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.

 

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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.

A Tribute and Thanks to Paul Jean! Who the hell is Paul Jean? And what’s with Paul Jean? “MORE!”

More of what? Well, it’s a long story. Taking a look back at my old New York days, I was 19, barely out of high school, 1500 miles from home, had played a lot of places for my age, on the road for a time, played in Canada twice, and all the big hotels in New York with different bands. My vocal and drama coaches had drilled it into me to live and breathe the lyrics of a song when singing. And I did. It was 1951 and I had the best steady playing and highest paid band job in New York with the Alan Holmes band in the Hotel Astor Broadway Lounge.

TME SQUARE ASTOR

1951 – Looking north on Broadway is the Astor on the left. Look close at the marquee and you’ll see “Sheraton Astor Hotel – Alan Holmes & orch.”  That’s us!

NY HOTEL ASTOR

1951 – Looking south on Broadway is the Astor on the right. The Broadway Lounge was there on the right where you see the second floor circular windows.  

On New Years Eve we could get a great view out on the crowds from the center window over the marquee, and see the ball drop. In the summers we were the so-called relief band with the big bands like Sammy Kaye and Freddy Martin up in the Astor Roof Ballroom.

I would put so much feeling into a song that some nights, Martin’s boy singer, Merv Griffin, showed a bit of jealousy of my singing. But then I showed a little jealousy when the Hollywood starlets like Polly Bergen and others came to swoon over Merv. On the east side of the ballroom was a beautiful view of the Broadway lights in Times Square, and looking down west from the ballroom was usually a most beautiful view of a row of big passenger ships, docked on the Hudson River. I had never flown in a plane, nor been on a ship, and since those beautiful ships were such a sight to see, I always dreamed of going on one. Maybe someday I might play with a band on a cruise, I thought. Well, I finally did, but many years later, and it turned out to be a highlight in my career.

It was now the ’60s and I had some exciting times, great job at Columbia Records, singing and playing with some great New York bands, singing demos for some great writers, and singing on some great paying commercials. One of the bandleaders I freelanced and played and sang club dates with, Paul Jean, also booked cruises. So, one night I told him about the Astor view of all the ships, and how my biggest dream was to go on one of them. I asked him what would be the possibility of this happening? It just so happened that he was taking a small band on the Queen Mary in three weeks. Would I be interested? Damn straight, I’d get some time off from Columbia. You don’t make much money, but there is free room and board and a chance to see some far off places in the Caribbean.

I didn’t know at the time, and it wasn’t made public, but once on board, word soon got out that the cast and crew including Frank Sinatra starring, were aboard the ship for the filming of the 1966 movie, Assault On A Queen. We had a good band and I did my share of singing the hits and standards. I was singing one of my best songs, More, in the ship’s elegant main lounge one night, and it happened to be a song that Sinatra had recorded on an album a couple or more years prior. I didn’t know it but he was sitting in the back of the lounge and when I had finished, he rose to his feet and applauded. I was dumbstruck. The greatest of singers, Frank Sinatra was standing and applauding for Don Meehan? Wow! Was that something to write home about or what? I went over and thanked him, met briefly and heard him tell me to keep up the good work. What a frigging thrill! I thanked him, shook his hand and I never saw him again. He had been my idol since high school days, and there he was cheering me on. This event did wonders for my confidence over the years. If Sinatra liked what he heard, then I must have had something to offer, I felt. In addition, that song with its meaningful words, became my favorite to this day as you’ll see later in this post.

Arriving back from the Nassau port as the shuttle neared the ship, we had passed right by a barge with the end doors open and down, and set up with movie cameras about a hundred yards away from the ship, obviously preparing to film our departure in an hour or so. I figured that our sailing that night would probably be a major scene in the movie, so I decided I would be in the movie. I went to my cabin and grabbed the bedspread and went to the position under the first lifeboat on the starboard side. I’d be that tiny speck up there under the lifeboat waving the bedspread. When we began to sail, I unfurled the spread and began to wave it high and wide to the cameras.

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What would you think if you saw the movie and some idiot was waving a bedspread under that first lifeboat

When I saw the movie, they obviously edited it to where the ship was well on the way and to a point where no waving bedspread could be seen. I probably disrupted an expensive one take only scene. And I asked myself through the years, “Why would you pull such a dumb stunt like that?” No answers have emerged, except my usual craziness, and to say, “Yes, I was there.” But the memories of Frank Sinatra applauding me that night would be etched in my mind forever, and Hail to the Queen!

Four years later, unbeknownst to me, that undear first wife had been secretly planning a divorce, and while I was in LA recording the Barbara Streisand movie, On a Clear Day, she had cleaned me out of everything, the savings and checking accounts, safe box, and stocks and bonds that I had lovingly put in both names. Dumb ass I was and in total shock, since I had no clue it was coming. Being totally broke, I was never ever so pissed off in my life as when she handed me a card with her lawyer’s name on it. A bloody divorce ensued that left me with at least my CBS job, a few club dates and a struggle to stay alive.

I met up playing with old friend and bandleader Paul Jean again at that time and I asked him if he might have a cruise that I could go on and get me away from the shit for a few days. The answer was yes, and the timing was perfect. He would be leading a trio on a ten day cruise job on the great ship, the France, and would love to have me there. And I would love it even More.   SS_France_Hong_Kong_74

The beautiful ship, The France

It was a great getaway.  As the greatest luck would have it, the second day out I met Fran, from Philly, and we wound up spending all the time we could together. I would sing some of her favorite songs in the lounge, one of which also happened to be my favorite, More, and of course, I would sing it a couple times every night. The more I sang it, the more I felt the true meaning of the words. We really got to know each other during those few days, as well as our togetherness on as many days as possible after the cruise, and falling in love. About nine months later we said our vows to spend the rest of our lives together, and Fran became the true woman in my life, my hero, my queen, my strength, and my everything. The words of that song, More, could not have had truer meaning then or now.

Two years later we were forced to go for custody of my children, since their mother was hauled in for neglect. There was a huge custody battle, but with Fran at my side, we finally got custody, and learned the ex had paid judges with my hard earned money she took. Imagine the fears, worries and anxiety of a young woman, barely 28 years old, suddenly forced into and having to become the mother of my four neglected kids. But neither I nor my children would have survived without the More than the greatest love of Fran, there by my side all the way.

And once more, a Tribute and Thanks to Paul Jean, for bringing Fran and me together. On July 16, 2013, Fran and I will celebrate our forty-first anniversary. And every word of that song, More, rings loud and true now as it did then. We’ve lived through the good and the bad as the song goes: “waking, sleeping, laughing, weeping.” And as a side note, I can still see Frank Sinatra standing there, applauding and cheering me on after singing those same words. Maybe he was somehow seeing into the future and my growing love for my loving wife, Fran, who is “More than the greatest love the world has known  –  No one else could love you MORE.”

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY SWEETHEART!!!!   July 16, 2013 And may we have many many MORE!