I wrote David Barratt a letter asking him to let me record a song. My love for The Beatles is unabashed. I was the right age at the right time when "I Want To Hold Your Hand" came blaring out of my transistor radio. I saw A Hard Day’s Night about 20 times in New York, before I ever set foot in London, and memorized the dialogue. I could play and sing every song in the film; I even had a guy-crush on every Beatle (and I’m man enough to admit it).
"When I Get Home" (not in the film, but on the soundtrack album) is one of my favorite Beatles songs because it is both sophisticated and wild. They have written better lyrics but, "I’ve got no time for trivialities," is a pretty cool line for a Pop love song. I cracked up when I heard, "I’m going to love you till the cows come home," because the Beatles revived a phrase my grandparents would use, but not so much in my generation. Still, the gravelly Lennon vocal made every word sound hip. The chord changes are many and deceptive, everything I love about a Beatles’ song.
The Beatles are deeply intertwined with my life. I arrived in London in April 1967. As Denny Cordell’s assistant many doors were instantly opened to me. Within weeks I was taking a bow on the stage of the old Shaftsbury Theatre for writing string quartet arrangements for Denny Laine, former Moody Blues singer. The Beatles were in that audience. Later in the show on the same stage Jimi Hendrix set fire to his Strat.
A few years later I was working with Paul McCartney as the orchestrator for Band On The Run. After that I worked with Ringo Starr, who directed the T. Rex film Born To Boogie. I wrote arrangements for the Tea Party scene, I was also in that scene as the conductor, and I mixed the music for the soundtrack. I hung out with John Lennon and David Bowie one very long evening in Manhattan. George Harrison was my neighbor. I should stop, as I am starting to rewrite my book here, Tony Visconti — Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy (Harpers). (I know, that was a shameless plug.)
My son Morgan made his ukulele collection available to me to record this song. Four different ones were used, including an electric,which I put through several FX pedals. To keep the character of the nylon strings I played the bass part on a classical guitar. Some loops from Logic were used and altered for simple percussion backing. I didn’t want to go for a slick sound, I wanted it to sound very relaxed like a singalong at a campfire. I also played four recorders emulating an R&B sax section part. Forgive me, but I added a chord in the chorus that The Beatles hadn’t intended. It felt good and gave the chorus a slightly Arabic/Andalusian flavor. Some finger cymbals laying around the studio enhanced the new chord.
A ‘go with the flow’ incident happened when Alejandro Escovedo came to my studio to record some vocals for his new album I produced (Big Station, on Concord Records). When we were finished I asked, "Hey, do you like The Beatles?" Minutes later Alejandro and I were singing the duet together. About a week later my young daughter Lara was visiting on a break from college and I got her to sing backing vocals. She is an art major at SVA but the little darling has perfect pitch and a sweet voice.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Christmas morning, I was five years old, a ukulele was waiting for me under the tree in our one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, New York. It was made of plastic and had decals of Popeye, Olive Oil and Wimpy stuck on the body. Each string had a different color and it came with a book that had chord symbols indicating which finger I should put on each string. I worked it out in a few minutes and learned every song in the book by bedtime.
From the humble ukulele I graduated to semi-pro guitarist at 13 and played my first gig, an Italian wedding. However, I didn’t see much of a future in this pursuit, but rock and roll as a-calling and I heard the twang. I learned string bass in High School, got a musician’s union card at 16 and went on to work in nightclubs (with borrowed ID) as well as some weddings and bar mitzvahs, and the odd recording session. But after hearing The Beatles I phased out old music and rapidly grew my hair. Beatles chords borrowed heavily from older music, I observed. I even detected a touch of Elizabethan modalities.
I came to one conclusion and one only: I have to get out of Brooklyn and go to England, to learn, to see, to hear, to feel how the British do it in the studio. That ultimately came in the form of Denny Cordell, a successful British record producer. We had a casual introduction at a water cooler in my publisher’s office and a couple of hours later I was helping him record a track for Georgie Fame in a New York recording studio. I went well, he offered me a job, an offer I couldn’t refuse.
I’ve produced over 200 albums in my 22 years in the UK and later in the USA, Canada, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Italy and Japan. My two wonderful children with Mary Hopkin, Jessica Morgan and Morgan Visconti, have also recorded songs for the Beatles Complete On Ukulele project.
from A Hard Days Night,
released August 14, 2012
Ukulele version #171 recorded February 2012
Tony Visconti: Vocals percussion, bass, recorder, and loads of ukuleles
Alejandro Escovedo : Vocals
Lara Visconti : Vocals