In the spring of 1982 Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter found themselves in a bind. They have just released the self-titled Weather Report album, the last with the classic group that included Jaco Pastorius and Peter Erskine, and where scheduled to go on tour in a month. However they found themselves without a band, as Pastorius was committed to his solo career, promoting his excellent solo Word of Mouth, and Erskine prepared for a tour with a new exciting band, Steps Ahead. Help materialized with drummer Omar Hakim, who came recommended by violinist Michael Urbaniak. Hakim also brought with him Bassist Victor Bailey and percussionist Jose Rossi. All three newcomers to the band were in their early 20s, but brought a massive talent pool that injected a new life to the band. Within a few weeks the group was able to get the tour going and in the midst of it recorded a new album, Procession.
Omar Hakim was looking for an instrument that could acoustically simulate the hand clap sound of a drum machine. Visiting Joe Zawinul’s house, he tried banging on everything in sight until he found the trash can. Hakim says: “to his wife’s dismay, Joe got the garbage-can lid out of his backyard. He drilled a hole in it, we put it on a stand, and I used it on that tune. I’ve gone through a few since then. They bend up and then they are dead. The ‘trash’ goes away.”
That tune is “Where The Moon Goes”. Listening to the track on the album you think it is a drum machine, but watching the live performance you clearly see Hakim hitting that lid, placed on his left. How he manages to incorporate a steady beat on that lid throughout the song while playing a complex rhythm is beyond me. Add to that his singing of the vocal line in unison with Zawinul in live performances, and you are in awe. Here it is from a live performance in 1983: Where The Moon Goes Tokyo 1983
The vocal line is sang in the studio version by The Manhattan Transfer. The band’s voices are processed and do not sound at all like typical lines by a vocal group. Zawinul, who for the first time featured lyrics for a complete song, wrote these lines as if they were intended for a musical instrument. As the song develops you hear these lines becoming more and more fragmented, similar to how a saxophone for example would have phrased them.
Janis Siegel of the Manhattan Transfer said of the tune that it was the hardest piece she had ever sang. In her words: “The way Zawinul hears things is… original. He had everything all written out but the tune is bizarre. You have to really, really count everything, and you know singers don’t do that…and he had harmony, and oh my god, it was really difficult. We sang over a track with all the instruments, and we did it in real time. But it was a great experience. He liked to pull the rug out from under you, that’s his MO!”
An excellent resource to all things Weather Report:The Weather Report Annotated Discography
And here is the studio version, with The Manhattan Transfer: