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

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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.

Truth About Simon and Garfunkel Sounds of Silence

UPDATE NOV. 30, 2014

Columbia Records, Sony and RIAA have finally gotten it right and issued the proper credit on the single and album in question and here it is. I will be doing a follow up post but meanwhile, here is the RIAA Three Time Multi-Platinum Award with the Official RIAA engraving. No fakes, all genuine. It only took fifty years but is is done.

 

SOS CREDITS

 

And here is the award. Please pass it along to your friends who doubted and some of whom shouted, “sour grapes.”  I am totally proud of this!

 

SOS RIAA AWARD

 

ORIGINAL POST CONTINUES HERE

Simon and Garfunkel could have fixed this credits problem a bunch of years ago, but they didn’t. Paul knew but chose not to and the other guy rode to fame with them.

When it appears that someone may have stolen from you, covers it up, and gets away with it, you have not so fond memories about it with the possible loss of many thousands of $$$ from it hurting you big-time.

No sour grapes intended, but recording credits really do matter. And I could name a couple clichés that might fit. But I just want to finally get the truth out there once and for all to finally set the Simon and Garfunkel story straight on what may be one of the biggest credit thefts in music recording history. Some might say THE biggest. Note that I say “may” and “might” based on my knowledge of the facts. And I’d be willing to swear in an Affidavit that these are the facts.

When I came to Columbia in ’63, I am proud to say, I was the top pop editor-mixer for some time, and favorite of most all of their pop A&R producers. Unspoken was that we actually co-produced with most producers who put it all in our hands of how a record should sound. It was a few years later, when our begging for credits finally became a reality, and I finally got my first Gold Record with the Looking Glass’s Brandy.

In the sixties the norm at Columbia Records was that studio engineers laid down the tracks and we mixers edited and molded the final mix. The studios even had rotary pots. For the layman, those are the volume controls for each microphone or tape track. Any engineer will tell you that they are totally impossible to properly mix with. One could never achieve what I did on the single and the album working with rotary pots. But that’s what the Columbia studios had until our move to Fifty Second Street.

They called us “editors” but we mixed and gave the records the final sound, and then the mastering engineer, with tasteful limiting, not messing with eq, echo and stuff done nowadays in mastering, then got the highest level possible on the disc. Just off the street, and having worked (singing and playing) in just about every studio in town, I was the only engineer at Columbia who knew and understood rock at that time, with my limiters, compressors and equalizers cooking. The other engineers laughed at me and ridiculed me. But I managed to get the highest and hottest level possible for the mastering engineer. Classical producers hated me and one die hard union engineer threatened me when I laid out a musical score on the console to read. That’s another good story.

This was just a few years before we engineers pleaded and begged, and finally got credits on records. But it was too late in this case and a few more. On July 26, 1965, A&R producer Tom Wilson brought some newly overdubbed tracks down from Columbia’s 799 7th Ave Studio A to my mix room 607 to mix. They were Simon and Garfunkel’s original tapes of Sounds (or Sound) of  Silence and Somewhere with Bobby Gregg’s drums and some guitars added, I believe, by Vinnie Bell and Bucky Pizzarelli. I pulled out all the stops and made the mono mix. And here are those mix notes.

 

SIMON  GARFUNKEL S O S MIX crop072665

My mixing notes from Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence mono mix, July 26, 1965

Engineers reading here might notice the heavy high end Pultec equalization boost on the voices, low end roll-off at 60 Hz and 200 Hz boost to get the bass to sound on small speakers like the one I mixed on (See photo). Being a bass player, this was my little secret. It goes without saying that I had a limiter in each of the four channels. Note that, that night and the next day I mixed the great Teo Macero’s Sax Fifth Avenue album, which is out there to this day, and once again with no credit to me. Five days before that, see notes of mixing a Judith Raskin single.

Paul Simon was in Europe at the time, returned a few weeks later and we drove together in my car and played a bar mitzvah club date together in Jersey, whereas I told him of the events. I also moonlighted playing and singing with bands and the bandleaders would usually hire a guitar player to join the conventional dance band to play and sing some rock songs of the day, thus, why Paul was there. His daddy, Lou Simon was my competitor, who also was a bass player with the club date bands. See about Lou Simon 

Fib Lafayette speaker # 99-4551 - Copy

My little speaker I used to mix my mono records on, and also use to this day like an earphone to sing 

Their record made it to the top and Simon and Garfunkel were back in the studio and more overdubbing with Tom Wilson (with rotary pots). And here is how it was glossed over in a 2005 interview when the interviewee admitted that Simon and Garfunkel had no idea this was happening, and he said, “Paul was in England and Artie was off teaching somewhere. And we do these overdubs, and it’s released, and Sounds of Silence became a huge hit, and all of a sudden it’s “get these guys back!”

Note that he doesn’t say here that he mixed it, but obviously, to the unwary reader it is implied and understood. It is assumed he did it all. He says “And we do these overdubs, and it’s released.” He obviously forgot what he had said moments before in the interview with the facts about studio and edit-mix rooms at Columbia: “In those days, the studios were studios, the editing room was an editing room, and the mastering room was a mastering room-all separate. Dates were done, the tapes came into an editing room where they were edited and mixed down to a two-track and a mono, from there to a mastering room.”

He says, “the tapes came into an editing room where they were edited and mixed.” Later, as Sounds of Silence was climbing the charts, Tom Wilson came to me to mix the mono Simon and Garfunkel album. And Tom brought Bob Johnston in and he mixed the stereo album with Mike Figlio. Johnston also took all the credit down the line in his interviews. The stereos at that time were really throwaways since mono ruled.

Months later, we moved to 49 East 52nd Street. Unbeknownst to me, the studio engineer had stepped in and taken all the credit obviously implying he was the hero who did it all, especially the original mix and the album mixes, using the studio rotary pots yet. Tom Wilson was no longer there and Bob Johnson was on the scene.

RoughmixdDon overdubbing a world record

Me in 1967 singing with my little speaker using the first one inch 16 track at Columbia. Yeah, that’s the machine they recorded Bridge Over Troubled Waters on.

1DONSINGPHOTO

Me, today overdubbing and still using the little speaker. Note the Gold Record (The Looking Glass) behind me was one of the first with engineer credits. It would be nice to have one of the Multi-Platinum Awards of Simon and Garfunkel hanging next to it and Dylan’s later Multi- Platinum Desire and Hard Rain.

Then came Bridge Over Troubled Waters. I was proudly moonlighting, paying dues to SAG, AFTRA, Local 802 Musicians Union and Local 1212 Electrical Workers Union, and Clive Davis had signed me to sing four sides on Columbia. So, I booked time through the Columbia A&R Department. I was busily recording my Columbia sides with our new one inch 16 track machine. And then one day, my boss came and ordered me to release it to Simon and Garfunkel and the “other” engineer, and deliver it to them in Studio B.

This was the studio engineer who, from all indications, had taken all the credit for their new hit and was now a big man at Black Rock and Simon and Garfunkel’s hero. There was more behind the scenes politics that had taken place before and after our move to the new studios, whereas we had new mix rooms and some studio engineers were mixing in the studios. So, I rolled the monster on down to Studio B and also invited myself to listen to Cecelia. It was a throwaway. Never make it, they thought. Everyone hated it and I guess I pissed them off when I said it was really good and I liked it. During a break I invited Paul up to my mix room to hear a cover record that Columbia Arranger-Producer Ed Shanaphy had me singing on Sounds of Silence for the Columbia Record Club. He even hired Bucky and Vinnie to play on my cover record. Paul stood there with his mouth open and uttered, “Wow! It sounds like us.” Duh! Well, that, along with my other covers singing Almost Persuaded, Jackson, and Gentle On my Mind, at least it got me AFTRA scale, sounding like the ones who did them originally and had the hits. 

