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Author Topic: Question for c-man/other historians of this board re: Tommy Tedesco  (Read 1175 times)
Matt Bielewicz
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« on: January 05, 2020, 10:37:20 PM »

I saw a comment of c-man's in the Carole Kaye/Mrs Maisel thread regarding the scene in Love And Mercy where the Carole Kaye character questions the musicality of a passage in one of Brian's arrangements... and it prompted me to think about this question.

c-man said:

"Well, this did apparently happen once with Tommy Tedesco, where he didn't understand how a certain progression of Brian's would work...until he heard it with the vocals, then it made sense to him."

I remember reading about this years ago — I think it's in the Pet Sounds boxed set booklet that focuses on all the contributions of the studio musicians, although after all these years since I first read that (over 21 and counting...!), maybe it wasn't in there but somewhere else...!

Back when I read it, I thought that was fascinating, and wondered which song they might have been working on. But I assumed there was no way we could narrow it down and identify it after all these years. After all, most of the people who would have been there were advanced in years by then (and by now have mostly died).

But now I wonder... after all, some of the people here, c-man included, have identified all sorts of stuff in recent years that no-one could ever have dreamt could have been untangled back in the day, by careful listening to session tapes etc etc

I'm guessing someone here knows exactly which sessions Tommy Tedesco played on for Brian in the 60s - or maybe even has a database of such things that could produce a session list pretty quickly? From such a list of sessions, we could speculate about which song it was, and maybe take an educated guess? After all, some BW compositions have more off-the-wall, musically innovative progressions and musical development than others...?

Ever since I first read that story in (I think) around 1998, I have always had my own thoughts on which session it might have been, but based on absolutely nothing, just guesswork based on which of BW's composititions might have seemed musically 'wrong' as a backing track... until the vocals were added. I won't say which though, as it was an utterly uninformed thought and I could be way off! So I'm as up for narrowing down the story as anyone, but don't have the detailed session knowledge to be able to do it...!

I originally assumed it was a Pet Sounds track, as (I think) that was the context in which I read the anecdote... but I guess it doesn't have to have been. I don't know how much earlier than Pet Sounds Tommy T started working with Brian, though... I guess it could even have been later than Pet Sounds, too. I recall that Tommy Tedesco is definitely on several SMiLE sessions. I don't know about after that, though. I know Brian/the band used a very few session musicians on Smiley Smile and Wild Honey, and a few more from Friends onwards... but I don't even know if Tommy was amongst that later more restricted group.

Somehow I always asssumed that the anecdote referred to what you might call 'the peak session musician years'... but that needn't be the case, of course.

Anyone up for the challenge...?
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juggler
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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2020, 10:44:10 PM »

FWIW, the session would also have featured Steve Douglas, as he's the one quoted in the PS box liner notes...

"The late Steve Douglas once offered an example which explained why the musicians were so impressed by Brian. "We had a pretty large rhythm section over at Western 3, and Brian was trying to get the guitar to play a certain thing. I remember Tommy Tedesco saying,’Hey man, it won't work; it just won't work!’ And Brian said, 'Play it And it sounded like it didn't make sense until he dubbed the strings and it all fell together. It was just amazing. He heard that in his head. That's what has always blown me out about him--that he could hear these complex orchestrations."

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« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2020, 11:35:13 PM »

I think the situations involved are being confused with what was depicted and scripted for the Love & Mercy movie versus a session with Tommy Tedesco.

The scene with Carole Kaye's character in the film had dialogue about a section being in two different keys at the same time. As we outlined when the film came out, and as I dissected in a post several years prior to the film, this was the intro and bridge to Wouldn't It Be Nice, which does feature technically two different keys playing at the same time. I'll post links to the discussion from 2013 where the harmony and theory was laid out, and the discussion from 2015 about the specific scene in the film.

As far as Tommy Tedesco, he was not the only musician to question Brian and suggest "it won't work" based on the so-called correct rules of music theory. I've heard Barney Kessel, for one, did the same thing challenging Brian until other parts were added, as did other musicians on various sessions...until they heard the final results. Then it made sense.

