As enthusiastic as Spinozza had been about “Robert Johnson,” that's how Al reacted to “November.” (I played it for them live- I never did record a demo for it.) I was happy later that he did the string chart even though it was the one that I changed “on the fly” the most. (The string session may have been the most nervous one of the album- we had three hours to get four songs, and it was going to cost $5,000. There was no getting them back for another session if we didn’t get everything done.) Al had written what I thought was an overly busy couple of lines in the last verse, and he was amenable to quickly changing them to what I hummed him. They come after the lines “Our love was a flash fire burnout,” and “Our love was a crossing of ways.” “November” strikes me as the song on “Bridges” that’s most of its time- it’s pure 70s singer/songwriter sensitivity with my version of a “poetic” style lyric. It’s the only one of a number of songs that I’ve written with the word “November” in the title that came to fruition. Chris Parker played the snare with brushes on the basic track, and when we came to mix it it just sounded like white noise. The engineers came up with a solution though: they noise gated the snare track and so you only end up hearing the hit and not the swirling around. All these years later I’m surprised by how much I enjoy the kind of free form finger picking guitar part, and I love Chris Palmaro’s Fender Rhodes electric piano solo. He was fairly new to session work in those days- Spinozza was breaking him in (as he had done earlier with the drummer Rick Marotta) and he brought some freshness and enthusiasm to the songs he played on, and in fact was just an enjoyable guy to be around (a quality that has contributed to the success of many in the recording world over the years, a super competitive field.) When I hear his solo now I recall that it was kind of composed- it took some thought, it wasn’t just improvising around until he found something.
I created a second acoustic guitar part up on the neck for Paul Simon to play, as Spinozza had shared with me that he would have been happy to do a session for us, but ultimately the song didn’t really need it, and I didn’t press the point as we got down to the wire of trying to finish everything on time and within the budget. London’s vice president, Walt McGuire (cited amusingly in Keith Richards’ book), took the opportunity to complain dramatically when we went over the original budget of $75,000. coming in (after the string session) at $83,000. I want to mention here that unlike numerous other records made in the 70s, “Bridges” did not have a cocaine budget in the margins of the recording costs. Was there coke around the studio on a fairly regular basis? Yes, but I never witnessed a single musician or member of the production team use it in the course of a session.