Saturday, March 17, 2012

Boy's Don't Cry, The Cure & Philip K Dick WTF?

Okay this isn't going to appeal to many people but so what, this is my blog!

If you haven't heard of Phillip K Dick then you should, because he is a big name in a lot of Hollywood movies.  I was first initiated to Phillip K Dick when I first saw Blade Runner and was blown away by Vangelis' majestic sci-fi-analogue-synthesis and the accompanying euphoric-dystopian visions of Mr Scott & CO. Some of the opening scenes of flying cars, in the futuristic Mega-opolis of LA 2019, really blew me away, when I first saw it on VCR in the 90s.

Now as my interest in Sci-Fi movies has grown and I have became more interested in the story lines; I have become an avid reader of Phillip Dick's work over the years. Ubik is magnificent!

So what has this all got to do with Boy's Don't Cry by the Cure?

Well as a teenager I was a big fan of The Cure and I used to collect all their records and music articles I found in specialist music stores throughout Melbourne. As an aspiring musician I really appreciated the electronic effects used by the band in the early 80s albums starting with 17 Seconds released in 1980. The electronic side of things got me interested in synths and to artists such as Vangelis, and I enjoyed spending time in my music studio playing various synths, fx, guitars accompanied to my vocals.

Having read the biographies and history of The Cure (such as Ten Imaginary Years, site, Wiki) has made me understand the Band quite well! So I find their history quite interesting as they started out as teen punk boy band (picked up by German label Hansa to become a Teen Pin-Up Boy Band that sung PUNK covers), to a post-punky band that became New Wave and to what we now know as goth!

Teen Punk Band Easy Cure 1977 UK (Peter O' Toole in this pic 2nd from the right had left before Hansa's signing)

Check out some awesome 1970s punky tracks by Easy Cure

See The Children (A sort of punk child molester's anthem LOL very funny) 1st demo 1977

I Just Need Myself Easy Cure 1st Demo 1977

The Cure's big Hit A Forest in 1980 (Which is considered a signature song from the band) is quite otherworldly! The analogue phase and flanger effects it uses are breathtaking and was even reviewed as a DR WHO sounding song!! The song is also notable for securing the band its first slot on BBC's Top of the Pops.

I also love these tech inspired early 80s vids too. There is something TRON and futuristic about TV in 1980 and 1981, I also think of Blakes 7 too!

The following PIC in an article from a 1980s Australian music column that has always fascinated me and looks Science-Fictiony even though the band isn't. (Although Robert Smith did say in a Dutch article in June 1980 that  there’s one piece of music that had a big influence on Seventeen Seconds, it’s sounds rather elitist, but it’s a piece by Khatchaturian, a classical composer.   It’s on the soundtrack of 2001, you know, by Stanley Kubrick … it’s two violins and a cello, I played it continuously hundred times a week’).

So what has this all got to do with Phillip Dick.  Well I particularly like the way he bridged the genres of alternate history and science fiction and used parallel universes. Donnie Darko (of the parallel universe genre) is one of my fav films and I like that sort of esoteric stuff.

So an Alternate History of The Cure?

Well yes, their 1st album sounded dramatically different from their later stuff and I always liked it a lot.  I thought Dempsey's melodic bass was superb and 10:15 Saturday Nite was immediately memorable when I first heard it (drip drip drip!). Subway Song is a classic stalker thriller!

Even though the band did not like the studio production of the album I always really liked it.  Chris Parry a former drummer produced the album and I thought he did an amazing job. I enjoyed the sparseness, crisp drum sound, jangly guitars, Robert's shrieking vocals and Dempsey's melodic bass (he was only in the band for the first album).Three Imaginary Boys 1979 has always impressed me. The album is particularly amazing considering it was their debut, but most fans I would say would overlook this album, as The cure are more known for their Goth sound and makeup.

Now I know that 17 seconds, Faith and Pornography are great albums and Simon Gallup's rocky-punky playing of his Fender Precision bass is so cool, but let's say (in an alternative universe) they didn't change their sound (like Greenday) and remained post-punk with Dempsey and his Guild B301 Bass !!!

Boy's Don't Cry was the catalyst for Robert's Goth Character.  Boy's Don't Cry was meant to be a success but was a commercial failure (which is a shame as it is a good song). Out went Dempsey & his eloquenty played Guild B301 Bass and The Cure's 78-79 sound!

Boys Don’t Cry’ came on like it was a simple stab at the charts worthy of The Undertones at their most gloriously naive. How did he react to its lack of success?

"It’s like commentators in cricket", he laughs, "They always say, ‘Oh, he’s doing really well’ and then he gets bowled out. We were advised not to bring it out because of the fact that it was a pop single and it would be much better if we brought out something that was less commercial but more ‘artistically viable’. ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, ’10.15’ and ‘Accuracy’ have always been my favorite songs out of all that initial lot. I’m glad it didn’t make it in a way because then the people who’d been saying we shouldn’t put it out would then have turned round and said you’ve 
gotta give us another one like that one."

September 8. 1979 Sounds (UK)

What If Boy's Don't Cry became a hit, and therefore Dempsey never got sacked from the band and The Cure remained clean-cut and post punky! No Fat Bob with weird hair and makeup, just a normal Bob Smith from a clean cut post-punky band! Food for thought!

mmm I love this, Fender Jazzmaster with a Roland JC120!

Check out my version of Boy's Don't Cry using the PS3 Singstar Game.  I used the optical out of the PS3 to record the track without vocals from singstar into the Mac using Adobe Audition (although you can hear Robert's Ghosting in the background).

I sung Boy's Don't Cry using an AKG Perception 220 mic(which is cheap) and a Roland UA55 Quad Capture & Adobe Audition.  I used a pair of Sennheiser HD650, even though they are Open Headphones; I hate using closed headphones for singing, so there is a little leakage, but the performance is more important than a slightly better sound quality.

I recorded in one take and did one small 5 second overdub.  I decided not to use the compressor on the Quadcapture and instead used the multi-band compressor in Adobe Audition as well as studio reverb and the vocal enhancer effect.

I deliberately sung like a BOY for the track and am surprised that I can make my voice sound like I am 16!!!!!!!!! In the original track sung by Robert Smith it can be quite deadpan, whiney, angry & angst ridden (which I like and is what really became the Cure sound).  So I decided to make the singing sound more cute and upbeat to appeal to the pop mainstream that the track was intended for! Now I am not saying my singing is better as it is not a competition, but I am envisioning the alternate universe where Boy's Don't Cry was a hit for a more pop mainstream market! The Cure a post-punky teenage pop boy band!!!!!!!!!!!!

Analysis of the Studio Equipment

I was quite impressed with the Roland Quadcapture UA 55 although I am having intermittent power cuts and will need to return it under warranty.  It would be nice to have studio reverb as an option for live performances.  I didn't find latency a problem because you can use the direct monitor with the unit. There is a bit of hiss & noise and am not sure if that is because it is a defective unit. The headphone Amp isn't the greatest but would you expect for such a great value product $300 AU.  I can use the digital out into a dedicated DAC/headphone AMP that I have where I can enjoy the beauty of Class A amplification and something that can drive my massive HD 650 Sennheiser headphones!

I like the AKG 220 mic but obviously it is low end and does not really compare to a really PRO MIC (from what I can hear in studio recordings) . I don't know if it is me or the MIC but at times there is this vibrato type sound that I can't stand in my vocals!

I didn't like the reverb sound much in Adobe Audition and it seems to miss some depth.  I certainly enjoyed the DSP I had on the Yamaha Promix01 and I guess nothing compares to a dedicated DSP chip.