Adelaide

 

 

David Whitley heads into the recording studio in a bid to make it as a rock god.

 

As locations go, it’s about as far from rock and roll as you can get. In deepest suburban Adelaide, there’s a grill in the back yard and a few plastic chairs out the front. I knock tentatively. “Er, is this the right place for the groupies and throwing TV sets out of the window?” Inside what looks like an average family home is a full-blown recording studio. 52 Nelson Street is the unlikely home of Beat Records. But more importantly, it’s home to Rock Star For A Day (Rockstarforaday.com).

 

The idea is staggeringly simple: wannabe megastar goes into studio, records a few songs with professional equipment and engineers, then goes home with their very own CD, complete with artwork. In the generation of X Factor and American Idol, it’s a wonder that no-one has thought of it before. Ben Pattison admits that he only started it up to fill up empty slots in the studio, but it has since taken on a life of its own and gone mobile in shopping centres, social clubs and corporate offices.

 

Unfortunately for Ben, and his cohort Robbie, they have something of a challenge today. My sole singing experience consists of bellowing Here I Go Again by Whitesnake into a karaoke microphone, making up for glaring lack of talent with sheer volume and overly-enthusiastic showmanship. That song isn’t even on the list. Their task is the ultimate in putting lipstick on a pig.

 

I’m ushered into the studio, which has guitars, headphones and drum kits strewn all over it. Pride of place is given to an ultra-sensitive microphone of the top professional standard. It’s a bit like throwing a prime Wagyu beef fillet to a stray dog. For my first single, I’ve opted for damage limitation; a slow Powderfinger ballad with no awkward lyrics, no high notes and most definitely no rapping. I stumble nervously through it, and then Robbie plays it back.

 

“Good work mate,” says Ben as we all listen through, faintly amazed that it’s not a complete shambles. “Shall we do another take?”

 

After a couple more goes, the whole thing starts to become rather enjoyable. I’m singing it like I mean it and jigging around on the spot like I’m in the Band Aid video. After take four, I head into the mixing booth to watch Ben in turd-polishing mode. The vocal track is all on the screen in the form of a wave. He starts inserting little markers where the duff notes, missed cues and flat bits are, then replacing them with better versions from the other takes. It’s like a multiple organ transplant, but the final version sounds really rather passable. I’m beaming from ear to ear – maybe I could be a rock star?

 

That illusion lasts right up until the next track; the Youth Group version of Forever Young. The first take is a horror story – wrong register, wrong lyrics, wrong notes... just plain wrong. We give it three more goes, but that second note in the chorus never amounts to any more than a strained squeak and there’s clearly not enough good material in the four takes to salvage the bad.

 

This leaves only one option for the last song. I need to go with where my musical talents lie, and that is relentless shouting. The timeless opening riff of You Really Got Me kicks in, and I launch into the Kinks classic like it’s never been done before. The microphone is probably wincing as I howl away with gusto, by now fully buying into the whole rock and roll dream. There’s applause from the other room as I finish off with a heavy metal snarl. “Woo!” whoop the boys. “Check out One Take Jake!”

 

I’m still buzzing as I model for the somewhat perfunctory photo shoot. My CD cover ends up being a somewhat shoddily Photoshopped affair, with my rock and roll poses superimposed onto a stage in front of adoring fans. But frankly, it doesn’t matter a jot – it’s the feelgood vibe of being let loose in the studio and putting your all into a ridiculous childhood fantasy that counts.

 

Simon Cowell is hardly going to come battering down my door and I won’t be getting a record contract any time soon, but for one day I got to be D-Whit: rock megastar. Take that, Jagger.