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Old Songs

I spent most of today re-mixing old 4-track tapes. I was selective. I don’t really care to re-mix them all. But there are a few that I wanted to give new life. Or at least try to make up for past shitty mix-downs. Things that have bugged me for years.
Of special note are a couple of songs that I did in 1998 and 1999 with Gary Ramsey. Two songs of his. If Loneliness Had a Name and Lightnin’. Oh, and a blues jam we did together called C&R Blues. It was fun to re-visit those old times. Even if I did get a little frustrated at some of the mixes I wound up with.
I’m going to send those songs to Gary. He said he might put them up on his JamWave page, which would be cool. Hopefully with full credit. I’ve always had problems getting full credit on my collaborations. Not that it’s a big deal. I just wish sometimes that more people would observe good form. So few do.
C&R Blues started out as a jam, with me on bass and Gary on lead guitar, both of us playing along with a drum machine that was on a loop. A week or so later I wrote some lyrics and recorded the vocals and added a distorted rhythm guitar. The result was a pretty cool song. One has to wonder where credit falls under a situation like that. The original impetus was an impromptu jam. But I programmed the drum machine. I played the bass that structured the song. I wrote the lyrics and the rhythm guitar part. Gary’s contribution was the improvised lead guitar that won’t show up on future recordings of this song. So where does credit lie there? Is Gary a collaborator who deserves co-writer status? Or is he a musician who contributed to that particular recording, whose status as collaborator ends with that particular recording?
I’m just wondering. Song credits have always been a confusing jumble. At least where my collaborations have been concerned. One musician I knew brought me a guitar riff once and said he wanted to see what I could do with it. Nothing else. Just a guitar riff. A couple of weeks later I had built a song around that riff. I arranged the song. Verses. Choruses. Lyrics. Wrote new guitar parts. That original guitar riff had become a minor embellishment to a completely new song.
I mention this particular instance because within a few weeks of hearing this new song, the musician in question was telling people that he couldn’t for people to hear his new song. I was mentioned as a collaborator at first, but was rarely ever mentioned afterwards. That’s one reason I withdrew from collaborations with other people. I always wound up doing most of the heavy lifting while other people took most or even all of the credit.
In the instance I mentioned, I had no problem crediting the other musician. Without his cool guitar riff, there wouldn’t have been a song. But to have my contributions (which were 98% of the song) marginalized? Yeah, it left a really bitter taste in my mouth. I never gave that musician a copy of the song, and it never saw the light of day. And I’ll never use it becaue I don’t want the headache or arguing over who deserves what credit.
I guess it’s unfortunate that I’m thinking about this stuff as I’m writing about re-mixing old song. Especially when referencing Gary’s songs. I don’t mean to cast shadows on Gary. He’s never done anything against me. I guess mostly I’m just wondering how the credits, if any, will play out.
On Gary’s songs, he was the sole author. He brought those songs to me fully written. All I did was help him record them. So I certainly claim no co-author status on Lightnin’ or If Loneliness Had A Name. But I can’t help thinking about how those songs were recorded and who did what. That’s where credits tend to fall apart. Pink Floyd had a big problem with that, too.
Okay, just for the record …
On Lightnin’, Gary sang vocals. Danny “Red” Bridges and I sang backing vocals. Danny played guitar. I played bass and programmed the drum machine.
On If Loneliness Had A Name, Gary sang vocals and played guitar on the lead break. I played rhythm guitar, bass, keyboard and drums.
I don’t know why I feel compelled to list all this. Maybe because past experience has shown me that most likely no one will otherwise know who played what. Not that most people care, really. I guess those are the kinds of details only the players care about. Mostly because performance credits are separate from authorship credits. Playing on a song doesn’t mean you co-own a song. But it’s nice to be mentioned and given credit for your contribution to a recording. Especially where there was never any kind of compensation involved.
Geez. I’ve rambled on about this long enough. It’s funny that going through some old 4-track recordings could stir up so many old memories and frustrations. I guess it could be said that I learned my lessons well. Not only that, but I kept all of my old lesson material. All I have to do to be taken back to the late 1980’s and early 1990’s is pop in a cassette and listen to the evidence.

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