‘Adventures In Success’
As I haven’t posted anything in a while I was just going to quickly put up this track by Will Powers, but as I didn’t know anything about him I thought I’d do a bit of research first… turns out “he” is a “she”. And a pretty impressive career she has had!
Her real name is Lynn Goldsmith and Will Powers was the name she used for a tongue-in-cheek self-help album back in 1983. It was released on Island and features a raft of big names, such as Nile Rodgers, Sting and Robert Palmer. Goldsmith was probably able to recruit such a glittering array of stars by virtue of the fact she was a music and film photographer, having photographed pretty much everyone from Michael Jackson to Mick Jagger. She documented much of The Police’s career and spent a lot of time at Compass Point Studios where Sly & Robbie were based.
She also directed music videos and apparently her video for ‘Adventures In Success’ was the first to feature computer animation. The track was produced by Steven Stanley and the story behind it is pretty interesting. I’ve copied the following directly from the liner notes (written by David Katz) to ‘Funky Nassau: The Compass Point Story’ compilation which has coincidentally only just been released. I’d buy it but I have most of the records already, but I recommend it to anyone wanting to hear the best of this studio’s work – it features Tom Tom Club, Talking Heads and Grace Jones, and includes mixes by François Kevorkian and Larry Levan.
Noted photographer Lynn Goldsmith, who had often been present at Compass Point since being invited to the studio by the B-52s, voiced and mixed a very peculiar number of her own called ‘Adventures In Success’, which she describes as “self-help humour”. The track, which was mixed by Steven Stanley in 1982 and released as a 12-inch single by Island under her alter-ego alias, Will Powers, has a complicated genesis: summoned to Compass Point because Marianne Faithful, Joe Cocker and Robert Palmer were all working on material at the same time and Chris Blackwell [head of Island Records] hoped Goldsmith could photograph them together, Goldsmith wound up voicing a rhythm Palmer was building in the demo studio he had set up at home, after Faithful and Cocker failed to lay down vocals that Palmer found impressive.
“The rhythm track was a steal from a James Brown thing,” Goldsmith explains, “and after having enough drinks, Marianne starts singing some melody, but Palmer said, ‘No, that’s not really it.’ Joe comes over and there’s more drinking going on; Joe sings a little bit and then he leaves, and Palmer said, ‘No, that’s not really it.’ It was about four o’clock in the morning and I had been thinking about if I were to make a record, what I would do; I thought that the human speaking voice was also an instrument and it could be used in certain ways, and I would pick tapes from preachers and use a vocoder on myself and come up with these kinds of positive thinking lyrics, because I thought that music had such a strong effect on our subconscious, that if we could have these lyrics in there and if I could be funny about it, then that would be different than what anybody else did. We have a guy here called Reverend Ike who has a big church up on Park Avenue, and I always thought that the power of those voices and the way in which they spoke was mesmerising, so I always collected tapes; Reverend Ike was my favourite, but I had lots of others.”
With such concepts in mind, Goldsmith asked Palmer to turn on his tape recorder. “By this time I was really pretty drunk, so I did my thing and he got so excited about it, he called up Blackwell, and Blackwell came over and got really excited and said, ‘I want to put this out.’ So I said, ‘No, I’ve been working on this for a long time and I have an idea of how I want to do it and I’m going to go off and do it my way, but Chris, if I come back with something that you like, I want an album, and I want you to be my producer.’ So he said, ‘OK,’ and that’s how Will Powers came to be. I left and I went to England, because I had to shoot something over there, and I asked Sting if he would work with me on the song, so Sting and I went into Island’s studio in London; he played all the instruments and I was on the Linn drum machine. Then I went down to Compass Point for my first session, and it was just Chris Blackwell, me and Steve Stanley in the studio.”
Goldsmith multi-tracked her voice in various guises to portray the song’s different characters, with the exception of a very deep voice that states the various “laws of success”, which was provided by a Compass Point stand-in. Although the rest of the album was later crafted with Steve Winwood and Nile Rodgers in New York and mixed by Todd Rundgren, the song ‘Adventures In Success’ was mixed at Compass Point by Steven Stanley, who added a minor keyboard part and made sure the single was complete with the shimmering dub version.
Girl on a LinnDrum… heaven!
The dub version is at the top of this post, and below is one of two edits of the video:
Posted by Manny Z