Hey folks, here’s something for you to bash at. I started working on this very soon after Tom Petty died, but then for a variety of reasons got distracted from doing music for many months. The Fever competition got the proverbial juices flowing again, so I have now managed to get it to a bashable state.
This is an overt hommage and tribute. Petty is one of my all time musical heroes, having burst on the scene in my formative late teen years. His arrival (along with those of the Pretenders, Elvis Costello, and some others) was my salvation from the hell of 70s disco-- rock and roll was back!! I was galvanized.
This song was the first “personal anthem” I ever had, and was a minor hit for him off his second album You’re Gonna Get It. At the time, I had my first serious girlfriend, and she really did bail on me for the guy who had the money and the cocaine. At 19, the heartbreak seemed so heavy (as everything does at that age)… Of course, I know now that I’m damned lucky she did make that choice, because it would never have worked with us, but that perspective took a few years to gain (I was letting the little head do most of the thinking, to paraphrase the great John Hiatt).
I got to see Petty several times from '79 to about '84, and his shows were always totally awesome, full of energy and passion. Some of my best memories. His death hit me really hard, and I still stop myself and can’t believe he’s gone. So this is my tribute to Tom-- not looking to come up with a huge departure from the original, just paying my lifelong respects.
Some fun facts: the drums are an add-on pack of patterns recorded for AD2 by Steve Ferrone, Petty’s drummer for the last couple of decades, and I chose kit pieces to match as closely as possible what Steve typically plays with the Heartbreakers. Hey, why not??
Touching story Dave. I also really got into Petty for many years, one of my lighter Rock favorites. At first listen the vocals sounded really good, guitars also.
Well, I was going to critique the drums but now I’ll feel foolish. Heck, I’ll do it anyway. Song tempo seems a bit slow for me, and really shows up in the drums. I guess that’s a moot point since you have all the other parts recorded, but I’m also comparing it to the original (in my subconscious) since your cover is pretty similar. That kick drum sound though … not digging it. Maybe it’s too loud, but something about the tone as well. It just sounds odd, kind of a dead thud with little resonance or space.
Back to the vocals to end on a positive note. I think you did a really good job on those. It felt kind of hauntingly familiar when they first came in.
Couple of things:
I agree with Stan - the kick sound is messing with the groove of the song… It’s a little too loud and a bit too fat in the low end - It makes the song sound a little “ploddy”. Check your kick against the original track - it’s amazing how little low end the original mix has in the kick and overall! Somewhere in between might be a good compromise for modern sound systems.
The extreme stereo lead guitar freaks me out - it just sounds so out of place and (dare I say it) gimmicky in a fairly organic style mix like this…
Thank you Stan and Andrew! I’m definitely aware how little low end is in the original release, and made a conscious choice to beef that up in my version. I will re-examine the kick treatment and see what I can do to improve it.
In terms of tempo, the original is at 123-124 bpm (it does not hold steady throughout), and mine is at 120. My version is only 19 seconds longer than the original. So it’s not really that it is all that much slower. What is different is the style of play between Stan Lynch’s original performance and the Ferrone patterns I chose (and that choice came after studying the way Ferrone played it live in a concert clip from 7 or 8 years ago). Lynch’s style was always very driving and even-tempo’d, bang-bang-bang-bang (this is what led Jimmy Iovine to become quite dismissive of his drumming, according to interviews in the great Petty bio-doc you can stream on Netflix). Ferrone seems to have more swing in his approach, which I also prefer, so that’s the way I went with this version.
All that said, given that it’s only a few bpm, I’ll bet I could get away with simply upping the project file’s master tempo and letting the DAW adjust the timing of all the recorded parts and it would not be noticeable on the guitars and bass (everything else is MIDI). I’d just have to retrack the vocals, where even a small change like that is always noticeable. I would definitely consider that.
And it’s also easy to adjust the short solo to not be so wide. It’s a doubled part, so I figured I’d pan them left and right, but if that’s a distraction then it can be dispensed with by putting them in the center.
What I’ve done in the past is pick one of the guitars as the “main” lead guitar in the solo and center it like a vocal and then treat the second (or more) as background vocals and pan those over a bit to give a bit of space.
Regarding the performance. Dude, this is fantastic. What a great cover! Your vocal sits somewhere between the original Petty and a bit of Springsteen covering Petty. It’s amazing!!
Man, does this sound familiar. 19 is the time when you feel more grown up, but you aren’t. Same thing happened to me after my first year at college. (No cocaine involved, she just left). Felt Like my heart was ripped out for a while, but it all turned out for the better, and gave me a lot of fuel for writing. Thanks for the memories.
As for bashing, it’s a great performance, with two little things I notice that you might check out aside from the kick drum. The lower vocal harmony seems to be sticking out to me a little, and since it is pretty low range and difficult to sing, it is floating around in pitch just a touch to me. The upper harmony is masked just a little too, which is the emphasis in the original if I remember correctly, so maybe pulling the low harmony down just a touch will solve all that.
Secondly, on the original, the guitar solo part sounds a little more raucous, and to me it sounds like you are trying to be more precise than you need to be. Have a little more fun with it and pan it up the middle.
Other than that, great job. Speaking of cocaine, one of the things I always loved about TP’s voice was that he always sounded like his sinuses were shot, which added to his unique tone, but I digress, and certainly wouldn’t recommend you going that far in emulating a mutual hero.
Cool cover - enjoyed this! And yep, a blast from the past indeed!!
You’ve done a great job with the vocals and I’ve had to go and listen to the original to try to consolidate my thoughts…
There is a tempo thing that is just niggling me a little - although there are only a couple of bpm in it, they feel significant but mostly for me, it’s the ‘attitude’ of the drums and their placement around the beat. In the live version, the drums are pushing, definitely feeling as though they are anticipating the beat, giving that characteristic edginess whereas in your cover, they feel a little ‘politer’ if that makes any sense??
You’ve created a cool groove with the backing vox too, wooh, makes me feel like getting back into my studio
Yeah, that’s what I meant by “seems slow” and “shows up in the drums”. It was the feel created by the drums.
I saw that on something similar, Behind The Music IIRC. I like that Stan Lynch style. Not only does he have a great first name , I always really enjoyed his drumming. From what I can tell he had quite a personality too, class clown etc. I say Jimmy can “stick it”.
Put a revision in the OP based on these great suggestions. Lots of small changes that add up to an improvement IMO.
EQ’d the kick to get rid of that fat and overly loud character that Stan and Andrew picked up. Also thinned out the bass guitar a little and dropped its level a bit as well. So now the lows in general sound less emphasized, although still more than in the original-- a happier medium there I reckon. Can really hear the change in the kick in a/b.
Edit: Eric @redworks, perhaps the less prominent lows will make the rest sound less thin by comparison with the first version…? With the excessive energies in the lows in V1, I could see how that might make the mids suffer. Is that working for you?
I also slid the entire drum track just 5 or 6 ms to the left. I think it makes the groove jump just a bit more, a little less “polite” as @Emma put it. and I think it sounds less “slow” now with the drum hits arriving just that much sooner.
On the vox, I backed off the reverb on both lead and harmony a bit, so it’s a tad drier, following Paul’s idea, and dropped the level of the harmony vocal track a tiny bit per Bob’s suggestion. BTW the harmony vocal track is Melodyne’d pretty substantially, and I think everything is on pitch there (I tend to get pretty aggressive with tuning for harmony vocals).
Finally, on the guitar solo, after a bunch of iterations I decided to drop the doubled part entirely and lose the harmony bit, just having one guitar right up the middle. I also switched out to a different amp (a Scuffham instead of the original GTR3). It still has a bit of delay but I think it’s a decent fit to the vibe and doesn’t stand out so much. And the one line may not sound as “precise”, as Bob mentioned, which may have been from the fact that I was playing the second part to be as close as I could to the first before getting to the harmony bit. I could still retrack it, but wanted to try this first.
Finished up with a bit of adjustment of levels to get everything gelled back together. I definitely like how it sounds now, better than v1 for sure. Haven’t gotten lit though, sorry Paul! Let me know what you think!
Sounding great. Better mix of the harmony vocals. Sorry about saying the lower harmony was pitchy, for some reason it just stuck out in parts in the first iteration. It is a lot better now. Maybe a slight nudge of the upper harmony would be nice, but that’s up to you. Solo in the center section sounds a lot better this way, not so restricted. It didn’t need the second guitar. Tone on the guitars is nice and jangly, everything you’ve done to improve it stands out.
When I mentioned that it sounded a bit ploddy, I was referring to the feel of the groove, not the tempo. I should have explained myself better… I have noticed that the way a kick drum is eq’d has a significant influence on how it moves the groove of the song. Sub bass tends to create the impression of “slowing down” the groove of a track (an extreme example is the HUGE sub bass in most hip hop tracks).
The combination of approaches (Eqing & slightly moving the drums in time) you have used here seems to have worked perfectly to resolve the issue.
Excellent cover of another favourite of mine. I haven’t got much to add to earlier bashes. I like the sound of your guitars.
Your story reminds me of a break up of mine, in fact it was my divorce… When it came through i felt great and played ‘Free falling’ turned up loud in my car. Of course I new that “Im free…” was followed by “…free falling”, but what the hell I didn’t care at that point.
This song was on the same playlist, so I associate it with the feeling of being free, of making my own decisions. Of course it didn’t last very long…
Ain’t this the truth? I’m amazed at how sliding the drum track just that tiny bit has made such a big difference to the feel of the song. And with the other adjustments, any one of them would seem almost trivial (except for the kick, that really was pretty pronounced), but they add up to a substantial change. How bout them apples.
Definitely has felt good to be back in the studio making music. Been way too long.