STORY WRITTEN BY FERN BRODKIN
For 21st Century Media
And now for something completely different.
Most of us listen to some kind of music almost every day. Did you ever wonder how the final recorded version of a song comes together? Did you ever wish you could hear the individual parts of songs with more clarity? Do you ever wonder about the history of some of these hits?
If you answered “yes” t o any of the above then this show is for you!
Grammy Award–winning producer and engineer Phil Nicolo of Studio 4 in Conshohocken is presenting an evening of “deconstructing” songs that we all know and love. Nicolo will delve into his collection of multi-track recordings and play individual tracks of songs for the audience. It is a rare opportunity to listen to some of your favorite classic songs in a completely new way, allowing you to hear subtleties that you never heard before and even some parts of songs that were edited out of the final mix.
Nicolo’s enthusiasm for the show is palpable and it’s hard not to also get excited as he elaborates on some of what he has planned.
“I’m really looking forward to … revealing the really cool parts of the music,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Collegeville. “You play specific parts of the song that reveal things that you would not have heard if all the music is playing.”
Though at the time of our interview Nicolo was still working on the final set list, he elaborated on some of what he has planned.
“It’s gonna be little tidbits of information along with the songs, and because I’m a huge, massive Beatles fan, probably half the material is going to be Beatles songs. It’s definitely going to be weighted a little bit more toward Beatles’ songs because they’re so fascinating (and you’ll be able to)… hear background vocals that you never heard before, or keyboard parts or guitar parts that you never could quite hear.”
For example, “I was messing around with (The Beatles’) ‘Revolution,’ which is just a great song. It’s so simple with all the Beatles playing one instrument one time, but the energy is just amazing. I soloed just the bass and the drums and just John Lennon’s vocal, and he only doubles certain words and even sometimes just certain syllables, which you sort of hear on the record, but when it’s soloed it really becomes obvious how cool (it is).
“(And) for the first time people are gonna hear the count off and the downbeat of The Beatles’ ‘Eight Days a Week.’ The intro was kind of goofy so George Martin said ‘It’s a great song. The intro’s not great, so let’s fade it up…’ For the first time you’re gonna hear them count it off and you’re gonna hear the downbeat of that song.”
In addition to the Beatles, Nicolo is planning music by Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, The Police and others.
“I’m gonna play Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love.’ (You’ll) hear Robert Plant’s alternate vocal with this really cool stuff that you’ve never heard before (and) the complete six-and-a-half minute version, because the edited version has a minute-and-a-half of that middle breakdown all edited out.”
Regarding Stevie Wonder’s hit “Superstition,” which is “a great song,” says Nicolo, “I vaguely remembered there was a little controversy about that, so I started researching it. It ends up that Stevie Wonder wrote that originally for Jeff Beck. In fact Jeff Beck co-wrote it with Stevie Wonder. And it’s spectacular. Stevie plays everything on the song except sax and trumpet.”
If you want to hear the rest of that story and other surprises you’ll have to get to the show.
This is Nicolo’s first formal presentation of this type. He explains how the idea for the show developed.
“I kind of do this once in a while at the studio with different artists or different people who are there. I was doing it a few months ago at the studio and (Ropeadope Records’ founder) Andy Blackman Hurwitz was there and he recorded me with his iPhone…”
Hurwitz was so intrigued he sent the video to World Café Live, and they invited Nicolo to do a show there. So far he’s gotten a very positive response.
“I think people who go are really gonna have a good time, even if you’re not a (music) industry person.”
In addition to the unique format of the presentation, it’s also for a good cause.
“The majority of the proceeds are going to MusiCares,” the GRAMMY Foundation’s program that helps music people in need. “And there’s gonna be some merch — Tshirts and a few things.”
IF YOU GO
What: Phil Nicolo’s Eve of Deconstruction with opening act Trevor Gordon Hall
Where: World Café Live, 3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia.
When: Wednesday Oct. 29; show at 8 p.m, doors open at 6:30.
Tickets: $15 and are available at www.worldcafelive.com or by calling (215) 222-1400.
Other: All ages.