When it came time to cover a Thomas Dolby song, the choices were many. I was very close to doing Airwaves, the lyrics of which Thomas and I had exchanged a few emails about (“I turn my vehicle beneath the river west from south” is not in fact about a submarine, but rather a car driving through the Holland Tunnel). I ultimately chose Weightless because I had a good sonic vision of where I could take things. I brought my A-game production wise because I knew the lot of the Dolby newsgroup, ALLOY, would end up hearing it and they’re no strangers to a good mix.
The original version of Weightless appears on the 1982 classic “The Golden Age of Wireless” and can be heard here:
In contrast to the lush vocal and keyboard intro of Dolby’s version, I decided to place the listener in a Viennese thoroughfare, with buses and footsteps abound. I interpreted the intro melody into a series of church bells off in the distance (which were actually permutations of one sample of a pen hitting an ashtray played at the different pitches).
The body of the song is much more aggressive than Dolby’s, but I like to think still maintains the quirk and desolation. I used a similar analog(esque) synth patch along with piano, but also added a counterpoint of distorted guitar which swirls and wahs its way into the breakdown / bridge:
You- you could be the one (she whispered)
Love is all you’ve ever wanted
All you’ll ever need
Thomas sings the bridge himself, but since he’s quoting a woman here, I decided to have a woman sing the part. Enter Melissa Reasoner, a friend I met on MySpace (yes, that long ago) who I jokingly dubbed ‘The Greyslake Karaoke Diamond’ as this was her main vocal outlet at the time. Melissa sings the part with heart and grace. We team up on some background oohs and aahs that pop up here and there as well.
In the original version the song ends:
End of our summer
Your body weightless
In condensation, my heart learned to swim
Then the feeling was gone again
Instead of ending softly and somewhat sadly, I kicked up the energy for my version and dropped the last line in the interest of a happy ending. The song fades and leaves us back out on the street with cars, footsteps, and a lone dog barking. The church bells in the distance play the opening notes again- but I moved the melody into a major key from its original minor for a final emotional lift.
Enjoy my version below: