'Rave On Buddy Holly'

Jul 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Barbara Schultz



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Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine

Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine

Florence and The Machine’s slow-grooving march to “Not Fade Away” begins with a couple of bars of “Iko Iko”–style percussion and gradually adds layers of drums, guitars, keyboards, sousaphone and Florence Welch’s magnificent, interpretive vocals.

The foundation of this song was laid when the band visited New Orleans’ Piety Street Studios with producer CC Adcock and engineer John Porter. Porter says he got a call from Adcock on a Friday night, asking if he could do the session the next day. “I said, ‘Sure, what’s the plan?’” Porter recalls. “And he said, ‘They’re having a great time in New Orleans; let’s just have some fun and give them a taste of what goes on here.’”

Close-up of Lou Reed’s vocal channel during tracking at Avatar

Close-up of Lou Reed’s vocal channel during tracking at Avatar

So on that Saturday, Porter grabbed one of his racks of Neve 1073 mic pre’s and headed to Piety Street, where the studio’s chief engineer, Wesley Fontenot, helped him set up. Adcock then brought in the bandmembers and drummer Terence Higgins (Dirty Dozen Brass Band).

Higgins and band drummer Christopher Hayden walked the room, playing shakers and tambourine to set up the tempo. “I recorded that and found a 4-bar chunk that was really happening and made a loop of that,” Porter says. “Then we set up two drum kits facing each other in the room with CC and their guitarist [Robert Ackroyd] on acoustic guitars. They played a groove that was sort of a New Orleans-y/Bo Diddley kind of groove. They played along to the percussion loop for about 10 minutes, and at that point, we were thinking, ‘This is sounding kind of cool.’ We made another loop out of that, and then Terence did a whole snare drum track on top of that. I think it was at that point CC and Robert played the song sequence to the loop.”

Porter and Adcock continued molding the track, editing the pieces into a more finite shape before having Welch sing in the main room into a mic Porter calls “the Avatar mic”—a modified Chinese microphone that he purchased from the studio. “I plugged that into an [UREI] 1176, and I think what you hear on the track is actually the first or second take,” Porter says. Added after the main tracking date were Matt Perrine’s electric bass and a sousaphone part. Added still later were three keyboard parts; the final mix was done at Mike Napolitano’s The Nappy Dugout studio (New Orleans).

“I thought that we could take it back to Bo Diddley—whom Buddy obviously was tipping his hat to here—and maybe even further to a Louisiana parade thing,” Adcock explains. “And mostly, as it was now going to be from a female perspective, I was thinking that cock-sure lines like ‘My love’s bigger than a Cadillac/It’ll take a’ you there and bring a’ you back’ should take on a larger message of love and fidelity. It’s kind of set up as a duet between the pure-hearted Flo and the worthless, no-good, back-talkin’ sousaphone, who had been doggin’ around town and come draggin’ in to answer her allegations and affirmations guiltily, and line for line.”

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