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.

Credit finally right on Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence

While wrapping up my holiday CD, It’s December for release, my son, John Meehan in Florida, mentioned to me that he would like to have a couple of my Platinum Awards to hang on his St Augustine restaurant, Meehan’s Irish Pub, I told him about the Simon and Garfunkel situation and how great it would be if we could get the Three Time Multi-Platinum Award of Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence. I had been ranting and raving about it all over the Internet. The next thing I knew, with no warning, I received a package containing the award as a gift from my son. Its real, no fake, and reads:

“RIAA CERTIFIED SALES AWARD – PRESENTED TO DON MEEHAN TO COMMEMORATE THE SALE OF MORE THAN 3,000,000 COPIES OF THE COLUMBIA RECORDS LONG PLAYING ALBUM ‘SOUNDS OF SILENCE.'”

 

SOS CREDITS

When I learned about the Library of Congress adding the recording among twenty-five to the National Recording Registry “for long-term preservation due to its cultural, artistic and historic importance,” I began a campaign at my Blog to get my mixing credits known. My original mixing notes and ranting became a topic on the Internet, attracting many new fans.

I guess I told everyone, ranted here on my Blog in earlier posts about it and a lot of people came over from Steve Hoffman’s music Forum and later from the Japanese  Simon & Garfunkel Web Forum. I even mentioned it to some Sony people, who remained silent on the matter, except to say that Sony was preparing albums of the singers’ old recordings. I expressed that I hoped they would get the credits straight. I could only assume that Sony was probably secretly planning a fifty year anniversary release of the pair for 2015, with the same old, same old scenario.

Since no one contacted me about it, I wondered who finally got to the Columbia Records people to give me credit and get the word to RIAA. I believe my son, John Meehan, must have gotten on the case. He knows how to get things done. He worked as an executive with Ritz Carlton management for 12 years in six locations, and was an executive consultant for a year and a half for the new Fontainebleau before he opened his highly successful Meehan’s Irish Pub, in St. Augustine. Whatever, whoever, makes no difference. Its done. Its over. I got it, but here’s another big thanks to John.

SOS RIAA AWARD

And here it is.

Had I known, I would have had them put the studio engineer, Roy Halee’s name on it also. Yeah, he took all the credit back when, but lets let bygones be bygones. We were kind of close and friends back then and he put some great sounds on a few of my Columbia singles in the studio. I even got in some hot water with my Columbia bosses around that time when I called up the company president’s office to try get them to pay Roy some more money not to leave Columbia. What did I know about Corporate BS? Not much. And I stayed in hot water for years with my boss.

To recap with some background on this credit thing, on July 26, 1965, Columbia Records producer Tom Wilson and I mixed the mono single record version of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence, that immediately climbed the charts, calling for an album in subsequent months, whereas the all important monaural version was also mixed by Tom and me. It marked the beginning of a career for Simon and Garfunkel that will celebrate fifty years in 2015.

I must stress that the big reason why mono was most important was that records at that time were all broken on AM radio, and it required a lot of skill even with three and four track masters to sound powerful on small speakers. The secret was to make your mix as strong and powerful as the Beatles and Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound,” to compete. Tom Wilson and the other pop producers at Columbia at that time all knew that I, and no one else at Columbia  knew how to do this at that particular time.

Unfortunately, this was only about two years before engineer credits were handed out and I missed out on receiving the coveted and deserving credit “for its cultural, artistic and historic importance.”

Also at that time in 1965, I sang a cover record of The Sound of Silence  for Columbia Special Products, with some of the same musicians that were on the S & G version. When I played it for Paul Simon back then, he remarked, “Wow! It sounds like us.” Since I am prohibited from airing the cover record in any way because of copyright infringement, I will be producing and legally releasing a new cover record of the song on my own Barkroom label. Al Gorgoni, who was on their record as well as mine, can’t play on it because his fingers are bad. I will be searching for a great guitarist to add sounds which overall, will speak “now and then,” or Yesterday and Today, as a fifty year tribute to one of the greatest songs ever written. If you are interested in playing on it, email me an MP3 of your work to roughmixdon@gmail.com. I’ll pick the best one or two.

