Dear Mr. Desper
By Cam Mott (Cam) on Thursday, February 7, 2002 - 10:06 am:
hoping the board is fixed and I just wanted to re-posted my question about the
Beach Boys and production.
If I remember right you had said that others, primarily Carl, were taking over those duties and described the process as the musical content being ripped from Brian's control. I hope I'm stating the gist accurately.
I remarked that some had the impression that Brian had requested that others take over those responsibilities and queried if the take over was actually more "hostile" then thought.
Thanks for the memories, when you have time.
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Thursday, February 7, 2002 - 08:53 pm:
ASKED BY: Cam Mott (Cam) on Wednesday, January 30, 2002 - 03:19 am:
"...during 20/20 control of the musical content was "ripped"
from Brian, we [or was it just me] were under the impression that Brian asked
Carl to take over those responsibilities. Do you mean it was more of a
There has never been any “hostile” relationship between Carl and Brian Wilson. I cannot remember Brian showing anger at any time I have known him. Everyone who was ever associated with Carl came to know his demeanor as angelic.
To put things in perspective, always remember that everything you hear or read about any musical group, including the Beach Boys, must be taking within the framework of THE ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS. Every band member has a contract with (in BB case) Capitol Records. Also, the group collectively is under contract. Also, the group’s enterprise, Beach Boy Productions is under contract with each band member and with Capitol Records.
Of course, Brian worked closely with all the other members of The Beach Boys, however it was becoming very evident to him and to Capitol that he was not the only gifted one in the group. As each member composed and produced within the group, only two ways were available for this new material to be released and to generate income for the group, that being ether solo or group. Capitol would have nothing of each member going off to do their own stuff so the outlet for the new stuff was distend to be the group.
Capitol repeatedly saw two pathways developing. (1) Brian becoming experimental in the studio and his music taking an esoteric turn (that is out commercial acceptance), and (2) talent (good talent) developing within the group – already under contract to produce and perform.
Management, both Capitol and BBP, were advancing much money to the group’s members and this “loan” had to be repaid – it was in the contract. So, to answer your question Cam Mott, think of Carl’s takeover not as “hostile” but rather by necessity, and out of love for his brother, who was sluffing and staggering under the tremendous pressure of producing a new hit. Someone had to get a contractually required album recorded – or else go broke. If Brian was mentally spent, it seemed natural for the younger brother just step up to the plate and start to play ball. What could Brian say but good? Brian welcomed the help and certainly needed a pressure reduction just to get re-focused. Thank God, both brothers’ close association with Brian had familiarized them with his style and the task at hand.
If Carl had not assumed the role of leader at this time, you would not have seen any Beach Boy future develop. Capitol wanted its (already paid for) album – quick, somebody do something! – Carl did, and everyone was grateful.
I hope the above helps set the stage of understanding for you.
~Stephen W. Desper
By Marie (Ne_pa) on Friday, February 8, 2002 - 05:47 am:
What is the status of the BBF&F videotapes that were ordered shortly before Christmas? I know you mentioned that maybe they would be sent late-January or February. Thanks for any info.
By Cam Mott (Cam) on Friday, February 8, 2002 - 09:48 am:
Thanks for your reply. I didn't think there was hostility between Brian and Carl and I'm glad to have it confirmed. We often hear that others in the group supposedly *were* working to take "control" from Brian during this period, would you be comfortable in illuminating those rumors?
I was lucky enough to have met Jim Lockert last Fall, he remembered your acquaintance and spoke kindly of you. I'm sorry to tell you, if you didn't already know, that Jim passed away just before Thanksgiving last year but is survived by his wife.
By STE (Ste) on Friday, February 8, 2002 - 10:13 am:
Talking about the tapes I have to say a was expecting more that 2 songs... still cool, though.
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Friday, February 8, 2002 - 11:02 am:
TO MARIE's COMMENTS: All first-run copies were mailed in December. So far I
have two envelopes from fans for additional second-run copies. At the end of
Feb. I'll close the offer and make/mail copies.
REPLY TO CAM MOTT's COMMENTS: Thanks for the update. I did not know that Jim had passed on. He was a great fellow. Chuck Britz has departed too. One of the best old-school engineers in Hollywood.
REPLY TO STE's COMMENTS: Too bad the old posts are gone, but in the original discription of the offering I clearly stated that "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "God Only Knows" were all that had been mixed to picture and the only two songs being sent on the cassette. Still, glad you enjoyed them -- and the main thing is we helped the cause.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Bungalow Bill (Bungalow_bill) on Friday, February 8, 2002 - 01:01 pm:
Thanks for giving us another shot , Stephen . Sorry that the board boogie man got hungry .
By Topgazza (Topgazza) on Saturday, February 9, 2002 - 04:48 am:
Yes indeed Bung. Stephen I enjoy your "meandering" posts, if I may call them that. They maintain the memories they way they should be. Some facts, some side views and a large portion of fond nostalgia laced with a few memory lapses that just add charm. There are plenty of people who can fill in the facts for those that crave them and good for them too. We need 'em. Me I felt like I lost my virginity, all over again, when I learnt some of the more unsavoury facts about Brian and the band over the past few years. There are some things I wish I didn't know and just have the music. Thanks again Stephen.
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Saturday, February 9, 2002 - 11:19 am:
TO TOPGAZZA's COMMENTS: We all have skeletons in our proverbial closets.
Unfortunately the world keeps looking into Brian's, giving the poor fellow no
private life nor peace. However, I can assure you that all the bad you hear is
blown way out of proportion. The real Brian is in the music. He uses it to
communicate directly with you, the listener. Therewith he transends the
bullshit of The Music Business and the rags that want to mop up all the dirt.
Basically Brian and all the members of THE BEACH BOYS have shown me, time and
again, that they are like us all, productive, seeking fun and security,
mindfull of their rights, and proud of their accomplishments. You could not ask
for better friends. So, my friend, do not be put-off or disillusioned by all
the crap you hear. I doubt any of us would be the better if the world's spot
light illumined our secret past or that we would endure as well as they have
with their success at such a tender age. Go back and just enjoy their music
keeping in mind that we are all part of the same human family.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Saturday, February 9, 2002 - 11:35 am:
REPLY CAM MOTT's COMMENTS: No hostal nor friendly take-over of the musical aspect of BB was ever planned. In hindsight it may seem that control was "taken" from Brian, but it was not taken, it was assumed. It was a natural thing, given the events of the time. On the business level, Brian gave control (as chairman of the board of American Productions and Beach Boy Enterprises) over to professional managers. This was necessary to maintain financial success for the group. All the in-fighting you read about happens with most musical acts and even between business type partners too. It's just part of life. ~Stephen W. Desper
By Joe_blow (Joe_blow) on Saturday, February 9, 2002 - 04:31 pm:
If you're still around here Mr. Desper, I was wondering if you could give me a little insight as to how good musically Dennis was in the studio by the late 60's. Did he really play so many instruments? Thank you kindly.
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Saturday, February 9, 2002 - 08:44 pm:
TO JOE BLOW's COMMENTS: Although Dennis has a reputation for banging more than
his drums while on the road, he was a musical natural in the studio. If he did
not know how to play an instrument, and he wanted to use it on a track, he
would learn enough of the playing technique to record and then continue to
learn. Too bad he was treated as the black sheep of the family -- but it forced
him into more solo situations. As I have posted before, he recorded in the
morning and the rest of the gang came in during the afternoon hours. Depending
on what was happening, he either stayed or went to surf or whatever. I'd say
about half his time was spent by himself in the studio (with this engineer). As
an independent he recorded lots of song starts, but only stayed with them a few
days -- short attention span. It was usually on encouragement from the group
that caused him to finish a piece.
He was a complex personality, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Joe_blow (Joe_blow) on Sunday, February 10, 2002 - 12:44 am:
Thanks so much for the comments. I would alsolike to compliment you on the great work you did during your career. I particularly enjoyed the Til I Die alternate mix.
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Monday, February 11, 2002 - 09:29 am:
TO ALL OF YOU FOR A FUN CHAT. I've got to attend to business for a while.
