There’s a fascinating BBC radio documentary on the making of 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love,” one of my favorite songs from the 70s. I’d always known the song was haunting and maybe a little otherworldly creepy, but the doc makes it clear why. The instrumental bed for the most part was human voices, each note on a different track, and the engineer played “chords” by bringing the right vocal notes up on the faders.
There’s even a bit about how the studio’s secretary provided the whispered “Be quiet - big boys don’t cry” part.
If you enjoy good acapella, and aren’t put off by Bjork, you might want to take a look at Bjork’s album, Medulla. (sample song)
I’ve always felt much the same about the haunting qualities of acapella music, and not the barbershop variety (which I’ve always found much more fun to perform than listen to). There’s something about the vocal gymnastics performed by the singers when trying to mimic musical instruments, or when they are creating certain types of walls of sound that raises my hackles in a weird way I can only associate with some sort of primal programming buried deep in my psyche, much like how the typical human response to nails on a chalkboard is though to be a remnant of our fight or flight reflex kicking on when we were all monkeys screaming at each other when danger was near.
Unlike nails on a chalkboard, there are simply certain types of vocal performances that can affect me in a weird, but good way. The song you linked is a good example of '‘haunting, because I get the idea that there’s a part of my subconscious brain that recognizes them as voices, without my conscious brain being aware of what it is it’s hearing. It’s almost like the reverse of how the brain is known to try to make sense out of chaos, like seeing faces in clouds and such. Instead of seeing things that aren’t there, we’re hearing things that are, but we’re not understanding what we’;re hearing on any conscious level.
I dig crazy vocal crap. Music production has come a long way, especially with electronic programming, certain types of vox, and auto-tuners, but there’s something to be said when these tools are being used to reorganize the vocals, rather than blatantly manipulate them. Back before all this electronic crap there were the Andrews Sisters mimicking trumpets with their close harmony style. By today’s standard pretty much everything they’ve done sounds antiquated and folksy, but they’ve always sounded strangely spooky to me.
God I love this song. I remember when it came out. At that time, it was kind of embarrassing to like it. I mean–this is not Led Zeppelin. But I always remembered how haunting it felt, even back then, coupled with the bitter irony of the lyrics, so when the iPod came out and I had the advantage of anonymous digital music purchases, this was one of the very first songs I bought. :) Now of course I realize there’s nothing embarrassing about it. It’s beautiful.
10cc were a very interesting, I guess you’d have to say brilliant but ultimately failed concept. I find their albums rather fascinating, but not necessarily enjoyable. Listening to them is like watching a trainwreck; just one brilliant idea after another chased down a cul-de-sac and then abandoned for something else.
…and then despite all that, they come up with “I’m Not In Love” and “Things We Do For Love”, two utterly amazing songs that sound as if Godley and Creme hated completely.