I have a Pro Tools folder full of cover songs in various stages of incompleteness.
There’s a Prince song, a Janet Jackson song, a Eurythmics one, and yes, there’s even a Rod Stewart song.
My philosophy on cover songs is simple:
– if the remake is going to closely mirror the original, then the remake should be far superior
– if the remake is going to deviate from the original, it should be almost unrecognizable
It’s been these two basic rules that keep me from finishing the songs.
But sometimes, if you can put just enough of a twist on it, those two rules don’t have to apply.
A few weeks ago I was going to finish up the Prince cover. It’s the one song that was the farthest along and quite honestly sounded the best. I was remixing what I had already tracked, took a break and opened up my iTunes and started playing Peter Gabriel’s Shaking the Tree album.
That’s when I Don’t Remember started playing. There was always something about this song that bothered me. First of all, it sounds as if it could far apart at any moment. Tony Levin’s bass barely keeps it together. The drums all so behind the beat and hopelessly teetering that collapse is inevitable. It’s so raw and primal that it’s impossible to wrap your head around the fact that it’s suppose to be a pop song with an incredibly catchy hook.
And then there’s the way that Peter is singing the lead vocal. I’ve always envisioned him in the vocal booth singing a song about imprisonment, interrogation and possible torture with a big smile on his face. As if the protagonist had already lost his mind and in fact, remembered nothing at all. Even himself.
(I should note that there are two versions of I Don’t Remember. I’m speaking of the version on the Shaking the Tree album.)
The song is a jarring experience. It succeeds on so many levels that to even consider remaking it seems like sacrilege. But then I thought of the twist. What if the protagonist hadn’t lost his mind. What if he fought his interrogators every step of the way. Not only retaining himself but possible lying about not remembering. Then the music would need to be tighter and more exact. Instead of primal sparseness, a wall of revolution.
I have been a life long Peter Gabriel fan. I humbly produced this track with respect and most importantly, for the fun of it. My wife Jeannie Kim supplied the violin and Ed Littman, my go to mastering guy, put the finishing touches to it.