I suppose I should comment on this cover version Steve Hewitt has done of ‘So Close‘. It seems quite weird that someone who was sacked from six by seven should want to release a cover version of a six by seven song.
He says in a recent interview: “The thing about the original is it’s a good song but it never comes across as the good song it is and that’s because of dodgy recording and production so because I’d spent time with Six By Seven, Dan and I wanted to make it the song it never really was, that was the idea anyway…. “
I’m just trying to imagine Roger McGuinn from the Byrds saying the same thing about Bob Dylan. It’s hardly in the spirit of things to say that you are recording another artists song so you can correct what you perceive to be their mistakes by doing a repeat version. They wrote it! Personally I’ve only ever done a cover version for two reasons; one is fun and the other is because I love the original so much.
So Close was recorded through a Neve desk onto a Studer tape machine at Rockfield Studios by Ric Peet and later mixed at Q-Division Studios in Boston by Sean Slade and Paul Kolderie with myself and Ric present. It was recorded completely live without any overdubs, you can even hear James at the begininng asking everyone if they are ready before playing the piano intro sample at the beginning of the song. It was a brilliant time and we were so lucky to have a record label that let us record this album in the way that we wanted to.
Contrary to what most people think, The Way I Feel Today outsold all our other records by a country mile and even made it into the proper charts. It was essentially a live album and all the songs on that record are the first takes of the first version we played at the right speed with no mistakes and everyone ‘playing everything in the right order and in the right place’ (that was our rule!).
We demoed the album at Rubber Biscuit Rehearsal Studios in Nottingham and So Close was one of the songs we actually had mostly finished before we went to Rockfield. It came about from a song I had written using an old Atari computer with Cubase sending midi notes to a sampler loaded with piano sounds. I recorded some of it onto a DAT (digital tape recorder) tape before the computer crashed and I lost the whole 4 minute original song. We wrote So Close over the top of the piano (from the DAT tape) which we looped up in James’ sampler. Lyrically it was based on someone I knew and also a conversation I had with James after he lost his Father. It was an attempt to merge my beloved major 7th chords with a feeling of loss and hope.
Personally I wouldn’t change a thing about it. John Leckie once told me that recording music is just recording time. You can’t go back and change the past and that song is there like that in that form because we wanted it like that. It was tempting to add some more guitars on it and double track vocals to make it more produced and bigger but that wasn’t in the remit. Live it was always a favourite of mine. I also have it on good authority that Coldplay tried to copy bits of it and it’s mood when they did a song called ‘Fix You’.
Some of my favourite cover versions have the identity of the band stamped all over them or at least the Zeitgeist. Think St. Etiene’s cover of Neil Youngs’ Only Love Can Break Your Heart or our own Ric Peet’s (Candyflip) baggy ‘Madchester’ version of Strawberry Fields. I don’t think this version does either, it’s just a bit limp and safe. I can’t hear the passion and I don’t think he’s done what he set out to do and made it into the song ‘it never really was’. Still, I suppose I should be flattered ’cause now there are two versions out there and I hope his does really well!
For me, six by seven’s So Close is just what it was and is what it is.