Today's selection: Jeff's "Out of Round."
From Boys Don't Lie: A History of Shoes:
Jeff demoed a new song and handed it off to John and Gary, just to see what they thought of it. A ballad addressed to a friend who had died suddenly, “Out of Round” began as a measured acoustic-guitar-and-piano-based reverie dealing with grief. “Brian was a big bear of a guy, so full of life,” says Jeff of his buddy. “Then he contracted Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the degenerative brain disorder: it’s the human form of Mad Cow Disease.” He declined rapidly, and in talking to Brian’s wife after his death, Jeff was struck by the many little things she now did to fill the empty space her husband had left. “The coworker who inherited his phone at work hadn’t changed the voicemail message,” Jeff recalls, “so she could call it to hear his voice. She would stuff a sleeve of his coat with a towel and throw it over herself in their bed. Stuff like that.” Deeply touched, Jeff composed the ballad and brought it to his bandmates.
(Then there's a whole lotta stuff about Gary Klebe's home studio.....)Jeff had played songs for John and Gary before, including tracks from Cantilever he’d shared with them during that album’s composition and recording. Initially, they thought Jeff didn’t necessarily want them to intervene in “Out of Round.” Ultimately, however, according to John, the two “‘Your Imagination’-ed it.”
And so, in this sophisticated surprise of a studio space, John and Gary took on Jeff’s “Out of Round.”
John says the first time he listened to the ballad, “I kept envisioning it picking up in the middle, maybe adding more drums, changing the mood.” John told Jeff what he was thinking: his fraternal bandmate gave him carte blanche to mess with the song. And when John voiced his suggestions to Gary, the floodgates opened, as both the other Shoes began reconfiguring Jeff’s track.
The three of them hadn’t worked like this in literally decades, getting in each other’s heads, making changes to each other’s music. At first, John and Gary were worried about Jeff’s reaction “We did an awful lot to it,” Gary admits. “‘Out of Round’ went from being a relatively short ballad to becoming a much longer, fuller rock track.” And the first time they played it for him in the basement, Jeff found it “initially a bit jarring. But I liked it.” He goes on:
What they did was to use a double-time drum pattern in the chorus and add an extended guitar break. … Gary’s guitar work reminded me of Lindsey Buckingham, and John had done two different bass lines. We used a hybrid version of them both, and extended the instrumental section even more. … The song’s length went from 2:30 to 3:45. [The final mix is 3:58.] And most of the basic demo instrumentation—which was done at my house—remains in the track.
But since all this doctoring had been done on Jeff’s original demo, an extra keyboard scrap remained on the track. Initially, Jeff had tried the song in a different key, but then decided to change the key and just record over the original piano part. “When I finished recording,” Jeff says, “a little bit at the end popped on, because the song had ended. I liked the reprise feel, so I grabbed a vocal line and flipped it over backwards, and also grabbed a military-style snare drum part that I had tried in the body of the song and reversed that too.”
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