reynolds & Skip Adams

The radio comes on
It wakes me from a dream
Of things the way they were
But in reality
It’s just another day
Wishing you were here

I reach across our bed
And touch the empty space
Imagining the scent of you
On your pillowcase
Another lonely day
Wishing you were here

CHORUS
If you were here
I wouldn’t feel so empty
If you were here
I wouldn’t be so lost
If you were here
She’d be the one that’s missin you
And this house would be a home
If you were here

I run into our friends
They ask if I’m OK
I tell ‘em sure, I’m doing fine
What I really want to say
It’s just another day
Wishing you were here

I try to dial the phone
But my fingers won’t stay still
I just can’t catch my breath
And I wonder if I will
Another lonely day
Wishing you were here

CHORUS

BRIDGE
What happened to the love that felt so right?
What happened to the flame that burned so bright?
I know I should move on, but it’s more than I can bear
Cause even when I close my eyes I see you there

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chp 19: We’ll Get By/Our House

Monday, January 4th, 2010

The music that plays at the beginning of a TV show is called the “Theme”, and there are several ways this music gets chosen. One way is the method I’ll call the “Selective Cattle Call”. That’s when a number of known composers and/or songwriters (usually with connections to someone involved in the show), are asked to sort of compete with one another to be the chosen one. I say “Chosen One” because writing the theme for a successful TV show can mean a respectable amount in royalties every quarter for life – and beyond.

So, circa 1991 I was writing songs with film/TV composer, Misha Segal, when he was called on to submit some ideas for a new sit-com starring Nell Carter. My best recollection is that the title of the show was to be “The Nell Carter Show”, but it was changed to “You Take The Kids” by the time the show had started airing.

Now, Misha had scored more TV movies than there are craters on the moon, so it’s not surprising that he’d be asked to do something like this. I, on the other hand, had never done anything like this before. The twist, though, was that they wanted a theme with words (a song) that Nell would sing. Misha didn’t write lyrics, and I write both, so that’s where I came into the picture.

Right off the bat, Misha cooked up two funky little grooves with melodies, and so I got to work channeling a very large black woman living in a suburban home with her husband and four kids. And by the end of the day we had these two songs.

As per usual, I took our rough demos back to my North Hollywood studio and did them up. I dropped Misha’s midi keyboard tracks into my sequencer (Steinberg Pro 24) and started layering stuff on top of them. Once I had a pair of solid rhythm tracks I called in veteran gospel singer, Vermettya Royster (an actual very large black woman), to knock it out of the park. And that she did. (the background vocals too!)

In spite of all of the above, I’m sorry to tell you that neither one of our songs got picked for the show. Still, every time I go back and listen to these tracks I get happy, and feel proud of what we did.

Pardon me for not including lyrics this time, but you won’t need them. Vermettya’s voice cuts through like Mahalia Jackson is singing right in your ear.

“We’ll Get By”


  
“Our House”


Vermettya Royster

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chp 18: Lip Service

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

Here’s another one I wrote with Todd Cerney back in the late 80’s. Whenever Todd came to L.A. to write with me he’d always have an abundance of great titles and ideas as a starting place. I’d have a bag full, too, and so we’d throw ideas at each other until something stuck, and then off we’d go.

On this occasion Todd had this lyric couplet that went, “Lip Service, I need your kisses right way. Lip Service, no matter what I’ve got to pay”. Now, the mind races at all the lyrical possibilities in this sentiment, and so we spent the day exploring them to a high energy funk loop that became the musical basis for the song.

I don’t remember who wrote what exactly, and it doesn’t matter. When you’re co-writing it’s bad form to keep track of stuff like that. Whether you’ve come up with 5% or 95% is not the point. The point is that the result is accomplished through the chemistry of the two (or more) writers putting their heads together, and that the song wouldn’t exist without that combination.

Another thing: The demo is not “the song”. The “song” is the melody and the lyrics in whatever form that takes. Those two things are “the cake”, and everything beyond that is really just icing; the “production”, to be precise.

In fact, here’s our work tape of the “cake” to illustrate the point:

After Todd went back to Nashville I went about the task of producing the demo (the icing) in my studio. Tony Walters sang the lead and BG vocals, and I did all the rest (the sax is sampled, btw). I particularly had a lot of fun with the whole break section, including the guitar solo. Hope you like it.

FYI: This song was held by the hit R&B group, Bell Biv Devoe, for several months, but they broke up before they could record it. Too bad. But that’s life in the big city. Every songwriter, no matter how successful, has written more songs that haven’t been cut than have.

LIP SERVICE

By: Todd Cerney and Skip Adams

(V1)
I read your notice in the classifieds
That’s how I got your number
I’d really like it if you’d just stop by
So I don’t have to wonder

Can you love up to your reputation?
Oh, I need a private consultation

(CHORUS)
Lip Service
I need your kisses night and day
Lip Service
No matter what I have to pay
Lip Service
Please deliver right away
LIP SERVICE!

