Day 38. A song that you sing really well
“Learning To Fly” – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
As you may have gathered, I like music. And not just listening, but playing and writing as well. I’ve gotten away from the playing and writing part over the years, but once I start making my millions from this blog, I’ll get back to it.
I took organ lessons as a kid and was pretty good. Somewhere along the line in college I bought a guitar (which was described by someone as “the best of the cheesiest”) and taught myself the basics. My friend Kris did the same thing, and somewhere along the line we started writing songs. I got myself a 4-track recorder, and we recorded a whole bunch of things over breaks and summers for a couple of years.
In addition, I like to sing, but the result have been mixed. In yesterday’s post I alluded to the fact that you’ve got to know your range. Few people have a huge one. I’ve never had a voice lesson, so I couldn’t tell you what my range is. From what little I know about voice types, I’d guess I’m a baritone. But it’s just that, a guess.
So anyway, when we were hanging out, Kris and I listened to a lot of music in addition to playing and recording. Tom Petty is among my favorite artists, with or without The Heartbreakers. And we listened to a lot of his/their stuff.
One day we got it into our head that we wanted to record a rendition of “Learning To Fly.” Now, I once heard that “Learning To Fly” was recorded with 16 acoustic guitar tracks to get just the right sound. Note that I didn’t say “16 tracks.” I said 16 acoustic guitar tracks. That’s to say nothing of the electric guitar and other instruments layered on there. When Jeff Lynne (of ELO fame) produces something, he doesn’t screw around. So to think we were going to get any kind of similar sound with my Tasco 4-track (replete with intermittent buzz) was sheer lunacy. But we tried, anyway.
I went to lay down the vocals, and the first time I did, I decided to do my best Tom Petty impersonation. Kris and Pete were across the room, and apparently my vocals (they couldn’t hear the backing tracks) were hilarious (especially the “but I ain’t got wings” part). So hilarious, in fact, that I had to stop recording because they were laughing so hard you could hear it. (Upon playback, it was pretty amusing.)
Once they picked themselves off the floor and settled down, I had another go, this time just in my regular voice. And when we listened back, I thought I did well. It was pretty respectable. That’s my litmus test: respectable. I figure if people will listen to Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, I’m doing pretty good with “respectable.” Granted, they’re all amazing songwriters and that’s how they can get away with bad singing, but I’m going to ignore that part for the purposes of my thesis. We’ll get along just fine if you do, too.
Now, I’m aware that the challenge for today was “A song that you sing really well,” but I’ve never had someone walk up to me and say “you sang that really well!” so I’ve made a judgement call. (Regular readers will not be surprised to read that I think I still have that tape somewhere, but the recorder is long gone, so there’s really no way for me to play it back and reassess.)
At the end of the day, chances are I will never be a professional singer. This saddens me a bit because I always though that it would be cool to perform publicly. And maybe I will at some point, but it would more likely be as an instrumentalist rather than as a singer. There are people who can do a much better job than I can with much less effort.
However, if you’d like to prove me wrong, I’d be happy to take your money. I’m available for parties, weddings, and bar mitzvahs. Contact my manager for rates.