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Up There

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Steve Wynn

Release Date: 2012
Album Notes:

UP THERE—HOME RECORDINGS 2000 TO 2008 LIMITED EDITION OF 1000 COPIES.

Ships December 1, 2012

  • Second Best
  • Incantation (Raise the Roof)
  • Tomorrow Is A Long Ways Away
  • The Truth Drug
  • Bruises
  • Devil Town
  • No Complaints
  • Still Messed Up
  • The Good Old Days
  • Hold Your Mud
  • Wait Until You Get To Know Me
  • Lungs
  • Sleeps With Angels
  • Over That Hill

Recorded and Performed (except otherwise indicated) by Steve Wynn at Up There Studios (New York City) between 2000 and 2008.

Steve tells the tale:

About that title. My first label and very modest home studio was called Down There, named for the basement apartment where I lived in Los Angeles back in the days leading up to the Dream Syndicate. Since then I have moved many times—from apartment to apartment AND from label to label—and have spent the last 18 years living and doing my home recording in my 5th floor apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Hence, Up There Studios. Get it? Now that I’m moving on to another location (with another wildly clever studio name, I’m sure), it seems a good time for a wrap-up of some of the music I’ve made from home over the last decade or so. Some of the songs are demos for versions that would later show up on record. Some were recorded for compilations, tributes and as Hail Mary passes for TV and movie placement. There’s more where this came from but this seemed like a good place to start before I put all the tapes in the elevator and move back down to solid ground.

SONG BY SONG:

SECOND BEST

My friend (and ringleader of the Willard Grant Conspiracy) Robert Fisher told me that the filmaking Farrelly Brothers were looking for a song for their remake of “Fever Pitch” in which the main character’s love of soccer and Arsenal in particular would be moved stateside to baseball and the Boston Red Sox. The song and movie was meant to convey the frustration of loving a team that comes close but never quite wins. I wrote and recorded the song in one day and it ended up in the closing credits and on the soundtrack. Only one hitch—as the movie was being made, the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918. The movie’s ending had to be changed and the song wasn’t quite as relevant. And, yet, it’s a sentiment that still rings true as there will always be someone who has to be second best.

INCANTATION (RAISE THE ROOF)

Written for “Cast Iron Soul,” the long-awaited (23 years!) sophomore effort from Danny & Dusty. This song is written about the power of sound and noise and repetition and volume and a group of people doing all of the above and how it can help transcend an otherwise difficult situation. This was one of my first experiments with Garageband after years of recording on a Teac 3300 four-track reel to reel, a Fostex X-15 four-track cassette recorder, an ADAT and then the Korg 16-track hard disc recorder used on many of the songs on this comp. That last sentence was for the recording geeks out there and probably put the rest of you into a deep, deep slumber.

TOMORROW IS A LONG WAYS AWAY (Gene Clark)

The oldest of the tracks included here, recorded for “Full Circle,” a tribute to Gene Clark. The original Byrds recording is so yearning and so sweet but somehow in the more intimate, stripped down form included here the song almost sounds foreboding and obsessive. I’d like to think that Gene would have approved.

THE TRUTH DRUG (Nick Lowe)
Linda Pitmon--drums

I was asked to contribute to a Nick Lowe tribute and though it was hard to choose one track, I went with this obscure b-side that I had on a cassette I had recorded off a KSAN (San Francisco) broadcast during my college days. If the drums sound familiar, it’s because they are sampled from the intro of my own “Silver Lining” which allowed Linda to overdub another drum part over her own performance. Drums a go-go.

BRUISES

A little glimpse into the writing process. The song and the harmonies are pretty much where they ended up on “…tick…tick…tick” but the words hadn’t been written and I sang the demo in full Rorschack test mode, just hoping for vowels and consonants that felt good with the music, which (Scrambled Eggs, anyone?) often leads to the desired results. I was so tempted to replace this ragged, mumbled, nonsense vocal with a newer one that had the final lyrics but decided to go for artifact over artifice.

DEVIL TOWN (Daniel Johnston)
Linda Pitmon--drums

This came from a request to recreate the Bright Eyes version of this Daniel Johnston song for a new TV show called “Friday Night Lights” (which later ended up being one of my favorites). The money offered was pretty good. I turned it in and was told that they loved it. Hooray. Next day, I got the call saying they STILL loved it but could only pay twenty per cent of their original offer. A bummer but, hey, better than nothing. Next day came the call saying that while they still loved it, they decided to use a version recorded in-house. Hollywood--a devil town, indeed.

NO COMPLAINTS
Joe McGinty--keyboards

Close but no cigar, part 2. I submitted this song to be the theme song for Jason Alexander’s first post-Seinfeld project. I was really proud of the results and was told that the producers of the show loved it. Only thing—they wanted to know if I could add some yodeling. I’m not kidding. Turns out that the show’s star yodels in an early episode and they thought it would tie things together. Yodel, I did, only to find at the last minute they went with someone else. I still envision someone in a boardroom meeting saying “I bet you 100 dollars I can get Steve Wynn to yodel.” Here is the tune sans-yodeling. It’s actually much better this way. Thanks to Joe McGinty for helping me to get that authentic 70’s TV theme song effect.

STILL MESSED UP

One of my favorite songs that I’ve written and also one of my favorite home recordings which meant that when we tried to recreate it for “…tick…tick…tick,” I was so in love with the demo that nothing my fabulous band, the Miracle 3, could do was enough to tear me away from this preconceived notion of how the song should sound. I mean, there was just something so…..well, so messed up about this version that felt emotionally right for the song.

THE GOOD OLD DAYS

Another song written for Danny & Dusty, sort of the “heard you missed us, we’ll we’re back” statement of intent set to a New Orleans drum sample (legal and cleared, thank you very much). Dan ended up writing a bridge and some additional lyrics that made the song that much better when we went into the studio but I have a soft spot for this earlier version.

HOLD YOUR MUD (Steve Wynn/Dan Stuart)

I was hanging out and watching football on TV when Dan emailed me these lyrics. It was a playoff game and the third quarter had just started. But I was so excited by the words he had written that I ran into the other room, wrote the music and made this demo. I was back in time for the fourth quarter.

WAIT UNTIL YOU GET TO KNOW ME

Really not all THAT different from the version that ended up on “Crossing Dragon Bridge” but, again, this version shows the cracks and wobbles that show where the song had come from and where it was going. My method of home recording is always a quick, splatter of excitement with less emphasis on accuracy, a Ouija board of inspiration. And sometimes the results—like the casually, splayed double track vocal ends up being an effect I try to duplicate on the final version. I came close but still dig the way the wheels on this one keep threatening to fall off but never do.

LUNGS (Townes Van Zandt)

There are many ways to handle a request to tackle a song for a tribute record and I think I’ve tried them all. You can play a song very faithfully (see “The Truth Drug,” above), you can take the original arrangement and make it louder and wilder or, as in the case of this version of what in Townes Van Zandt’s hands was a sparse, foreboding song, you can just pretty much write a brand new song. If Townes had originally appeared on the Nuggets compilation.

SLEEPS WITH ANGELS (Neil Young)

This is the title track of my favorite Neil Young album of the last 20 years. It’s just such a haunting, sad record that had a profound effect on me when it came out. I wanted to find a way to make a disturbing song from a disturbing album even, well, even that much more disturbing. Oh, and that would be my debut (and only) drum performance on record.

OVER THAT HILL

And the final installment of Close, but….well, you know the rest. My first foray into writing children’s songs was for a toy mp3 player that would come with pre-recorded kids music. I wrote this and a song called “Monkeys” (that ended up on the Joey’s Kids compilation last year) and thought they were a pretty good leap into a brand new world. The makers of the toy thought otherwise but I think I very well might end up doing more songs like this. Watch out for Crazy Uncle Steve, Volume 1, coming to a Toys R Us near you. Or, at the very least, on the next volume of home recordings that almost made it.

Item 1: cd
# Track Title Play
1Second Best

Lyrics

The sun came in from Kenmore Square
Casting shadows left to right
And it felt like a curtain coming down,
A gradual dimming of the light
They say adversity builds character
But that really doesn't make it any easier

Everybody knows where I belong
Suspicious when I get too strong
Embrace diminished expectations
Keep me locked inside my station
Just once I wish it could be easy
I'm always at my best when no one sees me

Why do I settle for second best?
Why is everything a test?
Just this once can't nice guys finish first
And break this curse
Of always being second best

I'd like to know for just one time
If it's so hard at the top
I'd like to know if I could climb
Without the risk of falling off
They say adversity builds character
But that really doesn't make it any easier

