Whiter Shade of Pale (cover)

November 30, 2011 12:17 PM

Lofi acoustic waltz version: piano, drums, harmonica, solo vox. The song adapts surprisingly to 3/4 time.

This isn't the cover I set out to make, but I set out to make a cover of this like a month ago and have been losing a wrestling matching with it ever since.

WSOP is one of the first songs that really latched into the emotional part of my brain in the way that music can, and I've tried to not listen to it too much over the couple decades that I've known the name of song. It's stayed with me and still always gets me a little bit when it comes on the radio. I do it at karaoke once in a blue moon and always enjoy knocking it out.

And so I've thought about covering it forever, and a few weeks ago I decided that I was for sure just gonna do it, and I figured I'd do what I normally do and figure out a basic idea I like, work on it a little bit, and then, bam, do takes and put it in the can and that's done.

Instead I've been constantly frustrated by my attempts to get something I'm happy with. I've jumped keys a couple times; I changed instruments; I tried doing the classic Hammond line with a Yamaha organ I bought from a neighbor for cheap, with my melodica, with a piano line, with my theremin, with a big overdrive guitar line; I ended up pushing it into 3/4 at some point and have been doing that so long now that doing it in straight time feels weird. I tried acoustic guitar, I tried vocal harmonies, I tried ukulele, I tried doing stomp-and-clap percussion.

At some point the 3/4 BUM ba-DUM ba-DUM ba-DUM turnaround line in the piano left hand here got stuck in my head, and I've been working around that ever since. Really, in terms of sheer brainstorming and reworking of a cover this is the most work I've done on something since I recorded my Inchoatery album back in 2010. And still nothing's really settled down.

I did a take on just barry uke and vox yesterday that felt pretty good...but somehow Garageband ended up recording it as a weird set of like half-second-long buzzsaw waves modulated around a static harmonic frequency. That was a straight up Fuck It moment.

And, so, fuck it: I need to walk away from this for a while, but I need to put something down or I'm gonna go crazy, and so here we are. Done this morning in a minimum of takes, just room-micing my digital piano, room-micing my drums under some pillows to avoid blowing out the iPhone's mic, and one-takes for vocals and harmonica with the harmonica standing in more or less for the original organ.

It's not the cover I wanted, but it's at least a sketch of what the cover I think I want at this point might be.

posted by cortex (14 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

Cool, in 3/4 with the piano, it sounds like The Band. WSOP is one of my favorites too.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:28 PM on November 30, 2011


Huh, it sounds totally natural in 3/4. What a mindfuck. I actually went and checked the original because for a moment I could no longer believe it ever wasn't in 3/4.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:37 PM on November 30, 2011


I know, right? The only thing that really doesn't feel right with the change is the organ lead line, which sits really, really stoicly in 3/4 and feels a bit warped translated directly to 3/4 with just some hop-and-skip triplets in place of eighth note moves.
posted by cortex at 3:49 PM on November 30, 2011


Sloppy and fun, and the shift into 3/4 is really canny and well executed.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 5:04 PM on November 30, 2011


WSOP makes me think of World Series of Poker, for which I am ashamed.
posted by potch at 5:11 PM on November 30, 2011


It sounds like, by what you've written, not the music, that you've been driven to mania a little bit. Doesn't show in the music though. I went from this to the original and back again and have to say that this FEELS right and sounds good.

You'll probably shelve it for a day or two, that's what I'd do, but I think that when you get back to it you're gonna nail it down. I think you've already nailed down all the elements that make this song great...vocal, piano and the harmonica intro. Yea, you've got it man.
posted by snsranch at 6:38 PM on November 30, 2011


I love covers with changed time signatures! Nice job, cortex!

Speaking of new times for old tunes, here's an AskMe thread about that.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:30 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now do Conquistador! (you can do 5/4 time if you like)
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:22 PM on November 30, 2011


The best instrument-your voice
above and beyond any expectations
posted by waviolet at 9:38 PM on November 30, 2011


Really nicely done. I think the flip into 3/4 is made possible by the little pulse at the end of the bar in the Procul Harum version... the ONE-two-three-AND-ONE-two-three feel compresses down nicely into ONE-two-AND-ONE-two-AND...

Great harp playing, really. I couldn't do that solo in a year.
posted by unSane at 8:49 AM on December 1, 2011


So, this song is tied to a very specific and touching memory of one of my closest friends and mentors who died earlier this year.

And you nailed it. And playing it in 3/4 somehow makes it feel more nostalgic or something.

So I guess what I'm saying is thanks for making my openly weep in my office on a Thursday morning.
posted by The World Famous at 10:35 AM on December 1, 2011


[this is great]
posted by waraw at 12:39 PM on December 1, 2011


Great stuff. The harmonica is ace.
posted by cincinnatus c at 5:40 AM on December 6, 2011


Cortex: Really, in terms of sheer brainstorming and reworking of a cover this is the most work I've done on something since I recorded my Inchoatery album back in 2010. And still nothing's really settled down.

That work comes through. This is really, really good.
posted by SJustS at 10:34 PM on December 28, 2011


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