Tiny People

Louisville, 1986. I think.  Squirrel Bait invited me to visit them in the recording studio as they laid down the tracks for their first single -- Kid Dynamite b/w Slake Train Coming.  The studio was not easy to find; I got lost and arrived late.  By the time I walked into the studio, the guitars, amps, and drums had been packed away and I sadly did not get to watch them record the basic tracks.  The only remaining tasks for the day were to capture the background vocals for Slake Train Coming and to put together the rough mixes.

The Bait gathered around the vocal microphone preparing to shout “yeah I thirst, and I sla-a-ake...” while I sat in the control room with engineer Howie Gano.  Just before they began, Grubbs asked me over the mic if I wanted to join them.  It was tempting.  All I would have to do is shout my lungs out over a few words and I would get to be on a Squirrel Bait record.  Cool.

I politely declined, however.  Common sense prevailed over ego as I came to terms with the fact that I simply cannot sing.  Or even yell very well, for that matter.  I did not want to mess up the take and waste their time.

I watched the Bait record the backing vocals in a few takes, and then several of the guys left.  I believe only Grubbs, Clark, Howie, and I remained.  

Then Grubbs had an idea.  He had always wanted to try backmasking.  He asked Howie if he could do it, and Howie said no problem.  “Great,” said Grubbs to me, “now you can be on the record.”

A few minutes later I found myself alone in front of the microphone in the carpeted recording room.  The other three were in the control room.  My task was to repeat the following line:

“Tiny people, tiny people.  So small you can fit them in the palm of your hand.  Prove that they’re not real and win a hundred dollars.”

I repeated the line a few times as the tape rolled.  My voice, played backwards and slowed down (to lower the pitch) would be played over the instrumental section near the end of Kid Dynamite.

Grubbs and Clark claimed that the “tiny people” notion came from a dream related to them by Julian Bevan.  Apparently Julian dreamed one night of going to a carnival in which you could pay to see live, miniature human beings -- people so small that 3 of them could fit on the palm of one’s hand.

Click here to listen to the tiny people section of Kid Dynamite, reversed.  It’s about 20 seconds long.

By the way, my voice only appears on the original version of the song, released on 45.  Later, when the Bait recorded Skag Heaven, Grubbs re-recorded the backmasking part of Kid Dynamite with his own voice, repeating a different phrase.  So, you’ll have to track down the 45 if you want to get the authentic tiny people experience.

I drove Grubbs home that afternoon.  He wanted to listen to the rough mixes of the two songs on the fancy Alpine cassette player in my 1973 AMC Hornet.  We played the freshly-recorded single again and again, at top volume.  Along the way, I asked him to write down the words to Kid Dynamite on the back of a Buddy Holly postcard.  The postcard had been in my glove compartment, patiently awaiting its destiny.

Click an image to enlarge.