I just released my extended play holiday CD, It’s December, claiming a new world record for singing and overdubbing my voice 136 times on a single recording. It is at CD Baby and its twenty-seven associate distributors. The title song, It’s December, tells all about December and holidays, including Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, as well as Christmas. You can hear and play all the songs at here. 

But a most unusual accomplishment on the CD is my singing all the parts of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus; soprano, alto, tenor and bass, with 136 voices, harmonizing with myself. Topping it off, I sang it a cappella and on another cut I added a rock beat to it.

After months of form letter emails, an organization turned the world record down writing: “Given that it is impossible to prove the number of voices and that the number of sales cannot be guaranteed, we unfortunately cannot accept your claim as a new record.”  That statement floored me, plus learning that their “adjudicator’s” presence to witness and to judge me would cost me a few thousand dollars, raised more questions. Apparently, it is all about money. Had I been on a top record label with an estimate of thousands of sales, or paid them the thousands, I am certain I would have received their piece of paper certification. As a New York friend and colleague has stated, “Yeah, that and $2.50 will get you on the subway.”

So I decided to start my own campaign to tell the world. I believe most people would believe the procedure, which I explained in a prior post: Overdubbing with RoughmixDon Meehan – on 26 June, 2013. It explained all about doing it on tape, but is the same for digital recording; Record a bunch of tracks and then balance them and mix them down to two. Any knowledgeable recording engineer would know this simple fact. But a simple way to prove it would be to show the doubter the individual singing tracks on a computer monitor in a program like Pro Tools or Logic ProX, play a few seconds and then compare that with my live voice. This might take every bit of a few minutes tops. But the thousands demanded by the company to send a witness raises serious questions about their credibility.

Another unusual cut is my fifty overdubbed voices on Composer, Arranger, and six time Grammy winner, Ray Moore’s arrangement of Silent Night, with harmonies in fourths. Sounds weird that way, but with the universal interest in the Mars Rover landing and the recent launch of Orion to Mars gave us the idea that there may have been a Silent Night on Mars or somewhere out in space at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/donmeehan1

Update About Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence

For all who have tuned into my posts about the lack of credits on my Simon and Garfunkel’s 1965 original mono mix on Sound of Silence, I apologize for not posting some more sooner as I promised. But there will be some important surprising new information which I expect to reveal very soon and a lot more to share with you. I am delighted to see a recent increased record number of visitors here.

Since we are nearing the fiftieth anniversary of Sound of Silence being one of the greatest songs ever written, I will have even more interesting stuff to share with you very soon. It’s the kind of information that you want your great-great grand-kids to know about. Please pass this along to all your friends who have recently visited me here, and ask them to come on back and stay tuned.

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.

 

 

 

 

“Industry Standard” in the Music Recording Industry – Is it Fact or Fiction?

“Industry standard” is defined as: “The optimum criteria for any industry to function and carry out an operation in their respective fields of production.”

Industry standard envisages the regulated, lawful, logical usage in the segment of the economy dealing with industrialization. This may include services or goods. Industry standard contributes to global as well as domestic competitiveness.”

So, how does this term play out in the music recording industry, whereas at least one company’s product  has been held to be the “industry standard” because their program is in use at many if not in almost every professional recording studio in the world? Therefore, this implies that you must use theirs and nothing else if you want to make hit records.

This post was written to draw attention to the fact that throughout the recent history of digital audio in the recording business, one with the necessary skills and talent did not and still does not need the highest priced or highest touted console, amplifier, microphone, speakers and the touted “industry standard” DAW to make a hit record. In addition to recordings made in some of the great or not so great studios, many great recordings have been made in basements, bedrooms, and garages, and with other than the so-called industry standard DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) program.

And those who brag about the industry standard DAW may fail to mention the great vocal performance, the great song, arrangement and players on a recording, which actually made a record great. In some DAW and equipment companies’ eyes, these factors apparently don’t even exist when they are playing their PR game with their multi-thousands of $$$.

How loud does money talk?