But the one in the film which was cited due to the Carole Kaye character in the L&M film was Wouldn't It Be Nice.

Here is a breakdown of the "two keys" structure I wrote back in 2013:

I had to point out one aspect out of many musical highlights, related to the chords and harmonic structure that Brian wrote in the song. This is just for the intro, which was reintroduced and slightly reshaped for the bridge.

Implied underneath the guitar arpeggios is a standard chord progression analyzed as I - vi - IV - V. To make it jazzier the "IV" chord can be substituted with the "ii" minor, which is more like what Brian does here. It was one of the most common chord progressions in pop songwriting, used in literally thousands of doo-wop songs and beyond, and the foundation of pop standards like "Earth Angel", "Blue Moon", even Brian's own "Surfer Girl". It could be varied several ways using substitutions like changing the IV to a ii minor, but the structure is essentially the same.

On WIBN's intro, the implied chords could be heard as A major, F# minor, B minor, to E7. Add tensions on those chords as needed, play them, and you'll hear what those guitars are built on. And you could transpose then sing "Surfer Girl" or "Earth Angel" over them.

The intro cycles through the progression once, then with the abrupt "bam!" of Hal's drum hit, Brian does a very unorthodox key change, replacing the "ii chord", Bmin7 in this case, with a shift to C7. This C7 becomes the dominant chord of the key of the song, which is F. It leads in perfectly, but in chord construction it is very unusual to modulate like that using an "off" interval between the shifting chords to achieve that key change. F#minor going to C7th...that is a flat 5th interval, when heard out of context it's jarring in a pop context and to many would sound out of tune, or like it did not "fit".

Yet Brian used that unusual shift to great effect, it fits perfectly, and it's similar to how he got praised for similar unusual key shifts in "Warmth Of The Sun".

To take a song that everyone hears in the key of A when it first starts up, then modulate in the way he does, it may not seem like a big deal but if it were following a more traditional pop music harmonic structure it might be suggested such a "jazz"-based flat 5th leap would be almost too jarring for that context. But Brian makes it work.

Just to hint at the bridge, the song rolls along in F major, staying relatively close to the key throughout, but to shift into the bridge, the band drops out, a melodic line still in F major is stated, then it's what seems to be yet another abrupt shift *back* into A major for the bridge...at least for the guitars are playing the same arpeggios that sounded over an A major progression in the intro, but now the bridge is in D major! What?  Smiley

The bridge chords are now Dmaj7 - Gmaj7 - F#m - Bm. Yet the guitar arpeggios are still playing the exact same figures that worked in A. Brilliant.

There is no "pivot chord", like a Bach-style V7/V, to get into the key of D in that bridge. It goes right from F to D, while the guitars are still playing the arpeggios centered around A.

So how does Brian get back into the key of F after leaving the bridge? Similar to the intro, he uses the same unusual modulation, going again from the F#minor in the bridge progression, slam-bang into a C7 (dominant chord of the original key), and for the rest of the song until the fadeout he's back in F major.

Something that sounds so effortless and flows so well is masking some very unusual and extremely clever songwriting tools on how to structure basic chord progressions into something personal, and a very unique way for a songwriter to get from "point A to point B" in a song form in a seamless way that is never jarring to the listener.



And here is discussion from 2015 specific to that scene in the movie where the Carole character is questioning Brian:

can anyone explain the bit about the "2 keys"? is it true? if not, how can this film, which labors so hard for accuracy, make up an ahistorical sequence like this of such specificity? what song was it again? can we determine if if fact BW wrote parts in 2 keys for some purpose?

It's in the scene for the "Wouldn't It Be Nice" backing track.  Lyle Ritz is supposed to play in one key on the double bass and Carol is to play another on her bass.  I'm not even remotely musical enough to know if two keys are being played on the real track.  I do know that the expository dialogue in the scene is interesting and gets the point across that Brian heard in his head what he wanted and the musicians followed.


