February 1, 2007

Baby, silver-toothed she grins and grins: Belly demos from Star album

As if getting a long, hand-written letter in the mail from my best friend in high school who now is living la vie en rose in France wasn’t reason enough to make me smile, now I stumble across demo versions of all the songs from ferocious, melodic Belly‘s 1993 album Star. And suddenly I am 14 again, laying in the bedroom of that same aforementioned friend after school, talking about life, looking at her Led Zep posters, and generally pondering Evan Dando.

Belly: Demos From The Album Star
These are pretty basic (see note below), but are fun to listen to for fans of the female-fronted early ’90s Belly/Throwing Muses/Breeders alt-rock vibe.

Please visit http://www.tanyadonelly.com/mp3s.html
to download these demo mp3s:
Someone to Die For
White Belly
Feed the Tree
Witch Song
Sad Dress
Every Word
Angel Song
Slow Dog
Star
Dusted

A note from Tanya Donelly about these songs:
A mere 16 years later, here are the demos for Star (Belly’s first), recorded with Joe Harvard at Fort Apache. (Thank you, Ivo, for having the original mixes on cd so I didn’t have to mess with the tapes.) They were originally meant to be the second Breeders album, so Kim plays on a couple. She plays the high solo on White Belly and the counter-lead stuff on Feed the Tree. That’s what I recall.

White Belly was co-written with Fred Abong, but for some reason he didn’t play on it. I think possibly because it was intended for the Breeders, and we weren’t planning to start a post-Muses band together at that time. It wasn’t long after these demos were recorded that I decided to start my own thing and form Belly, and Fred came along. To be honest, I’m very fuzzy on my own chronology and some details.

Some of the vocals are oddly low — I think that was my taste at the time, which is too bad. And I was very self-conscious about my voice, sometimes justifiably. And it is all extremely spare, mostly just electric guitar and vocal. But I think in general, these are pretty good, and at least interesting if you liked Star.

Re: Slow Dog — Mariah Carey hadn’t surfaced yet when I wrote this song. This is a very old song that I sat on for a while. The first time I heard her name was when a couple of the Pavement guys (who got the demo from someone who worked at 4ad at the time) said they liked the song I wrote about Mariah Carey. So Mariah became Maria. I always missed Mariah.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these demos. I’m taking my sister’s lead (copying her, in fact) and leaving a virtual tip jar (top of the page here). I’m also planning on putting up an additional live Windham set of mostly old songs that we did on one of the Hungry Life nights. Hopefully in a few months, a song or two at a time. That will be fun.

Love to all,
T

7 Comments »

  • star is one of my favorite albums ever. nice find!

    tad — February 1, 2007 @ 11:08 pm

  • ahhh… the memories come flooding back. somebody really should go out there and feed the tree.

    wwjblog — February 2, 2007 @ 7:11 am

  • Ooh, thanks. I loved (/love) this album.

    sarah irene — February 2, 2007 @ 11:08 am

  • Very sweet, that’s a great album. Thanks for sharing.

    24th Century — February 2, 2007 @ 8:20 pm

  • I loved Feed the Tree :)

    el walto — February 3, 2007 @ 8:35 am

  • You are wonderful. I lost my copy of these songs many years ago – or gary smith snatched it out of fear i might dub it – and I have long mooned over hearing it again. The story is neat, if I may share it:

    At the time, Ryko was releasing the Bowie set, and decided to do a bonus trak from the live Bowie Station to Station Tour. They contacted the Fort, as we were getting to be hot shit and we were above Rounder, and decided to remix the bonus stuff with us. The tapes back when Bowie toured in ’75 or so fit 16 tracks on 2″ tape, xtra hunky compared to the 24 tracks we were putting on 2″ tape in ’90. So we rented a 16 track 2″ head stack from a place in NJ and they did their remixes. They finished in 4 days, and we had the heads for a week.

    I always had a thing for Tanya, basically innocent but with electricity, like if our ages hadn’t been so far apart I am certain I would have nurtured different feelings for her [though I had no anticipation of reciprocation]. As it was, it was a thrill to work with her.

    The Fort vibe post-Gary’s tenure was a bit territorial, and I’d removed myself as a principal engineer after ’87 because we had a lot of mouths to feed, so I hadn’t worked with any of the Muses or Pixies or anything. Hands off was the tacit vibe. Closest I came was having Kim balk at taking the original Breeders demos to Ivo, and she asked me to remix them. They sounded great, but she felt they were too “clean”, and essentially said she’d rather not use them at all if we couldn’t dirty them up, which I understood to mean “indie-fy them”. Being the garage producer, at least that was my perceived niche, I had then taken Paul Q. Kolderie’s pristine mixes and done unspeakable things to them, like putting the vocal through a Sholtz Rockman [essentially a yuppie fuzzbox], and zotzing his wonderfully clean drum tracks. I remixed all but one of those half dozen or so tracks, “Limehouse”, “Doe” – those things in demo form. That last PQK mix, it was so good I just refused to touch it, it was like leaving one Faberge egg unshattered.

    But the chance to work with a live body, one of the three brilliant women who’d been trucking in and out for a few years by then, well … and the timing was perfect.

    When T called and said she’d like to demo some songs and I was the only one she hadn’t worked with, I recalled we’d rented the 16 track head stack for the Bowie remixes, and had them for a few extra days still. So we went in one day and did a parody “Pets Who Died” by the Peecocks, and then Tanya and I went in together on the last night. Since it was just T, and I wanted to avoid drum machines or things, I tried to some ways of thickening things, multiple amps in stereo, and on one at least a tremolo as a time keeper. To save tape we did 2 songs, one above the other, tracks 1 – 8 for one song, rewind it, then do tracks 9 – 16 for another song below it. Wacky but environmentally and economically sound. Got a little complicated, but we weren’t even using all 8 tracks, maybe 4, 5. Say, T’s rhythm track in stereo, a second pair for her overdub, maybe a vocal, a solo instrument on one or two tunes.

    T was/is an excellent player, and it was fun just pulling out all my own fave amps and geets and watching her use them in those great new songs. I am pretty sure I recall T saying it was her first time doing two things in the studio: playing a slide part, and a twelve string part. We even reamped a few things, and we mixed, if you can even call it that, immediately, since we didn’t have the head stack too much longer. Hence the rawness. I also am pretty sure I played a steel part on one song … Witch? I’ll let you know when I hear it again! It’s been a while.

    I have thought of these tracks often, and now I can go download and hear them again. Please let T know I said hi. Haven’t had much luck getting in touch.

    Joe Harvard, Asbury Park

    Joe Harvard — April 21, 2008 @ 9:04 pm

  • hey Joe. Thanks so much for the interesting comment!

    heather — April 23, 2008 @ 9:31 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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