Sunday, November 25, 2007

2x: 9. No Forever

Finally cowbell.

Track 9: No Forever
Thom's songwriting journal entry for No Forever

Virtual Ensemble
  • A.V.: lead vocal
  • B.B.: bass, background vocal
  • E.G.: electric guitar
  • K.B.: organ
  • D.P.: drums
Actual Ensemble
  • Thom Barker: lead vocal
  • Ken Barker: fretted bass (BEADGC), organ, drum programming, background vocal
  • Christian Chénier: electric guitars

No Forever almost didn't make it on to the album (along with Don't Try). Here is the actual email conversation (with minor edits to clean up the language):
  • TB: dude, do you remember why we're not doing no forever on this CD?
  • KB: On your original list it was in the "maybe" section. When I created my list from your list you told me not to put it on. There was some question whether it fit musically with the rest of the songs. I don't really see why it wouldn't. But if we're going to add songs from the "maybe" section, I'm definitely going to have to vote for "Don't Try". That trak rawks! (Honestly, I think it's a mistake to leave it off).
  • TB: what was i thinking? why don't you tell me these things ... it's not like i know what i'm doing or anything!
  • KB: I think I would have mentioned them eventually. So do you want to add both No Forever and Don't Try?
  • TB: yeah, let's add 'em, it's not like we've got a big record company breathing down our necks or anything
This is really one of the few "radio-friendly" tracks on the album. It comes in at just under 3 minutes. That's because this version is much faster than we used to play it. We first recorded this song about ten years ago with the Thom Barker Band at Sound of One Hand Studio in Ottawa. That recording was way slower. I bet it was almost 4 minutes. I recently found a tape of it, and while the sound quality is way warmer and more professional (recorded through a vintage Neve desk to 2-inch tape), the new recording sports much better performances. Would I trade the new performances for the old sound quality? No. But I wish I could have both.

The cowbell at the beginning and near the end was a very late addition. The single hit cowbell-as-intro is stolen from the Rush song Superconductor.* Believe it or don't. The fast, one-beat intro is a lot more sudden than a four-beat count-in, which adds to the urgent feel of the song. But it's not as cold as no count-in at all. The cowbell intro also prevents the cowbell at the end from sounding isolated and out of context. The three-beat cowbell break at the end comes from a mid-life version of the song. About six years ago we were playing this song with a guitarist and drummer in Austin. We always left that bar empty at the end for the drummer to fill it with some snare/kick fill. One day at rehearsal our drummer threw in this three-beat cowbell, just wailing on the bell. We laughed and laughed until I thought I might pass out. I'm not sure why it was so funny to us, but it obviously affected me. Long after I finished recording the parts for this song, when I was almost ready to close the book on it, I remembered that cowbell and decided to replace whatever boring drum fill I had in its place. Then it was inevitable that I had to replace whatever intro I had (probably a four-beat hats count-in) with the Superconductor ripoff.
*The Superconductor count-in is a cowbell on beat 6 followed by a snare flam on beat 7. So I really only stole half of the intro.

The electric guitar solo is pure, undiluted Chénier at his funniest. I sent him the bed tracks with the instruction "make sure you play that funny solo you used to play." Of course, he didn't know what solo I was talking about. So I sent him a version with the solo (as closely as I could remember it) played on electric piano. Man, did it sound lame. But it was enough to remind him how he played the original. The variety of articulations is what kills me in this short solo: staccato, hammer-ons, bends, slurs, half-harmonics.... It's the whole rock-n-roll bag of tricks emptied out onto the floor and scarfed until our bellies ache.

Next: 2x: 10. Not A Setting Sun


  1. Fun song. Man we played that fast.

    Ya the solo does have a comical feel to it but I think it fits nicely. I like the descending line just before the end.

  2. Right. Fast but fun. I'm going to try to post the old studio version. You'll be shocked how dead it sounds (even though the recording quality is warm and alive). I just need to find something called a "cassette deck" so I can transfer it from "cassette tape".

    And I absolutely love the solo. I still smile every time I hear it.

  3. Me too.

    Sometimes, when I'm listening to the album, I replay this song just to hear the solo again.

    I think I remember why I didn't want to put it on the album. The lyrics really expose the most immature level of my existence. But, that was the space I was in when I wrote it, so what are you going to do?