Yeah... I have a degree in music composition and all I can figure is they are referencing Brian's odd bass placements (which are rarely rooted, as is typical). It's a common thing in jazz and something no jazz musician would have found perplexing if that is what it is referring to.  I can sort of see why Carol Kaye's nose would have wrinkled a bit at that. LOL

I THINK I can explain this.  The arpeggio guitar part in the middle section of WIBN (which repeats the intro of the song) is played in A.  But the bass part is in D.  If you combine the two, i.e. of you play an A chord with a D in the bass, you get (I think) a Dmaj9 chord.  So the middle bit is essentialy in D, but PLAYED IN ISOLATION, the guitar arpeggio sounds like it's in A.  I could probably explain it better with a guitar - I'll put something on YouTube if I get a chance!

I'm sure it wouldn't have taken Carol Kaye long to understand what Brian was getting at, once she'd heard the 'bigger picture'.





Absolutely my least favorite moment in the whole film, because the dialog is so clunky, and it's so didactically hitting you on the head with "Brian is blowing these studio musician's minds" thing.  And as you say above, Carol would not have had any problem seeing what was going on.

The moment is referencing a fairly obscure comment by Lyle Ritz from the PS box set, where he's talking about WIBN, and how his bass part seemed to be written in a different key from the rest of the band during the bridge.

It's not.



One of the best profile pics in the history of the message boards, bar none!  Smiley

I've also transcribed that bass and guitar part, and it does do something cool as James outlined. You get the sound of a Dmajor7th starting that bridge because the bass note is a strong D root, yet the intro sounds more like the A to Bmin7 arpeggio that is actually being played on the guitar. It's a neat trick of playing with the perception of hearing the chord as something different based on the root note played underneath. Hendrix did a similar thing later with All Along The Watchtower where what had been a straightforward A major chord in the song suddenly sounds like an F#minor7 because he played that F# root in the bass under the guitar's A chord. Simple but a very, very cool effect.


In that discussion, Lyle Ritz was the studio musician listed as the quote.

Of course that answers nothing about the Tommy Tedesco question, but it does clarify which session was being depicted in the L&M script. And keep in mind as always, Hollywood scripts more often than not will use combinations of events rolled into one versus depicting individual events separately in order to keep the flow of both the script and the film rolling, and to shave time off telling the story overall. If you believe what I recall seeing, hearing, and reading from numerous sources which said the studio musicians would sometimes question Brian just as shown in the film, and there are more than just Tommy Tedesco reported as having done that on sessions, it adds up.

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juggler
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« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2020, 12:06:29 AM »

Okay, well, that makes for a pretty convincing case that L&M screenwriters likely did NOT intend Tommy Tedesco's "Hey, man, it won't work" as the basis for the CK scene.

As for Steve Douglas' anecdote about Tommy Tedesco, I did a very cursory review of session info... and it seems that the two of them played together mostly on the Today! sessions (In the Back of My Mind, Do You Wanna Dance?, Good to My Baby, etc)
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Matt Bielewicz
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« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2020, 02:24:49 AM »

Great, thanks guys... already that's narrowing it down. I had totally forgotten that the quote was not from Tommy himself at all, but Steve Douglas. But now I've got it, as quoted precisely by juggler above. It's at the top of page 52 of the CD-sized booklet that accompanied the 1998 Pet Sounds session box.

I did indeed come to this matter via the discussion about Carole Kaye, and that included her views on the 'two keys' scene in Love And Mercy... but I never thought that the occasion when Tommy Tedesco questioned Brian about the arrangement was to do with the intro to "Wouldn't It Be Nice". And now I'm sure it wasn't (see further discussion below). Not that guitarfool's analysis of the opening phrase of the album above isn't fascinating... it is! But I never thought that was the bit relating to Tommy Tedesco's question/Steve Douglas's recollection.

