Free of Lee: The Healing Process

I thought that most people were alike
I found out that’s not true.
The things we shared, we always will.
That much I know about you.
But where you go and why you do
And all the things that you put me through.
You think that I’ll keep running after you.
I probably will.
Life goes on, my friend.
That’s what they keep telling me.
The future’s ours to mold.
Now, let’s not think about Lee.
Now here’s a story, you’ve heard it before
Once, twice maybe three times told.
Some people might call it a fairy tale.
They’ve never panned for gold.
First you’re hot and then you’re cold.
Don’t you think this scene is getting old?
You’d think by now I’d have you pigeonholed

This is another song about my high school girlfriend, but also about my friends tiring of hearing about my slowly healing, broken heart. After we broke up, she and I did date occasionally which (I’m sure) was harder on me than her. We also talked on the phone a lot. She seemed perfectly content with the current situation while I was obsessing about what I could have done to prevent the break up and what could I possibly do now to rekindle her love for me.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember writing this song so I can’t provide any further insight into the lyric, but I do remember recording it in my dorm room. It was the Fall/Winter of 1984 and I had asked Jack Chamberlain to pack up all his equipment (PortaStudio, keyboard, drum machine, etc.) and drive down from Youngstown, Ohio to my studio apartment in Pittsburgh for the day. I remember thinking after we got off the phone that it was a pretty big favor to ask, but Jack didn’t even flinch. We recorded the song in several stages. I can’t remember how many guitars there are on this recording, but it’s at least 3 and maybe as many as 5. When we were finished, the guitars laid together and started sounding like more than the sum or their parts. There’s only one synth part (the bass) and the drum machine to hold it all together.
Jack and I programmed the basic drum part (2 measures), but the song’s groove changes for the chorus and instrumental breaks and the drum track we’d composed clashed really badly. So I played the rhythm guitar part to the drum machine until I reached the bridge. Then Jack muted the drum machine and I continued (without a click track) through the chorus and solo break until the last note. After I struck the last note and held it, Jack brought the drum part back up in my headphones and I rejoined the rhythm track for the second verse. At the end of the second verse we did it all over again. You’ll notice that after the second instrumental break the change is not nearly as clean as it was the first time. Of course when we were done, we could drop out the drum track where it didn’t fit and then bring it back in when it did. Now we had to figure out what to do with the bit that had no rhythm track.
Jack and I had fooled around with the drum machine playing it live, but the problem was that the keys are not laid out so that you could play it like a live drummer…so we both played it simultaneously…through the whole song. We added fills and the impromptu crash over the 2-measure drum track and then played a different part (live) over the muted bits. Jack was playing the bass drum (key) and the snare drum (key) while I played the high hat (key) and the tom-toms (keys). One or both of us also played the crash cymbal. The fact that the drum track and the guitar parts didn’t match up as well the second time was covered up by my little 3-beat fill before the high hat comes in.
I played all the guitars, but Jack may have played the bass line on his synthesizer and we shared the percussion. Jack deserves any credit for engineering the original recording if, for no other reason, all the miles he put in for this song.
Originally recorded in 4-track mono. Mixed to stereo cassette (2-track) in 1984. Re-engineered to digital from the stereo mixdown using Cool96 September 1999

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