Feb 7 • 4M

Overcome By Happiness

(earliest sketch demo, circa 1997.)

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Joe Pernice
Musician and writer Joe Pernice shares recordings and some words about making them.
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I won’t post the lyrics to this one because they changed a good deal from this, the earliest sketch recording, the the studio recorded version. I wouldn’t put these demo lyrics in the same category as McCartney singing “scrambled eggs” as placeholders for Yesterday, but I was certainly riffing. The song was so new that I didn’t exactly know where it was going yet lyrically. I guess that why they call it writing.

I wrote this song sometime in 1997. I can’t be sure if the Scud Mountain Boys ever messed around with it. I do know that I played it and another song from Overcome, Shoes And Clothes for my bud Frank Padellaro backstage before a Scud Mountain Boys gig. (I believe it was in Chicago, opening for Wilco. I broke a string on my main guitar and backup guitar that night. Was a first. Must have been jacked up.)

Anyway, I wrote this song in a beautiful old house house I rented with some friends on Crescent St. in Northampton, MA. A cathedral of lovely old oak trees were a canopy over the pavement. The great Eric Carle lived just up the street. (As did a doc of mine at the time, to whom I owe more than I can say.) Late one cool Spring night I walked by Eric Carle’s home. He was standing in a large window, holding what appeared to be a drumstick to his mouth. We both froze for a couple seconds and looked at each other. I like to think we gave each other a small wave before carrying on, but I don’t believe that happened.

My band ended up recording the album Overcome By Happiness in the Fall of 1997. I have many fantastic memories of those sessions. But the most memorable for me is when I heard the string section coming back off the tape machine for the first time. The strings went on last. We’d all been hearing the otherwise finished recording of the songs, minus the strings, for weeks. I remember my then A&R person, now longtime business partner Joyce Linehan sitting next to me in the control room. When the song Overcome By Happiness played, and the strings entered, she grabbed my arm so hard it reminded me of a sibling being a pain in the ass. (Let’s be honest here. The only sibling who was a pain in anyone’s ass was me.)

The version included here was recorded sometime in 1997 in the Crescent St. house. I almost certainly used a single SM58 microphone. I played my early 1970’s Gibson acoustic. I clearly tracked it live to a Tascam 244 4-track cassette recorder. I unearthed the original cassette (and a number of others) at my folks’ house. I knew they were either there or in a landfill.

A mastered and optimized for vinyl version of this take is included on LP2 of the New West Records deluxe premier vinyl issue of Overcome By Happiness. That record is due out May, 19, 2023…exactly 25 years to the day after the original Sub Pop CD release. The folks at New West Records put together this cool little promo video for the release:

Promo Video

If you’d like to own a copy of the deluxe LP issue, kindly click on the link: LP purchase link

Tomorrow I will post another substack that will be exclusive to my $5 per month subscribers. Feel free to join up if you’d like to hear/read every post.

As always, thanks a lot for listening. Take care of yourselves and those around you. If we all did that, hell, we’d be golden. —JP