We had such an amazing morning last Sunday. It was our first rehearsal of the string parts for the Big Star Third show. The copyist in Nashville, Stephen Lamb, had already sent all but “For You,” Jody’s song that had really started the ball rolling with the orchestrations on the record. I awoke on Sunday morning at around 8 a.m. to read an email from him saying he’d have it for us in time for our evening rehearsal–the problem with this was that everyone was actually coming at 10 a.m.! (Top string players, it seems, are not on rock and roll schedules.) I wrote him back without much hope that he’d even read the email before the rehearsal, much less have time to create all the individual parts and full score from Carl Marsh’s transcription.
But at 10 minutes to 10, Stephen came through. I was printing “For You” out for the first time as the players–Karen Galvin and Jenavive Varga on violins, Josh Starmer on cello, and KidZNote’s own Katie Wyatt on viola–walked in and took their seats. No time to review it: we passed out the parts and Ari Picker gave the downbeat. And the music took life for the first time “in the air” since the one day in 1975 it was played in the studio in Memphis for the original recording. To be seated practically in the middle of this was an amazing, transporting experience. Matt McMichaels (who was singing) and I were beyond stunned. It was practically kinesthetic, as if we could have touched the notes. He and I picked our dropped jaws up off the floor and pretended to be professional as they compared some bowings and then read through it again–even better than the first. So began this wonderful morning of breathing in the notes I’d first heard decades prior, on the scrungiest of bootleg cassettes. I thought of the opening of King Tut’s tomb, for some reason–only in this case it was as if he had sat up and started singing! It was like looking through a telescope, then finding you are standing on the moon you’d been observing for so long. We continued on through “Dream Lover” and “Thank You, Friends,” through those chilling higher-partial chords on “Nighttime,” and all the rest. Amazing, it was.
Having a recording studio is quite a privilege, one gets to hear things from the beginning as musicians shape and create their art. Sometimes it’s brick by brick, sometimes there are chills right off. But this was a new one for me, one I’ll never forget.