White Brabbitird

The Story Of White Brabbitird

The Story Of White Brabbitird

Take a listen — it might surprise you 🙂

I hadn’t thought of “White Bird” in years, until recording “White Hot” reminded me of it. After I cranked out “White Hot”, I decided I’d tackle “White Bird”, by It’s A Beautiful Day. As I was messing around with the song, learning it, some of the other songs from that era were going through my head.

And it seems a lot of my favorite oldies have ‘white’ in the title.

There’s A White Elephant In The Room

There’s “White Room”, “Whiter Shade Of Pale”, “Nights In White Satin”, and of course “White Hot”, “White Rabbit”, and “White Bird”. From a different era, I love, love, love Dido’s “White Flag”. I had the thought that I could record a CD of songs, all that had ‘white’ in the titles. I quickly thought of two names for the CD, either “The White Album”, or “White Power”!

Ok, maybe that’s not such a good idea. Scratch that one.

As I was learning the arrangement to “White Bird”, I began to notice that “White Rabbit” and “White Bird” had similar tempos, and chords for one would work under the melody of the other, with minor (musical joke) changes.

So, I started to toy with the idea of doing a mashup of the two. There were definitely some challenges.

Doing Covers

In my mind, there’s a couple of different ways to do a cover. You can either stay pretty close to the original version (like I did with “White Hot”, and “Brandy“), or you can go a different direction (like I did with “Take On Me” and “Ready To Go“).

The danger of staying close to the original version is that you’re never going to be a better Looking Glass, than Looking Glass themselves. The danger of doing something different and unique is that people are familiar, and comfortable with the old way. If you’re going to change it, it better be something special.

Great Cover Versions

Now, some songs lend themselves to changing things up. UB40’s version of Neil Diamond’s “Red, Red Wine” is an example. Neil Diamond’s version is a presentation that’s more about the song, and less about the arrangement and orchestration. So, UB40 could radically change the arrangement and feel, and not screw up the song.

Janis Joplin’s version of Kris Kristopherson’s “Me And Bobbie McGee”, Jimmy Hendrix’s version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower”, and Joe Cocker’s version of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends” are brilliant examples of taking a song and doing something radically different with it.

Iconic Songs And Arrangements

But for some songs, the arrangement is a big part of the song. Imagine the Ghostbuster’s theme without the horn riff in the front. Or, “I want A New Drug” without, basically, the same horns (lawsuits flew). Imagine Barracuda without the opening guitar riff!

Imagine “Bohemian Rhapsody” without Freddy, “Stairway To Heaven” without Robert Plant, “Hello Dolly” without Louis Armstrong’s unmistakable growl. They’re Iconic.

And that’s the word I’m looking for — iconic.

The Challenges

White BrabbitirdThe more iconic a song or performance is, the tougher it is to cover that song. And “White Rabbit” has both an iconic intro and one of the most riveting vocals ever in a rock song. And “White Bird”, although perhaps not as famous a song, is unusual in its complex arrangement, beautiful harmonies, and distinctive instrumentation.

Plus, that sucker is over 6 minutes long! Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit clocks in at about 2:30, so together, they’re almost 9 minutes long! So, slicing and dicing had to be done. In the old days, we would have done it with a razor blade (we did a lot with razor blades, back then).

Anyway, it seemed like a massive challenge to me. Especially since I love both the songs, and didn’t want to screw them up!

The Process

So, I spent 3 or 4 weeks working out the arrangement. I ended up mostly going with the instrumentation from “White Rabbit”, under the melody of both “White Rabbit” and “White Bird”. Sometimes both vocal melodies are going. For the “White Bird” instrumental sections, the feel was changed and most of one long instrumental section left out. The other instrumental section stayed in (yes, it had two, long instrumentals). I stayed pretty close to the solos from both songs.

I’ll just say the harmonies in “White Bird” were challenging. In the original, David LaFlame and Patti Santos wove beautiful harmonies throughout. It’s the choice of notes, and the way these two beautiful voices blend that makes it so special. I had to stay close enough to those choices to keep it real.

How do you know when you’ve got it right? You don’t. But there’s a point when, after you’ve tweaked a thousand things, you start to get excited. You realize you’re really enjoying listening to the song, and there’s nothing major (another music joke) that bothers you about it.

White Brabbitird

I call it “White Brabbitird”. I made the cheesy graphic myself 🙂



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Slide Guitar Done Wrong

I’m White Hot

OK, a while ago a posted a snippet from a cover I was recording and asked people to guess what the song was. Nobody guessed 🙂

So, here’s the song. It’s called White Hot, and it’s from the late ’70s/’80s group Red Rider. Red Rider is probably best known for their hit ‘Lunatic Fringe’. One of the songwriters (Tom Cochrane), wrote ‘Life Is A Highway’. Talk about a song that gets stuck in your head. But that’s not my favorite of his — White Hot is. I’ve loved this song ever since the first time I’ve heard it. It’s about a gun-runner who gets the bad end of a deal, and ends up stranded in the desert. It’s got adventure, intrigue, mystery, and heat.

Slide Done Wrong-smIt’s also got slide guitar. Now, I don’t really play slide, so I did the solo the regular-old way, but there were some essential slide guitar parts. Since I don’t have a slide laying around, I ended up doing the parts with a butter knife.


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Ready To Go Thumbnail

Are You Ready To Go?

Certain songs speak to you.  Maybe its’s a song that you loved growing up, or one that you can’t get out of your head — certain songs have a particular emotional impact. Well, that’s how I pick covers to do. I’m going to spend a few dozen hours with a song, so I’m not going to do just any song. It’s got to do something to me.

And sometimes, it’s not exactly a genre I listen to. I don’t care where it comes from, as long as it moves me in some way. And that’s what this song does — it moves me. Literally. I can’t sit still when I hear it. So, here’s my version of Rebublica’s Ready To Go.

See if you can stay still while listening 🙂

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Do you recognize this song?

Can you guess this ’70s song?

Name-This-TuneCan you name this tune from the into? It’s from the ’70s, and I’m recording a cover right now 🙂

It’s not Tubular Bells, and It’s not Eye  of the Tiger 🙂

This one has been in the hopper for a couple of years, while I got good enough to actually do a halfway decent job. I should be done in a few days…

Let me know, in the comments section below.


PS: If you don’t see a player above, here’s a link.

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