365 Days of the Unoriginal, Day 2: Songs Only I Seem To Know

We all have our foibles, our quirks, our guilty (and not-so-guilty but definitely odd) pleasures. Mine happen to include this: I am (as I have been since I was a teenager) in love with a voice. The voice in question belongs to Morten Harket, the lead singer for a-ha, a band that made it big pretty much everywhere else on Earth but the US (where they’re famous as a one-hit wonder).  It is a simply amazing voice, so endlessly capable of variation that it leaves me a bit in awe. It is not a voice one hears on commercial radio in the US very often (unless one counts the continuing popularity of that one damn hit. :) ). The guy’s got a massive range, lungs like a Kentucky Derby winner, and the ability to do everything from hard growly low stuff to a soaring, liquid falsetto.

I am so blisteringly, disgustingly jealous I could just die. And I love it. I cannot apologize. If my love for that voice and its projects is wrong, I really don’t care to be right. I’ve wanted to cover a-ha or Morten’s solo stuff for a while, but I always thought it was entirely impossible. How could I even try?

Still, last December I finally found a song that I felt I could possibly handle: “Should the Rain Fall,” from Morten’s latest solo effort, Letters from Egypt. I had been singing a lot of loud stuff with the jam band and with a progressive rock bunch, and I just wanted to try something different with the ragged remains of my voice. The hardest part, as it turned out, was figuring out how to tab the thing — I couldn’t find anyone else’s guitar tab, and I have no keyboard skills to speak of, so there wasn’t any other way to make the music happen than to do some guessing. I scrounged around for sounds on my little acoustic tenor guitar, and finally figured out an interesting accommodation. It was the first time I’d ever really tried to do that — any other covers I’d tried up to that point relied on researching other people’s tabs or using sheet music. The results were…curious. On the best take, I messed up the words, and my voice was wasted, but still…I almost like it.

It’s not the best performance, but the song is interesting enough. It was, I think, a pretty good attempt for someone who’d never done anything of the kind before. It demonstrates several of my sins as a musician, of course — I need better breath control, my guitar technique is a bit shaky, and it probably would’ve been better in time if I’d used a metronome (I rush like I’m being chased by a bear). The recording is pretty raw — just me playing into my H2 and my Flip — and at the time I didn’t really know how to sync sound and video, so it’s really just the Flip sound, not well EQ’d. Just the same, I like the song, and it kind of works. It’s close to how I feel covers should be, sometimes — not an identical copy of the original, but a personal reading of the idea of the original, unique to the performer who takes it up.

It was a learning experience, anyway, which is why it gets to be Day 2 in the challenge!

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About L. M. Bernhardt

For a good long while (15 years or so), I taught philosophy at a little private university in northwest IA, and occasionally branched out into playing music, dabbling in photography, experimenting with food, and writing nonsense on my blog. The philosophy teaching part ended in 2017 (program elimination via prioritization), but never fear! I've just finished my MLIS at San Jose State University, and I'm currently on the market looking for new adventures in either philosophy or LIS. Otherwise, I labor to support my dogs in the lavish manner to which they've become accustomed.
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