Art After Work Studios - March & May 1981
I was getting ready to go work with Norman Petty again at his studios in Clovis, New Mexico the next month when I called Richard Morant to see if he wanted to record a couple of new songs. He said yes and suggested that we record the songs at his friend’s new studio called “Art After Work”. Richard and his friend had set this up as a fun place to rehearse and record after their day jobs, hence the name. They had a basic eight-track studio set up and since Richard was a partner there, the sessions wouldn’t cost anything. All I had to do was bring a reel of recording tape! What a deal!
I asked Richard if it would be alright if I asked Rick Poss to come in and play guitar on one of the songs and he was fine with that. I talked to Poss and he suggested we bring in a drummer friend of his named Rick Richards.
I made a demo cassette for everyone of Houdini and Us, and everyone to work out their parts on their own. We didn’t rehearse until we got to the studio, which was great!
The first song we recorded was Houdini. I’d become fascinated with Harry Houdini; the man and the mystery that surrounded him as being a little more than a simple magician or illusionist. I recorded a honky-tonk piano part with a metronome by myself one evening, which I doubled after pushing thumb tacks into the little felt hammers that strike the strings on a piano to get a higher pitched metallic sound as the hammers struck the piano strings – lovely!
The next night Richard Morant, Rick Poss, Rick Richards and I came in to record the electric guitar parts (Richard), banjo (Rick Poss), drums (Rick Richards) and bass (Bruce). Everyone played along to my previously recorded piano parts and the metronome.
After those tracks were finished, we overdubbed some cool parts for the lead section; Rick Poss played a bass drum on a stand, I played two trumpet parts, and Rich Richards played a field snare drum track just for that section of the song. We then had two tracks left where I added my lead vocal on one, and then harmonies by my wife Patti, Richard Morant, and me around one microphone on the last available track. It turned out great, although it was more of a novelty song than anything else. I later added a voiced introduction, speaking through a paper towel roller to make it sound more vintage.
The next night, we started on the basic tracks for Us. Rick Richards, Rick Poss and I recorded the basic rhythm tracks – drums, guitar and bass. On one of the tables in the studio, there was a little toy wind-up monkey who played a drum roll on a little metal drum. I thought this would be a nice introduction to the song! So, I wound up the little monkey drummer, hit the record button, let the drumming go for a few seconds and did a long octave slide down on my bass to start the song where we all come in together. It worked out great!
Overdubs included two lead vocal parts sung an octave apart, acoustic guitar, an extra rhythm guitar, a piano part and a string part for the ending fade out. Rick Poss played a scorching backwards guitar lead!