(V2)
I know you’ll understand just what I need
The love that I’ve been missing
Once it gets started it can always lead
To everything that follows kissing

I’ll leave it up to your imagination
Baby please, I need a demonstration

(CHORUS)

(BRIDGE)
Oh baby won’t you please stop by?
Won’t you please stop by?
Come on over, give my love a try
Give my love a try

(SOLO BREAK)

Can you love up to your reputation?
Oh, I need a private demonstration

(CHORUS – Out)

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chp 17 You’ve Really Gotten To Me

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

My little North Hollywood studio became a hotbed of activity in the mid to late 80’s. I’d opened it to the public and, in addition to serving as a recording engineer and multi-instrumentalist, I frequently wound up writing with, and producing, many of the writers and artists that came through there.

One couple I became very tight with was Steven and Linda Tavani. Steven had produced a recent Smokey Robinson record, and Linda was a great singer who had been Peaches in the hit R&B duo, Peaches and Herb.

Steve Singer and I had written “You’ve Really Gotten To Me” with the intention of pitching it to some young female artist or girl group, and Linda was the perfect voice for it. I’d just barely met Linda and Steven, so when she agreed to sing the demo for me, I was ecstatic.

The song was later recorded by the MCA recording artist, Alisha, and was produced by Michael Jay, (New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion and many others). “You’ve Really Gotten To Me” never became a hit, but I’m quite proud of it as an example of some solid 80’s R&B song craft. And hey, it’s never too late for a good song!

Details: Linda Tavani; lead vocal, Linda and myself; background vocals, Stewart (can’t remember his last name); Rhodes piano, and I did everything else (including the synth solo).

Here’s my original demo with Linda…

And here’s Alisha’s recording from her record, Bounce Back on MCA

YOU’VE REALLY GOTTEN TO ME

Skip Adams & Steve Singer

I used to think that love was only
For the desperate and lonely
Fools who played along
But I was wrong
I hid my heart on a dusty shelf
And promised I would never lose
My self control
But that was long before

You reached out and touched my world
And proved to me I didn’t have to be
A lonely girl

(CHORUS)

You’ve really gotten to me
Baby I’ll admit
You’ve been seeing through me
Since the day we met
Now I finally realize
Love’s been standing all along
Right before my eyes
You’ve really gotten to me

You always treated me so kind
I guess the pain had made me blind
I couldn’t see
Your love for me
You must’ve known from the very start
Only time can fix a broken heart
Now I confess
My answer’s yes

Now we’re so much more than friends
You dried my tears and taught me how
To love again

(CHORUS)

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chp 16: The American Heart

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Meanwhile, 33 years later…

A few months ago Tim Wheeler brought me a rough demo of a work in progress called “The Human Heart”…

Tim’s insight was poignant and painfully contemporary; having to do with the changing and challenging world we now live in, but the song wasn’t finished. So we started bouncing ideas back and forth. Should we change it to first person? Should it be an up tempo? Of course the lyrics needed tweaking! And let’s change the title to “The American Heart”…

Eventually we came to the final draft below…

Which we used as the guide track for the finished demo below… (Lead vocal by Mike Lusk)

THE AMERICAN HEART

They walked him out with half his pride, and a check for two weeks pay
Now he don’t work there anymore
Drove on down to the county seat to file an unemployment claim
A big ‘ol line stretched out the door

Asked his dad, “ever seen it this bad?” He said no, but his daddy had
Compared to him, son, you and I been blessed
Life is more that a house or a car, or how well-off people think you are
You need to trust what’s beating in your chest

(Chorus)
Don’t give up when life gets hard, if it don’t kill you, you’ll get stronger
Jump back in and do your part and you just might make it through
When they tell you that it’s over, that’s a real good place to start
Don’t ever underestimate the American Heart

Now he ain’t much into politics, it’s a sucker bet when the game is fixed
And guys in suits make all the rules
He just wants to be left alone, keep his wife and kids in their little home
Just give him half a chance and that’s what he’ll do

(Chorus)
Don’t give up when life gets hard, if it don’t kill you, you’ll get stronger
Jump back in and do your part and you just might make it through
When they tell you that it’s over, that’s a real good place to start
Don’t ever underestimate the American Heart

(Solo)

(Bridge)
There’s a hope that’s running like a train
Through them purple mountains and fruited plains
Pumping hard to keep the dream alive

(Chorus)
Don’t give up when life gets hard, if it don’t kill you, you’ll get stronger
Jump back in and do your part and you just might make it through
When they tell you that it’s over, that’s a real good place to start
Don’t ever underestimate the American Heart
Don’t ever underestimate the American Heart

(Words & Music by Tim Wheeler and Skip Adams)

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chp 15: Megalopolis

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

This is the fifth and final song from the WGTB radio show (see chapter 11 for the set up). I penned this song around 1971, which makes it one of the very first complete songs I ever wrote. I think I’d just watched Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, or some other depressing vision of the future, and had to offer my own.

Trivia: Those flying fingers on the piano intro, as well as that crazy, fuzzed our Farfisa solo in the interlude, belong to the amazing Carl Byron. FYI, Carl was only 19 years old at the time of this recording.

Next Chapter: Back to the future!

MEGALOPOLIS

Words & Music by Skip Adams

Take a look at the hurry-hurry city
Black ties with matching minds
Polyethylene Megalopolis
Metal monsters whizzing by

Memory banks pay interest by the day
A very handy people’s toy
A circuit overload and all the world stands still
When things go well it’s such a joy

Leaving work from a very tiring four hour day
Must reach the store before it closes
It’s his twenty second anniversary day
Got to buy some plastic roses

They’ll have a quiet celebration by the fire
And talk of days that have flown by
Gaze on photographs of family and neighbors
And fight on til they have to die

(Musical interlude)

The engineers are down to fifteen moving parts
Another breakthrough any day
Whatever happened to the dirty fingernail?
Automation’s here to stay

I often find a madman searching for a blade of grass
Among the concrete and the steel
Screaming crowds with rusty hammers
Looking for a nail to pound
I guess to them it isn’t real

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chp 14: Au Go Go

Monday, December 21st, 2009

This is the fourth song from the Take One radio show (see chapter 11 for the set up). I wrote this originally as a poem while killing time in a strip club in Alexandria Virginia, and only later turned it into a song when I formed JonSam. Strange cool.

Trivia: The sax player, Bill Haney, was only about 20 years old at the time, but he was a monster out of North Texas State. He also wore hearing aids in both ears!

AU GO GO

Words & Music by Skip Adams

The lady struts, she swirls
Like smoke poured down through spotlight glare
Pushing swollen hips
Pouting, sucking lips she sees
The honkeys google-eyed

Latin throb
Her shoulders bob on oily joints
In their ringside seats
Men are pumping unseen treats
Being careful not to give away
Their erotic counterpoint

(Chorus)
Au Go-Go
How you thrilled the boys
With your sexy toys
Left your love back in the dressing room
And now we find she’s only human

(Solo)

Pagan goddess
Muse of dance
Find the rhythm to your heart
Your eyes so bloodshot red
Someday they’ll find you dead
Twisted body I could kill for
Could kill you silly tart

(Chorus)

She dips, she turns
Limbs like cobras wave through smoky atmosphere
Enjoying the scam
Forgetting who I am
Must be those thighs I idolize
Still she knows no one there

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chp 13: Timmy

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Yo! Here’s song #3 from the radio show (See chapter 11 for the set up). FYI, this song was inspired by the movie “Taxi Driver”.

TIMMY

Words & Music by Skip Adams

Timmy read the news page today
Looking for some clever things to say
An anecdote or two
Something cutting, something new
Anything for glory was OK

All his friends thought Tim was very bright
Reading paper novels through the night
Thomas Mann and Hesse
Willie James and all the rest
Losing touch with real to see the light

(Chorus)
Now he’d gone and done it
Made a mess and tried to run it
Caused an awful scene
And now he’d like to rest
All the novel types and heroes
Those Napoleon’s and Nero’s
Took a gamble
A preamble
To his death

Still he played his silly boyhood games
Bought a gun, and then changed his name
Migraine headaches and the anger
Never warned him of the danger
Still he knew he’d never be the same

Writing up a letter to his kin
He said, “Love you Dad, but won’t be back again”
Well I just turned twenty two
And I won’t turn out like you
It’s my destiny, it’s time I should begin

(Chorus)
(Solo)
(Chorus)

Through the door and out on to the street
Nihilistic, staring at his feet
Bathed in neon city glare
He was bound to find it there
On sidewalk, in the filth, the girls in heat

Some sleezy greaser offered up a pill
Lost his sense and shot him for a thrill
Realized what he had done
Put his head up to his gun
Blew his brains out, not the pains out
All is still

(Chorus)

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chp 12: Living With The Frenzy

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Here’s the second song from the radio show (See chapter 11 for the set up). This song was written after a night at a D.C. club called The Crazy Horse on M Street in Georgetown. I’m sure the people there had no clue I was turning them into vacuous monsters. I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I actually had a good time there.

LIVING WITH THE FRENZY

Words & Music by Skip Adams

Living with the frenzy
Everything a game
Some are cruel and some a pleasing
Illusions just the same
A two edged conversation
Words that jump and twist
The truth lies somewhere hiding
In a game we can’t resist

Escape the madness
Psycho-rape and sadness
Viscous business dealings
Can’t ignore the feelings anymore

Living with the lonely
The quiet desperation
Losing sight of their objective
They grope for consolation
Writhing in a sea of flesh
A face without a name
TV spewing space-food sticks
A videocean shame

(Chorus)

In a crowded, dim and smoky room
They come to find some beauty
The music drones its primal urge
Instead they fill their duty
They perform the ancient rituals
Like animals in heat
Sending telepathic messages
Where words are indiscreet

(Chorus)

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chp 11: Just a Piece of Crucifiction Day

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Hopping into the way-back machine once again, this and the next four songs are from a 1977 live radio program called “The Take One Show” on WGTB radio, Washington D.C. It’s also the only recording of my very first original band, JonSam.

JonSam was sort of a concept band that lyrically explored some pretty dark and irreverent territory, and musically was quite progressive, and even funky and jazzy at times. (FYI, “JonSam” comes from my first and middle names reversed)

One caveat: I was just 25 years old at the time, and while this wasn’t my first band, it was my first attempt at singing lead and fronting a group of any kind, so forgive my musical naïveté. This blog just wouldn’t be an honest one if I didn’t stick my neck out and include these little time capsules.

Details: Carl Byron on keyboards, Joshua Howard on bass and BG vocals, Bill Haney on Sax and flute, Rick Sciascia (pronounced Shaw-shaw) on drums, and me on guitar and lead vocals. The vintage Strat I played was sadly stolen in 1979, and the ’68′ Marshall plexi (100 watts) was sold many years ago (tears). The only effect I used on this recording was a talkbox. Way cool!

JUST A PIECE OF CRUCIFICTION DAY

There he stands the man who don’t quite
Look the way he did before
He was drinking table wine with his friends and doing fine
Now he’s crawling right along with the poor

I said, “Hey buddy, can I give you a hand
That’s a mighty big cross to bear”
He tipped his thorn crown and set his burden down
And said, “No I’ve got to carry it there.”

(Chorus)
I’ve got to carry that old cross
To the top of the hill
My daddy wants me to
And if I don’t, no one else will

I couldn’t help but wonder just a little
What all of this could mean
What kind of old man would put his son in the can
And throw away the key?
The old bastard ought to be crucified
For letting this happen to his kin
He said, “No you fool, I’m trying to prove a point
I guess I’ve got to tell you again

(Chorus)
(Bridge)
Holy roller and heathen freaks
Crowd the doors and line the streets
Some throw dice
And other pray
It’s a carnival in carnal-ville
Just a piece of crucifiction day

The crowd closed in like a preacher on sin
As they followed him up the hill
From my hiding place I could see his face
And what I saw gave me a chill

Guys like him, they come and go
Glad it was him and not me
And the crowd began to wail
With every driven nail
In perfect harmony

(Chorus)
(Solo)
(V2)
(Chorus)
(Bridge)

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chp 10: Out Of Control

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

The weirdest things happen once it gets out that you’ve got a hot song. For instance, I was bar hopping in Hollywood one night back in 1984 when Billy Meshel (President of Arista Music) came up to me out of the blue and said, “I heard that song of yours, Out of Control. I like it”, and then just walked away. I had no idea how he knew me or the song, but he did.

Because of this song, that year was a whirlwind. For a while, just about every day, I and my co-writer, Lenny Macaluso, were being carted around town and courted by every label and producer that had a pop artist who was about to record an album.

Eventually we met with Benny Medina at Motown who told us about this hot new artist they’d just signed for a million dollar advance. Unprecedented for the time. His name was Sam Harris, and because he’d just won the Star Search TV series, he was a household name and was going to be huge. So we hopped on board and agreed to let Sam be the first one to record the song. I was especially pumped up a month later when Sam said in an LA Times interview that the first single was going to be “Out Of Control”, and they were going to name the album Out Of Control, too. Once again, I was going to be rich and famous!

But anything can happen in the music business. Nothing’s final ‘til it’s on vinyl, as they say. Long story short, Sam’s album came out in the fall of 84. It was not called Out Of Control, and the first single was not my song. The single they did release tanked, and when Motown hadn’t sold as many records as anticipated, they pulled the plug.

To add insult to injury, among the offers we’d turned down was one from John Ryan, producer of Styx, The Allman Brothers and Santana, among other greats. He said if I’d let him record the song with a new group he was producing, it would be their first single. But Lenny and I were betting on Sam, so we turned him down. He was pissed!

As it turned out, the group was Animotion. Their first single was number one for several weeks in the U.S., and was a worldwide hit. Oh well.

Still, Sam’s record sold about 800, 000 units, and I got a gold record and a small pile of money out of it. Plus I got a couple more covers later on. Not too bad for a country boy.

Details: Below are two versions of the song. The demo is mostly me, myself and I. Greg Whelchell (From the Pointer Sisters) played a couple of the keyboard parts, and Linda Lawley did the vocals.