Up There
2Incantation (Raise The Roof) Up There
3Tomorrow Is A Long Ways Away Up There
4The Truth Drug Up There
5Bruises

Lyrics

Bloodshot, tired and torn opart
I'm at my best when I con barely start
I fall down easy but I get up slow
I really, really hope that the bruises don't show

Cut mysetf and I tasted my blood
Dragged my name right through the mud
I fall down easy but I get up slow
I really, really hope that the bruises don't show

If I came to you late at night
Would you answer to my call
I can't do anything to make it all right
This is how you learn to fall

Cracked my skull and I hit the floar
I don't want to talk about it any more
I fall down easy but I get up slow
I really, really hope that the bruises don't show
Up There
6Devil Town Up There
7No Complaints Up There
8Still Messed Up Up There
9The Good Old Days

Lyrics

Every time I go out for a bottle of wine
Someone's bugging me 'bout something from 1989
Why does everybody wanna talk about the good old days?

Did you get lucky, did you get screwed?
Did you bite off a little more than you could chew?
Why does everybody wanna talk about the good old days?

What was so damn great about being young and dumb?
Wasting all those chances living stoned and numb
So you had a year in Paris and ate a snail or two
Did you finally figure out what Fitzgerald always knew?

Did you get married but forgot to get divorced?
Did you lay down all your money on the wrong horse?
Why does everybody wanna talk about the good old days?

What was so damn great about being young and free?
Wasting all those hours ignoring destiny
So you went through a couple million and got sued once or twice
Did you finally lose that hard-on and found a life in Christ?

I hear you broke your ankle, that must have been quite a shock
Yeah I see you got that old Gretsch guitar out of hock
Why does everybody wanna talk about the good old days?
Up There
10Hold Your Mud

Lyrics

When darkness falls and the fear comes out
and your soul's at risk don't dare to shout

hold your mud... hold your mud

When your lover screams that you're a fool
and you start to tremble and drip that drool

hold your mud... hold your mud

Oh sweet Jesus what's the use? Of living right such abuse...

hold your mud... hold your mud

When you're out scrounging for your next meal
and a busker asks "well how does it feel?"

hold your mud... hold your mud... hold your mud... hold your mud

Up There
11Wait Until You Get To Know Me

Lyrics

Charmed, I'm sure
It's a strange allure
Our intentions aren't
Exactly pure
I'm the bait
You're the lure
Let's me cast my line

Some things just get
Better and better
Some things don't
--whatever
Imagine how we'd be
Together
Let's find out

Wait until you get to know me
Wait until you get to know me
Sky's above me, earth's below me
Wait until you get to know me

I'm a finger of Scotch
In a cold Manhattan
I'm a car wreck
That's just waiting to happen
The damaged goods
Beneath the wrapping
Let me open it up

If it was 8pm
You would be wary
If it was 10pm
It might be scary
But the bar's closing
And you can carry me
Home

Wait until you get to know me
Wait until you get to know me
Something that you want to show me?
Wait until you get to know me

Steve Wynn--lead vocal, acoustic and electric guitar
Tim Adams--backing vocals
Linda Pitmo--percussion
Ziga Golog--upright bass
Blaz Celarec--drums
Chris Eckman--vibes, treatment

Up There
12Lungs Up There
13Sleeps With Angels Up There
14Over That Hill Up There
View Lyrics & Tabs in new window


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Tour Dates

2014-07-24 Rochester, NY
2014-07-25 Reading, PA
2014-07-26 Harrisburg, PA
2014-07-27 Portchester, NY
2014-07-28 Philadelphia, PA
2014-07-29 Portsmouth, NH
2014-07-30 Boston, MA
2014-08-01 Cooperstown, NY
2014-08-02 Brooklyn, NY
2014-08-03 Asbury Park, NJ
2014-08-05 Louisville, KY
2014-08-07 Chicago, ILL
2014-08-10 Madison, WI
2014-08-11 Minneapolis, MN
2014-08-13 Kansas City, MO
2014-08-15 Denver, CO
2014-08-29 Portland, OR
2014-08-31 Seattle, WA
2014-09-04 San Diego, CA
2014-09-05 Los Angeles, CA
2014-09-06 Santa Monica, CA
2014-09-08 San Francisco, CA
2014-09-11 Portland, OR
2014-09-26 Atlanta
2014-09-27 Atlanta
more dates >