When I wrote the song, I’d never heard the phrase, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” or seen the motivational posters from WWII Britain. The message I was putting out there was to an estranged girlfriend who took up with my bass player in 1992. I did not keep calm. My abject suffering made it into a few songs around that time. It doesn’t seem that big a deal now, strangely.
At this point in my home productions, I didn’t collaborate or have a drummer yet. I spent a day programming the drum part playing keys on a synth, a very tedious process of mapping out the song section by pressing buttons on a menu display. If it takes six hours to do something, it must be good! The track is simple, with added bass, an electric guitar, and my trusty 12-string double tracked.
When recording, I don’t clone sections or copy and paste performances. If a song has six choruses of backing vocals, I sing them all so each is unique. On this production, I had to build up several vocal parts on another tape, and copy them onto the master. This gave me an opportunity to make an exception and do the hard part just once and paste it into each place I needed. The timing was hit or miss, and it’s not perfect. I threw in one extra toward the fade out as well.
I was very excited about this when I finished it. A friend worked at Rhino Records, and she encouraged me to send a demo. Armed with this new gem, I sent a cassette to her in Los Angeles and waited for the call back. Some weeks later, I called my friend. She said, “I played it for Gary, but why did you put the same song three times on the tape?”
“Because it’s so good!” I said. You want to hear it more than once, I figured. And why only use up 3 minutes on a 45 minute tape, and a bunch of other great reasons. That didn’t go over too well. Did it figure into the reason I was not included in the Rhino Poptopia power pop collection a few years later? “The CD has 18 tracks, we can’t put this cvs song on three times in a row, no way.”
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Chris von Sneidern is a musical artist living in San Francisco.