My demo…

And here’s Sam Harris’ version on Motown…

OUT OF CONTROL

Words & Music by Skip Adams and Lenny Macaluso

(V1)
Here comes that boy again giving me the eye
I feel the danger signals warning me to hide
But I can’t hold back when the fire starts to grow
That’s when my heart goes out of control

(V2)
Something about the way he stares straight into me
His eyes like fingers touching me so eagerly
I try to break away, he tightens up his hold
That when my goes

(Chorus)
OUT OF CONTROL
And I just can’t fight it, oh no
OUT OF CONTROL
Like a hunted heart
Trapped in the jaws of desire
When I feel the passion flowing
When I feel the fire growing
That’s when my heart goes
OUT OF CONTROL

(V3)
My fever’s rising as he slowly closes in
My body’s aching and I know I must give in
I can’t resist him, my emotions overload
He’s got my heart goin…

(chorus)
(solo)
(Chorus)

PS: If you gotten this far you deserve a bonus recording. Here’s a recording by the French pop star, Sylvi Vartan

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chp 9: Simple As That

Monday, November 30th, 2009

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning posed this famous question in her poem over a century ago, and lovers (and songwriters!) have been struggling with the perfect answer ever since.

The problem, though, is that no list of a loved one’s virtues could ever be complete. Writer’s cramp or exhaustion must surely set in at some point. And so something must naturally be left out. I guess even Browning didn’t get it totally right.

I contemplated this dilemma one day when I was thinking about why I loved my wife. Was it because she’s beautiful? Because she cooks for me? Because she’s funny? The list went on and on. And then it dawned on me; no list could sum up what I felt, because the feeling was bigger than the parts it was made of. And that was when I picked up my guitar and pen and wrote this song.

Details: Below are two versions; the first one is my rough home demo (all me), which was used as the guide for the second version, which was recorded in a nice studio here in Nashville with Mike Lusk on vocals.

PS: before I recorded either of these versions I sang and played it for Terri as a gift on Christmas morning last year. It made her cry, so I guess I did good.

Here’s the home demo…

And here’s the studio version…

SIMPLE AS THAT

Maybe it’s the clothes you wear
Or that long red hair
Maybe ‘cause you’re always there
But I don’t think so

Maybe it’s the way you smile
When I’m coming through the door
Maybe I could love you more
But I don’t think so

I cannot put my finger on a single reason why
All the little bits add up to this
So I won’t even try

I just love you
I do
Love you like a big old dog
Yes I do
I just love you
Simple as that
No one above you
Simple as that
It’s as simple as that

Maybe it’s the things you say
Or your little girl ways
Maybe I should count the days
But I don’t think so

Maybe it’s the love you give
To all the little creatures
How you’re garden grows
But I don’t think so

There ain’t no use in pointing to a solitary thing
It’s the picture from the pieces girl
That makes me want to sing

I just love you
I do
Love you like a big old dog
Yes I do
I just love you
Simple as that
No one above you
Simple as that
It’s as simple as that

(Words & Music by SJ Adams)

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chp 8: Love Is Zero

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

It took me a long time to learn that if you want a woman in your life, you have to listen to her — patiently. I guess I’m still learning patience, but when I wrote this song I had very little — particularly when they’d start complaining — as they invariably did. “Love Is Zero” is a manifestation of my ingenious zero-tolerance relationship policy – which was obviously so successful seeing as how I’ve only been married three times.

Details: 1978 was a good year. I was living in Laurel Canyon, getting to know lots of people and learning lots of things. Recording engineering was one of those things. I’d been spending lots of time in high-line rooms like The Sound Factory, United Western, Producer’s Workshop, The Record Plant, Devonshire, and so on. But while I mostly watched and listened at those places, I didn’t really get my hands on a recording console until I met a guy named Steve Singer.

Steve was a songwriter who’d somehow put some money together and, with a partner, had just opened up a killer 24 track studio (all MCI) in Studio City called Excalibur. When a mutual friend took me by to visit one day, I met Steve and immediately tried to con him into giving me some studio time on spec. Steve was a cagey guy and wasn’t buying, but he did suggest we write some songs together and use his studio to record them. Bingo!

So we proceeded to write about 200 songs together over the next couple of years, several of which became top ten records in Europe. I also got to spend lots of time twiddling the knobs, which did much to improve my skills. (Steve: In case I’ve neglected to say so in the past — thank you)

In fact, I wrote “Love Is Zero” by myself. However, it was indeed recorded at Excalibur during that time, along with my crew of Excalibur regulars. We called ourselves the TrackRats, by the way, and even had silk-screened T-shirts made up that showed a reel of 2 inch, AMPEX 456 with a big rat bite taken out of it.

