The Long Weekend

Performed by Chasing Unicorns

We'd been playing for about a year when my mother decided that we should record a tape, and generously offered to pay for the studio.

The idea was that we would set up and sound check on Saturday morning, record eight or ten backing tracks on Saturday afternoon, add the overdubs on Sunday morning, and mix down on Sunday afternoon. Hah! It actually took three weekends to record, and another to mix, hence the title. It was recorded at Handshake Studio in Darlington on Alesis A-DAT (which records eight digital audio tracks plus virtual MIDI onto metal S-VHS video tape) controlled by an Atari computer, then mixed to stereo on Neil's JVC VCR (also onto S-VHS tape). This tape was then mastered from a Panasonic VCR to my Sharp cassette recorder onto a Sony ceramic-shell audio cassette, again with metal tape. The final cassettes for sale were duplicated from this metal master on the Sharp onto my Aiwa recorder.

The metal master cassette audio was converted to .wav using Cubasis AV. A CDR was then produced which was later ripped to mp3.


Day one, nine AM at my house. We loaded the gear into two cars, and trucked everything down the street to the studio, a hundred yards away. Waited for Neil to show up. Carried the gear up two flights of winding stairs.

Phil set up his drums in the live room, and Neil put (I think) eight mikes on them. This took about two hours, partly because Phil uses a bizarre drum arrangement and Neil had trouble getting the mikes close enough while still being out of the way of Phil's sticks. (At one point, Neil asked "You won't hit that microphone there, will you?" My reply: "He'll never hit anything that small, he has enough trouble hitting the drums.") Phil then changed into shorts. This was universally regarded as a very bad thing, but at least he was mainly shut away out of sight. The drum mikes were mixed down into two tracks, and appear on the end result exactly as recorded, apart from the phasing at the end of his solo in 'Now That You Know' (added during mixdown) and a couple of places where they were muted out. The military snare-drum effect in 'Living in Fear' is just EQ.

Paul's bass was direct injected straight into the desk, and again appears exactly as such. The heavily-effected solo in 'History' was overdubbed, as was the solo in 'Living in Fear', and he did a few multi-tracked parts, notably on 'Now That You Know'. No other effects are used.

The keyboards were recorded as virtual MIDI tracks, with either a piano sample or a basic string pad for reference during recording, the final audio only being added during mixdown. This technique saved an audio track on the master tape, as well as making subsequent editing far simpler. Liz's sounds are mainly her own, but some used Neil's synthesizer, as did my keyboard (on 'Manifesto'). Most of Liz's keyboard parts were re-recorded although I think the original backing track appears in some places.

Sherryl's acoustic guitar was direct injected throughout. Again, I think that some of the backing track may have survived, but most was re-recorded.

My electric guitar was also taken straight into the desk for the backing tracks, but was totally over-written. For the final version, I set up my customized Laney 100 watt valve amp in the control room, with a long speaker lead to my 4x12, which was in the live room with one mike about eight inches from one of the drivers and another about four feet away, both mixed into the same channel. It was monitored through the reference speakers rather than headphones, and we left the doors open so the mikes would pick up some ambient sound. Rather than play it all live, we did two passes for each song, to avoid the channel-switching click on my amp. 'Living in Fear' had three passes because of the different guitar used on the last solo. The guitar MIDI output was recorded, where appropriate, on the virtual MIDI track, and the audio added at mixdown. All of the guitar MIDI uses my Casio synthesizer and my programming. The only real cheating we did was a bit of quantizing here and there to compensate for the tracking delay. Although they occasionally overlap a little, there is very little actual double-tracking on the guitar parts (mainly in 'Reel to Reel', and 'History'), and no effects of any kind. My acoustic guitar (on 'History') was direct injected.

The backing tracks were recorded with Sherryl singing in the control room. These tracks were completely over-written, with Sherryl, Paul or Liz in Neil's 'wardrobe', a carpet-lined booth about the size of a telephone box. (While Neil was tweaking the EQ for the first take, Paul asked "Do you need to change much for a different voice?" Neil's reply: "Well, you need to put a different person in the box.") Numerous over-dubs were done, notably on 'Reel to Reel' and also on 'Now That You Know', where Paul also sang. On 'History', Sherryl and Liz were in the box together, using the same mike. All of the vocals had reverb added, to a greater or lesser extent.


