Patterico's Pontifications


The Patterico Music Project: The Original Version of “Creation”

Filed under: General,Music,Music by Patterico — Patterico @ 7:47 am

On Monday I debuted a song written by me in the early 1990s, and recorded by Jay Semko of the Northern Pikes this year — part of my crazy project to persuade my musical heroes to record my songs. Yesterday, I shared the lyrics.

Today, with no small degree of trepidation, I am releasing the original recording that I did well over 20 years ago. I’m going to stop apologizing for the muddy sound quality and the poor playing and singing, and describe how I did this and what you’ll hear.

I did the recording on a cassette-based TASCAM recorded that allowed me to lay down as many as eight tracks. I played and sang everything and take full blame for the whole thing. On this recording you will hear piano as well as an acoustic guitar (a three-quarter-size guitar with nylon strings, which helps explain the sound quality). Since I lacked any vocal effects, I tried to make up for it by simply double-tracking every vocal line. Put simply, I sang and recording each vocal line twice. You will also hear background vocals in a couple of places — something Jay Semko could not pull off as a solo musician doing a live recording. Because it’s three-part harmony and I am double-tracking the vocals, that’s six of me singing there. (The mere thought of it is enough to make me second-guess publishing this.)

Astute musicians will notice a few differences between this recording and the one by Semko. In addition to the piano and the harmony, you can hear that our fingerpicking styles are different. I use standard alternate thumb picking, while Semko uses a rather unique style that he hilariously described to me as a “mutant form of fingerpicking.” It’s actually very interesting and creative. Also, you may notice that his vocal line is occasionally a smidgen different from my original, and at least one of the chords is changed.

Oh — and also, my version is horrific and his is awesome. (Nothing gives you appreciation for a good recording of a song as much as a bad one.)

One final note, about the band name. I called my “band” (which was just me) “Mangled Grapes.” I was a fan of the Grapes of Wrath as well as the Northern Pikes, and the name was a tribute to the Grapes as well as to the fact that I was mangling the songs. In keeping with my penchant for double meanings, I consoled myself with the idea that even mangled grapes can sometimes develop into fine wine.

And sometimes, they just remain mangled grapes. Which is as good a lead-in as any to my version of “Creation”:

As a reminder, for comparison purposes, here is the version recorded by Jay Semko:

34 Responses to “The Patterico Music Project: The Original Version of “Creation””

  1. Let the “Don’t quit your day job!” comments begin!

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. I’ll leave y’all alone on these songs now . . . until next Monday.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  3. Oh: I had it set to “private.” It’s public now.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  4. well if it’s either this or watching that dude burn alive

    i’m in

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  5. I haven’t listened yet, but I will. This is a very cool project. I’m in the process of finding old 8-track studio recordings of me in my band days, and trying to digitally preserve them. Also ripping old cassettes and records. Having your musical heroes record your songs is a much cooler idea, and I might steal it. I know some of them pretty well, and it would be hilarious to hear them playing my old 80’s hair metal power ballads.

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  6. i like yours better than the other one

    it’s hard to explain but it sounds more like a place in time than the Semko one

    a time that came and went it reminds me of roach clips and trans ams

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  7. I’m going to stop apologizing for the muddy sound quality . . .

    Just tell everyone that Alan Lomax himself recorded it from your front porch.

    JVW (60ca93)

  8. Needs more cowbell?

    nk (dbc370)

  9. I don’t know anything about music but I like your singing because you put so much of yourself into the song. I want to hear you sing The Same Mistake because that’s my favorite.

    DRJ (e80d46)

  10. IMHO your version is better than the other one. I don’t really care for the song (a bit too Kumbaya for my tastes) but your voice/singing is very decent. The fact that you play both piano and guitar makes me hate you.

    The additional fact that you essentially recorded this in your shower with a PlaySkool Rockin’ Robot makes it even more fantastic and admirable.

    Mark Johnson (77a382)

  11. The most important difference between your version and Jay Semko’s is the recording quality and equipment (including editing and effects). Your voice is very mild, but that sounds deliberate and fits the mood of the recording.

    I like both versions. Yours has a dreamy quality– it sounds like an improvisation almost, and that’s cool. Jay Semko’s is much more pro-produced

    It’s a good composition, both lyrically and musically. You should be proud of it, and I commend you for posting your old tape.

    Bob Ellison (ec9621)

  12. I want to offer my hearty encouragement. Music is from the soul.

    Stay with it.

    Best wishes.

    Chris Alleva (b938fb)

  13. Patterico, there is not a thing wrong with your own version. It’s yours. No one, and I mean no one, feels the music more than a person who writes it.

    Sure, somebody slick can cover it—even a musical hero. But I’ll bet if you had Semko’s equipment you would be less humble about your music.

    Me, I can’t carry a tune. But the rest of my family can sing and play music. It’s a wonderful thing.

    So thank you for sharing.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  14. I like your original version best, too. It’s like you knew what the song was about and felt it more than Semko possibly could have in doing his professional cover. My only issue is that the words were sometimes muddied and would have been hard to pick out in some places had you not posted the lyrics already. And that might well have been melding the double track recording technique you used, more than any sloppy moments of diction by the singer.

    You didn’t ask, but here is what I think you should do after this music project series of postings is completed. You are very talented and I think you should take “requests” via multiple choice from your community and then twice a month or so, like maybe Sunday nights, post your recorded version of the request (all instrumental or instruments and vocals as you choose). Politics and piano bar. There’d be no other blog on the internet remotely like yours!

    elissa (089d2b)

  15. IMHO your version is better than the other one. I don’t really care for the song (a bit too Kumbaya for my tastes)


    I rise in defense of my song. Let me see if I can convince you to re-think your criticism. If I can’t, it’s no big deal, but I’m going to try.