As Paul started to leave the mix room I cornered him and reminded him once again that I had done the original mix that launched them to stardom on Sounds of Silence and his words were, ”But I thought ___ did it.” Right, he did all that fancy mixing in the studio using rotary pots. And I said, “No, man. And I told you all about this on that Jersey club date.”  There was no response but just a blank stare. “Enjoy the machine,” I said, as he walked out. I was still pissed that they interrupted my sessions and  took the 16 track machine away from me. But I was just a nobody.

DON CASHBOX AD - Copy

Well, at least Columbia promoted my Al Kooper creation of House in the Country with a nice big ad in Cashbox 

And so, I had to wait for them to finish “Bridge” before I could finish overdubbing my sides, one of which was a world record of overdubbed voices. Who knows if maybe I had had the mixing credit on Sounds of Silence, my name would have been seen by millions and one of my records may have jumped out there. Weird, that if you click on this website  there is copy of House in the Country for $130. One of my other releases with about thirty overdubbed voices at that time was My Silent Symphony, that you can hear if you click here. I only wish that a DJ somewhere would start playing it again and create a new buzz on it. It still sounds great, I think, and not dated. Tell me what you think with a comment.

After “Bridge” it was more fame and fortune for Simon and Garfunkel with the other guy riding along with his best kept secret about the credits. I guess he was deciding that nothing would be undone since my name would never be printed on the labels and couldn’t prove anything. After all, no one would know nor care. I saw Paul once after that. They had split up and he was in the studio with a different producer-engineer.

I guess I could rationalize and say that maybe the other guy never said he mixed it, but just rode along for the ride with the implication and certainly cashed in. Well, I’d like to undo it and I believe the world needs to know, even if it is almost 50 years later.  I am damn proud of that mix.

I’ll say now to Paul “fix it. You knew. It’s never too late. Since Tom Wilson is no longer with us to dispute other claims by Bob Johnston who also took credit, you knew that I did the mix that started you on the way to being international stars. This is especially after my recently reading that Paul Simon is a 12-time Grammy winner and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I can truthfully say that I was also one who helped you get there.

Strangely, the Columbia box #5029  that I initialed containing the mono tape and signed on that date, was replaced and the mono tapes and mono album that I mixed were nowhere to be found according to a source. They don’t exist. But my mix & equalizer notes do exist from that day and those notes are here for all to see. And I don’t lie. And if anyone disbelieves my notes, I invite you to have them checked for the timing of the forty-nine or so years that have passed, and the age of the paper. Of course, there will be doubters. There always are and I guess they’re entitled. But if they want to do any proving, they can play the stereo and the mono side by side and listen for the extreme high end EQ and play on small speakers and check the bass on my mixes.

And so, I propose that Columbia/Sony take the mono vinyl album and re-master it with the proper credit and give some credit where credit is due.

How Your Record Can Sound Big and Bold And Compete With the Best

I’ve written this post to give some simple tips on how to compare your recording or demo with the top songs on the charts. You need no training, fancy pro mixing-editing programs, tutorials or hours of studying to do this test. There are only a few short steps and it only takes a few minutes. For those of you not having access to any of  the professional programs, such as Logic, Reaper, Vegas Pro, ProTools, Cubase, Nuendo, Acid pro, etc., I am going to share some engineer secrets and give a simple recommendation for you to discover this phenomenon of possible deficiencies with your song on your own. And it will be at no cost of having to buy any expensive professional recording equipment or programs as stated. But if you do have one of the above, I assume you know what to do.

Naturally, songs you hear on the radio or iTunes in the top of the chart positions have been mixed to the fullest extent by professionals on those programs, and mastered with other great equipment, programs and plugins. These critical procedures give the listener the loudest possible level and best sound that will compete with the next record. No matter what, there is an absolute limit with digital levels and if you are not at that limit or close to it with a record that doesn’t sound over limited or compressed, then you are not in the same league and can’t compete.

Most people, I believe, when surfing and listening here and there to music will have their volume control set at a certain level to listen either on earphones or speakers judging and comparing what they hear to their own record. But you cannot make a fair comparison between two recordings unless you have the two side by side, back to back listening and comparing under the same identical conditions.