So to summarise what we DO know (assuming, of course, that Steve Douglas hadn't himself got things scrambled in his memory when he gave that quote — it's surprisingly easy to do even at a few years' remove, as I know from personal memories that have got distorted over the years...!)

Steve Douglas was on the session; it was Tommy Tedesco who brought up the objection. so the session must have featured them both, which, as the ninth Doctor Who liked to say, "narrows it down". Moreover, Steve Douglas explicitly remembers the session being in Western 3, which is excellent information to anyone who has a comprehensive listing of the sessions held for the Beach Boys over the years complete with personnel and location... I had forgotten that the quote about this memory explicitly mentioned the exact studio!

The final extra bit of info is not excerpted by juggler above, so here's the complete quote, as the last part, it seems to me, is very significant:

"The late Steve Douglas once offered an example which explained why the musicians were so impressed by Brian. 'We had a pretty large rhythm section over at Western 3, and Brian was trying to get the guitar to play a certain thing. I remember Tommy Tedesco saying, "Hey man, it won't work; it just won't work." And Brian said, "Play it." And it sounded like it didn't make sense until he overdubbed the strings and it all fell together. It was just amazing. He heard that in his head. That's what has always blown me out about him — that he could hear these complex orchestrations.'"

So the track had strings (again, as Christopher Eccleston would say: "narrows it down"). And once overdubbed, the strings made the troublesome guitar passage work. So the bit in question features an odd-sounding, maybe even unmusical sounding or dischordant guitar, which the strings, when overdubbed, resolved or somehow made the guitar sound right again.

Clearly, that shows that the musical passage in question can't be the intro to 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' as there are NO strings there, nor does the guitar (or detuned Tibetan half-Javanese mandolin or whatever it is... very much an excellent discussion, but one for another thread) sound odd without the string layer on top of it... as there IS no string layer in that part of the song.

So what was it? It seems to me that there can't, surely, have been ALL that many Brian Wilson-led sessions in Western 3 featuring strings in overdub, Tommy Tedesco AND Steve Douglas... AND an oddly unmusical-sounding guitar line which is made to sound right once the strings are overdubbed... but maybe I'm wrong about that.

Ah, what's to be lost? I'm gonna nail my colours to the mast. The track I always thought it could be, just from the music alone, was 'Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)', which, to my ears, features EXACTLY one such guitar line that the strings 'make sense of'. But I have never checked to see who played on that track... so I could be completely wrong there. It could be that Tommy Tedesco wasn't even on that!

>scurries to available Pet Sounds sessionography...<
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Matt Bielewicz
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« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2020, 02:36:53 AM »

...well, bang goes THAT long-held theory of mine...!

Tommy Tedesco doesn't play guitar on 'Don't Talk', sadly. It was apparently recorded at Western, but unless Steve Douglas got his recollection of the player wrong (and seeing as the Steve quote is all we have to go on here, we're going to have to assume he was right, otherwise the whole anecdote is of no value in finding the exact session...)

According to the PS Box Sessionography I have, the only Pet Sounds track Tommy Tedesco played guitar on at all was the title track, the instrumental 'Pet Sounds'. And there are no overdubbed strings on that at all... so it can't have been a Pet Sounds session, I would say.

So the hunt continues... one other track springs immediately to mind, which musically fits the description to my mind (and ears)... but I don't know who played on that either, so maybe that's just more rubbish from me.

>scurries off to find Today sessionography<
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« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2020, 03:07:30 AM »

I have more to say, but for now, I'll just point out that it's "Carol" Kaye--not "Carole".  We can at least not aggrieve her burdened soul by misspelling her name!
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Matt Bielewicz
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« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2020, 03:18:56 AM »

Whoops. Don't know why I wrote 'Carole'. What a div. Subconsiciously thinking of Carole King, perhaps? Or perhaps... I'm just a div. Apologies to Carol, not that I expect her to be reading this, but in case she is...!