Later, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Susan (Susan) on Monday, February 11, 2002 - 10:25 am:
Thanks for your informative posts, Steve. Come back soon!
By Bungalow Bill (Bungalow_bill) on Tuesday, February 12, 2002 - 08:45 am:
Gee Willikers ! Stephen Desper , Brad Elliot, Alan Boyd , Jon Stebbins , AGD , Don Cunningham (did I miss anyone ?) all on the board at the same time ! Is Cabinessence cool , or what ?
By Mikie (Mikie) on Tuesday, February 12, 2002 - 09:09 am:
Yes it is Bungalow. And as long as nobody says anything to piss 'em off, I'm sure they'd be willing to hang out with us for awhile!
By Susan (Susan) on Tuesday, February 12, 2002 - 09:22 am:
things just run their course, you know. It's not always about being *pissed
off* - sometimes, things are just *over*.
And sometimes it's just a time factor thing. Like.....we ALL have days when we don't post here, because we don't have time to GO here. Nobody's pissed off, they're just out of time.
Sing along with me now: It's just a matter of time..........
By Mikie (Mikie) on Tuesday, February 12, 2002 - 09:47 am:
I'm waiting for you
Sad with nothing to do
It's just a matter of time.
It's just a matter of tiiiiiiiime.
Purty good, eh?
By Susan (Susan) on Tuesday, February 12, 2002 - 10:00 am:
I *knew* i could count on you, Mikie!!!!
By Textus (Textus) on Tuesday, February 12, 2002 - 10:18 am:
That's a relief. I was deathly worried that something I said about Texans mostly in jest had chased Gina away. She only seems to post about posting these days, and I worry it's my fault.
By Susan (Susan) on Tuesday, February 12, 2002 - 10:24 am:
Nah, Steve, i think if you were pissing Gina off she'd tell you. I knows *I* would, if you were pissing ME off.....
By Mikie (Mikie) on Tuesday, February 12, 2002 - 10:33 am:
Nobody can piss off the Queen of Delete like I can. NOBODY.
By Bungalow Bill (Bungalow_bill) on Tuesday, February 12, 2002 - 11:21 am:
QUESTION FOR BRIAN WILSON ......... hey, it's worth a try .
By Susan (Susan) on Tuesday, February 12, 2002 - 11:57 am:
Yeah, but you've gotta ask a actual question, doncha think?
Sorry Mr Desper. Your WAY ahead of us all
By Markrudd (Markrudd) on Saturday, February 23, 2002 - 08:34 pm:
like Brian think in 6 part harmony.We(me at least), have enough trouble with
just ONE vocal!
Didnt want to sound rude before. I'm just confused by it all!!
You said 3dD stereo is closest to the matrix then N-2-2. But isnt 3D only 270degrees whereas N-2-2 is the full 360'?
Why cant music cd's be played on a dvd player with the n-2-2 anyway? I know this is for movies, but how do you get the benifit of BOTH music and movies? Is there a player with BOTH features?
You said you know of only a few matrix stereo released cd's. So why bother using ANY of this new technology like Spatializer? Thats really my main question I've been trying to find out. Apart from a few cd's and maybe(hopefully oneday) the matrix releases of 20/20, Sunflower ets, does it make ANY difference to NORMAL stereo music cd's?
One more question please! You said you were listning to Cabinessence and heard Brians vocal in the backround. But that was recorded before you started on the BB's records? How did THAT get mixed in matrix stereo? Does that mean ALL the BB's catalog could also be done?
By Mikie (Mikie) on Saturday, February 23, 2002 - 08:46 pm:
why do you have to start a new thread every time you have something to say to
or have a question for Mr. Desper, Mark? Just ask the question on the same
thread Steve Desper and everybody else is already talking on. It's easier that
way, you know?
Just a thought. :>)
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Sunday, February 24, 2002 - 12:55 am:
TO MARKRUDD’s COMMENTS: Thank you Mark, for your interest in recording
technology. I have spent a lifetime developing technique and methodology
concerned with presenting spatial impression to the listener that is realist
and enveloping. I cannot spend the time to explain this complex subject without
first knowing your background. If you visit http://www.spatializer.com // support // frequently asked
questions, and read the answers, many of your questions will be made clear. I
wrote the Q&A section.
1) Perhaps I can clear up your first paragraph confusion by telling you that 3D Stereo and N-2-2 are both reproduction devices. The matrix used for my recordings deals with production. Production and reproduction are not the same.
2) Degrees of envelopment are pure sales department conceptions. Both can do both. Both are also capable of elevation imaging, within reason.
3) Of course you can play CD’s on DVD players and use N-2-2 if the manufacturer has allowed that programming. Some do, some don’t. Try with and without, you decide which one you like best, and listen that way. It’s art – there is neither right nor wrong. Again see spatializer.com. This very question is answered there. The “N” in N-2-2 stands for “any number of inputs” N=Number (It’s a math term). Therefore the N can be two channels of stereo from a CD or five channels of movie track from a DVD. If the manufacture implemented the algorithm correctly it should work for two or five track playback.
4) You asked, “does it make any difference to NORMAL stereo?” So-called normal stereo reproduction is flawed. Again I refer you to spatializer.com only because I don’t want to re-type what is already available elsewhere on the web. READ and then ask me again. However, the best answer to your question is to LISTEN to stereo and then 3D enhancement – which is really a correction to the listening process, a correction that makes it possible to hear the full potential of stereophonic reproduction.
5) I seem to remember mixing cabinessence. In fact I sang on it!
Keep on Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Susan (Susan) on Sunday, February 24, 2002 - 06:20 am:
I seem to remember mixing cabinessence. In fact I sang on it!"
Gee, Steve, i hope they paid you union scale!
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Sunday, February 24, 2002 - 10:11 am:
TO SUSAN's COMMENTS: Better than . . .
Carl and I had an understanding that I wanted to sing or play on every BB song in some way. I'm not a bad singer so at some point along the way one of them would run the board and recorder and I would go into the studio and sing with the guys. Just one line or phrase, buried deep in the mix -- but I could still say I sang on the song. This was all kind of an inside joke -- we had a lot of fun in those days!!
Alan even honoured that old tradition on "Loop de Loop" 29 years later. You know the carnavel barker line, "Hurry, Hurry, Hurry, Step right up ..." Well, that's me being a barker in the 21st century!
As to the union, I joined the musician's union as a moog player per Carl's suggestion. Before I joined, running the moog was part of my engineering duties. After I joined I could bill them as a musician on top of the engineering fees, plus the union rules allowed me to double bill them as musician + conductor -- seems union rules permit a single musician to conduct himself. All union dates appoint one of the playrs on the date to be conductor. That person gets double-rate.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Susan (Susan) on Sunday, February 24, 2002 - 10:37 am:
just a never-ending font of information, Steve! And how did they decide who got
to be the conductor? Were there [are there] certain cats who *do* take control?
Or is it more of an honorary title that gets passed around over time?
And......i've gotta ask........which ones are "your" songs?
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Sunday, February 24, 2002 - 02:36 pm:
TO SUSAN's COMMENT: "My" songs? -- After 30 years have passed,
couldn't tell you. Once in a while I remember when I am listening, but
generally can't tell you which songs, leave along what parts. But, almost every
As to union conductors... the "conductor" title usually goes to the contractor, that is the cat who calls all the other cats. By way of example, let's say we need to put some horns on a track or two. A phone call goes out to "the horn guy" for a horn session date using, say, three 'bones, two trumps' and a flute/sax. Then it's up to "the horn guy" to assemble his people based on their schedules and abilities and the chemistry between the ensemble players. Not always the same people. When the date does happen, he represents the "union" aspects of the group. He calls the breaks and overtime. He fills out the paperwork and submits to the union. The union sends out a bill for services. For this, the conductor (contractor) gets paid double for the date. Remember, this is Hollywood -- a recording haven -- where people make a complete living being session side men, maybe doing three or four different three-hour sessions per day, all over town, on different types of music. Heavy union towns like NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, Nashville -- all have professional side-man musicians who make this their daily work.
