The majority of the recording during the Transition era took place at Doug Fearn’s Veritable Recording Company in Lansdowne, PA, where he had a remarkable facility that he built almost entirely by hand. Doug was a patient and supportive engineer who really knew how to get the most out of his gear and the musicians he was recording. All of the tracks in this collection were intended to be demos for the record companies (who never took the bait) -- not full-fledged master recordings -- and were usually completed in a relatively short amount of time.
This playlist starts out with a composition by Bill Koepnick that has thrilled dentists everywhere they have had the chance to hear it. Almost a throwback to ‘40s or ‘50s torchy ballads, it features an inspired vocal by Jimmy in his most theatrical and articulate voice, while Richard plays an incredible piano accompaniment that is some of the most beautiful jazz he ever played with this band. It’s full of word-play, puns, a hummed line from “I’ll Never Smile Again” and whistling -- a true Soup classic.
Instant Gratification lampoons... what else? Everybody’s need for it. This and the following songs down to “Slow and Easy” are all Richard’s compositions, and are fine examples of how he could write both touching ballads and biting satire. Some folks thought he was committing commercial suicide with “Mister Record Man” but it certainly was right on target. And “Disco Datco” let audiences know just how the band felt about the mind-numbing dance music that was elbowing all other forms of music right off the airwaves. Kicking ass sure was hard work.
“The Most Expensive Heartache in Town” is Bicey’s country-style lament that should have topped the Nashville charts. Way ahead of its time.
Jimmy Hayne wrote “The Sky’s The Limit” -- one of the band’s more straight forward attempts at coming up with a true hit single, and you will hear very little difference between this version and the one recorded later at Different Fur in San Francisco -- other than the tonal quality of some of the instruments and a couple of minor changes in the arrangement.
The same goes for Richard’s song, “Other Peoples’ Whiskey” which is somewhat less obviously aimed at top 40 radio, but which could have been a very popular song if the masses ever had a chance to hear it. The world needs more party tunes.
When you get to “Out-takes from the Clone Lab” in the player list, those songs -- with (GB for Granny’s Basement) following the titles -- were the tunes the band self-recorded in Bill’s grandmother’s basement. A Teac 3340 4-track was borrowed, and several reels of expensive low-noise tape were purchased to get the most out of the machine, but the tape started to shed oxide badly after the overdubs were finished. The final mixes were riddled with dropouts (very frustrating). Aside from that, the recordings were pretty impressive for home-made at that time.
Special Addition (September, 18, 2012) The last track in the playlist is a sixteen minute live recording of one of Duck Soup’s infamous improvisational jazz/rock/funk jams that were usually performed at the start of the performance to let the guys warm up a bit. The effect on the audience was often unpredictable, and the less the crowd knew about the band, the more stunned they were at the genius/insanity that was unleashed upon them with little fanfare or warning. This performance was on a harbor cruise boat rented for a private party in the Delaware River (as far as I can remember), which meant no hope for escape for the party-goers you can easily hear chattering in the background. The recently rediscovered Jimmy Hayne provided the cassette that was digitized for inclusion here. Who made the recording (and how) remains a mystery. So, slip on the headphones, get comfy, and get ready for a flashback to 1974 -- when Duck Soup was doing stuff that was quite unexpected, but was certainly expected of them.
The photo at left is a fairly recent shot of Doug Fearn in a YouTube demonstration of one of the many high-end professional audio devices he designs and manufactures today.
He is a little grayer than he was back in the ‘70s (aren’t we all?), but he maintains his easy-going style that lulls people into forgetting that he is quite a wizard at all things electronic. His contributions to Duck Soup were numerous and generous, even donating studio time in the hope he might eventually get repaid after the band hit the Big Time. Sadly for all concerned, that didn’t happen.
HERE is a link to Doug’s current venture. This plug is the least we could do.