• The joy of rock and roll: recording with Toby Germano.
Despite my recent post, not all is doom and gloom.
On Thursday of last week, I headed into Hyde Street Studios with one of my oldest and very best friends, Toby Germano, to record vocals for the two straight up rock and roll songs that will be on the album.
Even after walking into Hyde Street so many times over these past few years, and despite knowing that the session would most likely aggravate my injured brain and cause headaches and the like, I am still amazed at the sheer purity of my feelings on entering a recording studio. I know that making music is my greatest joy, and to be able to do it with a lifelong friend, well, words fail
And then there’s Hyde Street itself, a key ingredient in my little joy mix. It’s an old place that looks old; no one has bothered to update it since the late 60s and early 70s, when it was founded, save for new gear, of course. Gone are the tape machines of yore, although they are still in the building (what CAN you do with 24-track tape machine thee days?), replaced by computers running Pro Tools. Even the consoles are slowly taking their leave, their massive presence usurped by svelte digital creations. What remains is the outboard gear, the mic preamps, the EQs, the channel strips from old Neve mixers, a piano or two, even a Wurlitzer, I believe. Oh, and glorious tube mics, massive things holding curvy electricity and soul and depth and history.
The room I use at Hyde Street is Studio C, dubbed Cosmos Factory by John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, who used it to record some of the greatest rock music that will ever be heard. I can see why. Studio C is floored with warm, worn wood that suffuses the ambient light with an organic yellow and reflects sound as only well used wood can. And it is big, free feeling. Oh, and you can't hurt it. It's not a delicate thing, adjusted just so, and furnished expensively; rather, it reminds me of a lake house up in Minnesota I once went to. It is inviting, it says come on in and sing, be with people, share, smile, create.
Toby was nervous. He'd had a cold, and had been working arduous hours at his winery, where he helps with making the wine, runs the wine club and commands the tasting room as only he could. And the economy was weighing on him. He'd had to let some people go, business was down, the mood of Sonoma, where he works, was tense, fearful.
Over the next several hours though, Studio C coaxed Toby into a mood, a rock and roll mood, and he began belting; you could hear the change, see it, feel it. To hell with my cold, to hell with the economy, to hell with these goddamn headphones, something Frank never wore; I am here to sing some rock music and that it what I will do.
I was so inspired, I got up off the couch, headed out into the Toby's Room, and sang harmonies. No, I can't really sing, no my voice was not in shape, no, I did not feel very good after only a few passes. But I wanted my album to have a couple of rock songs, in the vein of The Rolling Stones circa Exile on Main Street, back when Keith could still deliver the high, slightly ragged harmony over Jagger's thick bed of blues, and this was my chance. I did my best, so much so, that I had to go home afterward and go to bed, dizzy, fatigued, angry at my condition, but at peace with my sacrifice.
Toby, thank you for that day. Jaime, thank you for capturing the magic. And Studio C, thank you for being.