Reel to Reel (Words and music by Paul)

(4.07 Mb, 4:31)

Paul arrived at rehearsal and said that he had "a new song". He sat down with an acoustic guitar and hammered out this thing, while the rest of us just looked at each other. It was dreadful. Worse than dreadful. There was no way that this would ever be even a vaguely half-decent song. As was our custom, however, we decided that we might as well kick it around for a while in a vain attempt to beat it into some kind of shape, just in case there was anything in there that might lead to something worth keeping. We took out Paul's singing and Paul's guitar-playing, substituting Sherryl and me, and about twenty minutes later, we had what became one of our best songs. It was really a good song all along! Who knew? It tells of a fading movie star unable to cope with real life. Every available section of track was hi-jacked for the multi-overdubbed hook-line; some were put on the rhythm guitar track. We could all recognise this track just by watching the signal level meters on the A-DAT. The start of the guitar solo is lifted from the theme music to 'The Big Country', and is a quote from Yes's version of 'No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed' by Ritchie Havens. Somehow a bit of Mike Oldfield's 'Moonlight Shadow' seems to have snuck in there as well.

Imagine how hard it must be to live a life of reality
When all you've done before has been invention
Consider the changes to make if you make the slightest mistake (no retake)
How do you express your true intention

She recalls when she was a star, it was pink champagne and caviar
And a new gown every month for the studio dances
But it's all so different now, since she took her final bow
She can't adjust to the change of circumstances

So she never goes out anywhere, she just watches re-runs everyday
Of all the movies she starred in
Reel to reel, living a life of fantasy
Reel to reel, a substitute for reality
Reel to reel, clinging to her history
In the days of the silver screen, she was always known as a movie queen
But that was long ago in days gone by
And in life it's been the same, since they killed her off in the final frame
And no-one cares enough to ask her why

So she never goes out anywhere, she can't face life without direction
She's never known any other way
Reel to reel, living a life of fantasy
Reel to reel, the loneliness is a tragedy
Reel to reel, further to insanity
So she never goes out anywhere, she can't face life without direction
She's never known any other way
Reel to reel, living a life of fantasy
Reel to reel, a substitute for reality
Reel to reel, clinging to her history
Reel to reel, the loneliness is a tragedy
Reel to reel, further to insanity

Now That You Know (Words and music by Ian)

(4.38 Mb, 4:51)

This was one of our earliest songs, from before Liz joined, and is just a cheesy love song on steroids. The guitar solo was always in there, but the other soloes were added for the recording, and were included in later live sets as a "Let's meet the band" thing. Phil was introduced as "the thinking man's Duracell drummer bunny, Mr Philip Davison", Paul as "a man among bass-players, Monsigneur Pablo Benito", Liz as "she's the biz, she's the whiz, Miss Liz Meffen", and Sherryl as "lead sister". I forget what she called me!

Do you recall what I told you the first time that you held my hand
That I could take it or leave it, you were just another one night stand
I tried to tell myself it wasn't for real and pretend I wasn't looking for love
But I can't hide it from you any more, I'm a velvet fist in an iron glove
Now that you know, don't let me be alone again
I don't want you to leave me, believe me
I know we can make it if we give it a try
So now you really don't have to go, now that you know
When you told me that you loved me, I knew I'd been here before
When you said it's something special this time, I headed for the door
But then I realised I felt just the same and I knew that we could make it come true
I've never given all my love before 'cause I've been saving it just for you
Now that you know, don't let me be alone again
I don't want you to leave me, believe me
I know we can make it if we give it a try
So now you really don't have to go, now that you know
I never thought that I could fall for you, I didn't even try
I've been hurt too many times before, once bitten twice shy
But now I know you're not just messing around, I know that you mean what you say
Maybe now I'll let you set me free, 'cause I'm in your power anyway
Now that you know, don't let me be alone again
I don't want you to leave me, believe me
I know we can make it if we give it a try
So now you really don't have to go, now that you know
Now that you know, don't let me be alone again
I don't want you to leave me, believe me
I know we can make it if we give it a try
So now you really don't have to go, now that you know
Now that you know

(My Piece of) History (Words by Alicia, music by Liz)

(4.95 Mb, 5:29)

Liz wrote the music for this using the auto-chording function on her keyboard! I think she was just trying to keep it simple for the rest of us. There's no keyboards on the final version, as Liz sings joint lead vocal, and she can't sing and play at the same time. Anyway, there's not really anything for keyboards to do. The idea was to get a relaxed, "live" sound (similar to 'Perfect' by Fairground Attraction), which, of course, took far longer to set up than a 'studio' sound would have done. We hadn't arranged an ending, so we just repeated the play-out section until we were sure we had enough, intending to fade it out or something. We recorded various over-dubs of ad-hoc percussion (bottles, drum-sticks on chair-backs, matchboxes), but eventually decided to keep it just as we had recorded it, complete with Sherryl shouting "Shut up!" to Phil. When we started recording it, I hadn't really learned it yet, so I just fiddled around, watching Paul for the changes. Neil programmed the effect for the bass solo, under Paul's direction ("Can you make it, you know, growlier?"). We decided that it sounded like a cross between a dog and a dinosaur, so he called the effect 'Jurassic Bark'.