Since you asked, here's an interesting union rule. Suppose you are a string player. You come to the date. Your part is recorded. Then the tape is backed up and you play the same part again. As far as the union is concerned, it's the same as hiring another string player, i.e., one player doubling on two tracks equals two players on one track. So, if you have twenty string players playing background on a song, then you record the same notes again on another track (to thicken the sound) you must pay each player twice (and the conductor four times). It's as if you hired fourty string players to play it once. This can get to be rather pricy. The rate is around $400.00 per three-hour session. Double is $800 per player. Not bad money for the musician, but for the studio -- let's see -- twenty strings times two, times $400, equals $16,000 just for the players. Add to that the engineers and studio costs you are up to twenty grand!! just for a string overdub!! Now you know why albums cost so much!
Here's another union rule. Suppost you get a call to play the theme for a TV series. It's a big date with horns, percussion, strings, and a couple of harps. Big bucks. You play the entire theme. As far as the union is concerned, every time that TV show has a new episode and requires a theme (usually the same theme) for the beginning of the show, the studio can either hire new musicians to play the theme again or pay the original musicians for each new airing of the show. So if you are fortunate enough to play on the first theme, and the show runs for a typical 20 or 30 episodes for the broadcast season, expect to get a $400 check in the mail for each new airing as if you played all 20 or 30 themes, even if you never pick up your instrument again. Not bad huh?
Now let's bring this discussion back to Brian Wilson. When he started, all the studios were unionized, including the engineers. (I myself am a member of IATSE, local 695 Hollywood.) He could deal with the musian's union. He was even part of that. But a typical Columbia or Capitol studio session would find the union engineers mercilessly stopping a session for their break when the red-second-hand hit the 12 o'clock mark exactly. I mean, they didn't care if you were recording the best lead since sliced bread. Even if you only had three notes to go -- BANG -- the recording engineer would press the stop button, the mixer would close the master fader, and walk away to their smoke and coffee. This would drive poor Brian up the wall. I mean, you can't turn on creativity like a faucet. As a musician, you know what "getting into a groove" is all about. So Brian has a studio full of musicians or even full of his BB group of singers -- they have finally, after fifty minutes of rehearsal, found their "groove" and -- BANG!! It's break time for the engineers. The musician's will continue (into overtime of course) but not the union engineers. You may have lost that "groove" forever.
This is the reason that Brian ventured over to Western (at 6000 Sunset Blvd.), one of the first non-union or "independent" studios to spring up in Hollywood. There he met Chuck Britz and fell in love with Studio 3. No more stopping just because the clock said 12:00. Now when he found his "groove" he could play it out. I would venture to say that one of the reasons the so called "smile sessions" came to be incomplete was because of all the false starts from union rules of those studios. And to top things off -- Brian could not touch the console at a union studio. I have seen a Columbia Studio engineer actually slap Brian's hand when, out of desperation, he would reach to make a fader move for a cue that the engineer forgot, while recording a live date. Very frustrating for talent such as Brian's. Over at Western, Chuck welcomed Brian's involvement -- and they both went on to make many great records.
Today, most union shops are now motion picture and television or broadcasting facilities. The independent recording studio deals with R&R, Jazz, and that kind of stuff.
The music industry...you got to love it,
~Stephen W. Desper
By Boxer_monkey (Boxer_monkey) on Sunday, February 24, 2002 - 03:19 pm:
I have a question for Mr. Desper that I hope hasn't been answered elsewhere: Why aren't you the one coordinating the last decades' remasters instead of Linnett and the other guys? (Also, what's the best way to mike a piano?)
By Susan (Susan) on Sunday, February 24, 2002 - 05:16 pm:
Sounds like a good gig for the players, boy....but a nightmare for the studios to pay. So would non-union houses like Western have to hire non-union cats for the jobs, or would the union guys take gigs there? For scale? Less than scale? They couldn't do that, could they? How did that work?
By Markrudd (Markrudd) on Sunday, February 24, 2002 - 08:41 pm:
always thought you were more than a pretty face Stephen. Your really a Beach
Boy in disguise!
Have been looking at the Q+A at Spatializer.com and have been to a store looking at DVD player's and saw a nice Toshiba with the Spatializer N-2-2(n to 2 not n two two!) feature on it. Now I have to see what the wife say's now!
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Monday, February 25, 2002 - 12:02 pm:
TO BOXER_MONKEY’s COMMENT: There are engineers who specialize in making records
and others who specialize in restoration. The recordings I did thirty years ago
were optimized for LP release. The change to CD format requires expert
attention to other aspects of the recording transfer. Linnett, Boyd, and others
are experts in restoration of the music itself and skilled at creating the
overall packaging required for a successful re-issue. Also, I have a business
to run and involved in neurological research. I really could not do justice to
any re-issue project. BB reissues are in better hands with Linnett, Boyd and
There is no “best way” to mic just as there is no “best way” to paint a picture of a piano. I have several books (yes whole books) on the subject of recording the piano. Are we miking it alone or with a room of other musicians? Do you want room sound too? Does it have to blend with percussion or harmonies? What kind of music is being played? Who made the instrument? How does the performer play the instrument?
The piano is one of the hardest instruments to record. This is because it is an omni directional propagating energy source, or in other words, the sound comes from all parts of the piano.
My standard set-ups:
Rock & Roll sound to be mixed with many other tracks, recorded by itself – Lid removed. Three condenser mics facing down and set for figure eight pattern spaced evenly across a diagonal from the short strings to the long strings. Although the figure-eight pattern has the backside of the mic looking at the ceiling, the use of the F8 pattern is to reduce harmonic distortion, more present if a cardioid pattern were to be used.
Rock & Roll sound to be mixed with many other tracks, recorded with other instrument in the same room – Lid down and padded. Same mics inside but set a cardioid pattern.
Jazz , everyone plays at the same time -- Lid in concert setting, two condensers facing the reflection from the inside of the lid. A blanket may be needed draped over the opening but the lid remains up.
Classical, Solo – Lid in concert setting. For this type the room has a great deal of influence. The piano is moved around the room, studio, or stage. Once the best coupling of the piano to the room in which it is played, is found, three condenser microphones with large diaphragms are set several feet to the side of the instrument facing the reflection from the lid. Omni directional patterns are used to capture the room and the piano. The microphones must use external elastic suspension holders to prevent low frequency coupling of structure borne vibrations from reaching the microphones. In some cases I may use Type C Spatializer recording matrix.
There are as many mic setups for the piano as there are engineers. Everyone has their way of doing things. Another factor to consider is speed of setup. Many times, there is no time to adjust microphones for the fine points, so general setup situations have to do.
Happy Listening to all 88 keys, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Monday, February 25, 2002 - 12:19 pm:
TO SUSAN’s COMMENT: Hello Susan, The studios are paid by the record company.
The musicians are too. The billing comes from the union. There is no
requirement for union studios to only hire union musicians. But many union musicians
will not work on productions with mixed union and non-union musicians. Union
musicians working for less than scale can expect to be fined by the union or
removed from union membership.
All movies made under the union banner (IATSE) must use union musicians, union camera men, union sound men, union costumers, union truck drivers, etc … all union. Even the release must and only can go to union theaters using union projectionists. I don’t know if the popcorn maker has to be in a union or not, but the box it comes in must be made in a union factory!!
On the other hand, the music recording business is not very unionized because there are so many popular musicians. But if you are a serious musician or one who uses your talent to make a living, union membership is almost a given – at least in Hollywood.
Happy Listening does not require a union card, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Monday, February 25, 2002 - 12:27 pm:
TO MARKRUDD’s COMMENT: Toshiba makes a good product. Their implementation of
our algorithm is excellent. I own one myself. The nice thing about virtual
surround (3D stereo) is that it is easy on TWF (the wife factor). No extra
speakers to dust, no wires to hide, and no additional equipment to buy.
Happy Listening and viewing, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Mikie (Mikie) on Monday, February 25, 2002 - 01:00 pm:
really interesting stuff, Mr. Desper. While on the subject of DVD players (I'm
buying one in a couple of weeks), which model Toshiba player would you
recommend? I was leaning towards the Panasonic RP56 with the special video chip
thrown in for only 200 bucks. The chip supposedly makes the quality of the
video better, and is available mostly in the more expensive models. You're
probably more into the sound aspects of the player, but is there a good DVD
with both high quality "state o' the art" sound and video without
Sorry if I derailed this into a DVD Techie thread, but I was just trying to get Steve's recommendation here. I've always stuck with Sony- No-Bologna products, but also like Panasonic and Toshiba.
