My subscription to Life expired, but I still have a subscription to Mad.

Monday, July 2, 2018

This Wheel's on Fire

This year is the 50th anniversary of the release of the L.P. Music From Big Pink by The Band. In conjunction with the anniversary, Rolling Stone published an article titled "The Band’s ‘Music From Big Pink’: 10 Things You Didn’t Know" by Jordan Runtagh.

One of the ten things I didn't know was that the Morse Code and a semi-automatic telegraph key was instrumental in the creation of one of the songs on the LP, "This Wheel's on Fire."

Here is the story from Mr. Runtagh's article:

When it came time to record “This Wheel’s on Fire,” a Rick Danko tune put to Bob Dylan’s lyrics, Hudson created an unusual staccato keyboard effect by hooking up his RMI Rock-Si-Chord electric piano to an old semi-automatic telegraph key purchased from an army surplus store. “It has a reiteration feature, so that if you move the key in one direction, you would get one dot or dash, and if you move it the other way, you would get reiterated dots,” he explained in a December 1983 interview with Keyboard Magazine. “I got a little box and mounted some quarter-inch receptacles into it through which you could connect the key to the instrument. Then you set the reiteration rate, and you were ready to play.” Manipulating the on/off signal on the device created an abrupt, percussive sound, much like Morse code. “Garth just hit that key when he wanted the sound,” remembered Helm.

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