Welcome to the latest issue of the Squire Fan Club newsletter where we mess your mind with the unheard alternative version of ‘The Life’ and the the story behind the inception of the album ‘Get Smart!'
The idea of Get Smart! had already formed in the Summer of 1982 when the expected Girl On A Train LP was abandoned in favour of recording an emerging set of newer songs, inspired by the sound of the new line up of Anthony, Kevin and Jon.
As the band were playing live again, at the 100 Club and Le Beat Route residencies, and at concerts such as the Ilford All Dayer, and Swindon concert, so the songs were ‘road tested’ in front of a live audience. You can hear some of them on the Fan Club Album, 'You’re The One', 'Every Trick (In The Book Of Love)' in the new key, and 'Stop That Girl' with a different melody to the final Get Smart! version.
Slowly the songs evolved from their embryonic or demo version to the final arrangement on the record. The Get Smart! album was imagined as more of a studio based record, eschewing the constraint of having to play the songs live. This allowed for the sound to step away from the guitar / bass / drums arrangements towards a concept that incorporated musicality and textures from other instruments.
The first step in the planning was to record a new full set of demos, with handclaps, harmonies and simple accompaniment to hear the input of the new bass lines and rhythm ideas. The second stage was to bring on board the extra people. Simon Humphrey, who had worked with Squire from ‘Walking Down The Kings Road’ to 'My Mind Goes Round In Circles’ singles, was again invited to produce the sessions.
His familiar and easy to work with personality was needed to make sure the the recording sessions stayed on track and produce a releasable result, allowing the band to concentrate on their parts and perform.
The next stage was to perform the songs as a 'dress rehearsal' at Alaksa Rehearsal Studios in Waterloo, so he could hear the basic arrangements and plan the order of recording. We had already connected with the horn section, meeting Stewart Prosser the trumpet player of Rye & The Quarter Boys,
who were selling records alongside Squire records in Carnaby Street, and they came along to the rehearsal sessions to finalise horn parts on their five songs; 'The Life', ‘Jesamine', 'You Don’t See Me’, ‘Stop That Girl’, and ‘Get Smart!’.
So a lot of the ingredients, and the overall sonic idea for the album was already in place when we entered Aosis Studios, a large 24-track studio in London’s Chalk Farm, situated in the original Chappell piano building, on December 1982 for a fourteen day ‘lock-out’ session to record the backing tracks, vocal and horn parts.
We will revisit the detail of the sessions and recording of the album over the next few weeks, but a perfect example of how the songs continued to evolve during the sessions is exemplified in the opening track ‘ The Life!’
The original demo, and first take has a completely different melody and changed lyric to the final album version! The overarching sonic concept of the album was an amalgam of four records that were on constant rotation, The Beach Boys Today, The Beatles Revolver, The Byrds Younger Than Yesterday and The Motown Chartbusters Volume Three! These records provided touchpoints for arrangement ideas, and even how the track order was planned. ‘The Life’ was always imagined as the opening track, in the same way ‘So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star' opens The Byrds Younger Than Yesterday LP, and be a bookend to the penultimate track 'Get Smart’. But the vibrancy of the drum part instead of the demo handclaps, and the way the added horns shadowed the original melody changed all that!
Producer, Quincy Jones is credited with the phrase "You've got to leave space for God to walk through the room”, meaning if a song tells you it needs to change, listen to what's happening in the studio, otherwise there's no magic, no opportunity for the recording to come out any better than your concepts. Don't slavishly follow the demo!
Reflecting on the rough mixes over Christmas gave the opportunity to understand how the song was evolving. The ‘mod manifesto’ lyric and carefully crafted simple pentatonic style melody (it actually uses the same notes as the VL-Tone riff on ‘No Time Tomorrow’) had given space to the drums and bass to punctuate the song with a confident urgency. But now the melody was sounding too predictable, it needed to be similarly abstract, a performance that matched the excitement of the new rhythms and horn stabs. Instead of rising to a top note, the melody needed to shout at the top of its voice! A new vocal was recorded, and in an accident of re-arrangement, the new melody also gave the impression of the song tripping over itself, the harmony answering phrases now preceding the lead vocal in the same way as The Beatles song ‘Help!’ is back to front. And it opens the album with a one minute forty second salvo of adolescent pent up frustration and energy!
You can hear the version with the original guide melody, as it was mixed in December 1982 below! We hope you enjoy this alternative version, and another glimpse into the Squire archives!
Next week we have a very special announcement so make sure you are receiving the emails or connected to the Squire Facebook Group or page!