Here are very raw demos of songs I wrote and recorded with my fellow members of the Human Element. Hope you enjoy!
Freedom was the opening song of every gig we played. It always got folks attention! This version is an over produced demo version I recorded in my Bond Street, Asbury Park, NJ recording studio. It was originally recorded on my Akai 1212 12-track recorder. Demos were always mixed down to cassette tape …so we could listen to this stuff in our cars, or on a boom box to see how things sounded outside the studio. Many times I’d mix down instrumental stuff that was going on inside my head … and before too long I’d always get melody ideas and lyric fragments.
When I was writing these songs it seemed the hook and melody always came first. Even if the lyrics were still in “babel” stage most times I’d have the chorus hook in my head first … and everything else would follow. There would be times I’d wake up in the middle of the night … I’d walk up the stairs to the studio and fire up my equipment at three in the morning and lay down the idea that woke me up. That was the beauty of living in an Asbury storefront … you didn’t have to worry about neighbors. There were none! Those were the days!
On this track I’m doing all the vocals, background vocals, and guitar. Fred programmed all his drums on a Yamaha RX11 drum machine which was very “high tech” back then. Chris played bass direct to the board, and Chris’ brother Dennis played keys.
What Is Life Without Love … or as we use to call it … Tell Me was always the second song in a Human Element set. Blast them out of their seats with Freedom, then give ’em a pop song. This has always been one of my favorite songs I ever wrote. There was always something about it that stuck with me. Whether it was the story telling in it, the melody, or how much fun it always is to perform. Hell, I even just reworked it for playing on my acoustic, and it still sounds good. When I record a new version I’ll post it here.
This is another overblown production. Hey when you have all that equipment in your own private studio on the ground level of a store front… and you’ve built yourself a full studio apartment in the basement … you can do anything at any time of the night. Let’s add this vocal. Let’s add this riff. More reverb? Sure. This was first attempt at guitar overdubs … A.K.A. … Joe playing solo guitar & even my first solo. Before this … strictly rhythm. I also added this call response between the key riff & the guitar riff.
When we played Tell Me live … it was just guitar, keys, bass and drums. It still sounded full .. and hopefully tighter than this demo. I know it did! I was a practice tyrant. I had the guys in the band practicing almost every night. I was a slave driver. But hey .. why not. I never do anything half-assed if I can help it.
Every one of these songs were mixed down to cassette tape back in the 80’s. Just recently I borrowed a cassette deck from my friend Amy Roberts and digitized all I could before I gave it back. Some of the cassettes were in bad shape. One of these days I’ll get the original 12-track tapes digitized by this guy in California who still owns an Akai 12-12 and will digitize each track separately so I can remix them in Apple Logic. But I have to come up with the scratch first … there are always more important things when you own your own home. But I digress …
On this song … I had Dee a female singer friend of mine come in and do the most amazing backup vocals on this tune. She was also my vocal coach for a while. Or more accurately … I took a few lessons from her. I also added some of my own background vocals too. Sadly the performances recorded here are like the sound of things falling apart. People drifting in and out of time … you know … the human element. I always loved the “idea” of this version of the song.
This was always the last song of every gig we played. It always got folks up and dancing … again. This one is no different … more Joe “wall of sound” … sadly not sounding like Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound… but my poppy ska version of a similar idea. It was always fun to play … but also meant … it was time to go home.
Don’t forget to tip your waiters!
This song, like a few of my other songs may have been the product of one too many sessions with my shrink. I was probably projecting all the things I wanted for myself onto the masses … except not in book form. ; ) But what the fuck … at least you could dance to it! Fuck therapy! Let’s dance!