On a recent All Songs Considered podcast, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, members of the band Nirvana, discussed the making of their final studio album In Utero. One thing that stuck out was how producer Steve Albini would usually use only one take of the song. This is not to say that the album was a jam session. Nirvana was practicing extensively, and some of the songs dated back five years. Albini himself had a method of recording that included precise microphone placements and glass enclosures to capture sound effectively. Grohl and Novoselic mentioned how emotional it was listening to the tracks in preparation of the remastered album for the 20th anniversary. Drummer Grohl said that it sounded like a real band making real mistakes. In a sense, the album was not technically perfect, but achieved a perfection of the moment.
In a separate podcast, Bob Boilen mentioned that Radiohead’s first song in recording OK Computer was “No Surprises.” In fact, it was the first take of the song that they used. Thom Yorke said that all subsequent recordings sounded like they were a cover band of themselves.
Both these stories show that we need trust our practice and our guts. There is a need for revision and restructuring, but there is also room for greatness to sit along side imperfection.
Where can you find an instance where your first try had “magic” in it?