It’s December

It’s December and time to tell everyone about my songs in my It’s December album for everyone’s December holiday, especially the song, “It’s December.” It mentions all the December holidays.  Hear it at Spotify at  https://play.spotify.com/album/5qxEjBVSrNPRuuxzhZTVou  And if you like it you can download the album or any song in it at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/donmeehan1, or any of your other favorite sites like iTunes, Amazon, etc. My favorite line in it is: “Some will celebrate the eight days of Hanukah.  And some will decorate their big Christmas trees.  There’ll be folks lighting candles for Kwanzas. And the prayers of one and all will be “let there be peace.”

It was  a great pleasure making this Holiday album from top to bottom.

Jingle Bell Rock is my jazz five part harmony rendition of my old songwriter friends, Jim Booth and Joe Beale.

“It’s December” is a song I always wanted to write to celebrate all the holidays in December. The lyric goes: “Hey, it’s December And high time to celebrate For gettin’ through another year. Its been a long time waiting for the months to go by. But the great days are here again with tons of good cheer In December, can’t wait for the holidays and the great ways for spending time with family and friends you wish it wouldn’t end when you hear ’em playing Auld Lang Syne.”                                                                                      

Bridge: “Some will celebrate the eight days of Hannuka and some will decorate their big Christmas trees. There’ll be folks lighting candles for Kwanzaa and the prayers of one and all will be let there be peace. In December, the days we’ve been waiting for and kids like me lovin’ snow Comes the twenty-first and wintertime, ain’t  nothing like December time and it will never grow old.”                                                                                                          

“Hallelujah Rock” (Arr. Don Meehan) is another world record overdubbing my voice 136 times and put to a rock beat, with yours truly also doing all the instruments.                                                                           

“Hallelujah Chorus” (Arr. Don Meehan) is the a Capella version of my 136 voice “Chorus of One.”                                                                                                                                            

“Silent Night Out There Somewhere” (Arr. Ray Moore) is the sound track to my music video that is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4gG_8qdRdU.  Global probes into the far reaches of space, and especially the recent Orion Project to probe possible life on Mars has prompted me to produce this video. Thanks to some Public Domain images and videos from NASA, Hubble, and STSci, and the video from Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology of “Curiosity Entry/Decent and Landing celebration, this video strongly suggests a realization and belief of a possible Christmas event with the birth of Jesus on some other planet, light years away from Earth.                                                                

 

 

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

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.

My first splice wasn’t on tape

Well, I guess everyone can assume by now that RoughmixDon is an overdub freak, in addition to being an actual music and recording freak. In another post I mentioned about 227 voices on America The Beautiful, and that was in 2003.

Adding a voice a year now puts me up to 237 voices in 2013. I was hoping for doing it by July 4. But it’s not going to happen..

My very first interest in recording occurred back in grade school. I don’t remember too much about the times, but I was singing when I was seven and they told me I could sing 50 songs at that time. My sister played the piano and we had a weekly program on AM station KRIC in Beaumont, Texas. My greatest fascination, I recall, was to watch them make recordings in the back room. Then one day, the engineer dropped one and it shattered. They were glass discs coated with something black that spun around while being cut with a needle. Not too many years later I was still singing and learned the guitar and was in a country band that played on the same station. There they were, recording on the same machine, I guess, but on aluminum with the black stuff. Acetate, I guess.

Sometime in high school, before tape was introduced, our director obtained a wire recorder, where a long piece of steel wire ran through a machine, like a tape recorder and recorded magnetically. It wasn’t great fidelity as we know it today, but what a thrill it was to sit and watch this little thin piece of wire play back our choir. That is, until one day after recording a wonderful choral performance of the Hallelujah Chorus, the wire broke. What to do? On top of getting tangled in a big mess on the reel no one knew what to do with fixing it so I got out the book and studied it.

Webster-Chicago_wire_recorder

A wire recorder from the late ’40s

First of all, unlike tape recorders, the jackasses who made these things provided no take-up reel, so you had to rewind the whole long wire onto the fixed reel before you could even use the machine again on something else. There was a roll of tangled wire on each little reel. The instructions for a break were to tie the ends  together. I was assigned the task. Just how much sound would we lose? With the wire running at 24 inches per second, we’d need at least 2 inches for a good square knot, and then trim the ends. Maybe I can do it with 1 inch, I thought. So, they got me a pair of tweezers and that was my very first edit. It wasn’t so bad. So, we lost about a 15th of a second, heard a little bump as it went through and I was the hero.

I was a soloist in the choir and also sang tenor. I completely memorized the tenor part to the Hallelujah Chorus, and through the years I would sing it at times. I’ll be telling of how I recorded myself doing all the voices as a chorus of one. The interest in recording stayed with me for a long time, especially, since I was a singer-songwriter and played bass and guitar, and couldn’t afford to pay studio rates to record my demos. So while I was studying radio and television at RCA Institutes in New York City in the middle ’50s, I decided that audio and recording was my thing.

With the advent of four track (quarter track) on a quarter inch tape machine, (two tracks one way and two the other way by flipping the tape) I decided to reinvent the system for myself. I had a two track machine so I bought some of those quarter track heads and mounted a record head to record two track normally, and mounted a playback head next to it to record the other two tracks. I jury-rigged it so I could record on all four tracks one at a time in one direction. As if that wasn’t enough, I had to buy another machine so I could mix the 4 tracks. Long story short, I could record three tracks of instruments and my voice and mix that to the other machine. I would then take the tape over to Charlie Brave’s Allegro Studio on Broadway and have him cut an acetate. That’s what your ten inch 78 was called, which was an aluminum coated with acetate. They weren’t the greatest recordings but it was a start. Later, I bought a Presto disc cutter that I could cut my own demos. The problem with that machine was what was recorded would play back from the inside out, like CDs do now. Ten years later I would be mixing an album with Les Paul at Columbia and sharing some stories of our early recording days, and playing bass on several of his recordings in the mix room.