Childhood days so warm and bright, sights and sounds that shaped my life
Many tangled memories, oh, my piece of history

Faded tones no longer heard, gazing backwards down the years
Cherished now so lovingly, oh, my piece of history
Many before have filled our world, we see their faces, read their words
In future what will others know, living and loving long ago
They cannot see what now I see, oh, my piece of history
Will we ever understand, hidden deep in every man
Silent feelings, mystery, oh, our piece of history
Many before have filled our world, we see their faces, read their words
In future what will others know, living and loving long ago
They cannot see what now I see, oh, my piece of history
Life moves on, the tables turn, time to teach and not to learn
Something we will never see, oh, our place in others' history
Many before have filled our world, we see their faces, read their words
In future what will others know, living and loving long ago
They cannot see what now I see, oh, my piece of history

Manifesto (Music by Ian)

(1.37 Mb, 1:33)

I had intended to do a lot more production on this, but was over-ruled by Neil who flatly refused to do anything except tidy up the levels a bit. (It was the first time I'd used a weighted-key keyboard, and it was all over the place.) On reflection, he was right (but see later for a more sophisticated version). At the time of recording, no-one else had heard this.


Living in Fear (Words and music by Paul)

(10.6 Mb, 11:52)

Our finest hour. Paul had friends in Northern Ireland, and he knew from them how "the Troubles" affected everyone in the Province, regardless of political or religious affiliation. Most people there don't care about such things, they just want to get on with their lives. The words are somewhat idealistic, but maybe you have to be sometimes.

It's all credited to Paul, but I gave him the music for the introduction, which repeats for the main instrumental section. The song begins with just guitar (plus MIDI) and Sherryl's voice, then Liz brings in a lush string pad. After the intro verse, Paul's bass leads us into the main section, and, after two verse / chorus passages we hit the long instrumental. This is not an ensemble section, rather a bass solo, a piano solo and a guitar solo played at the same time, with acoustic guitar and drums, and it took four hours to mix. Sherryl hyperventilated for a minute or so before the 'Injured victims' part to achieve the appropriate vocal effect. During the 'Conference' verse (which Paul sings), Sherryl's voice can be heard faintly in the background; this is the result of the backing track vocal (which Sherryl sang) bleeding into the drum mikes! As a result, it's on the same track as the drums and couldn't be removed without re-recording everything. The part after this has a huge keyboard choir-and-strings pad, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and a MIDI-guitar orchestra, as well as bass and drums.

The last guitar passage (the 'Peace Forever' solo) is played on my Burns Flyte, the rest on my Casio MIDI guitar.

Smoke rising towards the sky
People running, I can hear them cry
Sirens screaming through the night
But don't you worry everything's alright
It'll be alright

In the middle of the city, there's an atmosphere of hate
There's a metal fence across the road, a soldier at the gate
There's a body-search each time you go from district three to eight
And it's been that way so long, it's part of living

There's a sense of insecurity no matter where you go
The murderers are all around, in hiding, keeping low
It's the differences they mention when they talk about the foe
But it seems to me they're really all the same
And the day will surely come when the men who use the gun
Will be able to sit down and talk together
But until they hide their pride and understand the other side
Then the killing will go on forever
Each side blames the other for the state of things today
But who will stop the killing first, neither side will say
If your friends and your relations have all been killed this way
It's irrelevant to you who did the killing
And the day will surely come when the men who use the gun
Will be able to sit down and talk together
But until they hide their pride and understand the other side
Then the killing will go on forever
Injured victims everywhere, another bomb in the market square
Reprisal for the bomb last night, but don't you worry, everything's alright

A conference has been announced to talk of terms of peace
With both sides represented, and the Army and Police
But will this be any different, will the killing ever cease
Or will they carry on exactly as before
And the day will surely come when you no longer need a gun
When you can sit down side by side and talk together
And the children of today will find there is a better way
It's up to you to take the lead together
It's for all the people's sake, it's a chance you have to take
It's a chance to live in peace forever
Will they talk until tomorrow
Will they say that things have changed
Will they go back to their people
And will they start all over again

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