This comparison I speak of is not easy for the casual listener not having the right tools to A-B it, as we engineers call it. For instance, you might have a CD of your song and put it on to listen, and then throw so and so’s number one hit on, and then yours again, and back and forth and try to make a comparison or determination. It is impossible. You really need to see and hear the wave-forms next to each other.

Therefore, the solution is to have the two cuts, or sides, or MP3’s, or wav files side by side, with facilities to have them play back independent of each other and to be able to instantly switch back and forth and compare levels. Engineers with the proper professional DAW programs, and/or home based studios also with professional setups, are able to easily and quickly make those comparisons.

This comparison is an absolute must when professional mixing, with the adjustments being made thoughtfully and with very special care. This means evening out a vocal performance, leveling out the instruments, equalizing unwanted and unneeded frequencies, limiting and/or compressing the singer and certain instruments to deliver the needed energy and presence to make the record sound no less than great. This, of course, relies on the condition that the song, vocal, arrangement and musicians are delivering the best possible performance. The final touch up is then up to the mastering engineer.

Once you see what to look for and the obvious solutions, then it is up to you to correct your recording to fit the standards of the highest level possible. Otherwise, you will be sending it out there to stations, companies, publishers, etc, putting it on YouTube, SoundCloud, OurStage.com, and ReverbNation.com etc, and wondering why no one even notices it or gives you any feed back. But then, it’s all too late since your free or low price mixing and mastering persons or your mixing and mastering efforts just weren’t up to snuff.

AUDACITY ONE TRACK

Photo 1 – The Free consumer program Audacity with a song loaded

Go to http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/ and download the free and simple consumer program “Adacity” and install it. The program is provided for both the Mac and PC, and there is no studying involved, unless you are just so fascinated with what you see that you are hooked into learning more.  Be aware that when something is free, they succeed in sneaking in other programs on your computer while it is downloading. A simple solution to this after you install it is to go to “Uninstall a Program” and see what they sneaked in for the day you are working and simply uninstall them. In my case they sneaked three by me that I did not want.

For ease, have your two MP3’s, (or wav files) on the desktop. Click on Audacity and the program will come up on your monitor. Simply drag one of the files over onto the Audacity work space. You will immediately see the waveform of the file laid out in its entirety on the timeline as in Photo 1, end to end with the time in minutes over the top. At the upper right you’ll see plus (+) and minus (-) signs and clicking on them will make the track extend longer or shorter on the time line. Next to the minus sign is a sign to “fit selection” that will have the track fit the width of the timeline, which in this case is about 3:35 minutes.

At the very bottom of the track to the left, there is a tiny arrow like this ^ that when you click on it, it reduces the size of the track vertically and shows that little arrow pointing down like a v, which will restore the vertical height back to the larger size when you click on it.

AUDACITY TWO TRACKS

Photo 2 Audacity with additional song loaded 

Now click on the other track on the desktop that we are comparing and drag it over onto the work space under the other track.  See photo 2  It runs 2:30, and much shorter than the other. A quick glance without even listening tells us that the first track is fatter, and has more energy than the second track. Click on the plus sign a few times and both tracks will stretch out as in photo 3, whereas you can see even more strength in the first track.

ENLARGED TRACKS TO COMPARE

Photo 3 – Audacity with the tracks stretched showing more detail

Now it’s time to listen. Set your earphones or speakers to a comfortable listening level and familiarize yourself wih the SOLO & MUTE buttons at the left end of the tracks. Move the mouse to the timeline above the tracks, anywhere you choose but for instance do it at one minute and a finger will point there and the music will play. Solo the two back and forth as quickly as possible and you will now have a perfect A-B-ing between your record and whatever you are comparing it with.

