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Rock Tales #111-Jay Vaquer

In the mid nineteen-seventies I was living in Columbus, Georgia taking film making classes at Columbus State University. One day I got a phone call from my friend and brother-in- law Brazilian rock star Raul Seixas. He wanted to know if I could arrange my schedule to come to Rio de Janeiro to work on his fifth LP recording. As his record company, Polygram, was paying for everything, it did not take long for me to get air born. Raul and my sister Gloria picked me up at the airport in Rio and took me to stay with them in their new apartment in Sao Conrado, which is the next beach beyond Ipanema and Leblon. There was a great view of the mountains and Atlantic Ocean from their high rise apartment window. Raul and I prepared his new LP called “About 10,000 years ago”. Raul already had most of the music and lyrics written with Paulo Coelho. They had the lyrics to “Quando voce crescer” and asked me to write a song to fit those lyrics. Raul and I also wrote a song together called “O dia da saudade”.  Raul and I had a method for working on his tunes. He would show me how he sings and plays it on guitar. Then I would take the song and make a totally new base arrangement, a musical template, that would fit over his way of singing it. Most of the time I would stay in the same key at the same tempo and allow him to sing his exact melody notes while I would superimpose different chords and syncopated rhythms. Sometimes I would improvise guitar leads throughout the entire length of the song in different styles, like funk or heavy metal, until I found something cool and appropriate to keep. I would structure the song as to intro, verse, chorus, solo, bridge, and outro, and build parts for the band to create a groove. We would decide who would be the best player for that particular part and which musicians we wanted for each song. We would tell the producer what we wanted and he would schedule the musicians, rehearsals, recording studio dates and times. I was musical director and coordinator and would rehearse the bands, play guitar, and help the producer and engineer get the sound we wanted in the studio. Raul had written a lullaby with Paulo “Cantiga de Ninar”. He wanted this song to be totally acoustic and had asked our friend and long time arranger, the orchestral maestro from Argentina, Miguel Cidras, to come to his apartment to make a string arrangement. Raul played the song using basic triad chords, like 1, 3, 5, and occasionally a minor seventh here or there, so he asked me to make it cool and substitute his chords with extreme harmonics and then have Miguel build his string arrangement off my chord substitutions. Raul’s apartment living room had a very low wooden coffee table centered on a nice rug. I would sit on the rug with my acoustic guitar to create the new chords and write the music using the coffee table. I was sitting there one morning profoundly involved in the hunt for chord sequences to fit “Cantiga’s” nursery rhyme melody, when suddenly I was struck in the head from behind. I could not imagine what had hit me, judging by the shape, temperature and density of the object, it was something alive, but unknown. I was startled from my deep concentration. I jumped up in defense and turned to see a nude and laughing Raul holding his pecker in his hand. He had just come out of the shower, heard me playing guitar, sneaked up behind me, and thumped me on the head with his long penis. Raul was a little guy but he sure had a large penis. When Raul saw how indignant I was he laughed even harder. He loved to play practical jokes on me but this time he really got me. I was thoroughly pissed off since he both scared and shocked me. He was delighted to have “one-up” on me, first thing in the morning. I told him he was going to pay for that. Laughing hysterically he retreated to his bedroom to tell Gloria how he got me good. After lunch Raul and Gloria went shopping. It was raining so I decided to stay and work on “Cantiga” to try and wrap it up. I came up with the idea for Jane to do the acappella harmonic intro and outro, and my chord sequences were flowing nicely. Raul and Gloria returned around 4PM. Raul had been drinking so he went to bed for a nap before dinner. Gloria came into the living room to hear what I had done to the song when the maid came in to tell Gloria her cat was having kittens. Gloria realized that the mother cat, being young and small, was having a hard time delivering so many kittens. Gloria helped the mother cat (whose instincts would dictate that it eat the placenta) by using scissors to cut the excess placenta from the newborns and discarding it in the trash. About every thirty minutes Gloria would come into the living room to tell me about the latest arrival. Finally around six the maid had dinner ready and called me to the table. Our plates were already made and set in place. I sat to eat while Gloria went to wake Raul. I looked into the kitchen and saw the trash can where Gloria had been throwing the placenta. I took a thick slimy piece from the trash and arranged it on Raul’s plate to look like part of his dinner. I sat back down and continued eating when Raul and Gloria sat down for dinner. Raul took a few bites of the rice and continued with the small talk. He noticed a piece of meat and stuck his fork in it to cut off a bite. He wasn’t really sure what it was since he did not recognize it. Then Gloria noticed his puzzled expression as he examined the culinary delight and she let out a “ohhh” as she realized what it was. Then Raul got the clue and thought that he had, unknowingly, already eaten a couple of bites. He stood up and went to the nearest window and vomited. Now I was the one rolling with laughter. On Wednesday Maestro Miguel came over and said he just loved my harmonization of “Cantigo”. When we recorded Miguel’s string arrangement he used 8 violins, 4 violas, 2 cellos, and one upright bass. After the string section played the arrangement on the first pass through, all those string players, including the old guys who usually turn the noses up to pop music, all stood and applauded. Miguel had turned it into a beautifully emotional work of art. I am proud to have been a part of that musical venture. I had read recently in an interview with Miguel that he cited “Cantiga de ninar” as his favorite song in all of Raul’s repetoire, including “Gita”, Raul’s first gold record. Polygram record company was recently purchased in a corporate takeover by Universal. Universal plans to re-release the CD “Ha 10 Mil Anos Atras”, which contains “Cantiga de ninar”, in August of 2002.

Rock Lesson # 111 – Sometimes a payback can just make you sick.





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