The Automatic Pilot story - part 5

Tony Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is
He financed numerous recording sessions in top end studios, with some of the Bay Area's best musicians backing us up.

Tony made a proposal: we would go into a professional recoding studio, hire professional studio musicians, and take whatever time it took to record an album suitable for commercial release. Tony would have creative control, and Tony would pay for it. We went to Independent Sound in the Richmond district, did two new songs. Derelict in my Doorway was a "novelty" song targeting both the uncouth homeless and the uptight burghers and cops who persecute them. "Dream a lot" was our version of a disco song, not intended as a parody. Frank Zincavage from Romeo Void played bass; Jeremy helped program the drum machine (which kept perfect time). Tom and Selby played violin and sax, but we got a guitar to fill in also. Tony, Matthew and I sang; I played both piano and synth. We did many sessions and mixes; the consensus among the professionals was it wasn't quite there, and the violin and sax had to go. Tom and Selby were axed.

We moved to Harbour Sound in Sausalito and started two more songs while continuing to work on the first two. We hired another guitarist, this on a Julliard-trained pro, to record Prelude to a Quaalude, the first song we had done at chorus retreat in 1980.It came out great, but the song had turned into what it had originally parodied. When we did Sit on My Face, the engineer suggested since we were singing like girls why didn't we get real girls to sing with us. So we did. When we told Annie Stocking how Margo Crossman used to do a phone sex monologue in the middle, Annie laid one down. (For a gay male band, we featured a lot of female sexuality). We got a pro horn section led by Wayne Wallace to replace Tom and Selby. Tony Saunders played bass on the new songs. Everyone agreed Prelude and Sit were done. Derelict even got on the nationally syndicated Dr. Demento radio show. But Dream A Lot was still a mess. We went to yet another studio, Sammy Gene Music in San Rafael run by three crusty old hippies including guitarist Gary Duncan from Quicksilver Messenger Service, to do two more songs. Say Mongoose was a straightforward new pop tune called with lyrics suitable for kids. We also did Bobbing for Apples, but changed the words. The original was about drinking recycled beer at the Cauldron; we turned it into a good ol' frat boy beer drinking song. This studio didn't even have a piano, but Gary, engineer Bob Ohlsson , and I worked together to forge a tight accompaniment of multiple guitar and synth tracks. Frank Zincavage played bass and helped us arrange the songs and program the drum machine, which was augmented by live percussion from Pete Escovedo. The drum machine on Dream A Lot had gotten totally out of control, so we scrapped it. Drummer Sammy Piazza of Hot Tuna claimed he could play just as accurately as a drum machine, and backed up his claim. It was much cleaner, but we weren't yet ready to attempt a remix.

Automatic Pilot went into the studio for the last time in January 1985, this time to Starlight in Richmond to remix Say Mongoose and Dream A Lot. We now had six songs complete - not quite enough for an album. We planned to continue, but Tony's health deteriorated. and the project came to a halt.

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