If it doesn’t match up, I strongly advise you to go back to your mixing and mastering people to show them the lack of energy and levels and how it doesn’t stand up to the competition and that you must shoot for a hotter mix to equal that number one hit. If you get an argument, then maybe it is time to find other engineers who know better. I’m here at your service and can eMix anything with any number of tracks. And I guarantee that your mix will match whatever you want me to match, provided your tracks are the best they can be.

over level peak

Photo 4 Enlarged section showing  peak over the Zero limit

On most all top recordings you will see high levels that compare to the ones in photo 1, whereas the overall average stays close to zero throughout the recording with good limiting and compressing. Lastly, a most critical situation to be aware of is peaks that go above digital zero and cause distortion. Zooming in on the lower track as in photo 4 , we see that there is one peak in the whole song at 151.7350 seconds (the red mark) that goes over and can cause distortion.

As high as the levels are in the first song, they never go over zero since they are obviously controlled by limiting and compression. The work of the mixing and mastering engineer, finally, is to use his/her skills with equalization, physical riding of levels and careful limiting and compression of all the elements to bring it all together into a successful final recording.

 

 

 

 

The “Pepsi Pours it On” ‘60s campaign – Hats off to “Queen” Anne Phillips – Another overdub nut like me

Yeah, I guess that’s where I really learned it. Anne owned Stea-Phillips Studio in the old hotel next to Columbia Records at 799 Seventh Avenue. The Victoria. And she had a studio in her home in Jersey. She could overdub anything, anytime she felt like it, in her own places or her favorite others, like Bell Sound with Eddie Smith, Mira Sound with Brooks Arthur, and I guess I could name six or eight others. Anne was also the main singers contractor for groups for everyone, practically, who recorded. She also did one hell of a job composing, arranging and conducting, and was and is a great jazz singer.

There must have been at least a dozen or more singers working with Anne of which I was one. And there must have been all twelve or more of us called in on about the hottest July days of year in 1966 to back up Kate Smith on her Christmas Album It was hotter than hell when they had to turn the AC off when we recorded.

Our main group of four consisted of Anne, Jerry Keller, Trade Martin and me. We could sing anything written at sight. Her Queen Anne’s Lace Album” at HERE is available at CD Baby. We were joined on the album by two additional singers, Jerry Duane and Gene Steck. Several of Anne’s solo albums include the classic Born To Be Blue, and her most recent release, Ballet Time .

Anne had put me through a wringer, having to learn to sight sing anything written on a music sheet in any key. We were just like any good musician with an instrument. And then, with some additional coaching by Anne, I became one of the four of her main group. When she had more than one date booked, she would usually call on me to go and act as the leader according to AFTRA and SAG  rules. Anne was blessed, or rather cursed with perfect, or what is called absolute pitch. This meant that if a part was written in C, and the singer wanted to sing it down a half a step, the band would have to transpose it to the key of B with five sharps. And so would Anne. On the other hand, if they wanted it up a half step it would be in Db with five flats. The rest of us would just blissfully sight read, without a problem as if we were still in the key of C. But not Anne. She had to transpose.

Well, I get this call sometime in 1965 in the evening at the Columbia Studio, from Anne asking, “Can you do an imitation of Del Shannon?” “Sure, what’s up?” I said. During those times I had learned that you never turn down anything when it comes to a singing job. She explained that she was writing an arrangement for the Pepsi Cola “Come Alive“ campaign to sound like Del Shannon’s big hit, Handy Man in ’64. Frankly, I could imitate and sing like most anyone at that time, and I told her that I could do it. So I ran right out and bought the record and spent the rest of the night listening and copying his sound on his words, “I fix broken hearts, I know that I truly can Come-a, come-a , come-a Yeah, yeah, yeah Come-a, come-a, come-a”

So, we go into the studio the next day and Anne had assembled the best players and written a great rock arrangement that would sound identical to Del’s Handy Man. And there I was singing, “Come alive, Come-a come-a alive (from a high A and Bb twice), You’re in the Pepsi generation.” I thought it was for radio but learned later it was only a demo at AFTRA rates, and no radio play. But guess who did the TV commercial. You guessed it. Del Shannon, imitated me imitating him. I believe they may have just used the same music track and had him and the Royaltones overdub it. So he got the big bucks on that one. See it HERE.

