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Blog: Better Than The Beatles

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I spent the past couple of days FEARFULLY looking at weather reports, for LO! i was due to head up to DERBY for the day yesterday and didn't want SNOW to stop me from so doing. In the morning there was nothing in London, so I got to St Pancras fine and dandy, but there'd been reports of LOTS of it in The Midlands and even more to come later in the day. I got on the train in FEAR - how long would I be sat in this chair, i wondered?

Just over an hour and a half, as it turned out - to my IMMENSE surprise everything worked perfectly and I was soon WHISKED away by Tom in The Tigermobile and off to The Snug, where we were booked in for a MASSIVE day's work.

As mentioned previously, we're not going to be doing many gigs at ALL this year, as Tim and Emma are MOVING... to MAURITIUS!! It's only for 11 months and they'll be coming back, so it means a year of LESS Validators rather than an all round CESSATION, but it DOES have rather serious implications for the recording of DINOSAUR PLANET i.e. they're leaving in just over a week and although we can wait until Easter to record Emma's part we HAD to get ALL the basic rhythm tracks done before they left otherwise we'd have NO chance of getting the album finished before we go to Edinburgh.

Obviously it wouldn't be the end of the world if we DIDN'T, but life would be SO much more pleasant if we DID, and thus I arrived at The Snug to find Rich setting up microphones and Tim happily HITTING things. Aaah, The Setting Up Of The Drums! Is there a more delightful sound? (yes)

Once that was all done we settled down to work out a PLAN. Tom is taking over a Producer/PROJECT MANAGER for this one, so he had a CLIPBOARD and LIST with him. Looking through that we decided that our best bet was to a) try and wait until Frankie arrived before doing the ones we'd PRACTICED with him b) also save (theme from) Dinosaur Planet until he arrived, as it had lots of BASS in it but c) ATAK For The Fate Of The Earth WITHOUT him, on the basis that TWO people who weren't sure what they're doing are more likely to achieve success than THREE.

Anyone who's seen the show will KNOW that For The Fate Of The Earth is an EPIC with lots of stops and MOOD CHANGES in it, so we tried a wholly new TACK for learning it: I played it and everyone else LISTENED to me doing so. This may seem obvious, but usually we LEAP IN to the song as we go along, stopping when we get to difficult bits. This time, not only did I sing it all the way through but Tim and Tom took NOTES! It was BRILLIANT - i think I'm going to try and introduce this at GIGS! They had sheets detailing the whole thing and scribbled furiously throughout. At the end we had a SEMINAR session when we discussed Important Aspects! HA!

It was thus surprisingly easy to record - Tim went into the live room and we did an Actually Pretty Good run through from start to finish before DIVING in for a proper go. We ended up doing several drop-ins i.e. when something went wrong or could be done better we rewound, and leapt in at appropriate moments to try again. After half an hour or so we had a, frankly, ASTOUNDINGLY GOOD version.

We did a couple of minor tweaks but soon realised that, when we come to mix it, we can improve ANY PART of it with the addition of EXPLOSIONS! This, i feel, will be our major contribution to The History Of Rock Recording. In the future people will say "Hmm, it sounds a bit flat, can we add some EXPLOSIONS?" to which Engineers will reply "Isn't that a bit obvious? How about we add DINOSAURS and SCREAMING CROWDS instead?" HELLO HISTORY!

Full of GLEE we moved quickly to record "Strangely Attractive", the LOVE BALLAD which has recently been added and which we briefly played through at the last practice. It sounds LOVELY. We found ourselves then with about 15 minutes to spare before Frankie was due in - should we have a bit of a break, we wondered? NO, we decided, ONWARDS! And so Tim went back into the live room and we recorded TWO more songs!

All right, the songs were basically the same as each other - Here Come The Dinosaurs and We Are The Dinosaurs, but we DID do them slightly differently from each other, and they both sounded SMASHING. To celebrate Tom and Rich went downstairs to make a nice big pot of coffee, which we enjoyed alongside the arriving Frankie with some CHRISTMAS CAKE that Tim had brought in specially.

Coffee and Cake! We are NOTHING if not SOPHISTICATED!

And so we moved on to the second part of the session. With Frankie plugged in we moved on to the OTHER addition to the show, Please Don't Eat Us. This was plugged in to replace It Isn't Nice To Eat Your Friends - everybody seems to Theoretically Like it, but it ALWAYS died when I played it live, so i decided a change was in order. The Validators were initially slightly resistant to this but, once we started playing Please Don't Eat Us its predecessor was never mentioned again, for LO! Please Don't Eat Us ROCKS! It's The Breakout Hit!

Full of the joys of ROCKING we next moved on to The Battle Of Peterborough, or "The Spanish One" as it is known. That's how it's always felt to me anyway, and maybe my SKEWED VISION of the song is what caused us so many problems. "Your guitar playing's putting me off", said Tim, so we tried a take without guitar. "No", said Frankie, "It's your singing". Hmm... was this a break for a CLIFF-LESS SHADOWS that I was facing, i wondered? We ended up doing it with DABS of me playing and singing in the verses (the singing DOES go clattering off at a funny rhythm and i DO tend to get distracted from the guitar playing) and then joining in more at the chorus, and all was WELL.

