Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Skydog Slaver

I've been on vacation for the last week so I've had time to catch up on some reading and some puzzling and some drinking and some stuff that has been missing from my life while I'm out there every day living life with no fun of any kind. In this brief burst of time, I've had the opportunity to pick up Keith Richards' autobiography Life...which is a cracking good read, I must say.

The Rolling Stones have provided the background music for most of my life so to have Keef narrate the bands journey from obscurity to insanity is fascinating. However, it is his description of the scant resources they used to produce one of my favorite songs of all time that makes me wonder...what's wrong with today's rock and rollers?

I've always loved the acoustic guitar, loved playing it, and I thought, if I can power this up a bit without going to electric, I'll have a unique sound. It's got a little tingle on the top. It's unexplainable, but it's something that fascinated me at the time.

In the studio, I plugged the cassette into a little extension speaker and put a microphone in front of the extension speaker so it had a bit more breadth and depth, and put that on tape. That was the basic track. There are no electric instruments on "Street Fighting Man" at all, apart from the bass, which I overdubbed later. All acoustic guitars. "Jumpin' Jack Flash" the same. I wish I could still do that, but they don't build machines like that anymore. They put a limiter on it soon after that so you couldn't overload it. Just as you're getting off on something, they put a lock on it.

The band all thought I was mad, and they sort of indulged me. But I heard a sound that I could get out of there. And Jimmy (Miller) was onto it immediately. "Street Fighting Man", "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and half of "Gimme Shelter" were all made just like that, on a cassette machine. I used to layer guitar on guitar. Sometimes there were eight guitars on those tracks. You just mash 'em up. Charlie Watts' drums on "Street Fighting Man" are from this little 1930's practice drummer's kit, in a little suitcase that you popped up, one tiny cymbal, a half-size tambourine that served as a snare, and that's really what it was made on, made on rubbish, made in hotel rooms with our little toys.
Now THAT'S rock and roll.