The TrackRats were: Mark Bensi; drums, Don Soraporu; bass, Steve Bach (from Stanley Clarke’s band); keyboards, I played acoustic and electric guitars. Mark, Don and I sang backgrounds. This song was recorded and mixed by me and Hayward Collins.

(PS: this version is from an old cassette, so forgive the background hiss)

Love Is Zero

Words & Music by Skip Adams

You are crazy
I am blue
Got me spinnin’, spinnin’
Don’t know what to do

One and one
May equal two
But baby you and me
Don’t equal you

Love Is Zero
Love Is Zero

You say you love me
Now that’s a lie
Like the politician’s dreams
This too must die

I say please
You say no
Tell me where’s a fool
Like Me to go?

(Chorus)
(Solo)
(Repeat 2nd Verse)
(Chorus)

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chp 7: Strong Heart

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Now we’re going to take a trip in the way-back machine to about 1979. That was an exciting time for me. I’d arrived in LA only a year earlier with my good friend and drummer, Mark Bensi. It was like walking into wonderland. In fact, for the next year we lived on Wonderland Avenue in Laurel Canyon with a Scottish songwriter named Rabindra Danks, who was managed by Ron Moss of Chick Corea’s company.

Mark was playing with Bill Withers and Donna Summers, we were both playing with Rabindra, and I was getting deeper and deeper into being a studio musician playing on records, commercials, movies and TV shows. (Maxine Nightengale, Donna Washington, two number one records with Jerry Knight on A&M, Mork & Mindy, Lavern & Shirley, etc.)

Meanwhile, in my other life, I wanted to be a famous rock star and songwriter. Before I’d even gotten to LA I’d had songs picked up by Screengems and Famous Music, and now that I was in Hollywood my objective was to write some hits for myself, put together a kick-ass band, and go for it.

“Strong Heart” was just one of the songs written for that project, but it took on a life of its own: I got a cover by John Townsend of the Sanford-Townsend Band, another one by Dave Mason of Traffic, a high profile placement in a popular movie of the time (Night of the Comet), and to top it off, it drew in a hot British record producer named Richard Greenblatt. I was on fire.

Richard took us into the Sound Factory on Sunset Blvd where so many famous records have been made, and we recorded four songs as a master/demo so Ron Moss could shop me to the labels. Everything was looking great.

Long story short, I didn’t become a rock star. 1980 came around and the economy went bad, or at least that’s how Ron explained it. Besides, I’d fallen in love with a beautiful Jewish girl and we were going to have babies. I couldn’t be running around the world like a wild weenie! So I slowly slipped out of the rock star game and slipped into the songwriter game. Even that was a rocky ride, but it did work out.

Details: The lineup on the Sound Factory demo was; Mark Bensi, drums; Don Soraporu, bass, Craig Marsden, lead vocal and rhythm guitar, Richard Goldblatt on keyboards and recording console, and me on lead guitar and vocals. Sorry, I don’t now the lineup on the Mason recording.

Here’s the Sound Factory demo…

And here’s Dave Mason’s record…

As postscript, I’ll add that having a song cut by Dave Mason was a thrill. Believe me, when one of the worlds most famous songwriters records a song you’ve written, it’s special.

STRONG HEART

By: Skip Adams & Mark Bensi

I hear you talkin’ ’bout lettin’ go.
You say our love has hit an all time low.
Quitter’s have to pay the price, so if you want my advice
there’s something baby, I think that you should know.

You’ve got to have a strong heart, a burning desire
If you want our love to survive.
You’ve got to have strong heart, a soul of fire
to keep our love alive.

You’ve got your trouble’s, I’ve got some too.
You say you don’t know what to do.
Instead of running away, try and listen to what I say
Cause this talk of leaving, is giving me the blues.

(Chorus) Bridge:

It’s so easy to fall in love
It’s not so easy to stay.
I can’t imagine what you’re thinking of
Don’t throw it away

(Chorus out)

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chp 6: The End Of Me

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Nothing burns so bright in the beginning as a love that ends in flames, and flames it is for poets and dreamers and the women who love them. “The End of Me” is the story of one such dreamer, who, at the end of his line of credit, watches helplessly as the inevitable happens and his heart is repossessed — again. (Did I just mix metaphors?!)

Details: This song is a sad one, so I thought it would be good to have some fun and take a look at how it evolved from an idea into the finished product. It started out as ballad in January of 2009 when my co-writer, Gene Reynolds (Hey Gene!), sent this version to me via email…

I complained that ballads are hard to pitch and that we should make it an up-tempo, like this…

Gene agreed, but had a different approach, which he sent me on the 21st…

A short time later we gave up since we didn’t really like anything we’d come up with to that point, and so we let sit on the shelf. Then, in March, one of us had a bright idea, and so we picked it up again took it back to being a ballad. Like ths…

We went back and forth for a couple more weeks with lots of big and little variations in both the lyrics and music, and then it all fell into place. This version below was the result. And so this is the “guide track”; the final home-demo version that’s used to show the musicians, singers and studio engineer what to do during the final recording…

And this is the final version, sung by Mike Lusk, that I’ve been pitching to label artists since April…

THE END OF ME

Words & Music by: Gene Reynolds and Skip Adams

(V1)
I know it by the way
She’s standing in the door
It’s right there in her pretty eyes
Oh I’ve seen that look before
She don’t want to say the words
But any fool could see
She’s at the end of me

(Chorus)
At the end of I’m trying
Broken promises and fightin
Through with what I’m gonna do
One of these days
At the end of pretending
That there’ll be a happy ending
On the edge of being free
She’s at the end of me

(V2)
Oh I know the best thing
That I could do for her
Is say spread your wings and fly away
To the life that you deserve
Well stubborn hearts are slow to learn
And mine just can’t believe
She’s at the end of me

(Chorus)

(Bridge)
I’d tell her I’ll do better
But she knows that I won’t
There’s nothing I could say
Would make a difference, so I don’t
Cause she’s heard all my stories
And she knows my song and dance
Still I keep on prayin’
For one more second chance

(Chorus)

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chp 5: Heart Do The Talking

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

This song is an apology, an explanation and a promise I wrote for an “ex” of mine. You see, I always believed that if you could say just the right words with just the right meaning the clouds would part and angels would sing and anything could be fixed. Wrong! She’s an “ex”, isn’t she?

There was also not much chance of this song ever getting cut because it’s too serious and not commercial enough. That’s OK. I like it just the way it is.

Details: This is all me from stem to stern, recorded in that same little studio in North Hollywood back in the day.

HEART DO THE TALKING

By: Skip Adams

There I go again
I’ve upset you so my friend
I did not mean to make you angry
I did not want to make you cry
You see I’ve learned this self defense
From all my bad experience
And now my lips can’t say the words
To dry the river in your eyes

From now on
My heart will do the talking
I will let my spirit take control
I will open up to you
The way I know you want me to
And I will let my heart
Say everything to you

When I was a child
I let everything run wild
but soon my innocence was punished
And I learned just what to say
Well I locked it all inside
‘Till today I realized
Cruel words can hide the truth
But it will never go away

(Chorus) (bridge)

I built this wall
I raised these bars
I’ll blow the horn to make it
All tumble down
My lips are sealed
Don’t say a word
Can’t you hear them
The voices calling

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chp 4: She’s Got Money

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

No doubt you’ve heard this one before: Q. What do you call a musician without a girlfriend? A. Homeless. “She’s Got Money” is a tribute to this time-honored symbiotic relationship between men with guitars and women with jobs. God bless them both.

Details: I wrote this song with Sandy Murchy, the guy I mentioned in the previous post who sang the backgrounds on “Pray For Love”. Sandy also sings the lead vocal on the original demo (Sandy also helped me build my studio!). The multi-talented Dan Sawyer played sax, and I did everything else. Look for Dan in future chapters.

The second recording (done recently) is a Country/Southern Rock version of the song a la Big & Rich. Stacy Hogan here in Nashville was the recording mastermind behind this one. You’ll hear more of his amazing work as the story progresses. Mike Lusk sings lead. (Check out Stacy’s business. Or his band project. And here’s Mike Lusk.)

Here’s the original 1986 demo:

Here’s the Country version:

And here’s the lyric:

She’s Got Money

By: Skip Adams & Sandy Murchy

She ain’t real cute, and her hair is blue
And her temper is wicked and mean
She goes through friends like a preacher through sin
She’s a one woman wrecking machine
But one thing excites me
And keeps me coming back
When she lets me spend her cold hard cash
And drive her Cadillac

Well I might ignore her minor faults
But I can’t ignore my greed (gimme, gimme)
Cause it when it comes to what I want
She’s got everything I need

SHE’S GOT MONEY
LOTS OF MONEY

She’s tough as nails and she likes to wail
In her Rock n Roll leather and jeans
She’s rude and crude, she’s got a big tattoo
Where everyone can see
But she’s got something special
A certain charm and grace
It’s a bank account that makes me scream and shout
And forget about her face

I’ll admit she’s something less
Than every school boys dream
Miss Universe might have the legs
But my girl’s got the green

SHE’S GOT MONEY
LOT’S OF MONEY

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chp 3: Pray For Love

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

“Pray For Love” is a song about overreaching pride, redemption, and what really matters. Coming from some very humble roots, but living in Hollywood for so many years, I have a certain perspective I suppose. So this song is me shaking my finger at Sodom and Gomorrah (not to mention a girl that dumped me because she liked shiny things better than she liked me).

Now, this is not a perfect song. No song is. My adage is that a song is never finished, only the time to write it. But, if I could do it over again (and I might) I’d change the choruses to third person instead of first. After all, I might have some love to give, but I’m not God! How about this: “Pray for love, and IT will hear you call its name…”.?

Details: This song was co-written with Dan Marfisi, and is the first I ever recorded in my North Hollywood studio. In 1985, 16 analog tracks and 24 “virtual” midi tracks was pretty cutting edge for a home studio. Besides that, I was armed with some nice amps and instruments, a Neumann U 87 microphone and a home-made mic pre based on an API design. Pretty sweet! I played and sang everything on this song except for the background vocals, which were done by me and Sandy Murchy. You’ll hear more about him in an upcoming song called “She’s Got Money”.

PRAY FOR LOVE

By Dan Marfisi & Skip Adams

You can build a mansion
But it will tumble down
You can hide your money
But it surely will be found
You can live forever
But it won’t be long enough
Oh no you better pray for love

You can be a movie star
But beauty fades away
You can be a General
and make your power play
Have a million lovers
But they just won’t be enough
Oh no you better

Pray for love
And I will hear you call my name
Pray for love
When your heart can’t stand the pain
I will forgive you like an angel from above
Pray for love

You can climb a mountain
But no one will be there
Risk your life on a solo flight
Nobody will care
You can keep on running
But you won’t get far enough
Oh no you better

Pray for love
And I will hear you call my name Pray For love
When your heart can’t stand the pain
I will forgive you just like an angel from above
Pray for love

Bridge:

When the show is over
It just won’t be enough
Oh you better

Pray For Love…

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chp 2: So Strange

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

“So Strange” is one of those stream-of-consciousness songs that just comes out of the blue and delivers itself to you. I was sitting around in my studio one afternoon back around 1989 with nothing to do, playing around with some loops on my new drum machine, when out came this cool little beat that started it all. Before the day was out I’d written the music and lyrics and had recorded most of it. I got up early the next morning and finished the vocals and guitars, and had this mix by lunch. Done!

Details: While I’ve had a respectable number of songs recorded by label artists, this song isn’t one of them. Maybe one day it’ll get cut, but I’m perfectly happy in the meantime just to have written and performed a good song well. FYI, every note and nuance you’ll hear is just little old me. Here’s the mp3 and lyric:

SO STRANGE

By: Skip Adams

You make me feel so strange
Girl I’m shakin’
Somethin’s comin’ over me
Very strange
I ain’t fakin’
Baby you’re the only one I need

You make me feel so strange
Like an alien
I don’t even recognize myself
Oh so strange
Like pygmalion
Prayin’ to the gods for help

I feel so strange
You know I feel so strange

One I used to hold my heart in control
That was the day before we met
Now I’m just a fool in love with you
But I’m a fool with no regrets
Feels so strange

(solo)

One I used to hold my heart in control
That was the day before we met
Now I’m just a fool in love with you
But I’m a fool with no regrets
That’s why it feels so strange…

And I like it
Cause I love the things you do to me
I guess that love is strange
Why deny it
Baby you got everything I need

I feel so strange
I feel so strange

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chp 1: If You Walk Away

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

To start things off is a song called “If You Walk Away”. It’s a tearjerker I wrote with a great songwriter named Todd Cerney circa 1988 (RIP, Todd). Who’s it about? I don’t know. Maybe Pat Heuer who dumped me in 11th grade, or Robin Hassan who finally got pissed off at me for being a jerk and took a walk. It’s really just about anyone who’s been left behind with nothing but a bucketful of heartache and attitude.

Details: Gene Miller sang the lead vocal and I did everything else, including the playing, programming, recording and mixing — all in my little North Hollywood studio. FYI, this song has been recorded by several label artists including James Jameson from Survivor, Sylvi Vartan, and was a number one song a couple of years ago by the Asian artist, Rachel Ann Go. But it’s never been a hit in the States. One of these days!

Here’s my original demo:

And here’s Rachel’s recording of it:


(Click HERE for her YouTube video)

And here’s the lyrc:

IF YOU WALK AWAY

By: Skip Adams & Todd Cerney

Don’t just stand there
With those guilty eyes
If you’re gonna pull the trigger
I don’t want to hear no alibi’s

Don’t try to tell me
It’s your hard, hard cross to bear
‘Cause I’m the one who’s losing
I’m not going anywhere

If you walk away from love
You’re headed down a long hard road
If you’re gonna leave me now
There’s something you should know
It’s gonna take a long, long time
It’s something you might never find
If you walk away from me
You walk away from love

Was I just dreaming
Were you acting out a part
Is this the final curtain
Closing on my heart
So if you’re going
Well then go ahead and leave
‘Cause I’m not gonna beg you
Or get down on my knees

(Chorus) (Bridge)

Somewhere down the road you’ll realize
The love you need was right here all the time

(Chorus)

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