What’s This Feeling?

Thirty years ago in 1991, Bachelors Anonymous recorded a few songs that you could hear only if you saw the band live. The single “What’s This Feeling?” is an audio appetizer of what’s to come in 2022. Below, Bachelors Rob Berg and David Hughes tell the story behind the song.


David: Listening to the song thirty years on, it was a complete conundrum. Lyrically it has my hallmarks but when Rob and I uploaded it for distribution, Rob mentioned, matter-of-factly, the lyrics were his. Why, then, was I singing lead?

And I’m haunted by a line—if it be Rob’s or mine—“Who will save me?” It’s not a sentiment I care for because for the longest time I’ve rejected the notion of salvation via romantic love. And yet I associate it with the breakup scene from the Merchant Ivory adaptation of E. M. Forster’s Maurice, the film’s most powerful. But was that Maurice’s line exactly? It was not. From the novel: “What an ending. What an ending.” Followed by “What’s going to happen?,” just as in the film, but with two words more on screen: “What’s going to happen to me?” Explaining my mental mixtape: “Who will save me?”

Maurice Laser Videodisc Cover
Above, the laser videodisc edition of Maurice that the Bachelors had in their video library. Issued in 1987, the original soundtrack included Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere (Psalm 51), which the Bachelors appreciated—having met in a Catholic church choir. The OST’s Miserere was performed by the Choir of Kings College Cambridge, the school whose exteriors are featured in the film, and the institution to which E. M. Forster bequeathed the rights to his works. According to Wikipedia, the school’s board of fellows initially rejected the idea of the film because they felt that Maurice had an inferior place in Forster’s corpus. The board relented and a story of cross-class passion came to the screen.

The single is available via
HearNow and Bandcamp

Rob: I first met Thon in 1988 at a Hindu monastery in Orange County, California. He was a novice monk, as I once had been a few years before. I was amazed at how we immediately clicked on so many levels. He was from Holland and became interested in Hinduism as a teenager, met a Swami in France, and ended up making a pilgrimage to India. I don’t remember exactly how he ended up living in that monastery but I think, like me, it had a lot to do with Christopher Isherwood, a very out gay writer who met a Swami in Hollywood and tried living briefly as a Hindu monk (My Guru and His Disciple).

It was music that really bonded Thon and me together. We would exchange mixtapes by mail. He turned me on to European music that was not available here in the U.S. and I loved the cassette covers he created. 

After about six months, he decided to return to Holland. He may have been asked to leave due to his visa status. Being a monk—even a novitiate—meant that a romantic relationship was impossible between us, but that did not stop feelings from happening. “What’s This Feeling?” is the question I asked myself at that time. I included a demo of that song in a mixtape I gave him before he left. He loved Bachelors Anonymous and was thrilled to hear us.

Thon Card from Amsterdam

After Thon returned to Amsterdam, we continued our correspondence. Not long after, he was diagnosed with AIDS. He was probably HIV positive when I met him in California. About a year later, he came back for a visit. We had a great time—though he was noticeably thinner—and weaker. I had really wanted to go to Amsterdam to see him. He passed on before I could make it there. 

“What’s This Feeling?” is my virtual headstone for Thon—in a virtual Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Thon, George and Rob
Thon, George, and Rob. George, looking here like singer-songwriter James Taylor, was one of our first friends to succumb to AIDS.

The Recording

“What’s This Feeling?” was among the first batch of songs—nearly three hours’ worth—that Rob had digitally transferred from original reel-to-reel tapes back in July 2020. It was labeled “B.A. Vocal Mixes ’91” and was recorded in our Men’s Dept 4-track home studio. The song consists of stereo instrumentals along with one track each devoted to lead and backing vocals. The listener, however, can count about eight instrumental components, some of them stereo, including drums by Del Mar Richardson. How to get this many into a stereo mix?

Our recorder, a TEAC A-3340S, could “bounce” as many as two previously recorded tracks down to the remaining blank track. (The Beatles used a variation of this technique on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.) The “S” of the TEAC’s model number stands for Simul-Sync, which further allowed the combining (overdubbing) of prerecorded tracks with live input. We likely used a combination of both techniques. But why could we only bounce down two tracks instead of three? We had to sacrifice a track for a SMPTE time code that would sync each subsequent instrument. All that changed with digital recording; the only limitation is the size of your hard drive and your computer’s RAM.

From our vantage point in 2021 we are amazed that “What’s This Feeling?” required no additional overdubs.

“What’s This Feeling?” and two more songs from this reel will be released on our forthcoming eight-cut album, The Big Picture, in 2022.

Lyrics

So what’s this feeling?    this falling feeling?
Is it love?   that’s got me reeling?
or is it just a sinking feeling?

You’re just someone   someone who broke in
You’re just someone
I don’t know you   don’t even know you
I can’t show you   don’t even know you

Chorus
So what’s this feeling?    this falling feeling?
Is it love?   that keeps me reeling?
or is it just a sinking feeling?

Friends are one thing   please don’t explain it
I won’t believe it   friends are one thing
You’ve got something   you’ve just got something (x 2)

Chorus

Can’t stop falling   won’t stop falling
I like this feeling   need this feeling

What’s the point?  the point of no return?
I can feel it   I can feel it[’s] here
I can’t see you   I can’t see you out there    nowhere

Chorus

Keep the promise   you never made me
Who will save me?  Keep the promise
You say nothing   you promise nothing (x 2)

Chorus

So tell me       what’s this feeling?
Can you tell me     is it love?

[somewhere near the end]

      You’re just someone   someone who broke in
      underneath my skin   you’re just someone
      I don’t know you   don’t even know you
      I don’t know you   don’t even know you

Lyrics Reprinted by Permission

Credits

BACHELORS ANONYMOUS is
Rob Berg: Synth, Vocals
David Hughes: Drum Box, Vocals

Produced by
Bachelors Anonymous

Instruments vocals recorded at
The Men’s Dept (4-track), 1991

Drums by
Del Mar Richardson

Digital Transfer by
Advanced Digital Services, 2020

Mixed by
Adrian Alvarado
Alpha Sound, 2021

Mastered by
Scott A. Jennings
Artistry in Sound, 2021

Cover design by
Rob Berg with David Hughes
and a starscape image by
Francesco Ungaro

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