By Mikie (Mikie) on Monday, February 25, 2002 - 01:14 pm:
Mr. Desper, I really enjoyed your post concerning microphone placement in the studio, specifically the piano. Would you explain how you typically set the mics up in Brian's studio up on Bellagio and what kinds you used? Did it vary all over the map, or was it pretty consistent for instruments and vocals? I guess The Beach Boys use to use Telefunken omni-directional mics in the early days at Western/Gold Star. I know you stayed up on the latest technology; for instance you used a "U-boat" microphone on the Surf's Up album. That mic was pretty cutting edge technolgy for 1971! :>)
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Monday, February 25, 2002 - 01:40 pm:
TO MIKIE's COMMENTS: Listing of Spatializer products such as DVD players
included in the attached link. At what price range are you looking? Whatever,
don't buy one of those cheap (under $100) DVD players from China now in the
stores. Not reliable.
Answers to recordings done at Bellagio will be found in my upcomng "Recording the Beach Boys" essay soon to be on-line. Stay tuned.
Awaiting your response, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Monday, February 25, 2002 - 01:42 pm:
this link too -------- more complete:
By Susan (Susan) on Monday, February 25, 2002 - 09:22 pm:
By Mikie (Mikie) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 06:56 am:
Thanks a lot Mr. Desper! Looking forward to your upcoming essay.
SMILE - recently received for publication - long.
By Susan (Susan) on Monday, February 25, 2002 - 09:44 pm:
following was received a few weeks ago from Scot Livingston, but it's only just
now that i'm posting it. Sorry.
SMiLE is a much better album because it was never finished.
Pause and think about it a second. Ok, sometimes even I don't fully believe that's true. Sometimes SMiLE becomes maddeningly frustrating and I just wish there were something definitive out there to end all the arguing of the voices in my head. But still ... How many discussion boards are out there about DARK SIDE OF THE MOON or SGT. PEPPER? Not nearly as many as SMiLE has. And why? Because there isn't as much to say about any of these other albums. Either you like 'em or you don't. If you like it; buy a copy, put it on, and listen away. These are not albums that require any thought, any creativity, any work on the listener's behalf.
SMiLE on the other hand, long before the invention of CD-ROMs or any other such nonsense, is truly the first interactive album. You have to go out and track down all the bootlegs. You have to read through all the various histories and theories. You must decide which theories seem the most plausible. And then you, as much Brian Wilson, must create your own SMiLE. Indeed, each person's own SMiLE says as much about the individual compiling it, as it does about whatever Brian was trying to say.
Plus, anything you don't like on SMiLE, you can hypothesize that Brian would've fixed before it was released. Do you find the album too jarring and the fragments too abrupt? Well, maybe Brian would've smoothed that over. Do you think the album is under-reaching, and you were hoping for something a little more experimental and weird? Maybe by the time Brian edited it all together, it would've done that for you too.
But unlike other unfinished albums (like say that Jimi Hendrix/Miles Davis duet that never got started), there is really something here. On bootlegs. On the box set. Here and there on the Internet. There are actually recording to play around with. Songs that are strong, yet fragile. And ultimately beautiful.
Of course it wasn't always so. At times you must admire the persuasiveness and persistence of those lucky few who actually heard these recordings back in 1966/67. People like Paul Williams and Jules Seigel. Try this as an experiment; put together a tape of all the SMiLE songs as they were officially released from SMILEY SMILE and 20/20 through SURF'S UP. Put them in whatever order you think best suits them. Now, what does that sound like? How much of SMiLE can you glean from that tape? Sure it would've been weird, but how much of SMiLE's power and beauty shines through on those versions? And then think - until the first bootlegs started showing up in the mid '80s, this is all anybody had to go on. We should be grateful that the torch for SMiLE was carried on for so long.
Now, I'm not trying to say that Brian deliberately left SMiLE unfinished because it was better that way. But I was heartened to hear that Brian's "master plan" for SMiLE did not necessarily say a CD. Although, Brian also did not deny that there was going to be a CD either. So what is Brian's master plan? Don't ask me, I don't have a clue. Quite possibly, it's to keep dropping hints until we all stop bugging him about the subject. But what would I like to see?
For one thing, I'd love to see a documentary on the subject. Not that Brian should so that. He has, as far as I know, no filmmaking ambitions. But those of you out there in SMiLE-land who do, please take note. And sure while Capitol is unlikely to let some amateur have the rights to those songs, I don't think that would have to be an obstacle. Honestly, I believe that the story of SMiLE is fascinating even if one has not heard (or does not like) the music itself. It deserves a full cinematic treatment. Something other than that vilifying it got in the ABC tele-movie. Heck, even ENDLESS HARMONY spent more time discussing their tour of Czechoslovakia than it did SMiLE. It's an untapped market. The only real problem would be that at any given time, most of the surviving SMiLE participants are sick to death of re-hashing the subject.
But more than even a film, I think to do right by SMiLE, Brian would have to release something along the lines of the ProjectSmile CD-ROM. Or a box set of the sessions. Which comes with a complimentary CD-R so that everyone could make his or her own SMiLE. And extensive liner notes featuring as much as Brian can dredge up from his memory. Plus lots of other essays and recipes for making SMiLE from various historians, experts and fans. A really big set of liner notes.
Notes that may, in fact, finally be a second book about SMiLE. No disrespect to Domenic Priore's scrapbook, Look, Listen, Vibrate, Smile!. It is a useful resource. And it earns a lot of kudos by simply being the only book solely on the subject. Sure, every Beach Boys bio contains usually chapter on the subject ... but I'd like to see SMiLE receive the same kind of treatment that 1967's other infamous unreleased recording received. Namely Greig Marcus's tome on the Basement Tapes of Bob Dylan & the Band, Invisible Republic. I think it's odd that Dylan's slip-shod rough-hewn recordings get such a thorough, linear, minimally illustrated, well written book, while all that Brian's ornately over-produced non-album gets is a 200+ page 'zine.
On a side note, did anyone else notice the similarities between THE BASEMENT TAPES and SMiLE. While the wide differential in production values clearly reflects the fact that one was made for release while the other was not, both display the same kind of goofball sense of humor and odd obsession with Americana. Probably nothing more than a coincidence, but fun to note none the less.
But then again, there's a reason why there have been no other books on the subject of SMiLE. You've got to feel sorry for Domenic occasionally. Having written his book out on paper there is no way for him to change his mind. Other than that one revision. So each time some new tape emerges from the vaults, or someone remembers something useful, Mr. Priore's got to come up with some other, "new" way of explaining his theories, rather than simply retracting them and coming up with something far more reasonable. Take for example the release of the "Heroes & Villains (demo)" off of the ENDLESS HARMONY soundtrack. Many were convinced that "I Wanna Be Around/Friday Night" was in fact, "I'm In Great Shape" the lost song from the back cover. But when this came out, some held tight to this theory, trying hard to explain away the differences in melody (and lack of lyrics) between the snippet heard here and this song full of woodshop noises. But to me, this was new proof that the two were in fact two separate and distinct songs. And that if any actual recordings of "I'm In Great Shape" were actually made - we have not yet heard them.
So, in other words, the only place to really write the "next" SMiLE book (which I'll admit in my grandiose way, that I had originally planned the essay to be) is on the internet. Something malleable so that as each new piece of evidence is unearthed, we can quietly go back and change our hypotheses to fit. The next SMiLE book is already out there in the essays contained on sites like thesmileshop.net and cabinessence.com. If one wanted to kill enough trees, they could all be printed out and would probably form a fairly hefty pile of paper.
