Stevie Ray Vaughan: Weather Report
Vaughan’s annoyance is understandable, but it’s easy to see why Epic wanted assurance that it would get a return on its substantial investment. Even at the time, Layton says, “I did begin to think about all the money that was being spent for limousines and expensive hotel bills. I could hear [manager] Chesley [Millikin] saying, ‘We’ve already spent $80,000 on this record!’ and we were just about done with the basics.”
Luckily, once the basics were done, there wasn’t much left to do. Most of the album tracks were basically cut live in single takes, including the eight-minute rip through “Voodoo Child,” which Vaughan played on his trusty Number One, plugged into his new 150-watt Dumble Steel String Singer, connected to a 4x12 Dumble cabinet and two Fender Vibroverbs and cranked to an earthshaking level. Among the few nonvocal overdubs was a second guitar track for “Stang’s Swang,” for which Vaughan switched to a Gibson Johnny Smith and a Roland JC-120 amp.
Serendipity continued to rule right up to the end of the sessions. When Vaughan’s brother Jimmie dropped by to play a rhythm guitar part on “Couldn’t Stand the Weather,” he suggested putting in a longer pause between statements of the opening riff. Stevie liked the idea. While the tape was rolling, he simply put his finger to his lips after they’d played the riff for the third time, waited two-and-a-half extra beats, and then cued the band to come back in. This take—cut with no prior rehearsal of the break—was the keeper. “It took us a little by surprise,” Layton says, “but we were so tight at that time that he could have made [the pause] five and six one-hundredths of a beat and we’d have been right there.”
The session that produced “Cold Shot” also took Layton by surprise. Vaughan woke the drummer up from a studio nap at 4 A.M. to record the song. The tune had been written by W.C. Clark and Mike Kindred, two of Vaughan’s former bandmates. “We’d worked on it in Austin,” Layton remembers, “but Stevie hadn’t been happy with the arrangement, and he hadn’t said anything more about recording it until that night. That was the first time we’d ever played that particular arrangement of the song from beginning to end. We cut it without a vocal—Stevie overdubbed that later—and we did it in one take, and that was the track.” In the end, “Cold Shot” and its slinky late-night rhythm would play a crucial role in introducing Vaughan to a broader audience. The song’s video, in which Vaughan gets beaten up by a succession of girlfriends jealous over his attachment to his ax, became a regular on MTV.
Enough extra material was recorded at the Power Station to fill another disc; 10 additional songs from the Weather sessions (not counting alternate takes of songs that made it on the original album) have since appeared on later CD reissues and on the posthumous album The Sky Is Crying. The fact that people can now hear these tracks as well pleases Shannon. He says, “Obviously, we picked the songs that we thought were best for the album, but nothing we did at those sessions was bad. As time goes on, you tend to listen to things more objectively, but I still hear that stuff and say, ‘Damn, that was good.’ Stevie’s playing constantly surprises me—he was always pulling something new out of the hat.”
In fact, Layton confesses that he likes Couldn’t Stand the Weather much more now than he did in 1984. “I can appreciate the good parts more,” he says. “I do wonder what the music would have been like without the excessive partying. The real tragedy of Stevie’s passing was that we’d finally overcome those demons. But the fact is we did the best we could do, and the best we could do was pretty good.”
Artists:Stevie Ray Vaughan
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