Now it was finally time for Tom to plug in, for LO! It was HORNPIPE O'CLOCK! Dinosaurs Talk Like Pirates was originally meant to be a very brief, slightly jokey, semi-song just to re-assure people about the fact that, well, that Dinosaurs Talk Like Pirates, but in Edinburgh it grew to feature a DANCE NUMBER and in the rehearsal room it grew further to be a MASSIVE CEILIDH SPECTACULAR! We had several run throughs of this one - we got it pretty much right on the first go, but it's such a lot of FUN to play nobody seemed to mind it going on a bit. We even did the Traditional Speeding Up At The End THING which they always do to annoy/confuse The Fiddle Player! It WORKED!

Looking at the clock we were amazed to find we had a good two HOURS left in which to record the final batch of songs, tho as these were the Various Versions of (theme from) Dinosaur Planet I wasn't HUGELY convinced we were on easy street just yet. We HAD had a go at this previously but it had been, frankly, AWFUL - it had gone off in entirely the wrong direction and sounded CLATTERING and WRONG. With some trepidation we gathered to try again...

This time we started off with the BASS - I'd spoken to Frankie about using a version of the bassline I'd done for the TRAILER which he took on board and modified to be MORE GOOD. Tim took this and RAN with it, and soon we were ROCKING BUT GOOD. Hoorah! It all sounded BRILLIANT! This was the TITLE MUSIC to the whole thing and it was GRATE - I was SO relieved, and also so GRATEFUL to have a) such a Tight Rocking Unit who b) didn't mind me saying things like "that sounded awful, let's do it entirely differently!" Mind you, I HAD only recently taken it WELL when THEY'D told me "your singing and guitar playing is putting us off. Stop it immediately" so I guess it DOES go both ways.

The only difficulty we faced at this point was the intro, which I wanted to do to fit the VOICEOVER which will go over the top. It took us AGES to get it right, but then we FLEW through... until the end of the second chorus where, it turns out, "What could make a Tyrannosaur Scared?" has ONE more syllable than "The Earth Is Under Attack." See, if I'd had a Classical Musical Training that's probably the sort of thing they teach you on DAY ONE, but it meant we had to go right back to the start again, and this time we ZOOMED through, right up until The Reggae Middle Eight... where we STOPPED DEAD.

We'd decided to take the sensible option and do that later, so instead skipped ahead and did the END of the song, before RIPPING through the final two tracks necessary - the INTRO version of (theme from) Dinosaur Planet which starts the whole thing off and the GRAND FINALE version which finishes things. They're not EXACTLY the same as each other and so I am therefore counting them as two WHOLLY OTHER SONGS for the purpose of counting at the end!

At last it was time for the final piece of the jigsaw, the long dreaded Reggae Middle Eight... which turned out to be LOVELY. Tim found a COWBELL and Frankie got into the GROOVE - so much so, in fact, that he kept forgetting to do the Correct Ending, as he was so INTO it. I ended up abandoning most of the lyrics and just SHOUTING "He comes the D bit - D! D! D!" through the window to make sure he got it OK.

When it was completed we nervously gathered to listen to it all put together. Rich LABELLED everything clearly and then GINGERLY slid The Reggae Middle Eight into position, so that the final beat of the main theme is replaced by the first one of the new section... would it work, we wondered? How many times would we have to re-do it until it fitted? Would it EVER?

IT SOUNDED FANTASTIC! The whole roomed CHEERED AS ONE! It was SEEMLESS - you know that bit about how George Martin slowed down one take of Strawberry Fields and found it fitted exactly with another in a different key? It was like THAT, only BETTER! HOORAH!

We were almost DONE - our final bit of recording was for Tim, Tom and Frankie to gather in the live room to record a THIGH SLAPS overdub for Please Don't Eat Us. Many MANY remarks were made about how this might be Tim's final ACT OF ROCK for the next year, and i DELIGHTED in taking several photographs of this occuring.

The three of them LIMPED back into the control room for a quick check and then that was that: DONE! Ahead of schedule! TEN SONGS (see above for qualifications)!

We said our farewells to Rich and then to Frankie, who had to get home, with Tim taking the main HUGGING ACTION, what with him leaving the hemisphere and everything, then the Cleator Moor Validators popped into the Brunswick for a swift pint, there to sit around being AMAZED by all we'd done. People make a big fuss about The Beatles recording their debut album in a single day but a) they only recorded 10 of the songs that day, the same number WE did and b) they took longer to do it and c) had been playing most of those songs on a daily basis for YEARS, whereas we'd only played some of them ONCE before and some NEVER! Therefore i think i can safely say that we are BETTER THAN THE BEATLES!

With this generally agreed there was further BIG HUGS and we went out seperate ways, Tim and Tom to their respective households and me for an entirely snow-free journey home. I still can't quite believe we did SO much!

posted 31/12/2009 by MJ Hibbett

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