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

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.

 

 

 

How did he get that drum sound on Dylan? And how did you get that name, “Roughmix Don.”

Just so happened that a guy contacted me from a forum a couple years ago where they were chatting about the drums on a recording I had done. It happened to be the Bob Dylan Desire Album that I engineered and mixed in 1975.

“Hello. I’m new here,” wrote Dolphin King,  “And I hope this is the right place to ask this question: On Dylan’s 1975/76 ‘Desire’, the drum sound is ABSOLUTELY OUT OF THIS WORLD –>*DELICIOUS*<–, I mean particularly the snare hits. For example, check out the song ‘Isis’. the snare on that album sounds so solid and powerful, I describe it as inter-stellar-stone-age snare sound. Does anyone here know how that sound was achieved? How do you get such a sound? I MUST know. I’ve posted this on a few different forums. MY KINGDOM FOR AN ANSWER!
Yours,
D.K.”

Well, I tuned in for awhile reading some sarcasm and assorted smartass remarks and DK came back with, “I’ve received some very different answers from different people on this, including on different forums. But thanks again for your reply…By the way, what would your reverb/delay setup be here, if you were trying to get that sound?”

Archtop came back with, “I think it sounds like a real chamber reverb, and there is some on the snare, but not much, at times it seems like I can hear a hint of a tiny short delay (80ms.) on the snare, but in the mix it still seems fairly dry, the verb is sorta washed out and you don’t notice it so easily. If I was trying to get that sound, I would not be concerned with the verb or delay, but look for a snare that is dry and bright on it’s own.”

Seems kind of strange seeing guys write about and speculate and guess what you had done on a recording. So, one of them spotted my name in the credits and sent me an email and asked me to come on the sight.

Posting as “RoughmixDon, I wrote him back, “Thanks for inviting me in. I guess I’m proud to say that ‘Desire’ was one of my best recordings. Drums and bass are my favorites to record. Maybe because I’m a bass player too. I tried to load up the story of the ‘Desire’ session but it cut me off in the middle. Maybe I’ll just have to send it in two or three parts.”

I filled them in with what I had done on that session, since I had taken a lot of notes through the years with a book in mind and then I wrote, “My best advice on trying to achieve the same drum sound is to put “Isis” or one of the others up in your program and a-b and try to match it on the timeline, pitch wise, eq wise and strength wise, echo wise, and level wise.”

In fact, I think this is good advice for anyone attempting to recreate the sound of what someone has recorded. As a side note here, the drums you hear on the song, My Silent Symphony at best advice was very much like Dylan’s fabulous “Desire” drummer, Howie Wyeth, with the great Ronnie Traxler on drums. Dynamite! I recorded Ronnie and all others the same way. You didn’t just set up a microphone, we’d sometimes spend upwards of an hour getting a good drum sound. By the way, I overdubbed about thirty of my voices on My Silent Symphony – Should have been a hit.

“By the way,” DK asked. “Where did you get that name, RoughmixDon?

Well, I explained that for a reference copy, I would set up my mix on a studio session with 8 sub-mixes and ride the faders with 8 fingers riding from the beginning to the end of a song, and almost always, I would come up with a mix that would be at or near a final mix. In a three month session with “Miami” Steve Van Zandt, who hung nicknames on everyone, he hung RoughmixDon on me. Thus was 1977, and I have used it ever since. Later on, I’ll be telling about that grueling winter of ’77, locked in the studio with “Miami Steve,” ‘Southside” Johnny, the Jukes and the “Boss,” Bruce Springsteen. And yes, it was Steve who named him the “Boss.”