Anne was arranger-conductor on some more for Pepsi, including the “Turtles” whom we also imitated, and then, they imitated us imitating them. Hear them HERE. She also did the “Four Tops.”

But the real big one came along later when I got a call from Anne to be at A&R studio the next morning for our own Pepsi commercial. Phil Ramone would be engineering, and a young(er) Jerry Bruckheimer at BBDO Adv. Agency producing. I was working days at Columbia at that time, and would have to call in with a sick day. The fact was that I had already called in because I had a bad case of laryngitis. So it wouldn’t be a lie. How in the hell am I going to do this? I thought. I could barely talk, much less sing, but here was one of my biggest breaks ever in show business. Since I had run out, I’d have to hurry to get some Megazones in the morning and eat them like candy to clear my throat.

My daily routine going to work at Columbia was to park my car in Long Island City and take the subway E train into Manhattan two stops to Fifth Avenue. On that day, even though my throat was a lot better, I would head on over to a certain drugstore on Broadway and buy up a load of “Megazones.” We singers would usually have some of these handy in case of throat problems. I didn’t. So, as the train approached the station, who did I see in the back of the last car but my studio boss? That’s right. We rode the same E Train those two stops every morning. There was no time to wait for another train so I hightailed it to the front end of the car, hoping he didn’t see me on the crowded standing only car. If I hadn’t gotten on and just stood there on the platform, he would have certainly seen me standing there, deepening the puzzle. Since he would usually get on the E train at the stop before mine, I would run into him often and we’d get off the train and walk a block to work together. If he had seen me and confronted me later, my excuse would have been that I was seeing a doctor in Manhattan. However, since we had to dress hip and young and Beatles like on most all of our dates, I don’t know how I would have explained my Beatle boots and my rock and roll outfit, if he had seen me and confronted me later. He didn’t. And I never really knew if he saw me or not.

So I got the Megazones and hurried to the A & R studio where about twenty or twenty-five musicians were setting up. A huge event. I was popping the powerful little lozenges one after another like candy, sucking away, trying to relax and numb my throat as much as possible. I almost fell over when I saw the parts. It was a first. We were to overdub three or four times, “Taste that beats the others cold, Pepsi pours it on…” Throat felt a lot better and I did it. I don’t know how but I did it, thanks to the Megazones. It was flying colors and I sang my ass off with all the others.  You can see and hear it HERE.   Another HERE. And just us and an MP3 HERE.   We did some more with different arrangements and keys later. We weren’t on camera, but we overdubbed and got paid double scale and double residuals with every play, and  residuals poured in for awhile.

And yes, it was played on the Super Bowl, a whole minute. Most unbelievable was hearing the cost of a one minute spot on the Super Bowl show was that year. When our Pepsi Pours It On one minute commercial  aired in 1967, it would have cost them $40,000 twice or $80,000.  See the yearly Super Bowl prices through the years at HERE.  This year, in 2013,  it would have cost them $8 million to run it, twice the $4 million for thirty seconds, almost two hundred times more than ’67 for the one minute.

Soon after that, one day while jaywalking across West 48th Street in New York heading for Manny’s Music Store to buy some strings, I was surprised by the loud honking of a horn coming at me, a big Rolls Royce. It was none other than Anne Phillips enjoying some of her newly earned singing wealth, also heading for Mannys. She deserved it, dammit, as one of the most talented people on the planet.

Well, speaking of Super Bowl  commercials, my son, Don Meehan Jr, a working actor moving ahead in New York, starred in a very funny one about the “Perfect” N.E. Patriots in 2008 with his comedic talents, when the price then was upwards of $5,400,000 for a one minute commercial. See it HERE. He did the Off Broadway show Play Dead  recently with Teller of Penn and, and is opening in another one on July 9, World Premiere of SASQUATCHED! THE MUSICAL Set for NYMF, 7/9 through 14. Yeah, just a block off the old chip. That’s my boy.

