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Thirty-five years ago, around this time, Broken Wings was #1on Billboard’s Hot 100. Seems like another lifetime now, but for those of you who have remained fans of our music, we thought this would be a good time to let you know about something we’ve been working on.
My apologies to all who are interested in both Mr. Mister and my solo career for not being more of a social media guy. I just haven’t found the inspiration to share much of my life across the cyber universe like others do. But today is a new day and lo and behold, I have something to share.
Not long ago, as I was looking through old emails with the intention of deleting many of them, I came across something from Pat Mastelotto with the title, “Lost Songs.” As I remember, we had considered resurrecting some of the discarded songs from the album PULL with the intention of either adding them to the album before its much overdue release, or releasing them as a new EP on its own, knowing that our most loyal fans would love it.
As it turned out, there were quite a few “Lost Songs.” Some of them were structurally developed to a point; others were just bad; still others were pretty good but missing something: a lyric that needed reworking or re-imagining completely, a melody that didn’t deliver, or other issues that made us abandon them back in 1989 when we were choosing which songs would appear on PULL. Of that group of songs, three stuck out to us as being the best of the lot.
So we decided to find the master recordings of the three songs, transfer them to digital, and start working on them again. But when we tried to get the original two-inch tapes—yes, we were still using magnetic tape then—from Sony, we realized that the process we would have to go through to do that would be way too daunting to take on.
For those of you who don’t know, two-inch tape breaks down (degrades) over time. So many years had passed since we’d made these recordings, and the tapes were old and fragile. In order to preserve the quality of the recordings, the tapes would have to be ‘baked,’—literally baked in a convection oven at 150 degrees for three to eight hours—then cooled to the temperature of the control room environment before the music could be transferred to digital. Since we don’t technically own the master tapes (Sony does), and therefore don’t have access to them, Sony offered to send them out to have this process done. But when we realized how much it would cost us, the idea ended there.
But not quite. Undeterred, we dug deeper and discovered that three of the songs had already been transferred to digital, even though none of us could remember when or why. And then this: call it kismet, synchronicity, or luck of the draw, we discovered that the three songs already in digital form just happened to be the three we all thought were the best.
Let’s go song by song:
Wheel of Life:
Originally called “Wheel of Love,” this song had no lyric and no melody that I could remember, and I’d never really gotten behind the title. So I came up with a melody and called John Lang to come over and help with the lyrics. It’s funny, but while we were writing and working on this song all these years later, I was surprised to discover we’d missed the one thing that might have been right in front of us all along: the new melody seemed so obvious; it fit exactly as it should, and the words complemented the track perfectly.
Pat added some drum overdubs. Love the toms (Tom Tom’s he bought from Ringo Starr) going into the first chorus. Chills! Steve’s cluster synth and how it works with the bass part and melody still blows my mind. Digging the groove with Tim Pierce’s new funk guitar part in the choruses.
Slip Through My Fingers:
This one was really frustrating for me back then because I loved the vibe of it, but there were things that just didn’t work. It was very soulful, with a hypnotic groove that I remember thinking could provide a needed contrast to the other songs on PULL. Problem was, we never got the lyric to the point where I could sing it with any conviction, and we gave up. This was one of the tracks that Buzzy Feiten played so great on, but unfortunately the tape with his guitar parts was one of the masters that needed ‘baking.’ Since I’d been working with Tim Pierce—most notably on my album “Goin’ South”—I had him add some guitar parts that really took it to another level. I still wish I could hear Buzzy’s original parts; they were special.
We had Luis Conte play percussion on this one since Pat had originally programmed a Linn Drum loop with the idea that we would dump the loop after the song was developed. The problem with this idea now was (a) the digital transfer we had to work with came from a ‘slave’ reel—a separate reel that when used for tracking during the recording process relieves some of the wear and tear on the master tape from constant overdubbing—and (b) the drum tracks that Pat had laid down on the slave had been mixed together with the loop in stereo. This mix was permanent; there was no separating the loop from Pat’s tracks. So Pat employed some modern studio trickery with his studio engineer in Texas and extracted the individual components and re-triggered the drum sounds without including the Linn Drum loop. What a difference. The vocals are all the original takes. Steve George and I did the BG’s together as we always did. Love that blend. And the lyric we gave up on? It was perfect the way it was after all.
So much time has passed that I don’t remember much about how this one was conceived. I just know that Steve George’s fingerprints are all over it. The 6/4 time signature, the cool guitar/keyboard riff, the transcendental chord changes in the bridge with the ascending bass line. Pat’s got some ‘Crimson’ type stuff going throughout. Very hypnotic.
I must mention the influence Paul DeViliers had on these tracks, although he has said he doesn’t recall any of them. It has been a long time! Paul was an experimenter in every way and always pushed us to find the best in ourselves. As our Welcome to the Real World and Pull co-producer/engineer, he came up with ideas none of us would’ve thought of and had that rare blend of musicality and engineering expertise. I’ve worked with many of the great producers of the last forty years, and in my opinion, Paul is right up there as far as shear talent is concerned.
All three of these songs reminded me of our constant pursuit to come up with music that pushed the limits but was still grounded in somewhat traditional popular music.
My hope is that all of you who keep Mr. Mister alive through your continued support, conversations, and Internet postings, as well as all of you who still listen to our albums, and everyone else who hears these ‘new’ songs, enjoy them.