Anyway, one trip to c-man's excellent Today sessionography later:

OK, so the other track that fits musically to me is 'In The Back Of My Mind'... on which some of the guitar lines certainly sound very harmonically unconventional to me (not dischordant, but harmonically unusual, is perhaps the best way I can put it)... but they're sort of... given a tonal centre that makes them work when the string overdub is added. Tommy Tedesco DIDN'T apparently play guitar on this, but he did play auto-harp, which could be close enough. And some of the strummed chords which sound like they're from the auto-harp do sound a bit weird on their own on the basic track recording... but work after the strings are added.

Plus, Steve Douglas was also on this session, playing sax, and it was recorded at Western Studio 3 according to c-man's excellent notes!

...of course, that doesn't mean it WAS this track Steve Douglas was referring to. It fits all the known criteria, but that doesn't mean that there aren't others that also fit, and if so, maybe it was one of those. We may never know for sure. Again, I defer to others who know the session history better, and who may wish to pitch in here...?

EDITED TO ADD: I'm not assuming, by the way, that even the correct track is identified that there will be surviving audio evidence of the occasion recalled by Steve Douglas in existence. I've definitely listened to all the easily available BB Wrecking Crew sessions and don't recall hearing anything like that on the early takes of anything... I'm pretty sure I would have remembered that. It's surely far more likely that if Steve Douglas's memory was correct, the query from Tommy Tedesco would have happened during the part of the sessions when Brian was working out the individual musical parts of the arrangement with the musicians in the studio... and that part of a session was hardly ever captured on tape, sadly, or at least not on tapes that have survived. Doesn't mean it didn't happen, of course... just that we can't easily hear a surviving recording of it happening. And maybe one never existed, anyway...!
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« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2020, 09:09:33 AM »

And that's one of the issues at hand, Matt: As you know, we have a wealth of session audio available because Brian, like Spector and others, "ran tape" during the sessions like journal reels of what was happening. Not all groups did that, and after a certain point hardly any of these reels exist because they didn't track like they did in the 50's and 60's. But even among the audio we do have from the 60's, consider how many hours simply were not recorded...from the time the musicians arrived and set up, to the time Brian either worked with whoever was transcribing his parts for the various sections of the band, or when Brian handed out the written parts or sketches to the musicians. There are hundreds of hours simply never recorded where various things like the Tedesco comment above would have happened.

Consider the ratio of tape which exists from the sessions versus the hours that never got recorded, and how many conversations are and were lost to history about arrangements, and other musical directions, suggestions, and points, and it's one way to get more perspective on how much could have happened and where memory is all that's left.

I compare it to any family's photo archive, let's say you pull out a stack of photos or even a home video from Christmas 1986. When you see them, the memories can come flooding in, but then consider that the majority of that day and those events were never captured or recorded, and how much happened that is lost to memory. It's pretty staggering to look at these memories that way, especially for people who were basically contracted employees doing one job on one given day alongside possibly two or three other dates that same day.
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« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2020, 10:25:20 PM »

Right, exactly GF! Also, in my experience, when you do a lot of stuff repeatedly in similar or the same locations with similar but changing sets of people, it is harder to remember the different occasions distinctly. I worked in the same office for most of a decade with a slowly changing cast of people over that time... but I don't remember each day clearly. They all blend to some extent. The business trips I made during that time are easier to remember, as they were in distinct locations with different people. That's why I raised the point about the accuracy of Steve Douglas's quote. Perhaps it's wholly accurate... but as I understand it, Steve probably played on a bunch of Brian Wilson-led sessions that also featured Tommy Tedesco over the years, in a small number of different studios. If I had been in that situation, I might well have confused the studio or even the musician concerned, especially if I was recounting the anecdote a few years later.

As another example of this, regarding this specific quote about Brian being queried about his arrangement and whether it 'worked' musically, until yesterday my recollection of it had become slightly warped over the years since 1998, when I first read about it... I thought it was Barney Kessel that had questioned Brian, and it was a direct quote from him that recounted that story. But looking back at the 1998 Pet Sounds book on my shelf where I first read about this story, it's clear that it was actually Tommy Tedesco, and it actually came up in a quote not from him at all, but from Steve Douglas. Clearly my copy of the booklet hasn't changed since 1998... it's just that my memory of what I read then got confused over the years until yesterday.