And so it is to this ever-changing "book" that I wish to add my humble ramblings. There are a lot of other writings on the subject out there in cyber-space. Some are quite well thought out and have forever altered my way of thinking about the subject. And others - needless to say - add very little or are just plain wrong. I guess the pieces you include in your SMiLE book are much like the recordings you put on your SMiLE CD. But most of the writings out there attempt to answer one or more of the following questions: Why didn't SMiLE happen? How would SMiLE have been received if it had come out as scheduled? And what would SMiLE have sounded like (in other words, what does MY SMiLE sound like)? I will attempt to give my thoughts and theories and all of these subjects. Make of them what you will...
WHY DIDN'T SMiLE HAPPEN?
I some ways, one would think that this is the easiest question to answers. Since, unlike the other two hypothetical questions, this one involves things that actually happened. Or rather, didn't happen. But you know what I mean. There are however many theories out there. And the truth is probably each of these factors contributing to some extent. But how much, and which one was the straw that broke the camel's back, that's hard to say. So let's just look at each of the theories one by one:
1.) Mike Love and the other Beach Boys
The other Beach Boys are often seen as the villains to Brian's hero in the SMiLE story. Most often the other Beach Boys are boiled down to (or personified as) Mike Love. Truth is the rest of the Beach Boys might've been confused by SMiLE, but only Mike Love would've said anything. Or possibly the other Beach Boys didn't mind so much, but didn't stand up to Mike when he was putting SMiLE down. And can you blame them? They were stuck with Mike all the time on the road, while they only saw Brian during vacations and recording sessions. Who would want to live with a petulant Mike?
As popular opinion has dictated, each of the Beach Boys has at one point or another claimed to have originally liked SMiLE. I've got to imagine that of all of them, Dennis liked it the best. Or at least admired the balls it took to do something like that. Mike Love (on his few generous days towards the project) claimed that he had nothing against the music itself. It was just that the lyrics were too hard to relate to. And he was probably right. It takes a lot more effort to imagine oneself dominoing ruined columns than it does to be having fun fun fun till Daddy takes the T-Bird away. But look at PET SOUNDS. Strangest lyrics on there by far were the West Indies patois of "Sloop John B" - their biggest hit off the album. The rest of the lyrics, while exhibiting a lot more depth and maturity, were still primarily revolving around boy-girl relationships.
Point is, they weren't very supportive. And mostly because - it wasn't very commercial. And again, we may have to concede that Mike was right. I once was taking a friend of mine to a concert and during the drive I had one of my SMiLE tapes in. When the hammering and drilling of "I Wanna Be Around" came blaring out of my speakers, my friend - who is a fairly open minded guy in terms of music, Frank Zappa and the like - turned to me with this look which said, "What is this crap?" For whatever reason, the public at the time seemed far more likely to have accepted this kind of 360 turn and radical experimentation from the Beatles than they were from the Beach Boys.
In fact both Mike and Brian may have felt a twinge of "I told you so" after the public reaction to PET SOUNDS. Brian may have felt vindicated by the critic's reactions, cult following, and celebrities' word-of-mouth. While Mike may have believed that the disappointing sales proved that he was right in allowing Brian to do only one album of what he felt was ego-music.
And unlike PET SOUNDS, SMiLE required a lot more group participation. The vocal arrangements were much more complex. Unlike PET SOUNDS, this wasn't (or couldn't be) a Brian Wilson solo record. Brian is a sensitive guy. Having to hear Mike (and the others) bad mouth all his hard work for all of those necessary vocal sessions clearly undermined his self-confidence. And Brian's not a guy who likes to go out on his own. That's what make PEST SOUNDS and SMiLE some interesting, they're works of an individual who wants to blend into the crowd. I don't know how deliberate it was, but I always liked the fact that on the proposed cover to SMiLE, all the letter of the title are capitalized except the I. As anyone into handwriting analysis could tell you - the I denotes the self. And a small I, in relation to the other letters, indicates low self-esteem or little ego (depending on how you look at it).
Of course the question then becomes: If Beach Boys thought SMiLE was too weird, why then did they make SMILEY SMILE, a record which was equally as weird if just not as well done. Even the songs written specifically for it (and not SMiLE) like "Whistle In" and "Little Pad" are pretty strange. Only "Gettin' Hungry" sounds like the kind of old school hits they were hoping for from Brian. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1.) SGT. PEPPER was released (almost days before the first real sessions for SMILEY SMILE began) proving that this kind of music could in fact make truckloads of money. 2.) The Beach Boys passing on the Monterrey Pop Festival, while it may not have precipitated the division, clearly illustrated how the Beach Boys were un-hip, out of touch, "surfing Doris Days". This was their attempt at regaining some hippie credibility (much like the Monkees' trippy 1968 movie HEAD). And 3.) None of the other Beach Boys had tried, much less succeeded, at writing their own material yet. This was all they had to work with.
Of course, when it was released SMILEY SMILE was seen much like the Rolling Stones' THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST. Namely a pale imitator of SGT. PEPPER, when in truth I find SMILEY SMILE has a lot more in common with the other big selling album during the summer of 1967 - HEADQUARTERS by the Monkees. The Monkees, who had learned how to play their own instruments in order to tour, wanted to prove that the could with this album. Not that the Beach Boys minded not being the musicians on TODAY or SUMMER DAYS, but they felt the same urge. Only problem was, while the Monkees would've been an okay folk-rock garage band, the material they were sidled with, Don Kirshner's stable of bubblegum writers didn't mesh well. So too, the Beach Boys touring band's ability to play car and surf songs didn't mix well with Brian's deepest psychadelia. Oddly enough, the Beatles themselves ended up with the same problem on LET IT BE. They wanted to show that they could play their own instruments, but the songs Lennon and McCartney were churning out required arrangements more sophisticated than any 4 musicians, no matter how able, could play. Who knew the Monkees would be that influential?
2.) Brian's group of "friends"
While Brian later complained that he needed to hear a "yes" during those days, in the months prior to Beach Boys return from touring England, all he heard was yes. From his infamous inner circle of friends, sycophants, hangers-on and yes men. These were the guys who boosted his self-confidence after the lackluster sales of PET SOUNDS. The guys who told him that he was a misunderstood genius. The names of these men (Paul Williams, David Ardele, etc. etc.) are well known in SMiLE circles, despite the fact that they never wrote sang or played a single note on the album. Although Van Dyke Parks is sometimes lumped into this group, I think he belongs in a separate category (see below). These were guys who would do any crazy thing Brian asked. Anything except for starting a barroom brawl for Brian to record, apparently. These are guys who saw the potential in Brian. Whether cynically seeking it in money. Or foresightedly seeing it in artistic brilliance. They wanted to be close to that.
The problem is Brian's a follower. There's a reason why Mike's the lead singer, and it's not just because Brian wanted another voice and Mike couldn't play an instrument. From his father Murray to Dr. Landy to his wife and manager today, Brian feels more comfortable doing whatever it is that makes the people around him the happiest. And while this group of friends may have had the best of intentions, thinking they were encouraging Brian to reach his fullest potential, they have been planting ideas in his head which weren't really his. >From "Rio Grande" on his eponymous solo debut to his recent PET SOUNDS symphony tour, Brian frequently does things that it seems others would want him to want to do more than he really wants to do them. And this "teenage symphony to God" may have eventually become more ambitious than Brian felt able to do.
Besides, he knew how much he needed the rest of the band (both in terms of vocals and emotional support). Clearly he couldn't have been surprised by their reaction to SMiLE. What did he expect, Mike to start crowing about how great the lyrics to "Cabinessence" were? (ha-ha, that was a little pun). While Brian clearly wanted to continue going forward artistically, surpassing even PET SOUNDS, and finally impressing his father. But maybe not something as grandiose as some would lead us to believe SMiLE was meant to be. Often the most ambitious parts of SMiLE (a 14 minute, 2-part "Heroes & Villains" and "The Elements Suite") tend to be the pieces most shrouded in confusion, and for which the least actual concrete work was done. Truth is the "teenage symphony to God" may have been something Brian thought he wanted a lot more than he really did want.
