Close Listening

One of the pleasures of shuffle-play on an iPod is learning new things about old songs through your headphones. This happened to me recently with two songs:

1. Billy Joel, “Big Shot.” I had forgotten Billy Joel’s vocals in the first five seconds of “Big Shot,” which I would transcribe as, “Sssssshmt. Oooh.” It sounds like the obvious precursor to Puffy Combs’ backup encouragement two decades later, lacking only Joel announcing “Bad Boy for life.”

2. Led Zeppelin, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” Between 1:40 and 1:43, there’s an odd squalling sound in the background, as if somebody brought an infant into the studio. It’s particularly jarring given how pristine Jimmy Page’s production usually is. Closer listening reveals that it’s a distorted Robert Plant singing “I can hear it calling me,” anticipating the line he’s about to croon in the song. Some research revealed the explanation: the whole band was playing when they recorded John Bonham’s drum track, and Plant’s vocal (which he did with a different cadence on that take) leaked through.

posted 7 December 2010 in Tasty Bits and tagged , , . 2 comments

2 Comments on Close Listening

  1. Chris M. Says:

    Isn’t all of “Big Shot” essentially an early hip-hop “beef” track? I mean…I know: so’s “You’re So Vain,” etc. But “Big Shot” had that attitude — the open dis of coke spoons, the condescending shout-outs to name brands like Halston and Elaine’s.

    (I’ve actually had “Big Shot” stuck in my head all week thanks to Elaine Kaufman death a few days ago.)

  2. Gavin Says:

    “Big Shot” seems much more vivid to me now that I’ve been reading the Andy Warhol diaries–it’s totally set in the same world.

    Which sparks an obvious idea for a post….

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