Some of the reasons for the public’s comprehension of industry standard may be that money talks too loud in advertising with words that make it all so believable. And this may also apply to articles written that repeat the phrase, “X is the industry standard.” If we read or hear something over and over, don’t we all tend to believe it without even questioning it? Also, word of mouth plays a hand with someone saying, “Did you hear so and so’s great new record that they say was done on X’s DAW program? We’ve got to get that program. It’s got to be the best.”

There is no question that more incentives and higher commissions are probably being paid to sales people at big name music-recording store Y to sell X brand. And Y store has free Saturday classes on the X brand with those eager sales people right there for the sale. And if there is news that a famous person’s recording was made on X brand, therefore X brand must be the best and is sure to get you up there also.

A music magazine amplifies the question

The latest issue of a leading music recording industry magazine, although maybe not meaning to, certainly raises a question about the idea of “industry standard” with its articles and ads, big and small, of companies attempting to attract one and all to their greater than great products. But once again, it is the big money doing all the talking. Call the magazine and ask for the cost of an ad on the back of the front cover, back cover, and first page. Guaranteed it is many thousands.

Who really pays for those full color ads?

From there, go to page two and three where famous Z retail seller lists about 100 companies’ products they sell, but devotes a whole half page to the DAW company that shouts about their being the “industry standard,” and then Z pays great big bucks for another full page ad on the last page. And we wonder what big companies  may be helping Z retail seller pay for those full page color ads, especially when they devote a half page to that one in particular who is called the “industry standard.”

The estimated rate for a full-page, black and white ad in that magazine is $7,490.00. God knows what a color ad might cost, especially in those coveted page positions. It is probably double that amount. And for the readers, a lot of who have free subscriptions like myself who are in that business, may (they hope) just heed to the ads composed by the advertising agencies’ geniuses touting “industry standard.” And when they shout about what’s new, implying that what you have is obsolete, you’re led to believe that you absolutely must buy the latest and greatest.

Has payola raises its ugly head?

Another important question arises: Is it likened to the scandal of payola by big companies to play their records? A good look at the beginnings of digital recording may give a hint toward this with certain companies bending over backwards to get their DAW program used in the studios, with tutorials, coaching and total access to company reps running and flying out to solve their every qualm or problem, and also most probably freely supplying them with their DAW. And if that’s all the engineers had access to, how would they know about any other program?

But there are also the industry standard wannabes, whose programs are just as good and in use throughout the industry but will probably never catch up because the “industry standard” people may continue to pay, and may have paid dearly from the beginning to broadcast that they were the “best.” And a front page feature article from the latest issue of another well respected trade magazine tells of companies who are giving X brand  “a run for it’s money” and tells of an online forum by users of X brand “to air their views (at what has been dubbed a short-sighted decision by X brand) that has turned into one of  the biggest threads I have ever seen on the forum. It is now pushing 84 pages.”

One big message delivered by the other  magazine was about quality music delivery, and the great importance of sample rates, bit depth and bandwidth. Between the lines of that story is that the touted “industry standard” DAW is not the only one around that delivers these specs. The magazine also spotlighted fifteen different interfaces for use with your DAW, and any DAW. And it wasn’t that long ago that X’s DAW required a proprietary interface sold only by them.

The little guy can also deliver the same quality as the big boys

The loudest message of all delivered by the magazine was the not so subtle reminder that those strategic ads and their placement tells you that there is “none other than” these great names which includes company X. But another message you had to strain to hear was that a well equipped professional studio, as well as the home based studio, can deliver the same quality as the big boy studios without the thousand dollar coffee machines in the bedroom or garage, and with other than X’s DAW.

So, is “industry standard” fact or fiction? I’d love to hear some of your comments.

