If you know the name Jerry Harrison at all, it's most likely from his work as guitarist/keyboardist for Talking Heads. But he's had just as prolific a career as the owner of Sausalito Sound as he has had creating music with one of my favorite bands.
After leaving Talking Heads and releasing a handful of solo albums, Harrison found that the role of producer was more accommodating for family life. He made the move to San Francisco and opened his own studio. Using a combination of analog and digital methods, Harrison cultivates warm sounds with ease of editing, which is a big help for some of the younger bands getting a hang of the ways of the recording session.
He also did the 5.1 digital re-mastering for Talking Heads' box Brick, which if you have not heard in Surround Sound, you're totally missing out. Anyhow, for his birthday, let's take a look at some of the best tracks Harrison's had a hand in laying to tape. (Please note: My conscience wouldn't allow me to include anything by Live or Crash Test Dummies.)
Hockey, "Song Away": Sure, Hockey may be one of those bands that gets lost in the indie-goes-industry shuffle, but on "Song Away" they have a crafted an updated version of "Wild Wild Life" (the video itself a respectful homage to the song's performance in the Talking Heads film True Stories).
The rest of their 2009 release Mind Chaos was self-produced, but "Song Away" was the one holdover from the demoes recorded with Harrison, and proved to be the most noteworthy song of the album. (Side note: How great is Charlyne Yi in this video?)
6 The Von Bondies, "C'mon, C'mon":More akin to the songs Harrison was making as a Modern Lover, this hit from 2004's Pawn Shoppe Heart has been one of the most successful authentically rock and roll singles of the last decade. It has been twice featured as a television theme song and multiple times in video games and commercials, which is pretty much as close as you can get to the once-vaunted "regular airplay on MTV" as you can get these days.
5. Fine Young Cannibals, "Ever Fallen In Love": Originally appearing on the soundtrack to 1986's Something Wild, a film in which Jeff Daniels' uptight character made me feel uneasy as a child, Harrison recorded this cover of the Buzzcocks' original masterpiece.
Far from being a masterpiece in its own right, it was included on 1988's The Raw and The Cooked, the rest of which was produced at Prince's Paisley Park studio. (Hey! Remember when Jerry Harrison was dressed as Prince in "Wild Wild Life"!?) Yet, there's something about it that holds up, and I suspect Harrison had a hand in that.
4. Rusted Root, "Who Do You Tell It To?": My conscience averted its eyes when I insisted on including this track; which I only became familiar with due to its inclusion on the Unvailed '97 comp I received as a gift with purchase at Sam Goody during a school trip.
I haven't listened to the song in years thanks to my music-snob shame, but hearing it now I can get a sense of the connection between this hippie jam band and Talking Heads' world-music influences. To top it off, Harrison contributed piano, djembe and backing vocals to the entire album... which I'm debating on listening to in its entirety. (I'm sorry/you're welcome for the video only containing a snippit of the song.)
Keeping with a trend of bands dropping in for a one-off session with Harrison, No Doubt recorded "New" for 1999'sGo soundtrack, but included it on 2000's Return of Saturn, the rest of which was produced to radio-play satisfaction by Glen Ballard. While never being ska in the purest sense (at least not since "By the Way" from The Beacon Street Collection), No Doubt's Madness influences shine brightly on this one.
2. The Verve Pipe, "The Freshman": Go ahead, laugh. Get it all out. All right. The single version of this song got huge the summer before my freshman year of college, and that should be sufficient implication of all the nostalgic resonance it encapsulates.
The single, as it's best known, was produced by Jack Joseph Puig (who has produced everyone from Amy Grant to The Rolling Stones and all the John Mayers and Phantom Planets in between); but the version that appears on their 1996 release Villains was helmed by Harrison and it is fucking haunting.
1. Violent Femmes, "I Held Her in My Arms": It's been complained that 1986's The Blind Leading the Naked was overproduced, but I think Harrison's earnest efforts to give the band's horny-misfit/folk-punk abrasiveness a mainstream sheen was a smashing success, giving them the highest-charting album of their career. It also contains this, probably my favorite song from another of my favorite bands.
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