I also agree with what you say about what we can hear on the surviving audio of the sessions versus all the stuff that must definitely have happened at the sessions, but which was never captured on tape and which is effectively lost to us. Regarding this, I'd go so far as to say that sometimes having the audio for just parts of these classic sessions can potentially be misleading rather than enlightening, as we perhaps too readily assume that what is discussed in them must have been the 'final' decisions on songs and arrangements BECAUSE we can hear them making that decision. Sometimes, it's clear that this IS the case, for example in the tracking session for 'God Only Knows': we have all the takes and the changes that are suggested to the feel of the bridge by the session musicians DURING the recording session (can't remember who it is now — is it Don Randi that says "Brian, why don't we do it SHORT?", giving rise to the staccato feel on the bridge) ARE taken up by Brian on the spot and become part of the finished record that was released and that we know so well.

But consider Prayer from SMiLE. For years, bootleg tapes circulated that included session chatter of Brian saying Prayer was going to be a little intro to the album. As a result, for years everyone said that was the one thing they knew for sure about the order of SMiLE: Prayer would come first, because you could hear Brian saying that on the session.

But for all we know, one second after tape stopped rolling on that session, or later that night, or the following week, Brian might have said out loud or thought: Ah, screw it, this isn't working out after all. Let's ditch this Prayer thing and open with 'You're Welcome'. (I'm not for a moment suggesting he DID... I'm just saying he might have). But the existence of the session recording shines a light on that one small part of the process that we can still hear today, so everyone assumes decisions taken on that portion of the session must be definitive. Perhaps that was no longer the plan by even the next day after the session.

Or consider that other potentially misleading event supposedly caught on tape during the SMiLE sessions: for years in the 90s it was said that Brian was on tape discussing the arrangement of 'I Wanna Be Around' with Carol Kaye during the session for that track (which, of course, took place in late November 1966, the day after the 'Elements Part I: Fire' session), and that during that discussion, it was said that the track could be regarded as 'rebuilding after the fire'. Cue hundreds of fan mixes of SMiLE (including my own...!) that HAD to have 'I Wanna Be Around' after 'Fire', because, supposedly, Brian said so on the sessions. People even said that the hammering and sawing overdubs on the complete 'IWBA/Friday Night' track were evidence OF that rebuilding. And yet it seems that all of those interpretations were erroneous: when most of us finally got to hear the tape of the session with the release of The SMiLE Sessions, it turned out that it was Carol Kaye who says 'this is what happens after the Fire, man' as a joke... and she's actually talking about the quick 'Jazz' track that the Wrecking Crew jammed live in the studio before the session proper started, not IWBA after all. Brian said nothing at all in response to that comment of Carol's... so the whole idea of IWBA as a definitive, Brian Wilson-sanctioned statement of 'rebuilding after the fire' was based on a complete misunderstanding of what was supposedly audible on the session.

Sometimes what's survived on tape didn't actually ultimately lead anywhere, but because we can still hear it today, we possibly assign a weight to it that it didn't ultimately have at the time, or in the long run. We hear Brian say that the track needs to be slower "for vocal reasons" on the H&V Prelude To Fade session... but no vocals were ever recorded, or if they were, none have survived for us to hear today. Who knows, perhaps he later decided he didn't want vocals on that part after all, and it was great left as an instrumental. As I recall, this, or something like it, was Domenic Priore's standpoint for years; his explanation of why some of SMiLE's tracks (like 'Do You Like Worms') didn't have surviving vocals was that Brian had decided he liked them better as instrumentals. But perhaps Brian just never got around to recording the vocals on Prelude to Fade. Or perhaps he went off that whole section and THAT's why the vocals weren't recorded, because he decided it wasn't going to be included at all. We just don't know.

