The Beat Goes On – Echoes Weirdness

Number Nine- #9 — #nine nmbr 9 . Warning!!

Experimental recordings are a part of sonic history. Many are infallibly hard to comprehend and listen to. They are often disconnected and frequently fraught with randomness. Most often they were meant to expand the spectrum of the ideas of sound. Frequently today we have electronic manipulation creating new soundscapes. Yet within these new sounds is a symmetry of rhythms and frequently predictable four on the floor resonances. Before electronic instruments overtook the landscape of sound and before the end of the Beatles career one entry into the experimental recording genre actually charted at 17 in billboard during its release.

Vanilla Fudge was responsible as the band under the direction of their producer George Morton. He is not to be confused with the fifth Beatle George Martin.

George Morton’s first hit song was written as a response to a challenge to bring in a song. This challenge was issued by Jeff Barry a songwriter who eventually wrote with Morton. Barry was husband and frequent co writer with Ellie Greenwich. This entire exchange occurred in the Brill Building in New York City.

Here comes the information folks! You’ve never heard of the Brill Building and right now your fingers are getting ready to push into the Internet and discover what this magic place is!

Over 150 music businesses filled it’s halls when George Morton visited his girlfriend of times passed in the Brill Building. A place where songwriters churned out commercial hits since the big band era and it was a stones throw from Tin Pan Alley. Carole King once sat in competition with others in this building writing and vying for producers ears. A song could go from inspiration to demo and more within this single building.

George left and wrote the song to meet the challenge. He had never written a song before– ever. He immediately got to work that evening penning- “Remember(walking in the sand)”.

Here is where history gets interesting! Billy Joel was doing some session work then. He was 14 or 15 depending on the date of recording and played for the demo recording for what would become the Shangri-Las first hit single.

It is unclear whether the version we hear on the 7″ is just a modified version of the demo, the demo itself or an entirely new recording. Personally from all the accounts I have read it seems that the recording was made and then professionally pumped up in a studio for sale by Artie Ripp and Jeff Barry.

However if you listen closely it sounds sonically as though the piano is in fact Billy Joel. The quality of the recording is rough especially for the piano part which is imbalanced and often feels distant.

The voices have reverb and echo delays that seem to shift depending on the part of the song. It isn’t polished but still is excellent if not obviously fascinating. It really sounds like a demo that has been remastered pushed through a better compressor or sound staged. The seagulls and ocean sounds seem like an effect that a first time producer wouldn’t have thought of and possibly wouldn’t have had access to a sound catalog to even utilize. However, even though he doesn’t get production credit, George Morton was an inventive producer and it seems was meant to be so. His other songs show a continued fascination with experimental sound.

So what really happened? In total I believe the pianist we hear is Billy Joel and the song is the demo version with added claps and soundscapes with seagulls and ocean sounds all produced by Morton and given a professional release and final master by the credited producers who did what most producers still do today… Namely grab a recording and take all the credit when they merely acted as the finishing touch and connect for an artist or group without clout. WAIT! There’s more my host of Musicalytes!

From here the career of Morton included writing and sharing credit with Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry for the fantastic song “Leader of the Pack”. The experimental sounds of the motorcycle that bring such life to the song are reminiscent of the seagulls and waves. This kind of soundscaping is a prominent theme in Morton’s production style. He is in fact an overlooked name in the creation of the sound of the 60’s because people will shout about Phil Spector and not even mention George Morton. Morton though is credited as one of the creators of the “girl Group Sound” of the 60’s. Here also in writing this song he created a genre known as the Teen Melodrama.

Still more: Morton was the producer of another epic track. Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida!

Everyone wants credit but the careers of all involved and their particular personal choices concerning what they recorded in their careers definitely fills in the picture. It does not appear that the Shangri-Las ever recorded any additional material for the song. The vocals are the same from the demo. The sonic balance is an echo of Morton’s future toolkit and clearly not nuanced but pronounced and prominent which makes the track a bit rough- even pulpy.

It was Morton who discovered and produced the band the Pidgeons who were renamed Vanilla Fudge. Their first album is incredible. The covers are deeper than anything in their time and suck you into a whole new experience.

Morton laid the foundation for Heavy Metal and seems from the very beginning to be pushing music into the realm of Big Boom. Also, Vanilla Fudge is not just a dessert!

THE BEAT GOES ON

This is the weirdest record I may own or you may ever hear. It is weird on purpose.

Vanilla Fudge thinks it is their worst record. They held that belief at least until the 90’s. It is really a work of Morton’s with the Band in tow fulfilling his vision. It is oddly forward at times. Sonically placed closer than comfortable for some covers of early songs. And then tinny. Tinny at that. Who cares about proper recording techniques or grammar and .:;($ punctuation?! Do you! Yes you do?

Is it a journey through history? Why is big band played by fake horns? A Beatles medley and interludes that sound like a twisted version of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. This record is an entry into the psychedelic experimental genre that really stands out. It was released in February 1968. It is a Lengthy Sound collage. Short Tracks interspersed between lengthy scapes that average 8 minutes in length. The Fur Elise is weird and at times hauntingly great then sometimes hard to adhere to listening to. Merchant, the longest of the lengthy pieces if we can call them that, seems to tell us what “The Beat Goes On” is about.

“This album is people throughout the world their ideas beliefs, their emotions- We hold only the tools to express time through music- and the beat goes on.” Is this a breach in the space time continuum of music? What is going on? Do you need drugs to enjoy this? Commentary on black power, American history and the music business? There is just too much. This album is not the weirdest and enjoyable- it is merely just weird. So listen when you are feeling: highly weird or weirdly high.

To listen to the full Vanilla Fudge “The Beat Goes On” album, enjoy here: