Editor’s Note: This article was first published in two parts in February of 2013 as “6 Classic Recordings That Have No Business Existing.” It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months… Click here to see the top 25 so far and to advocate for your favorites in the comments.
Today, when every computer ships with GarageBand-type software, sour notes can be sweetened with Auto Tune, and radio stations broadcast focus-grouped computerized playlists, there seems to be no room for the serendipity — – or sheer incompetence and confusion — that helped create some of the greatest records of all time.
For instance, the ultimate irony of the urban legend that “Louie, Louie” is a “dirty” song (there’s a whole book about it) is that today you can just about make out what the FBI(!) couldn’t back in 1963:
The Kingsmen drummer’s frustrated “f-word” at around the 0:55 mark.
What you can’t hear are the backstories: the flukes, accidents, misunderstandings, coincidences, white lies, and willpower that wrenched classic songs from crazy recording sessions.
What you know about a particular recording can change the way it sounds.
If you’re my age, you’ve heard Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” about 10,000 times, which may be 9,999 times more than you ever wanted.
But you may not realize that lead singer Brad Delp “actually hits those high notes; there’s nothing electronic helping him.”
One of the more remarkable vocal pyrotechnics on an album where Delp’s singing gives Scholz’s guitar work a run for its money is on the passage where Delp’s ever-rising tenor rides into the first notes of the signature guitar solo, a move Boylan says was planned and executed flawlessly on virtually the first take.
You may also not know that Brad Delp committed suicide in 2007.
Now, give that 1976 recording one more listen.
See if it sounds… different.