AIN’T THAT A SLAP IN THE HEAD
There was another day during the overdub sessions, that we recorded female background vocals on two songs. The singers had a popular hit record out at the time. Their group name was Cas Mijac. The first song we worked on was “Starting Over.” The arrangement concept for the vocal parts was to double what we had originally recorded with the horns. Although John and Yoko made the decision later on, not to use the horns on “Starting Over,” we did use my original horn arrangements as a starting point for the background vocal parts. I was sitting down at the piano out in the studio, and was giving each of them their notes. The arrangement was in three-part harmony. They were all singing a few feet away from me around a suspended microphone. There were just a couple of small problems with the session that day.
The first one for me, was that the singers didn’t read music, so I couldn’t write out any parts for them to refer to. This meant that I had to give each of them their notes a few bars at a time, and then we had to record in the same fashion. When recording any parts that way, it becomes a long and slow process. Whenever any one of the ladies had to do a retake on their vocal part, the engineer would have to stop the tape, and cue it back to where we were recording, which always took a couple of minutes. After those couple of minutes, they weren’t always able to remember their notes. After a while I was getting frustrated, not to mention suffering from serious nicotine withdrawal, because at that time I was a smoker.
Needless to say that day I was not a nice guy. I never lost my temper or said anything insulting, though I know I was thinking it. There came a point when I was getting beat up, and worn down, and I started getting their names mixed up. I’d say, “This is your note Cassandra,” and she would say, “My name is Cheryl.” As the session went on, what was originally a forgivable brain lapse turned into complete brain failure, as I proceeded to forget their names while they continued to forget their notes. It was getting ugly. Finally, by the time we were doing the background parts on “Woman,” John came out into the studio. He was standing behind me at the piano while we were working on some parts for the next section of the song. And with one of the worlds most respected pop icons by my side I valiantly continued to spout out the wrong names, causing my increased frustration and their obvious annoyance with my insincerity. It is at that moment, when a guy looks forward to the unyielding support of his friends to get him through the rough spots. That’s when John slapped me upside the head. They LOVED it. They were saying, “Yeah John, you tell him!” It was hysterical, and we all just broke out into much needed laughter. It definitely helped to lighten the moment, even though I was the fall guy.
Oh well, What’s a mother to do? Come to think of it, I wonder if John even knew their names. Well if he didn’t, maybe Yoko would have come out of the control room and slapped him around! The rest of the session went great, and the ladies did a beautiful job singing their parts. That day became a true testament to perseverance, determination, and a little “Slap upside the head!”