Note: This post was written in 2019 and backdated to appear on the date the song was written.
It’s finally Friday. The company I worked for closed on Fridays at 12:45, so I had an entire afternoon of bonus time for this song. Unfortunately, I had also already planned to have dinner with a friend that evening in Houston, 90 miles away.
Each of the four previous songs had taken me right up until almost midnight to record, so I was getting maybe 5-6 hours of sleep a night, at most. Normally, it was less than that, and I was fairly punchy when I started this one.
- I Get No Sleep Ray Toler 4:54
The drum loop and bass were what kicked this off. I had the drum loop going and started playing the funk bass over it. I really don’t know what prompted the ad lib style. For some reason, I felt free enough for the first time (or was sleep-deprived enough) to do something kind of silly. I don’t mean for the first time during Song-A-Day, I mean probably the first time ever.
I did go back and add the yawn and intro section, but everything else was created and recorded in sequence. I said something about needing handclaps, then would stop, reset to record handclaps, record those, extend the arrangement and keep going.
When I say, “all right let’s see what we got here… I got nothin’,” I really did have nothing. When I sound surprised that the hand clappers are back, it was because I forgot the hand claps were going to come back in. I was making it up along the way. And I was having a blast making a musical joke that I figured only I would find funny.
The synth hook came next, and I kept plugging along, going back and making minor tweaks to previous parts so it would all sound relatively “live.” I recorded a quick version of the chorus and looped that for a bit, then bounced a temporary version to listen to in the car because it was time to leave for Houston. It wasn’t done yet, but I figured it was pretty close, and I was having fun jamming along with it.
I got back from dinner at about 11:00 and kept going with the project. I had come up with the idea for the stupid “my name is Ray” line in the car, so I threw that in, but I didn’t really have any other ideas.
(Side note, the “come on – you rhymed ‘day’ with ‘day’” line was an inside joke for my brother Bryan who was endlessly annoyed by Madonna’s “Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it, strike a pose, there’s nothing to it” lyric from Vogue.)
As midnight approached, for some reason I extended the drum and bass line out even further and decided to grab the guitar. I’m not a very good guitar player, and while funk guitar has always been something I’ve been fascinated with (love you, Wendy Melvoin!) playing it has been something that was always better not being recorded. But this song needed chicken grease, dammit!
In the end, I managed to play this part by using a velcro tie to mute the lower strings. One of those, “hey, if it works, it works” things that you’ll do when you’re desperate to keep moving forward.
With the guitar in, and the rest of the groove going, all of a sudden this had turned into a real song! Herbert was rocking along, the funk mob was singing, the Texas All-State Hand Clap Choir was clapping, and all I could do was just party along with them.
Looking at the project file, it’s remarkably uncomplicated for the amount of chaos I always feel like I hear. There are only two drum loops (small and big), the electric bass, two synth basses that are stacked to provide the buzz bass, the guitar, claps, and vocals. Even the vocals are simpler than I remembered – The Lights had 18 vocal tracks for the backgrounds alone. This one has the lead/ad lib vocal track, and only six “guys in the band” voices. It sounds bigger to me.
I am so glad there isn’t video of the last hour or two of recording this. Well, any of the hours, really, but especially the last two. My voice was giving out, it was after 2:00 in the morning, and time to wrap it all up.
Reception by the Song-A-Day folks was far beyond what I expected, but perhaps the best review came from my brother, Eric, when I sent the song to him:
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but this is my favorite thing that you’ve ever done.”
It’s still one of my favorite things I’ve ever done as well.
Because my very literal transcription of the entire song was also a hit with the Song-A-Day people, I’ve included it here.
All right, let's see what we've got here. Hmmm. Hmm. All right.
Oh. Yeah. Gimme something funky.
Yeah! I like that!
Herbert Finkelstein on bass, everybody. Mmm.
Play it, Herbie, uh.
All right I need some hand claps, Ooo!
The Texas All-State High School Hand Clap Choir, everybody.
Let's give them a hand.
They're already giving themselves a hand. Uh.
All right! Now, let's see what we've got here. Mmm!
I got nothin'. Really.
This is way funnier to me than it is to you.
Mostly 'cause I get...
All right, you guys keep clapping. Uh!
Mostly 'cause I get no sleep.
I go to work and then I come home
And now I've gotta write something.
Oh yeah! Oh!
I was not expecting that! MMM!
Wooo! Yeah. Uh!
Awww keep it goin' now. Uhhn!
If only this had catchy lyrics,
It would be a hit song. Uh!
Record all night, work all day
I get no sleep, 'cause of Song-A-Day
Write all night, work all day
I get no sleep,'cause of Song-A-Day
Oh yeah! Those were catchy!
But they're kind of lazy.
I mean, come on...
You rhymed "day" with "day."
We need something different like, uh...
Record all night, work all day
I get no sleep, 'cause my name is Ray.
All right, that was stupid. I think we'll do it your way.
But we need some grease.
Oh yeah! That is greasy!
Uhn! Come on!
Where the hand clap kids? Git it on!
All right, we're coming back to the hook.
With the original lyrics!
GIT IT BACK NOW!
DROP IT DOWN NOW, FOR ME! UHH!
Herbert! Herbert! Get that bass in here now. UH!
All right, we gonna bring it all back in and bring it home, now go!
BRING IT ROUND! ONE MORE TIME! UHH!
Copyright © Ray E. Toler, Jr. All rights reserved.
- Bass: Spectrasonics Trillian
- Synth Bass: Omnisphere
- Drums: Stylus RMX
- Guitar: Squire Stratocaster
- Effects: MOTU Multimode Filter, DynaSquash
- Mixing & Mastering: MOTU Dynamics, MW Limiter