Another example: from surviving tape, we hear Brian recording a Part 2 session to H&V on February 20th 1967 and working out some beautiful Scott Joplin-like piano progressions and vocal harmonies (with the Beach Boys harmonising faintly in the background, off-mic, and Brian saying the backing vocals need to sound like 'When You Wish Upon A Star')... and yet no finished recording of that section seems to have survived, and no surviving mixes of H&V using that section, finished or otherwise, ever made it into any version of H&V that was completed. We can only assume that Brian decided to junk it, or later changed his mind about the importance of this section that we can hear him expending no small amount of effort to get right on the session as it was happening. It was clearly important as it was being done... but perhaps three hours after the tape stopped rolling, or 20 minutes, or the following week, he decided not to use it, and so it was scrapped.

And then there are little bits and pieces like the strange melody line Brian is heard singing during the 'Do You Like Worms' session... which could have been a throwaway line just to set the tempo for the musicians during the session, but has possibly been assigned undue importance because we can still hear it as session audio today. That was held at one point to be a recording of paramount importance when it was released: it was said to be 'the missing Worms lead vocal melody', and because it was different to the one featured in BWPS, it was also evidence that the 2004 recordings were a abomination, a 21st-century fanmix, etc etc. An awful lot of importance was placed on that throwaway melody sung during the sessions. All we know for sure is that if there were vocal sessions using a melody like that, they haven't survived. Similarly for the possible vocal line Brian (or someone...!) can be heard singing during the Holidays sessions as the musicians practise fairly chaotically in the background. Maybe whoever it was singing that was just randomly singing along, absent-mindedly scatting something that fitted harmonically as the musicians practised, but because we can still hear that today, some award it possibly undue significance as 'THE lost Holidays vocal melody'...

With this pile of audio recordings, but no sense of what the over-arching plan was (if there ever was one...!), none of it necessarily makes any kind of sense.

This reminds me of something that happened to me one day long ago. There are pictures of me in Frankfurt, Germany taken by three different sets of friends of mine, and I'm wearing different clothes in each one. If my friends looked at those pictures and checked their diaries, they might say "Well, I met Matt on such-and-such day in December 1991 in Frankfurt... look, here are my pictures from that day and my diary entry, it must be true." They might argue and say "no, your diary must be wrong, because mine says that *I* met him on that same day, and look, here are MY pictures, and he's wearing something else. Your diary must be wrong or your memory must be at fault. In this one case, I'm the only person whose memories can make sense of that discrepancy, and once I've died or got dementia at some point in the future, or plain forgotten what I did that day, nobody would be able to make sense of that situation. As it is, I happen to remember that I had a really random, crazy day that day. I was living in a village about 40 minutes' train ride outside Frankfurt, and had arranged to meet a friend in town super-early before she headed off on holiday from the main train station. So we met for coffee there, but I leaned against a greasy hand rail in the station while I was there and got black marks all over my clothes. Once she'd left, I went back to the house I was staying in the mid-morning and got changed. Then another friend phoned up out of the blue and suggested meeting up, and Frankfurt was a convenient mid-point for us to meet; we decided to meet for ice cream on the spur of the moment and so I went back into the city on the train in my second outfit of the day and ended up doing some Christmas shopping with my friend Richard. I was supposed to be going out clubbing in the city in the evening with yet another set of friends, but by now I was weighed down with Christmas presents, so I went home AGAIN to drop all that stuff off so I didn't have to cart it around on my night out... and while I was back home, because I could, I changed into a more nightclub-friendly shirt. So in fact, the apparent historical discrepancy of Matt in Frankfurt with three different sets of people and three outfits DOES have a sensible explanation... but I'm the only one that knows how it makes sense. If I had forgotten that day by now, it would seem completely inexplicable to everyone else. Of course, in reality nobody cares where I was that day in December 1991, but I often think of that day when fans of SMiLE are trying to make sense of how its various pieces could have worked together. Without knowing what the plan for the album was at the time (like my movements in and out of Frankfurt on that day), the surviving documentary evidence doesn't always seem to make sense.