 

Overdubbing with RoughmixDon Meehan

How did I start the voice overdubbing process?

Gotta tell you the story of how I continued to overdub my voice in the ‘60s. That is if you’d like to hear it, or see it. It’s a little bit technical, but may be of interest to some. I started out with the one 8 track machine, because that’s all we had at Columbia at the time. It was the machine they built that the pop and classical non-rock ‘n rollers didn’t know how to use, apparently. I had discovered it gathering dust in the back hallway and decided to put it to use. Note in the illustration here at top left showing track (Tr) one  through eight.

OVERDUB CHART

Don Meehan’s overdub explanation of 8 track and 16 track in the ’60s

Track 8 had the click track. For those not familiar with the term, it was the beat per second perfectly timed for the desired tempo of the song, lasting for as long as desired to the end of the song. Starting on track 2, a tuning fork sounded to establish an “A” 440 pitch, which was the third in the key of F, and a count off just before the beginning of the song. That “A” and count-off  could then be heard each and every time a voice was added, but the click would not be heard in any of the vocal tracks. And so, the first voice was recorded on track 2. While listening to the first voice and the click track, the second voice was recorded on track 3, the third voice on track 4 and so on until the 6 voices were recorded. Oh, by the way, did I tell you about the dial tone on a phone gives you a pure F chord?

Those 6 voices were then mixed to track 1 and track 2 was erased. Voice 7 was then recorded to track 3, voice 8 recorded to track 4, and so on to voice 11 on track 7. Tracks 3 through 7 gave us 5 voices which were mixed to track 2, for a total now of 11 voices. Voices 12 through 15 were recorded on tracks 4 through 7, and those 4 voices were mixed to track 3 for a total of 15 voices. Those 18 voices were now mixed stereo to tracks 5 and 6. At this point a band could be added to the remaining tracks 1,2,3,4, and 7. I did a couple releases on Columbia in this manner, backwards you might say, with the band added last, as you will see below.

I used various setups later, including syncing two 8 track machines together. Along about that time Columbia research and development (R&D) built a one inch 16 track, and I was lucky to be the first one to use it as shown here. Clive signed me as an artist and Jimmy (the WIZ) Wisner produced several sides with me multi-tracking voices.

RoughmixdDon overdubbing a world record

Me, with my trusty little Lafayette speaker overdubbing on the 16 track

So, getting back to my one inch machine, with some tracks (18 voices) I had already started on the 8 track machine, I mixed those to tracks 14 and 15 of the 16 track, and the original tempo click to track 16 as seen in the illustration. I then recorded voices 19 to 29 on tracks 3 through 13 and mixed those 11 voices onto tracks 1 and 2. We now had a total of 18 plus 11 = 29 voices. Now, recording on 5 to 13 gave us 9 more voices totaling 38. Recording 7 through 13 gave us a total of 45 a cappella. And if we wanted a band at this point, we mixed those 7 to tracks 5 and 6, with 7 tracks then available for a band. And, yeah, we did the band, and House In The Country went out there and is still out there. Click HERE to hear it. It has about 29 or 30  overdubbed voices if my memory serves me right, since we had 9 tracks to record the band. Give a listen. No I didn’t do the dogs and the crickets. But it was the first recording ever released having been recorded on that machine. And then everyone wanted to use it. I have a story to tell later of about how I got into a struggle with some certain stars who wanted to use the machine. I had to stop my sessions since they came first. So, I had created a monster, I guess. Soon after that, 2 inch 16 track machines came along, and then 24 track. And Columbia Studios became the busiest studio in town.

DON CASHBOX AD - Copy

Note that I also have the little speaker here on my left listening to a take

 

The console you see in the photo and the ad was built for three and four track mixing only, and it was a real pain to have to bring in every piece of loose gear, equalizers and limiters, and another portable mixer to get all the tracks mixed. I continued with my “Don Meehan Project” and kept on recording back and forth and later on, wound up with 101 voices on the song Mons Meg, and then wiped enough tracks to record the band, and that’s how it was released. And here I am today, still overdubbing with my same old 50 year old Lafayette speaker in my ear.

