2003 JUNE 18 #169
Many years ago, my co-working pal the Grape, WFMU addict, came rushing into my office saying that David Newgarden, erstwhile morning DJ and music director, had just played a version of SOME VELVET MORNING on the air sung by computers and he had to get it. We called up the station and got the particulars of the disc, which turned out to be Computing Systems Quarterly Vol. 3 No. 2 from Spring 1990. The Grape then spent months prowling Usenet and making phone calls looking for this disk, and finally got a copy. Persistence Pays Off. He gave me a dub.
There's a little more I can add, which is, I sing sometimes with an act called the Loser's Lounge (http://www.loserslounge.com) and sang in the Lee Hazelwood tribute show a few years ago (but not SVM, another twisted entry called Poet, Fool or Bum). I passed a tape of Eddie and Eedie to Joe McGinty, the organizer/pianist for the show and it was on his answering machine for a few weeks - so it was back in its proper medium!
Here are more details, from the man behind the realization, Peter Langston.
Peter wrote, in an e-mail to me:
Thanks for your note and your interest. I'm glad Eedie & Eddie and the Reggaebots are (still) getting their due.
You should know that WFMU was partly responsible for me creating that particular travesty in the first place. Through a Bell Labs coworker who was helping out at WFMU in his free time (Brian Redman) I learned that WFMU was looking for the worst recording(s) of all time. Although many people probably thought it should be Nancy Sinatra singing Lee Hazelwood's song "These Boots Are Made For Walking," I knew that Lee had written an even more demented song that he had sung WITH her in his hung-over cowboy voice! That was "Some Velvet Morning" -- a song that alternates between a caricature of a cowboy with the DTs and caricature of a hippie flower child, while unable to decide whether to be in 4/4 or in waltz time... Danger! Do not try to dance to this song!
I'm not sure it made any sense to have it be played in a reggae style, but the work I was doing at Bellcore at that time was with computer programs to assist in composing, arranging, and performing music, with a little computer-controlled singing on the side, and I had just come up with some nifty algorithms for improvising reggae drum parts and reggae bass parts, so...
At the time I was also running a telephone demo that you could call up to hear samples of music composed for you while-u-wait by the computers in my lab. Most people called the mono telephone number that gave you a monophonic mix of the stereo channels, but you could also call either the left or right channel, or both, one phone on each ear, to get stereo -- this was how I worked from home. The elaborate phone connections were from the telephone switch in Brian Redman's lab.
When the call would come in, the computers in my lab would start composing the 6 or 7 pieces that were played in the demo, while a voice synthesizer in Brian's lab (Eedie) would accept the call (we paid the long distance on a few collect calls from music researchers in other parts of the world) and introduce the demo, explaining what was going to happen, then the call would be switched over to my lab where another voice synthesizer (Eddie) would take over, introducing each piece as it was played.
The idea for Eddie's voice came from the overly-happy shipboard computer in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio serial. In the phone demo Eddie would say something like:
Hi! This is Eddie! Your computer music phone, FRIEND!
Oh BOY! You are rilly rilly going to like this music, I can TELL!
First, I'll just make sure that Peter's computer is working,
and then we can share-and-ENJOY!
This is pretty much the kind of thing that Douglas Adams' computer said, and he was named Eddie, so we used Eddie as an homage. Then, when we wanted the voice-synth that answers the phone in Brian's lab to be female, we considered how, later in the Hitchhiker's Guide, Zaphod Beeblebrox chooses a different personality module for the computer and gets a worried old lady's voice -- "This will all end in tears!" but Adams never gives her a name, so I chose "Edie" as a feminized "Eddie". Unfortunately, the DECtalk voice synthesizer we were using pronounced E-d-i-e just like E-d-d-i-e with a short E vowel "eh" at the start, so we had to spell her name E-e-d-i-e in order to get the long E initial vowel sound.
Anyway, the little chit-chat between Eedie and Eddie at the beginning of the recording of Some Velvet Morning is typical of the sillier moments in the phone demo introductions, and is included as an attempt to familiarize the listener with their strange accents.
TT-3:27 / 4.7MB / 192kbps 44.1khz
(Image courtesy of Henry Lowengard)
I just thought, I bring the Russian artist Alexej Shulgin to your attention, who's music is rather similar-sounding to this mp3: http://www.easylife.org/386dx/.