And yet, at different times, there must have been an explanation for everything that was has survived on tape... it all made sense to Brian on the day of recording, and he knew at those different times how it was supposed to fit together according to his plan at the time... but he kept changing his mind and his plan, and then, with the passage of time and decades of serious drug abuse, he's forgotten how it was supposed to make sense and fit together. There was a plan, or several different iterations of a plan that was evolving, that would have made sense of it all... but all that's been forgotten and as a result, what's left, the recordings, are pieces that often don't fit together or even seem to contradict one another. I now think they almost certainly wouldn't all have been used in one giant work. Some of them are re-recordings of earlier ideas that were supposed to fit into a newly revised plan. And then maybe THAT plan was itself revised, and the recordings ought to have been redone as well to fit the new plan, but maybe that never happened, so we do have recordings that don't seem to work with each other... and sometimes, we make mistaken assumptions about how they might have worked or fit together.

Now, of course, I'm guilty of derailing my own thread, because interesting as all this discussion might be (you may well disagree, of course, and long since have fallen asleep...!), it doesn't help with identifying the track Steve Douglas was talking about, which was my original question! So, er... back to that. What I'd be interested in knowing is how many tracks might fit the description Steve gave, and what they are. For the sake of a reminder, what we know about the track is that it:

• was recorded in Western 3
• featured strings
• had Tommy Tedesco playing guitar
• also featured Steve Douglas (otherwise today we wouldn't have his quote about it!).
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DonnyL
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« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2020, 11:47:04 PM »

Another way to narrow it down is to think of instrumental/guitar “parts”, not the chord progression itself. Tedesco or anyone else is not gonna challenge Brian’s composition. So it would have to be something like a part that seems to clash or not make sense within the arrangement.

Two songs immediately came to mind when I saw this thread, before I knew anything about who played on what, where or when: “Dont Talk” and “In the Back of My Mind”.

My guess would be the final chord on “In the Back of My Mind” - that sounds like a clash/mess of discordant instruments, not even sure what chord/chords they are playing. The strings ultimately resolve the discord.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2020, 11:47:48 PM by DonnyL » Logged

Matt Bielewicz
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« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2020, 01:36:45 AM »

Right, Donny - that's pretty much exactly what I was already thinking. Not that Tommy Tedesco was questioning the whole composition, but more questioning how the part he was being asked to play could fit musically with what everyone else was playing.

I get the feeling it might have been a guitar line or part that seemed harmonically at odds with the rest of the track, as if it were playing in the wrong key or something... but when the strings went over the top of it later, it brought everything together and made everything make sense musically.

That's true of the repeating surf guitar motif in 'Don't Talk...' off Pet Sounds, which is why I always thought of that in this context - it seems extremely at odds with the tonal centre when it gets to the part where Brian sings "and let me feel your HEEEAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRTTTTTT... beat". There, though, it's not strings over the top that make the line work, at least not in the first verse, as they haven't started playing yet at that point. It's Brian's vocal.

But some of the chordal strumming in the basic track for 'In The Back Of My Mind' seems a little odd in that respect too. It's not as off-sounding as the line in 'Don't Talk...', but it does sound to me like the chords are really odd inversions of their usual forms or something like that (particularly in the bridge). Of course, when the overdubbed strings go over that, emphasising the underlying chords, that makes everything sound OK. And you're right, that's particularly the case in that very novel final chord flourish to the track. That sounds pretty strange in the basic track, and it's still extremely unconventional and tonally innovative even with the strings over it... but they do make it work. That could certainly have been the part that Tommy Tedesco was questioning.
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« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2020, 04:21:41 AM »

Just came across this video and thought I'd post it here:

The Guitar Man's Unsung Reprise: Tommy Tedesco's Personal Collection Comes to Auction

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyquEW6dtKU


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