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Joel Roston Composer | Instrumentalist
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Joel in the Typing Pool

14 Jul 2015

Note: Just to be completely up-front so we don’t have a recreation of last-blog-post’s disappointment: At no time did I or am I planning to record a version of “What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes.

The Actual Blog Post

Last week, I had one of those nights where your spouse is off playing drums at an emergency Neil-Young-tribute-band practice and you have a completely free evening to do whatever.

On this particular night, I decided to take a few hours to record a cover version of a song that I enjoy.

Here’s a little backstory:

Since my last blog post, I’ve been feeling bad-but-not-terrible for not having recorded a complete version of me singing the end-sort-of-scat-singing part of Janis Joplin’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee.” At the time, it really seemed like I was going to be able to pull it off, which, of course, I didn’t/wasn’t.

After that utter failure, I was still left with the urge to precisely cover/photo-realistically recreate SOME piece of music, which, for a reason I still don’t entirely understand, brought me to “What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes. That thought lasted for about two hours — just long enough for me to ask my wife, Jordyn, how she thought our friend BJ Warshaw would react to me sending him a version of it. She thought it would be hilarious and that was that.

A couple of weeks later, however, we were knee-deep in the show Sense8, which [SPOILER ALERT] contains an episode which ends with the entire cast, like, simul-collabro-singing “What’s Up?” This sparked a week-long actual fascination with “What’s Up” that just sort of kept going. It got to a place where Jordyn, at one point, turned to me and, in a tone that gets as serious as a spouse-tone can get without indicating that there needs to be a complicated, intra-relationship talk, said, “Seriously? You have to stop singing that song.”

And I did, for the most part, because a marriage is a partnership and I always strive to do my best to hold up my end of the marital contract. I say “for the most part” because, just for the fun of it, there was one time that I camouflaged the chord progression with a pensive, like, Poland-Springs-commercial-ish arrangement, walked into her office with a guitar and said, “Hey, have you ever heard this song before?”* and then played something like:

To which she replied, “I don’t think so?”

And then I said, “The lyrics go something like…” and then I re-demonstrated the song this way:

[Note: I added a flanger to my vocal here; I don’t think any human has what it takes to listen to what you’re about to listen to without SOME sort of vocal effect]

The above isn’t exactly what happened because she cut me off after detecting the very first trace of the “What’s Up?” vocal melody, which seemed to take roughly sixty or seventy milliseconds. Essentially, our relationship is still in tact, but I probably won’t be singing that song around the house anymore.

What I HAVE been singing — and now what we’ve BOTH been singing for the past couple of days, thanks to the recording(s) you’re hopefully about to listen to — is Broadcast‘s “Tears in the Typing Pool” from their one-of-Joel’s-favorite-albums entitled “Tender Buttons“.

Here, listen to the original version first and then we’ll talk about my cover:

So, my cover of “Tears in the Typing Pool” started, unreasonably enough, with the intention of producing a one-hundred percent perfect facsimile of the original jam. I figured that, at worst, I’d wind up with an arty, interpretive joint and, at best, I’d have a version on par with, say, Elliot Smith’s covers of Beatles songs; that is to say, the result would be a cover that isn’t PERFECT-perfect, but that sounds like I put a lot of effort into it, really love the music, and did my best to faithfully replicate it.

All of that said, I’m fairly happy with how it came out. I feel like, among other things, my version’s a little faster than Broadcast’s, my synth sound doesn’t wobble in and out of tune in exactly the same way as theirs, and, of course, my voice sounds like a dude who walks around singing 4 Non Blonde songs all day, but, all in all, I think it’s pretty in-the-tradition-of-Elliot-Smith’s-Beatles-covers.

Check it:

I’d also just like to mention: Though Jordyn and I have never discussed it before this week, we both assumed that the second verse starts out with the line “Interpret the runes…,” but the entire Internet thinks it’s either “Interpret the rules” or “Interpret the rooms.” Not only did I stick with “Interpret the runes..,” but Jordyn took it upon herself to leave a note on the genius.com page for “Tears in the Typing Pool” saying as much. I had never heard of genius.com, personally, but Jordyn is about eighty-percent more Internet than me, so I default to her on such matters.

Lastly, I’d like to give a shout-out to my friend Scott Craggs at Old Colony Mastering who mastered this song for free because I told him his payment would be all of the good exposure he’d get from people reading this post.

Reality Check: How completely insane did that last sentence sound? Clearly I paid him because he’s a professional offering a service that I can’t perform myself.

k good talk.

*Which isn’t a weird thing for either of us to do and happens at least bi-weekly. (back)

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