Saturday, February 10, 2007

Happy Guy

happy guy volume 3 no. 19
trick or treat.
this was a halloween baby.
born october 31, 1989.
a) mommy, where does a new song come from?
this is how it often happens, at least for me:
something in a sound triggers a new piece of music.
in this case it was the combination of clean guitar
and roland GR-50 guitar synthesizer
with a new sound I had just programmed in
which sounded calliope-like.
there was a chirpy bouncy ren and stimpy-ness
about it which caused me to play this ridiculously happy chord sequence.
we were in the plush Royal Recorders studio in the autumn woods of wisconsin.
our customary trio: myself, engineer rich denhart, and his assistant dan harjung.
we joked about how dumb and happy the song was.
fittingly rich labeled the tape "happy guy".
after all, halloween is the most ridiculous day of the year.
in germany they have a similar holiday for several days running
where everyone is supposed to perform a particular silly ritual each day.
it's called Fasching (fa' shing).
I remember my first encounter. I was in a McDonald's in Dortmund
and all the germans were wearing ties that were cut off halfway down.
the next day they all had their faces painted with large polka dots.
ancestors...go figure.

once I worked up a linear arrangement I felt comfortable with,
including the idea of an end chorus with a different feel,
we began recording my new-found-guitar-sound to a click track.
most often for guitar parts I stood in the large impressive control room
at Royal where everything sounded like a million bucks.
(green and wrinkled)
next I'd moved into the big wooden recording room to start
the process of choosing cymbals tuning drums while rich and dan miked them.
then the lengthy discovery of the right thing to play on drums,
in other words judicious practice and warm-up
followed by a take or two (or twenty).
actually I'm pretty fast at getting good takes once I know what I want.

back into the control room to discover and record a bass part.
I wish I still had this bass sound available to me.
normally I like to play a real bass or an electric upright bass.
but this was a midi-bass sound triggered on guitar. fun to play.
sounded terrible by itself, but in with the track it became
one of the preferred bass sounds throughout this period.
this was the early stage of making young lions, solo record #5.
which would include I am what I am, small world, pretty pink rose,
gunman, and the song young lions.
all with this same fluffy bass sound.

b) but where does a new song go?
well in this case, that is as far as it went.
normally I study a track over and over, listening a hundred times
until a title or subject matter or a good fitting phrase appears.
by then I know what the melody will be.
but if it is a song with lyrics they need to be tailor-made
for the mood, the emphasis a word needs, and rhythm of the music.
it's the words that take so much time, for me at least.
evidently I couldn't finish this one in time for the record.
between this record and the next one inner revolution
I spent one entire year touring the world with david bowie.
the happy guy got lost in the shuffle.

A note to all
(forever hereafter known as "smarties")
we are planning a contest of our own later this spring in which
you smarties will be asked to finish one of my incomplete songs to win.
so if that interests you, please keep happy guy handy
as he will be one of your possible victims, er, candidates to work with.

bass, drums, guitar: adrian
recorded at Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
engineer: rich denhart
assistant engineer: dan harjung

to download happy guy go to storebelew. thanks.


  1. Adrian-

    Thanks for giving us a peek into the creative process. As somone who does not have that gift of musical creativity, I find these stories very interesting. I imagine an Adrian Belew "Story Tellers" concert that used to air on VH1 would be quite good.

    ~ Scott

  2. wow , it was just before christmas 1991 , and i was on the radio with Kevin Matthews , rambling on about adrian belew and his nifty gr-50 guitar synthesizer . i left my work phone number (toll-free) and later got two calls , one from a club owner , city slickers , another from a computer store in harvey , il . the club owner invited us to your dress rehersal for the IR tour , the computer store sold me my gr-50 .

    i loved that deep fretless bass patch and used that with my clean strat sound instead of playing a standard bass ,for years in cover bands . half-way through the gig the un-initiated club goers would be scratching their heads , "where is all that bass coming from , i only see six strings up there ? "

    your dress rehersal of "only a dream" at city slickers moved me beyond words ,something i can never forget . amazing , mezmerizing and horrifying all at once . the message of that song is an mortal truth that grows in relivance with each passing day .

    on a more personal note , this is a dream come true , for me . i always wanted to "jam" with belew , now get to record with him ? i may have to dust off the ring modulator , and the optical theremins , and the circuit bent speak & spell and the ..... where is my gk-2 cable anyway ?

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  4. I am giddy with excitement to even try. When Young Lions was new it was during a special time in my life. songs like: I am what I am really bring back some great memeroies. Friends .. Family ... Parties times long gone. It will make me a happy guy :) to even plugin and try. I can't wait!!

    How cool is this!!! A month ago I am looking to get back to playing Da GETAR (after a 10 or 15 year break) and now.. I have a play thing. I have permission to doodle over a solid tune. I might not submit in said contest but .... Geeee..... it's the journey not the destination.

    Thanks... ;-)

  5. Interesting Story..

    That Wisconsin Part sparked my interest being from SE Wisconsin.

    Speaking of Wisconsin. Hopefully Adrian will be back in town.. Maybe the Shank Hall in Milwaukee??

    Maybe somewhere in Lake Geneva would be cool!!


    Circuit Bending... I remember doing that on accident when I was a kid.. Would bypass resitors and the R/C oscillators would go wild.. Put a larger cap in and get a lower pitch..

    Memories.. That was pure accident though .