Let's take a look at that oft-quoted phrase in more detail. Was he really going to write some sort of psalm or hymn? While music has always been a religious experience, other than "Our Prayer" and the references to God in "Wonderful" (whose lyrics many have interpreted as sexual), there is not a lot of talk about any sort of religion on the album. I think what he meant when is he was writing something TO God and not about him. Rather that the lyrics would have a wider, deeper, loftier aim than the just getting a fast car and a hot chick. But it was still teenage. Meaning not that Brian (who was in his mid-twenties) was a teenager, but rather that the music would be aimed at a teenage audience. Namely that it was still going to try and be pop music. The question than comes in; What did Brian mean by the word "symphony"? Did he mean for SMiLE to be one long continuous piece of music - which lasted as long as a symphony? Or that it would follow strict symphonic guidelines? Did Brian, who did like Gershwin but really wasn't classically trained, even know what that meant? Brian threw out the words "pocket symphony" to describe "Good Vibrations" and even subtitled "Fall Breaks Into Winter" a W. Woodpecker symphony. Clearly Brian didn't know (or at least mean) symphony in the strictest sense. But rather - like the phrase "to God" - meant trying for something a little harder and more complex in the music as well as in terms of subject matter.
But Brian may have lost sight of that with the encouragement of his group. His friends may have given him too much rope, and Brian simply hung himself on it. Although of all the craziness that this clique indulged Brian in, what is often cited as the most detrimental were the drugs.
3.) Drugs and Brian just losing his mind.
Actually the popularity of this theory seems to be waning. While the songs themselves were clearly written under the influences; Carol Kaye insists, and listening to most of the sessions bear this out, that Brian was completely in control during the recording process. Not to say he was stone cold sober, but Brian was lucid and functioning. Stories of weirdness abound, but really what happened? Sessions cancelled due to bad vibes? While it's possible, no one has yet mentioned an actual date when this happened. Asking musicians to don fire hats and even keeping an actual fire in a wastebasket during the "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" sessions? Ok, that's true - but have you seen the footage of the Beatles' sessions with the symphony for "A Day In The Life"? Tuxes and clown noses. It's all just apart of building the atmosphere. In order to help the musicians get the right feel for the song. All that other "Fire" weirdness, thinking it caused spontaneous combustion and the attempt to destroy the tapes. Well, that all happened after the recording session. Outside of the studio. As long as he was working in the studio, Brian was ok.
Of course all the drugs, while in and of themselves did not stop SMiLE from happening, they did I think exasperate another problem, Brian?s' psychedelicate state of mind. Brian is not a well man. Even if he had grown up in a perfectly functional Donna Reed household, he would've turned out a bit insecure, and sensitive. And then of course being brought up by Murray Wilson - the depths of whose abuse we may never know (although I certainly hope that the allegations Brian made in the "auto"-biography are like most everything else in that book, a big fat lie). Still no one would argue that Murray would earn Father of the Year. If all that were not enough to create a neurotic paranoid (or whatever else Brian's been diagnosed with) he went and did about the most unhealthy thing a human could do: he became a rock star in the sixties. When drugs were not only plentiful and available but expected. Particularly mind altering hallucinogens. All of this conspired to create a fairly fragile individual. Not that Brian's state of mind alone would've stopped SMiLE. There are some quotes out there (some even from Brian) that indicate if he had completed, or even continued, SMiLE he would've ended up dead or a vegetable (irony). "I had to kill SMiLE, because it was killing me." "By killing SMiLE, Brian saved himself". While considering the infrequency and inconsistency of his post SMiLE work, some can fans can be forgiven for wishing they could make that Faustian bargain (Brian's soul for one last great album), I don't think SMiLE would've necessarily meant the end of Brian Wilson. If everyone around him knew and understood and helped support him, Brian could've finished. This just meant that all of the other myriads of factors surrounding him were that much more potent. Actually considering all Brian had to work against, it's amazing we have as much of SMiLE as we do.
4.) Capitol Records
While it's probably true that Capitol Records would've concurred with Mike Love, and preferred something a little more commercial, there is no indication that any one at Capitol ever heard the album. At least not until after the project was canned and the tapes returned to their vaults. Of course there was always the potential reaction of Capitol to worry about. Particularly considering their less than enthusiastic response to PET SOUNDS. But don't know how much of a factor that was. All that Capitol really seemed to want was just something. Anything. Now. Now! NOW!! Capitol Records was antsy. Why else would they print up covers and booklets and even start to run ads for an album that hadn't even gotten a final running order yet?
So the deadlines came and passed and more were set. Who knows directly Capitol was breathing down Brian's neck, but I'm sure he must've felt it even if it was subtle. Got to strike while the iron's hot. While the hit single (which Brian didn't really want on there in the first place) was still fresh on people's minds. Got to get it out in time for the Christmas rush. Or at least when teenagers still had the money the got from their grandparents for Christmas. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry. Look at it this way: Brian took how many months to finish "Good Vibrations"? If he was going to record another twelve song in that manner of that caliber, it would've taken him five to seven years to finish! No wonder Brian felt rushed. Sure he had been working on this thing for almost a year by the time he gave up (and at a time when the six months the Beatles spent working on SGT. PEPPER seemed decadent) but it was hardly as much time as he needed.
Part of the problems with Capitol may also have been cause by the fact that record company execs were feeling a little lost. Much like Hollywood did after the surprise success of EASY RIDER. They just sorta threw up their hands and said, "We don't know what the kids of today want" and then just trusted the creative talent to do whatever they felt best. Capitol had taken a big risk with "Good Vibrations" (possibly out of guilt for not backing PET SOUNDS more). The risk didn't involve how innovate or experimental the recording was, but in the only terms that record companies understand. Dollars. And it paid off too. Not because it was a great sounding record, but because it made a lot of money for them.
Capitol should've been on the top of the world at this point. It had two of the biggest selling acts, and the both started with the letters B E A. But Capitol had no control or even influence over the Beatles. They were in London. And they were technically signed to Parlophone, with Capitol just getting the rights to release and distribute in the US. It must frustrated them that they could go in and meddle with their golden goose (although they sure hacked the heck out the albums that the Beatles gave them before releasing them). The Beach Boys on the other hand were right there with them in LA. While they did eventually let that snot-nosed punk produce their own records, they had to find some way of justifying their existence if the artists were going to take control of their own careers. So Capitol was used to having some sort of control over the Beach Boys. "Good Vibrations" or not. But all they could do was wait. And they were not happy waiting.
What Brian really needed was a stopgap solution. Something he could whip up quickly to temporarily satiate the maws of Capitol while he figured out just how to finish SMiLE. Something along the lines of PARTY, which bought Brian enough time to make PET SOUNDS.
Of course Capitol Records was not happy for other reasons as well. One being that the Beach Boys were suing them for royalties. The other was that the Beach Boys were starting their own label. To go into competition with them. While Capitol may have seemed ready and eager for anything Brian might've given them - there was always the possibility that even if SMiLE was finished they wouldn't release it. Aside from Capitol's reaction to these two occurrences, there was also Brian's to consider. These legal wranglings required Brian's attention (or at least attendance) away from recording. It was these kind of distractions from the studio that lead Brian to leave touring in the first place.
5.) Van Dyke's absence
Van Dyke, I think, underestimated his role in SMiLE. To him he was just another hired hand on Brian's project. No different from Chuck Ritz or Hal Blaine. That's what Van Dyke did. He was hired by other bands (the Byrds) to either arrange or produce or play keyboards or write lyrics or whatever. He did his job, and he did his job to the best of his abilities, but it wasn't his music. He could write his own music, and ultimately that's what he wanted to do. this was just his way of making the rent.
So when Jules Siegel wrote in "Goodbye Surfing, Hello God" that Van Dyke left the project, it's easy to see why Van Dyke didn't see it that way. He was just the lyricist. Did Tony Asher or Gary Usher hang around for the recording sessions? Of course not. And while he didn't mind showing up occasionally, because he liked Brian and the two might even be considered friends, it certainly wasn't his cup of tea. First of all, there was all that weirdness from Brian circle of friends. Not the drugs (which Van Dyke was also known to enjoy), but the dog doo in the piano's sandbox. Business meetings in the pool. Tents in the living room. All that weirdness. On the other side he was getting all this out-right hostility from Mike and the others. Questioning his lyrics. If they didn't like them, hire him. It was just a job. Besides Van Dyke had his own album to work on.
