This is the second time in a row.
As you know, I’m working on a new record, “The Desert Star.” Just a little one — an EP — to keep me busy, keep me creative, yunno. And twice now I’ve tried to re-track songs I wrote and recorded in the desert. And twice now I’ve come back to the original.
I do a mean cover of “California Stars.” It’s a song by Woody Guthrie that Billy Bragg and Wilco set to music for their “Mermaid Avenue” collaboration. I recorded a version for the Morning Mix last year. It seemed like the perfect coda to the new CD. So I set to re-record it earlier this week. I figured I’d record to click track; make it easier for the guys to lay down there parts. Three hours later, I hated what I’d recorded. It was soul-less. It sounded square, boring.
Tonight, I thought I’d knock out “Rainmaker,” a quiet little pretty one I recorded in L.A. I thought I could get a better guitar sound, maybe change the groove a little bit. Three hours later, I’m back to the original.
John Lennon used to encourage songwriters to spend a least twenty minutes on every fresh idea. Leonard Cohen, by contrast, labored for years on a single song. Me? Every time I try and make something better, or give it new voice, I ruin the original.
So what does this tell us? Big revelation. The original is the best. So now I can just get it right the first time, and spend my free time watching TV and eating ice cream.