Detholz! WRTDH!? demo – “The Body Electric”

Denizens:
Last DH! Chicago show of the season NEXT WEEK:

Detholz! @ Abbey Pub
Chicago, IL
Thurs., 3/27
w/ Panther (Kill Rock Stars), U.S. Girls & Slow Gun Shogun
BUY TIX HERE: www.abbeypub.com

PLUS

Saturday, March 30th
BELOIT COLLEGE C-HAUS
Beloit, WI
The student body has spoken: Detholz! triumphant return!
Fall ’07 was the first semester we’d missed since 2001- thanks to all who campaigned!

Welcome to Detholz! Mp3 Blog, Episode XXXI! We’re continuing with the grueling MARCH OF DEMOS, where we present old, dusty demo recordings of songs that MADE the cut onto Detholz! records.

This week, one of my favorite old demos: THE BODY ELECTRIC

This is one of the oldest DH! songs that made the cut onto “Who Are The Detholz!?” (2001), having been penned somewhere around the end of 1999. As I recall, it was a real bitch to record with the full band given the demanding vocal parts– a lot of hours were spent gargling lemon juice and tightening our BVD’s to hit the high notes in our vocal isolation booth (read unfinished coat closet).

As with last week’s selection, I’ve always preferred the demo to the full band recording of “Body Electric” (nothing against the rest of the boyz). This song was a beast to perform well. I think we pulled it off successfully only a very few times in those early shows– most of the time, it would receive a lukewarm response live simply because it took so much effort to play it. Karl Doerfer (DH! guitarist) has often said in retrospect that he finds the song to be monotonous, which is also a justifiable criticism.

It makes me a little sad to listen to the demo, though, as that sweet-sounding falsetto range has gradually disappeared 10 years, 1,000’s of cigarettes and countless snifters of whiskey later. There’s no way in hell I could sing this song now– I suppose we could call this “Geddy Lee Syndrome” where… well… one just can’t hit those high notes like one used to.

SONG CONCEPT & COMPOSITION

At the time, I had a morning ritual that involved watching at least one episode of classic “Twilight Zone” every morning. I’ve always loved that show; the writing, acting and music are always so satisfyingly over-the-top. In some cases– at least musically– the scores are truly astounding thanks to the brilliant Bernard Herrmann, whose film music I have been rediscovering lately. (He scored many of the early TZ episodes, though not the one mentioned below).

One morning, they reran the TZ episode, “I Sing the Body Electric,” based on the well-known Ray Bradbury story about a made-to-order electric grandmother (Bradbury also wrote the screenplay for the TZ episode). At the time, my own grandmother’s health had begun to waver as she began the initial stages of a 7-year decline before she finally passed away. So, this is really a song for her, though when I was writing it, I was also ruminating on ideas about eternity and eternal destiny– an uncharacteristically sincere song for that period in DH!. This song is still able to evoke an emotional response in me like few other DH! songs can.

Many of the chord changes were lifted directly from incidental music to the Twilight Zone, as I would sit every morning with my guitar and plunk along with various episodes. I’ve always loved the music on that show, though this is the only instance where I’ve consciously tried to emulate it.

More recently, as I’m gearing up to write more orchestral scores, I’ve made a more serious study of the music/orchestration techniques of Bernard Herrmann. If you’re unfamiliar with his music, I would recommend listening to the scores from “The Day The Earth Stood Still,”(the 1st 50’s sci-fi movie score to use a theremin!), “The Naked and the Dead,” (excellent brass writing), and, of course, the soundtrack to “Psycho,” which is arguably the best film score of all time.

But I digress: You’ll hear a lot of the vocal layering characteristic of Detholz! in those days on this demo– we were, as many young, hungry popsters are, obsessed with the Beach Boys/Pet Sounds and enamored of complex, layered vocal writing. The best example of this can be heard on “All For You,” (last song on WRTDH!?) whose vocals were written in a collaborative session by Rick Franklin (1st DH! keyboardist & primary songwriter on “All For You”), Karl and I. Pixies influence is also discernible in the parallel barre-chord ascensions towards the end of the song.

You’ll have to bear with the recording quality here. At 22, I was just learning how to record a workable home demo, so it’s got the usual newbie warts: bottom-heavy, murky mix with lots of noise and hiss. Hopefully, it adds to the charm.  Up to you.

I’ll end today’s post in the guise of Rod Serling who, tight-lipped and stiff, delivered these clipped lines at the end of the episode in question, which sum up well what this song attempts to convey:

“A fable? Most assuredly. But who’s to say at some distant moment there might not be an assembly line producing a gentle product in the form of a grandmother whose stock in trade is love? Fable, sure… but who’s to say?”

Tune in next week for the last leg of our MARCH OF DEMOS…

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10 Responses to “Detholz! WRTDH!? demo – “The Body Electric””

  1. Amy Says:

    Holy crap! The vocals on the album version are picture perfect — just *perfect* — and yet there’s a plaintive quality to the demo that’s heart-rending. It would never fly on a studio album, but as a standalone recording, it’s remarkable.

    The coda on the album version is more satisfying, though; less dissonant.

    Outstanding, regardless.