But to Brian it wasn't just his album. It was a collaboration. Granted Van Dyke didn't get to write any of the chords, but all that stuff about pan-patriotic westward expansion, that was Van Dyke's idea. That was his thing. And Brian needed Van Dyke. Someone who wasn't one of the fawning members of his inner-circle, but wasn't completely negative like the rest of the band either. Brian isn't good and standing up for himself. He needed someone to defend and justify SMiLE to the rest of them. Someone who could tell the emperor that he was naked but could also compliment him when he dressed himself. Brian may bot have realized it, but he needed someone who was neither a yes man or a no man. Van Dyke was the only one in his circle who could appreciate his genius without being awestruck by it. And I don't think Van Dyke ever really realized that that was his role in SMiLE.
6.) The FBI fearing that this would lead to an over-throw of the government by liberals over-excited by the music, leading to certain discoveries involving UFOs, JFK and Area 51.
Ok, I made that last one up. But somewhere in those other reasons lies the crux of SMiLE's original disappearance. That still doesn't answer why SMiLE continues to elude us to this day. Why the proposed 1967 10-song follow-up failed to produce anything more than a serial number at Brother Records (#000002)? Why the proposed 1972 SMiLE only resulted in the "completion" of "Surf's Up" and a record deal with Warner Brothers? Why the 1988 attempt by Dr. Landy to show-off how much he had thoroughly "cured" Brian gave us nothing more than that memo about the tape boxes from Capitol Records? Even Brian's so-called master plan has yet to bear fruit. Is SMiLE curse? Are we just unlucky? Or maybe SMiLE was simply never meant to be. So let's move on to the next big question.
HOW WOULD SMiLE HAVE BEEN RECIEVED?
There are basically two theories about this. Neither one is particularly easy to substantiate. I've boiled them down to two simple analogies; either SMiLE would've been SGT. PEPPER (only more so) or it would've ended up like PET SOUNDS (only more so).
SMILE as SGT. PEPPER
This theory holds that when SMiLE was released it would have instantly won all the praise and acolytes that SGT. PEPPER received. It would've have issued in a Spring of Love (as opposed to a summer). SGT. PEPPER itself would've been viewed with the same skeptical distaste that met the Rolling Stones' THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES PRESENT (or even SMILEY SMILE). Seen as a cheap attempt to cash in on the current craze by a band that really should know better. Brian Wilson is hailed as a genius. And leads a normal healthy productive life. Or at least doesn't end up as bad as fast. Who knows? It is possible. Remember "Good Vibrations" was one of the Beach Boys biggest selling 45s, while the preview single from SGT. PEPPER, "Strawberry Fields"/"Penny Lane" was the first Beatles single to break their streak of #1s in the UK.
Of course then the question becomes, what would Brian have done next? Would he have tried to top himself once more? Could he (or anyone) ever make something that was as big a step forward from SMiLE as SMiLE was from PET SOUNDS (which was a big step forward from SUMMER DAYS ... etc. etc.) Most likely, Brian's head would've exploded, although one can always dream of what that beautiful monstrosity would've been like. How little of it would've been done by the time it collapsed.
But while we're on the subject, I've always thought it odd that SMiLE is always linked with SGT. PEPPER. Granted (according to Sir Paul, John might think different) but PET SOUNDS was the inspiration for SGT. PEPPER. And RUBBER SOUL was the inspiration for PET SOUNDS. And true, SMiLE was cancelled shortly before SGT. PEPPER's release while SMILEY SMILE was started right after it. But in my mind SMiLE's musical twin was never SGT. PEPPER, but rather REVOLVER. Particularly when you compare the two to their immediate predecessors. Both PET SOUNDS and RUBBER SOUL are stylistically and thematically consistent, while SMiLE and REVOLVER are far more diverse in their arrangements. PET SOUNDS and REVOLVER are mature, subdued, quiet, emotional records. SMiLE and REVOLVER are far more intellectual, surreal, and psychedelic. Not to say that they are cold or cerebral, but they are both LPs aimed more at the head than the heart. Besides Brian would've actually heard REVOLVER before or during the making of SMiLE, while all he knew at the time of SGT. PEPPER was the acetate of "A Day In The Life" that Paul played him during the sessions of "Vega-Tables"
SMiLE as PET SOUNDS
Only more so. By which I mean, it would've been even less enthusiastically publicized by Capitol than PET SOUNDS was. It would've sold even fewer records than PET SOUNDS did. It would have received even stronger support from and even smaller cult than PET SOUNDS. It would've taken even longer to be appreciated. And Brian would've fallen even harder and faster than he did after PET SOUNDS, perhaps never to rise to even the piddling heights he has managed since. While we SMiLE aficionados would like to think our beloved masterpiece would've been embraced with open arms, this sad tale seems far more likely. So again I assert, SMiLE is a much better album for having never been completed.
HOW MY SMiLE SOUNDS...
Now we come to the fun part. A part that mixes historical hypothesis with personal preference. With the lack of any definitive proof of what exactly would've been on SMiLE and in what order, this is where we get to play. Even if Brian came down from Mount Sinai with the correct running order written on stone tablets, one could argue that the Brian from 1966/67 wouldn't have done it the way that the Brian of 2002 says. And that because we want to defend our right to help make SMiLE in our own image.
But of course, you can't just make the album you want. I like the song "Butterfly" by Weezer. It has nothing to do with SMiLE in terms of time of texture or intent, I just like it. That doesn't mean I can put it on my SMiLE. This isn't just some mix tape - there need to be ground rules. But where you choose to draw that line in the sand is up to you. Some people refuse to include "I Love To Say Da-Da" because they think it was recorded too late to be seriously considered for SMiLE. That's up to you. Read the evidence on either side and decide for yourself. (Me, I include it) Do you make your own edits of what you think Brian would've done, or do you confine yourself to only that which Brian actually has done? Do you use the various completions of certain tracks that were done after 1967 because you think they were done the way they were originally intended, or just because they sound closer to completion that way? Or do you not use anything that was touched after say May of 1967?
Whether you think that Brian was days, or even hours, away from finishing SMiLE, or whether you think that if he had continued working on it, it would've ended up even less done than it is today, you have to agree that SMiLE is not yet completely finished. So what about the stuff that isn't done? Do you just use the piece we have left, or do you just leave a big hole in the album where it was going to be? Do you throw in something that is close to replace whatever "Elements" weren't done, or do you just go with three (or fewer) "Elements"? It's up to you.
Do you make your SMiLE as you think Brian would've liked it ("Do You Lie Worms?" entitled with a dig instead) or as it would've been more likely released by Capitol (got to have "Good Vibrations")? Do you fill up an entire 80 minute CD-R (or two) or do you control yourself to something that would've fit on a standard Beach Boys 33 1/3 R.P.M. (12 songs, enough room to squeeze it onto a two-fer, only at most 20-25 minutes a side)? Do you just pick your favorite songs, or the ones you think Brian liked best? Do you try and replicate what Brian had originally hoped for when he started this album, and still called it DUMB ANGEL, (like Stan Shantar tried to do here) or do you go for what Brian would've settled for right before giving up on the whole thing? There is a plurality of plausible possibilities presented. (See what an over-exposure to Van Dyke Parks will do?) The reason why so many different conflicting theories may all seem true is simply that Brian might have toyed with all each of the ideas sometime during the making of SMiLE. He just simply changed his mind.
So, do you try and sequence it like a fairly straight forward pop record - like Jon Hunt does here - or do you follow Domenic Priore's recipe using link tracks and such, so that you have two side-long concepts guiding a continuous flow of music? Are you trying to recreate that "teenage symphony to God" or are you going for something like a trippier version of SUMMER DAYS (AND SUMMER NIGHTS!!)? You may think you have sifted through all the evidence and made you decision based on what is mostly likely accurate, and not just what you want, or maybe you decided to hell with the real SMiLE (it doesn't exist) and you're just doing it any way you want to. Maybe you even put "Sail On Sailor" on there because Brian and Van Dyke sorta started it back then. (And if anyone can find that original 1960s demo, I'd love to hear it). Either way, this is where your personality shines through.