Fib Lafayette speaker # 99-4551 - Copy

 My trusty little 50 year old Lafayette speaker

People ask me why the little speaker as opposed to using headphones. Also at that time, I was moonlighting with the Anne Phillips singers, backing up every unknown and known star around, in all the New York studios including Columbia. I discovered when I was group singing with the other singers, that when I heard myself in the phones I tended to hear and sing flat. You’ll see photos of people holding one earphone to their ear, and that is mostly the reason they do it; to hear themselves and also to blend with others. Also, when you have a set of headphones on, you don’t hear your natural self, such as what you hear when are just singing with nothing on your ears. However, not enough sound level can be delivered to an earphone like you can with a speaker, and when in a group, you need to hear the group as well as your own voice and blend yours with the others. And so, I discovered that the little speaker can deliver more power and a higher level, so as to hear a blend with the recorded voices. Also, the important factor is that you can hold it a certain way as to keep it from feeding back into the microphone.

As engineers and singers, I guess we all have tried different ways to overdub and hear the music tracks in the best possible way, and to deliver a great performance. I guess I’ll stay with my trusty little speaker. To date I have used it on 126 voices on the Hallelujah Chorus, with no leakage whatsoever of the click track. Guess I’m doing something right. Still no word from Guinness for the 200 voices.

More On Bob Dylan and My Favorite Mixing Technique

Continued with posting my comments on a forum

So I told the guys on the forum that my style of mixing was and is to bring everything to 8 busses and lay my eight fingers on the faders and constantly ride each one with a finger, like playing a piano, against the singer or lead instrument. This will allow snare and tom fills and anything else to be brought up when appropriate. The singer track will always be on my right hand index (bass) playing finger which was and is the most sensitive. I would always help the snare and toms in the mix on their individual buss pots.

This album was no exception. And this procedure makes a powerful player even more powerful. I know that some set up a mix and let it sit there, raising and lowering this and that across a board of 24, 32 etc inputs, but my style has always been to play the mix.

Another habit of mine in those days and what I did on that album mix was to mix a stereo onto two tracks of the 24 track two inch tape, in line of course, with all the tracks. I never used automation. This way if we got a great mix with a slight lacking of a vocal part or instrument, or the bass drum wasn’t loud enough, etc. we could run that 2 track mix again to a 2 track adding the stuff needed.

This is a technique I still use today in digital and I guess others might also be doing this. Do your mix in line with everything else and add or help what is needed with automation. Another idea is to do maybe two or three different mixes in line and then add them together, making sure they are in perfect phase. In my experience, though, I could never achieve that kind of mix with a mouse mix.

In my experience with mouse mixing my taste tells me that it is nowhere near the same as a live mix with spontaneous control, although in c I recorded myself in my personal studio singing 227 (for 227 years) overdub voices on America The Beautiful and did a mouse mix in Vegas 4. As a mouse mix, it’s not as hot as I would like it to be. I did 5 or 6 mixes and a cappella. But none of them had the energy that they should have had for my taste.

Oh well, I added 3 more voices and did it right for the year 2006. However, lately, since I don’t have a digital mixer, I make the most of automation, but I’m thinking of ousting the mouse and going out of the box from digital back to analog to mix through the board back to digital. This way I can use my eight fingers technique with a spontaneous mix. Any comments on this?

By the way, someone spoke of Bob Johnston. He was out of the picture for “Desire.” But if anyone is interested, I have another interesting story about the original hit mix (and my mixing notes of July 26, 1965) on Simon & Garfunkel Sounds of Silence, the album mixes, and Tom Wilson, and Bob Johnson and 6 watt monitor amps. This is all part of a book I am working on. I often wonder if anyone would really be interested?

RoughmixDon Meehan, the unsung hero of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence. So, another engineer took the credit and ran with it. By the way, here’s those notes on my original mix on Sounds of Silence and Somewhere mixed from 4 track. Note the uncanny high end Pultec EQ boost.

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