Backdoor Santa, Crooked and Wide
Its been a while, sometimes life is what happens when you are waiting to do what you want to do…
I was on the Facebook wandering around and checked out a YouTube video posted by Steve Turner. It is Clarence Carter doing “Backdoor Santa” which is totally worth laughing at. The “Ho ho ho” kills me! Santa only comes once a year…
Anyhow, seeing Steve’s mug shot reminded me that it was about 9 years ago this time of year that I got to live the dream for a while, assistant engineering on the Mudhoney record Since We’ve Become Translucent. It is still making me smile now.
Rewind another 9 years and I am at Duke University, hollering “Touch me I’m sick!!!!” at the top of my lungs in the little smoky on-air room at WXDU FM, knowing that my dorm-mates (I’m looking at you Lee and Dan) are listening, and will probably call in a request for Mr Bungle any minute. We listened to Sound Garden, we listened to Nirvana, we listened to Metallica, but Mudhoney is special.
Somehow it was the loudest sounding, the hardest, the energy just bursting out of the speakers. Like Iggy with the Stooges, or Black Flag it just made us want to destroy things and fight. Usually we just drank more and fell down, but the possibility was always there. I lost my voice screaming along with Mark Arm a few times.
I have to insert a little side note here – There was a little short New Yorker named Ray who had the show before me, and he had educated me into the more obscure punk records (yes actual vinyl) in the WXDU library. One of the bands he played for me (and I admit it was a struggle to get into) was Lubricated Goat. Yeah. Paddock of Love. Yeah!
So jump forward again, and I am sitting in Gravelvoice studio with the Audio Wizard Scott Colburn. Gravelvoice at the time was basically under the Aurora bridge, just down from the troll eating a Volkswagen in the center of the universe (otherwise known as Fremont). You walked past the glass blowing guys place, into the studio and to your right was the bigger tracking room, straight ahead the smaller one, which you walked through and left to get to the control room. Scott’s collection of weird shit everywhere. On the wall was an archtop guitar, maybe it was a Kay?
It was completely unplayable, the strings were rusty, and if the word “action” describes how far from the fretboard strings are, these hovered above the neck so high, that the word “action” did not apply. There were many eyeballs. Residents fans anyone?
The mics are on, the band lays into the beginning of “Crooked and Wide” and through two walls, insulated walls, the bass punches me in the chest. Guy. From Lubricated Goat. Yeah!! It was so loud. I was cool though. I might have been grinning like the Cheshire, and attempting to dislocate my own neck when Dan’s drums got going, but I don’t think anyone noticed…
Until Mark started doing vocals. Luckily it was just me and Scott in the control room. I was useless. I just wanted to listen, and maybe cry. That voice! Scott, after the first take, calm and wise as always says – “Yeah, I think you could give that another try.” Me in my head – “WHAT???” Important to note we are tracking to analog tape here. New take means old take is gone. Forever. So Mark simply says “OK” and blows his first take out of the water. Me in my head – “Aaaaaaah! Good thing I kept my mouth shut.”
For some reason, during these sessions, and I can’t remember now who started it, we were eating large quantities of [brand name deleted] miniature orange chocolate chip cookies.
How’s that for punk rock?
Anyhow, we ran out. Break! We all leave, except for the Clarence Carter fan Steve.
9 minutes later, as we walk up to the door we hear this sweet ringing vibrato guitar. Clear as a bell, bluesy, just gorgeous. Mr Turner. On the freakin Kay.
When you go listen to Steve Turner’s hands on Crooked and Wide here please ignore the picture. Note Mark’s
vibrato is pretty great too, but he’s playing through the Electric Mistress (that steely flange/chorus is so great!) so you can tell who’s who.
Merry Christmas folks, hopefully I’ll be writing a bit more again soon.