    I said I wasn’t going to point out any of the double meanings, but I am rethinking that for purposes of this comment, at least. Some of the lines assuredly do sound hokey when taken at face value: “I was born the day I met you” or “Without you I could not be” — terrible, stilted, cliched love-song lines, right?

    Except that maybe (just maybe) not . . . if you take then in the context of the theme of the song, which (as I spelled out in my post debuting the song and the one setting forth the lyrics) is a dialogue between a creator and his creation. In this sense, “I was born the day I met you” is literally true; the creation (which could be a work of art such as sculpture as surely as it could be a child) had no existence before he came into being as a result of the efforts of his creator. “Without you I could not be” is also literally true. Without the creator, the creation could not be — could not exist.

    Now, maybe you already got all that and still think: nope. Too Kumbayah-like. If so, that’s fine. To each his own. There is no arguing over matters of taste.

    But maybe this comment will cause one or two of you to take a second look at the lyrics with the theme in mind.

    And maybe you’ll interpret them differently than I do. The ability of a work of art to take on a character of its own — one quite apart from the intentions of the creator — is, after all, a major theme of the song.

    Eh, writing this comment is probably a mistake. It sounds defensive, as I read it over. But I spent too long writing it to just trash it, so, to heck with it. *hits Submit Comment button*

    Patterico (9c670f)

  16. I have really enjoyed the comments on these threads, on this one especially. There’s not nearly the level of “Don’t quit your day job” reaction that I expected — which probably reflects a high level of courtesy on the part of the commentariat. But seriously: thank you to everyone who has taken the time to listen to these. You can tell these posts mean more to me than the average L.A. Times rant does, and it’s wonderful to have gotten some feedback.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  17. You’re very good at your day job but I think you also have a talent for music. I wish I could offer more informed comments but hopefully it’s enough to say I enjoy your music.

    DRJ (e80d46)

  18. I liked the original version. Surprised. Thought I would hate it. Particularly the vocal. I mean it was rough, but then there was sort of a harmony thing that I enjoyed better than the other guys version.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  19. Pat – if this D.A. thing doesn’t pan out, it’s nice to have something to fall back on. 😉

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  20. I mean it was rough, but then there was sort of a harmony thing that I enjoyed better than the other guys version.

    Yeah, well, like I say, Jay did it live off the floor. So he really couldn’t do harmony that way. But thanks. I like the harmony part.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  21. After Huckabee flames out, you could make a guest appearance on his show.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  22. I finally had some time to listen to your original recording. You used a TASCAM-238, right? I purchased the Fostex x-15 (4-track) in the mid 80’s when it first came out. Ah, multi-tracking in the living room with music school friends – good times.

    I like your version much better – especially the original chord in bar 21. What was it the Saliari’s character (F. Murray Abraham) says about Mozart’s music?

    “Change one note and there would be diminishment. Alter one phrase and the structure would fall.”

    Ain’t nuthin’ like the real thing, baby. We should all share our music as boldly as you, sir! Thank you.

    felipe (56556d)

  23. The guitar picking reminds me a lot of Kansas. I wish I would have done more solo stuff back when I was playing as a young man. Nice close – Young Patterico played piano a bit like young carlitos.

    Pretty cool that you got Jay Semko to do this. God I love his voice. I attribute the superior sound of his version entirely to technology. You were working with a cassette (!) – based TASCAM, and he is probably on a Mac with ProTools. Heck, a Mac with Garage Band is 10 times as powerful as the 24-track studio where I used to pay $300 / hour to record.

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  24. So, some of us were in bands or producing music in the 80’s… Our gracious host encouraged me to post this. I’m the sax player. This was a looooong time ago. Flame away.

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  25. Patterico, I wasn’t criticizing your song, its just not what I gravitate toward musically speaking. I probably shouldn’t have used “Kumbaya” because that drags in a whole lot of baggage and possible meanings that I didn’t intend, so I hereby retract that portion of my comment.

    Mark Johnson (5c2d01)

  26. Patterico, when I heard your version, I immediately thought of Nick Drake, and I mean that in a very good way.

    Alan (61465a)

  27. In my prior message, I tried to provide a link to a youtube video of Nick Drake’s “Day Is Done”, but it didn’t work. I'[ll try again here, but if this one doesn’t work, just look it up on youtube…

    Alan (61465a)

  28. Mark Johnson,

    No offense taken; I just thought it might be a good opportunity to note some points about the lyrics that some may or may not have missed.


    Listening now. Not bad, but not really my bag. I take it as a compliment though.


    Your video is awesome. Everyone should watch it.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  29. Alan,

    The video automatically went to the next song: “From the Morning.” I like this. It has a Roy Harper vibe.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  30. Who, I just now saw, was acquitted today of those child sex allegations he was facing. What a coincidence that I should mention him and happen to look that up.

    I’m glad; I didn’t want to believe them and I really like him.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  31. Oh. But I see he is still facing some other charges.

    Think I’ll blog this.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  32. You did a GREAT job with your sax, Carlitos. I like the sound of your band very very much. The psychedelic effects not so much. My eyes! My EYES!!! Would you care to share what year that was?

    elissa (a34092)

  33. The daughter thinks you have a nice voice, Patterico. And, yes, she listened to Jay Semko too.

    nk (dbc370)

  34. You did a GREAT job with your sax, Carlitos. I like the sound of your band very very much. The psychedelic effects not so much. My eyes! My EYES!!! Would you care to share what year that was?

    elissa (a34092) — 2/5/2015 @ 7:45 pm

    The effects (i think) were a by-product of scanning the VHS into digital video.

    The year for that song was … 1989?

    carlitos (c24ed5)

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