  2. detholz Says:

    Amy: By “dissonant,” I’m sure you mean “badly mixed.” Even when I tried to juice the stereo tracks up this week in Wavelab, it was impossible to do so. The mix was simply too sucky.

    I guess there ARE times when you cain’t polish a turd!

    Still, I agree– there’s a little more meat comin’ off of the bone here than on the album version. Possibly another argument for not doing too many vocal takes– tends to diminish the sincerity of the delivery.

    As I remember it, we had to do about 5,000 vocal takes on the album version to even make it passable!

  3. WOTSAC Says:

    This is one of my favorites, along with… damn, what was it two weeks ago, and the also mentioned All for You. These are songs that get stuck in my head at odd times, and I’m not at all ashamed that they are stuck in my head.

    Could I just say that while I think that Mr. F’s contributions are some of my favorite DH! work ever? The boy can be a bit too earnest left to his own devices, but run through the band filter, it’s pretty special stuff. Do we have any record of he other stuff hanging around? I’m thinking ‘Hol-lee’s lee-ving town, pull her dressers drown, ten and three steps till shee hits the ground’. or something to that effect.

    I’d like to hear some commentary on Cast out Devils too — grabbing the pod just now, I have to say that’s one of the most satisfying songs that you’ve put together. It doesn’t hurt that I can practically see somebody half passed out in that pool, maybe next to the drowned squirrel, ranting at poor dec’d Ursula.

    Not perhaps finally — I’d have to say that Amy won last week’s thread going away. She took it to a whole other level.

    Finally — Other Jim — you have everything you need to answer your question. It’s just a matter of putting together the pieces. Something about mayonnaise jars and centerfolds — no, actually centerfolds, don’t get distracted by their semiotic correspondence to things that exist just yet.

    Oh, god. It’s a work night. I love you all. I hope that I don’t have to be a genius tomorrow, because that’s only going to happen if I drink a poisonous quantity of coffee.

  4. Jim Says:

    Monotonous?
    “forever forever forever forever…”
    Wasn’t that sort of the effect that was sought out here? I get lost in that beautiful, hypnotic reverberation.

    (I accidentally originally posted this comment under Bunny of Death…somehow.)

  5. kebabdylan Says:

    the only thing I would have changed is shortening the “forever” part. I am batting about .500 on that part sometimes loving it, sometimes thinking is goes on too long. having said that…

    1. the part where the bass line comes in — beautiful
    2. the one harnony part in the middle — beautiful
    3. the ending, as it starts out as a single guitar — my favorite detholz moment perhaps.
    4. the tick tock guitar styling – I have borrowed that from you on more than one occasion. I refer to it as the ticking time bomb effect.

  6. detholz Says:

    WOTSAC: The song you refer to is “In The Box,” perhaps the only DH! song from “Employee Primer” (1999) that’s worth a damn.

    “Cast Out Devils” seems to be the sleeper hit from the record of the same name. When the record was written up by the indie pundits– whether they liked the record or not– that song usually got a nod.

    Case in point: here’s one of my favorite DH! reviews of all time, from a 2006 show with the Danielson Familie:

    http://www.cokemachineglow.com/interview/1981/the-danielson-x-perience-pt-2

    I had to look up the word “stentorian.”

    Jim: Time to bring out the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

    ‘Bab: Well, seeing as how this song is almost 9 years old, we probably won’t change it… or play it… ever….again…

    A lot of those old DH! songs are built around repeating guitar ostinatos/”riffs”: Mr. Electricity, the A section of Rebirth Control, Invisible Man, etc.

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! Seriously. Glad these songs have been fertile ground for some musical heists– a high compliment, indeed! Thanks, ‘Bab!

  7. kebabdylan Says:

    that IS a great review. I have no idea what the guy was talking about, at any point in the review. so what does stentorian mean? And I can’t imagine trying to sing a song like that over and over. and there is a lot of singing in that song. egads!

    i am not foolish enough to think you’d play this one again. my comment is response to Karl’s “monotonous” (ie, maybe that one part). Although next time i am in the audience I may have to yell “body electric… abridged!”

  8. anonymous intarweb poster Says:

    I’ve tried to post a few times on the brilliance of this song, but the WordPress Gods won’t allow it.

    I did want to add something though. Over the weekend my wife noticed two figures looming behind her car while it was parked at a Wheaton eatery.

    It turned out that they were merely taking a picture of our license plate: “DETHOLZ”. That’s the first time that’s happened.

    Was it anyone on this blog?

  9. anonymous intarweb poster Says:

    Here goes:

    As an admittedly-obsessed Detholz fan, I have many favorite moments in your music. Perhaps too many.

    However, the 2:50 mark of this demo of The Body Electric is about as perfect as music can get. Or as close as I’ve heard you guys get. The harmonies. The falsetto. The quietly strummed electric guitar.

    Albeit, my obsession does lend some bias, but that’s just how I feel.

    Thanks for posting and sharing this Jim. It’s a true gem.

  10. detholz Says:

    ‘Bab: sten·to·ri·an \sten-ˈtȯr-ē-ən\ adjective \ Date: 1605 \ “extremely loud”

    I’d like to think that review was written in a verdant meadow on the bank of a still pond.

    AIP: Sounds like you have a lot on your plate!

    Thank you for your patronage, AIP. Appreciated as always.

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