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Still the One Vocals
Still The One has some of the best singing, and harmonies on a pop hit. Can you tell us anything about the vocal session to produce the hit? Larry's performance is for the ages, but what about the other vocals? Who sang the iconic bass part? Did it take long to track all those harmonies?
Any interesting stories to tell?
Hey Dave. This is a question that gets asked in different forms from time to time. Let me fill in some blanks.
Regarding Larry's performance ... the longer he sang it, the better he sounded. Of course, in the end it's a "comp" vocal, meaning it was put together from the best lines from several takes. But that was and is standard procedure for most everybody.
The BGVs (background vocals) were done by John and me. I don't recall Wells involved in that except for the bass vocal (more on that later), although he may have a part on the bridge. My chorus part starts on the bottom and flips up an octave later in the tune. Larry doubled himself in the choruses on the melody.
All the BGV parts are doubled (also standard operations for us) and placed as groups left and right in the stereo mix. That's what gives them the Orleans texture. Oohs were often tripled (so a 3rd part placed in the center). And all 3 parts were done around 1 mic, requiring us all to get pitch, phrasing and balance correct simultaneously. No way to adjust any of that after the fact, like you can easily do these days.
As for the bass part ... That was Wells. At least he started it. John was not content with certain parts of it so he sang it, also, and the best pieces of both singers' performances were comped to get the final track.
That's how I remember it. John may have further recollections to add.
Thanks for the inquiry! 🙂
Lance is correct. Wells sang bass, but there is a staggered phrase on “havin’ fun” that he couldn’t hear, so I punched that in. Another interesting thing about the lead vocal is that there is a dropout in Larry’s voice at the end of the bridge. We were doing an edit to cut out one chorus (back then AM radio wanted songs under three minutes) and to get close we had to chop out a chorus. On the downbeat of the chorus after the bridge is the splice just as Larry sings the word “still.” On playback we heard it as a hiccup, a Buddy Holly effect instead of the smooth bend Larry did between those two notes. Sure it had been ruined, we asked out famous mixdown enginee Val Garry if he could put it back the way it was. He said “nobody else will ever notice” and he was right. In 48 years no one has ever come up to me and said “why is Larry imitating Buddy Holly?” I guess after working intensely on the record we couldn’t see the forest for the trees.