I could have been Elvis! Maybe! Or somebody? Elvis and I got $18 a night on the ’50s Louisiana Hayride

But a few ifs, ands, buts, maybes, how comes, and bad timing got in the way. My biggest problem was that I didn’t focus on a style, since I was singing all styles. How can anyone like and even play all styles of music, country, swing, Texas, jazz, classical, rock and Greek 7/8 and 9/8? I can and I did and I do (Sounds like a song title). That part has been easy for me. You have to like it or even love it to play it and/or sing it. I was raised on all kinds of music. My sister had me singing the pop songs of the day when I was six or seven years old. As I got older I’d sing like Bing Crosbyand loved the pop swing bands of the day like Woody Herman as much as I loved Bob Wills, and all the other country and western bands and singers of the day like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. We had an old piano, so I took some lessons and then my Mom bought me a big old jumbo Gibson guitar that I then learned to play when I was getting into my teens.

But first, I believe it is rather timely that I talk about this racial thing. It was bad enough being wartime and going to the movies and hearing the audience roar when a German or a Japanese pilot was shot down. It was also about that time in my life that I really saw and witnessed the racial and ethnic hatred that existed all around me, very much of which had a lasting impression on me of asking “why?” We are all made the same. Those “others” were  human beings, the same as everyone, and were treated with such total disrespect and hatred. And I could not get with this thinking. My mother, rest her soul, had an African American maid come to the house often and she had to go around to the back door to come into the house. When Mom would send me to the store, she would say, “Son go over to the (and she’d use the “d” word for Italian) store and get some bread,” or whatever. These acts of our parents, historically, were supposed to be learned and become a part of us. But some were and some weren’t. Some, I remember as being totally against all logic.

It was the day before my birthday, June 15, 1943, when my big brother, who was 17 at the time, told me he was going out and raise hell and beat up some (and he used the “n” word). It turned out to be a huge race riot when thousands marched on city hall. He was among the whites who were armed with guns, axes, and hammers. They terrorized black neighborhoods and many blacks were assaulted, and many buildings were burned.

The next day, my 12th birthday, he bragged to me about how they beat up the blacks and that they killed one. News reports are varied about how many people were killed, however ONE SUCH REPORT stated that 21 (twenty-one) were killed. So, my home town of Beaumont joined New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Mobile, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, as sites of bloody race riots in the summer of 1943.  Aside from two alleged rape cases, the Ku Klux Klan  had planned to host a regional convention of the Klan two weeks later on June 29 in Beaumont, and expected to bring 15,000 to 20,000 Klansmen from all over the South to hear the “imperial emperor” of the KKK, speak.

Without a doubt, huge media attention on this intensified racial tensions. And there I was, growing up in this deep seated hatred, meant to be passed along from generation to generation with total brainwashing. And I hated it. Later in high school, when riding the school bus, every day several of the boys would shout out racial slurs to every black person they would see along the way. And this is just a small sample.

Thank God I wasn’t influenced by all of this to follow that Deep South brainwashing, which I despised more and more as I got older. My thinking never changed and I am  even more against it now than ever before. 

Well, back to trying to grow up in a polluted environment. I  started playing guitar and singing and met Clyde Brewer, stepson of Shelly Lee Alley of  Shelly Lee Alley and the Alleycats, a prominent band in that day. Shelly invited me to work with them. One night the bass player got stoned on booze and chewing Benzedrine, and Shelly turned to me and said to play bass. What the hell? I never played bass. So I thumped around and finished the night with big blisters, but figured after that I might like to learn the bass.

Clyde told me the story of when Shelly turned to him one night and said to play fiddle, and he had never played fiddle before. So, I learned on my own with no lessons and I’ve been playing ever since. I bought an old beat up bass and really started learning, and was playing with country and pop bands and even playing with the Lamar College (now U.) dance band in Beaumont when I was 15. In high school, I was singing just about everything, and high tenor and operatic in the choir.

JP RICHARDSON 004

J.P Richardson, later the Big Bopper, and I were side by side tenors and became great friends. The irony here is that  J.P. stayed in Beaumont and became a big star and I went to New York and “also ran.” My director set me up with a scholarship to North Texas State, but although I could sing classical I just didn’t want to sing it and tie down for four years, so I turned it down. In those days people were also prejudiced with their music. Either you liked classical or you didn’t. And I just couldn’t get with classical, however I played classical bass in the high school orchestra.

