Bob Dylan Captures 2016 Nobel Prize

I hope I helped a little in getting him the Nobel Prize

The announcement that Bob Dylan has been chosen to receive the coveted Nobel Prize for Literature is enough to make anyone stop in their tracks and take notice.

AND I DID TAKE NOTICE

I can truthfully say that I did have a small hand in it in 1975.

dylan-nobel

© Nobel Media AB 2016

To hear that Bob Dylan is the Winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition” just blows me away that I have been associated with a Nobel Prize Winner.

“Bob Dylan lands his fourth Multi-Platinum Album with his 1976 hit, ‘Desire.’ Dylan’s most acclaimed albums from the 1960s,” wrote the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) in 2013. I am so Proud to say that I engineered and mixed it and actually produced it while producer Don DeVito watched. Bob Dylan’s “Desire” Album was my best recording and a classic.

 Also, I’m proud to say I did Bob’s Hard Rain album and the celebrated single, Hurricane, from the album was used in the movie. It is most notable that these nine titles are part of Bob’s “Literature Achievement.”

Viewing that RIAA page, I also learned that in other Streisand news, Barbra’s 1967 release, “A Christmas Album,” certified at the five million sales mark. It was the first holiday album by a vocalist to reach the five million level. I am also very proud to say that I mixed that album. I’ll have a few words to say about one of her other albums down the road.

Well, the guys on an Internet forum were intrigued with my explanation there and wanted to know more about the Dylan “Desire” recording, so I wrote some more:

“Thanks guys, for inviting me in. I guess I’m proud to say that “Desire” was one of my best, if not my best recordings and a classic. By the way, Rob Stoner played great bass and Don Devito had the credits read: “This record could have been produced by Don Devito.”

 

desire could have been

Actually, I made all the production decisions, as well as recording, mixing, and mastering. The album made him a vice president for his entire career at Columbia/Sony, and he was gracious and generous to share his CBS bonus with me at that time for my production efforts. But there were no extra bucks after that. I had broken Don in earlier as a trainee in the A&R department, and then he became Walter Yetnikoff’s right hand man. He went on to greater heights with other names. No sour grapes. More on our combined efforts later with Hard Rain. “Desire” has now gone multi-multi-multi-multi platinum and hangs on the Music Wall at Meehan’s Irish Pub in St. Augustine, FL. (Please click on it)

Actually I have a a lot more, at least 30 or more platinum and multi-platinum awards  credited and certified by RIAA, but I’d have to pay the freight if I wanted one or more. I’ve heard that they run about $300 per. Let’s see; 30 X $300 = $9,000. That wouldn’t be very much out of Sony’s billions.

desire platinum

Oh well, at least I have the first Gold and Platinum for “Desire” and a Gold for “Hard Rain.”  On the left is my first Gold for Looking Glass’ “Brandy”

dylan-close-up-at-pub dylan-2-time-front-at-pub The Four Time Multi-Platinum Award hangs in Meehan’s Irish Pub in St. Augustine, FL, established by my late son, John Meehan               Photo by Reggie Maggs

The four million album seller “Desire” all began on or about July 7, 1975 at a recording session in Columbia Records New York Studio E, a small cozy and well equipped little room on the sixth floor of the old Vanderbilt family guest house at 49 East 52nd Street. I had already worked the whole day on another project when I got the word that Bob Dylan and some Columbia executives wanted me there. Don DeVito was Columbia President Walter Yetnikoff”s assistant and I had just recently broken Don in on studio workings and he was there and wanted me there to make things go smooth.

music-wall-at-pub

I ‘m honored to be on each side of Bruce Springsteen’s guitar on Meehan’s Irish Pub‘s Music Wall                                                                                                                                                                            Photo by Reggie Maggs

s-and-g-multi2-at-pub

On the other side is my 3 time Multi-Platinum Award for Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence                                                                                                                Photo by Reggie Maggs

This was Bob’s first session on the new album, I knew from past experience that he liked to record live with absolutely no overdubbing instruments or vocals later. This unnerved me a bit since I had settled into a habit of recording things separately, especially vocals. I had mixed a few of Bob’s songs earlier working with the great John Hammond.

Well, musicians began arriving one after another and at last count, there must have been at least twenty, paying tribute to the great Bob Dylan.

There were no teachers; we learned on our own

I’m sure some readers will scoff and say this is old stuff, or that it is nothing new. But just let me say that we had no teachers. Every engineer guarded his (and I say his because there were no ladies) recording and mastering techniques and gave no clues to anyone coming in new. It was the “good ol’ boys,” the “control men,” the “mastering men,” the “maintenance men,” etc. Every session was an experiment, though, constantly trying new and outlandish and sometimes stupid things. One producer said to me once, “Don, you’re crazy.” Guess I was, as I was always experimenting with something outlandish. And back in those days, the engineers were the unsung heroes for some of the producers.

 

bob-dylan-eric-clapton-emmylou-harris-1975

Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Emmy Lou Harris in Columbia Studio E on the first night of “Desire” – I’m in the control room hiding behind the board

 

I studied and learned from the Beatles’ records

When the Beatles came along and I saw the meters stay pinned at “0” or plus 4 level throughout a recording this was my clue to go for high energy on anything I recorded or mixed. When I came to Columbia in the 60’s at least 50 staff engineers and research men laughed at me for wanting a limiter and a Pultec in every mixing channel. At that time we had 40 watt monitor amps in the studio and 6 watt line amps in the mixing toms. Later my wants and demands became the norm and Columbia became the busiest studios in New York with 24 track. We could limit and equalize each track at will without patching.

Drums and bass are my favorites to record. Maybe because I’m a bass player too. In the corner of Studio E at Columbia Records at 49 East 52nd Street in NY we had a drum booth sound proofed and double glassed around the top. Dylan always recorded live with no overdubs, (except for the one cut, “Joey”, I talked him into adding accordion and guitar later).

Drums need isolation to prevent leakage into other microphones

It was important to have almost total isolation on drums. As with other drummers, I usually worked with Howie Wyeth for probably an hour or more getting the right sound. My standard procedure was to fold papertowels into about 3 by 5 inch pieces and tape them onto the top of the share with masking tape as he tuned. I would continue to add padding if necessary to get rid of the ring.

This was and is standard procedure for me after a lot of trial and error. I hate the ring of a snare when it isn’t dampened. Needless to say, this is still probably standard procedure anywhere you go. I used all dynamic mics, like Electrovoice RE 15 (on snare), RE 20, etc and 2 condensers for overhead all padded. Nine mics total onto nine tracks on the 24 track, Bass drum (with blankets inside), top of snare, bottom of snare (phase turned around to mix later with top of snare), high hat (pointing away from snare as much as possible), mic on each of 3 toms and 2 overhead. I would always limit the BD, snare and 3 toms, and gate the toms on the session. You really need the isolation for this.

Later in mixing my standard procedure was to gate the bass drum and gate the snare and mix the snare with the original top and bottom (phase turned around to match the top). Bass drum, snare and toms were limited again in the mix. EQ on snare was usually slight boost at around 1500. We had EMT echo units and one 6 floor stairwell. I liked a 4 or 5 second decay on the EMT and fed that to a tape machine at 15ips and back into the mix for the added delay. Echo was always EQ’d rolling off the bass and high end. Bass drum and Rob’s bass cut off at 60 to 100 and boosted at around 100 (and limited) got rid of unneeded low frequencies and allowed more room for everything else including the drums. I’ll have more on the bass and bass drum eq later on.