This has been a tough one. This post comes reluctantly, with a plethora of second guesses.
My commitment to myself is to invest energy every month in an art project and post it when the clock says it’s done. I’ve posted some somewhat incomplete projects in the past. September and December of last year come to mind. In September, I should have given more of my ear to the instrument mixes. In December I should have worked harder on finding a hook. This month, I should been more careful about transposing the original notes so that I could actually hit the ones I needed to sing. But the clock says it’s done, so done it must be.
I’ve always loved the song Vacation by the Go Gos. I remember back in high school thinking that this song would make a perfect punk-cover. Don’t judge me, I was big into punk-rock renditions of pop songs at the time… gah, okay, I still have a soft spot for them. Nevertheless, I wasn’t a musician and couldn’t square strumming and chording and singing all at the same time. When I found a more comfortable way to make my own music, it wasn’t long before I started hitting that unwritten list of songs I always thought would make cool covers and began working out my own renditions. So far, and with varying degrees of satisfaction, I’ve put my spin on Kodachrome, We Belong, and Holding Out for A Hero, and for last month I’m adding Vacation.
I’ve become quite adept at transcribing a song into a skeleton of notes I can work with, and Vacation is a pretty simple song as far as instrumentation is concerned. So within a few days, I had something I could sing along with. Unfortunately, when I transcribed the song, I also transposed it down, hoping to get it out of Belinda Carlisle and Jane Wiedlin’s vocal range, and into mine. I took this step with a fist of ham and after I had put about 15 hours into the project, I didn’t want to go back and transpose again. it sat in this range where it is almost too low, and almost too high.
I struggled for a couple of weeks, recording and rerecording vocals and trying to find some spin on them that I liked. All I could hear were the quivering notes at the low end and the strain in my throat at the high end. Eventually I got fed up. I gave the synths and bass a little more of a grungy sound, cut out some of the cleaner sounds, and then cut the high and low frequencies from the vocal tracks, so they’d have a more stylized feel, and just be generally less dynamic, thereby masking my vocal ineptitude. Through the effects, the problem vocals are less of an issue and they blend with the style of instrumentation better than the cleaner vocals I’d been going for originally.
The end result is a far cry from it’s original. I usually try to honor or emulate some aspect of the original work, but that was all going out the window with this rendition; the first chorus took an entirely different spin by half-timing the instrumentation and repeating the lyrics twice. So, looking for some way to nod at the original, I made the synth sharp and choppy, which is how I’d always described the original vocals.
My heart says this is not done, but the clock and the calendar says it was done a week ago. I hope you enjoy it, at least in the theoretical sense.