I couldn’t wait to leave town after graduation, and after several road band experiences and some bass lessons, I arrived in New York at age 19, and found a room on Sixth Avenue in the block north of Radio City Music Hall, between 51st and 52nd Street. How lucky I was to be right across the street from all the famous jazz joints. I would carry my bass over to the Three Dueces

1280px-52nd_Street,_New_York,_by_Gottlieb,_1948_crop

1280px-52nd_Street,_New_York_City,_NY_0001_original

and sit in with Sol Yegged, and then over across the street to Jimmy Ryans. What a damn thrill that was. I’d walk a block the other way to Radio City Music Hall, and for fifty cents, I could see a movie, the Rockettes, the Corp de Ballet and the orchestra.

I learned from the road that when you get to New York, you go and hang out at Charlie’s Tavern, and meet other musicians.

Charlie's Tavern
Charlie’s Tavern in New York

Guys mostly never bought anything, and Charlie didn’t mind if you just hung out. I met Everette Hull, who had just formed the Ampeg Bassamp Company. He took me over to show me his first prototype of his bass with a mic mounted inside. I was later working for him building amplifiers. As I related in my last post about six months later I landed a gig at the famous old Hotel Astor in Times Square, with the highest paying pop dance music job in town. A year later, after the big bands, the Grand Ole Opry cast and band came to the Astor Roof and we were the relief band. Imagine, one of the hottest and biggest dance spots in New York, with all the Hee Hawness of the typical Country and Western music of the day, with our band there playing all the pop music of the day. And the Dixie Dinner Special was $2.00, while a full coarse dinner was $3.75

grand ole opry astor

New York just wasn’t quite ready for country and western music. But it was a most fabulous experience for me and I hadn’t even turned 21. I got to know everyone including Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Eddie Hill and all the Nashville musicians. Eddie Arnold came over with his manager, Tom Parker, to catch the show and also our pop band. 

It was at the same time that RCA Victor’s country A & R producer, Steve Sholes, heard my demo of my song, That Long Long Road of Love  and signed me to record that and three other sides. So, one night, my publisher, Al Gallico,  Steve Sholes, Charlie Grean, who was Steve’s boss at RCA and his bass player, and Colonel Tom Parker were all seated there discussing plans for developing my career. Parker wanted to manage me but I had recently signed a management contract with big band manager, John O’Connor, in New York and I wasn’t sure if I could get out of it. Actually, that turned out to be a bust  trying to get out of the contract. Sholes and Parker had already set it up for me to go down and be a regular at the, Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana, where Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and a bunch of others sprang from. Sholes and Parker brought Elvis in to the Hayride two years after me. Yeah, we both were getting paid $18 a Saturday night. It was later called the “Cradle of Stars.” I would have to pull up newly established roots in New York and head back to Texas and Louisiana, and spend some time building a following on the “Hayride.” Sholes and Parker had great plans to build me into a star, the way that they did Elvis later.

I had to stay signed with John O’Connor in New York but since he wasn’t doing anything for me I was still trying to get out of it. I gave my notice to Alan Holmes at the Astor and headed to my old home at my mom’s in Beaumont. I’d commute to the Louisiana Hayride on Saturdays and try to set up with some bands there to work with and travel and build a following.

Well, I got some boots and a Stetson, loaded my bass into its coffin, got on a train again, guitar in hand and headed for Texas.  I couldn’t pass through Lafayette, Louisiana without stopping and spending some time with my big brother, Dan, and his family, and then it was on to Beaumont with wild anticipation about the Hayride.

The moment I stepped off the train to a bunch of waiting relatives in Beaumont, the first words out of my mom’s mouth were, “Son, you got your draft notice.” Shit, there goes everything I’d been working for and hoping for, out the door. I’d have to report in less than two months. So, I went to the Hayride halfheartedly a half dozen times and had to hear from Horace Logan that I had to get back into southern country mode. I’d been up north a little too long I guess. Meanwhile, Tom Parker was losing interest because of the Army. And Steve Sholes wasn’t excited either, since we couldn’t plan anything.

TO BE CONTINUED