So here's me - exposed to the world:
1.) Heroes & Villains
5.) Wind Chimes
6.) Good Vibrations
7.) Surf's Up
1.) Our Prayer
2.) Heroes & Villains (sections)
3.) Do You Like Worms?
4.) Water Chant
5.) I Love To Say Da-Da
6.) Well, You're Welcome
7.) I'm In Great Shape (demo)
8.) He Gives Speeches
10.) The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine
13.) Mrs. O'Leary's Cow
14.) I Wanna Be Around/Friday Night
15.) Surf's Up (first movement)
16.) Child Is Father Of The Man
So what did I do? Well I put together an album that splits its pop leanings and its symphonic yearnings in half. My idea is to put all the straightforward songs on one side. These are the songs that you can sing along to. And all these songs were realistic enough to be re-recorded for future releases by the Beach Boys. This is Side 1. On the other side I've included all the fragmentary or instrumental or whose vocals don't exactly include words. You can look at these pieces as un-finished. Lyrics would've been written, lead vocals recorded, fragments put into some sort of cohesive order (or cut). Or you can just see them as indicative of where the whole album was going. I'm not saying I even know for sure, but I like the duality of it. This would be Side A. All the songs on Side 1 get the traditional 2.5 seconds of silence between each cut, while I'm not going to attempt to cross-fade or dove-tail all the songs on Side A together, they are edited much closer together allowing for a more constant stream of music. In some ways, my structuring of SMiLE mimics (or pre-dates) the Beatles' ABBEY ROAD, which featured six fairly straight -forward rock songs on Side 1, while Side 2 had all those Mr. Mustards and Polythene Pams coming through the bathroom window but never give you their money.
Now, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Brian even thought of this idea, much less ever considered it. Brian did sort of cleave TODAY into two different sides, with all the softer, more melancholy songs on side two, but I'm pretty sure this is just my idea, not Brian's.
I do think that Brian would've appreciated the joke however. The cover says to see the label for the correct running order, but when you pull the album out, how do you know which side goes first. I like the way it gives equal weight to both sides. Of course there's no way of doing this on a CD, so which side I present first depends on who I'm making this SMiLE for? If it's someone who?s into classical or jazz, or someone who fairly open-minded I go with Side A first. Usually though, Side One goes first - and that's the way we're going to do it in this essay.
"Heroes & Villains"
alternate take from the SMILEY SMILE/WILD HONEY twofer
Ah, the infamous "in the cantina" version. A lot of people still want to mess around with this, but I don't trust any of the various fan "edits" of this or any other song. And maybe that's because I don't have any sort of music editing software myself. So I stand by this version because it is, as far as anyone has been able to find, the only version done. By Brian. During Smile. Besides as much as I'd love a roller-coaster musical comedy, this version helps fit with the more pop song-oriented theme of Side 1. Strange as this song is (especially when compared to the lame SMILEY SMILE re-make) it's still only 3 and a half minutes or so, and you can hum along to it.
from the 1993 box set
Sure there's the "Rock me Henry" background vocals not included. Nor have I inserted that "insert" that so disrupted the flow of the SMILEY SMILE version. the SOT bootleg includes this horrifically off-key lead vocal by Brian that eventually cuts off as he goes to get a glass of water. Why would anyone want to hear that? No, I think this is the definitive take. Granted it has a lot fewer instruments and simpler arrangement than what we're used to with PET SOUNDS or even the rest of SMiLE. But then I dig out my copy of the I JUST WASN'T MADE FOR THESE TIME SOUNDTRACK. There, Don Was's session musicians faithfully (if soullessly) re-create the backing tracks of Brian's mid-'60s to early-'70s classics. And their version of "Wonderful" clearly apes the one on the box set. Although oddly enough, Van Dyke's writing credit for that song is not included. I'm hoping that that was a typo. It's too bad that when Brian and the karaoke-perfect Wondermints did their 2001 tour with Paul Simon, their versions of "Heroes & Villains", "Our Prayer", and "Surf's Up" reflected the later officially released arrangements rather than shedding some light on their SMiLE era origins.
The compliance of SMiLE fans in regards to the 20/20 version of "Cabinessence" continues to astound me. It never raises the levels of doubt and skepticism that the equally Frankenstein-ian 1971 version of "Surf's Up" causes. It's even thrown into the middle of the SMiLE music on the 1993 box set. Is it because it was only done about a year and a half later so memories are fresh as to its original intent? Or is it for same reason that I'm including it here; namely, there isn't any better (or even any other) version out there. Unless of course, you want to chop it back up into its original components, "Home On The Range", "Who Ran The Iron Horse", and "Grand Coolie Dam". But you don't want to do that. "Cabinessence" is much more than the sums of its parts. Just a few things bug me. The lead vocals on the first verse, particularly the opening line, are mixed so low. And during the second "Who Ran The Iron Horse", Dennis's interesting (and far more melodic) lines about the trucker are so buried most people don't even know they exist. In fact all of "Iron Horse" seems too loud and clunky. And maybe it was supposed to be that way. But in my mind, that's one of the things Brian would've fixed to my satisfaction if only he'd stayed with the project.
from the 1993 box set
A teenage symphony to God ... and carrots?!? You know for an album that was supposed to be filled with humor, this is the one of the only really funny moments on there (aside from the quoting of "The 12th Street Rag" in "Look" and the blurting of "you're under arrest" in "Heroes & Villains"). And it's not even THAT funny. "I threw away the candy bar/And I ate the wrapper"?? Brian's no Tom Lehrer or Spike Jones. Still this moment of levity is important to SMiLE, in that it helps puncture the more pretentious moments on the album and keeps it more grounded in reality.
from the 1993 box set
This song always seemed bizarrely slight in comparison to the rest of SMiLE. Even after the silliness that is "Vega-Tables". And I think this has to do with Brian's general weakness as a lyricist. Listen to THE BEACH BOYS LOVE YOU for example. Was this something Brian wrote after Van Dyke had "abandoned" SMiLE? Or did Brian write this before he met Van Dyke? Or did Van Dyke simply decline, like he did for "Good Vibrations"? Not that the song is bad, just that compared to everything else on here - it seems to be under-reaching.
from the 45 RPM single
Brian may not have wanted it on here, but I sure do. And many bootlegs include various other takes and mixes of this song, trying to show off how much rare stuff they can get their hands on. But Brian's released version is still simply the best. I put it on here for a couple of reasons. 1.) To show that SMiLE did have some commercial potential, and that Brian hadn't given up on his pop instincts. 2.) To remind people how weird "Good Vibrations" really was. Because the single sold so many copies, it tends to end up on all the greatest hits compilations, sandwiched in between "Barbara Ann" and "Fun, Fun, Fun". I'm sure all the current touring factions of the Beach Boys include it somewhere in their repertoire. And so with all those "surf, sand, and car" aficionados dancing away with their excitations, I'd like to remind everyone that beneath Mike Love's boy-meets-girls was a very weird song. Sudden tempo changes. Lots of different unrelated sections. The cello and theremin. It's a lot more of a SMiLE track than it's often given credit for.
Another reason I'm including it is out of gratitude. With the relative failure (at least commercially) of PET SOUNDS, Brian's future was on the line with this single. If it had tanked, as Brian Johnston supposed it would if it weren't their biggest single of all time, it would most definitely had ended Brian's career, if not the Beach Boys altogether. Do you think Brian would've had the self-confidence (or that Capitol would have given him the funds and the freedom) to even start SMiLE if "Good Vibrations" had been a flop? And so in thanks I put it into my SMiLE
the solo piano version from the 1993 box set
So why did Brian record this version? Its double-tracked vocals prove that it's not a demo. Was he thinking of releasing it like that? Why then did he record the backing track for the first half then? Did he intend it to turn out like it did in 1971, with an ornate first half and a stripped down second? Or did he have something else in mind for the later half (which he never got around to finishing)? Brian clearly was heading in a simpler more minimal direction as evidenced by the version of "Wonderful" on here as well as SMILEY SMILE and WILD HONEY, maybe he did toy with the idea of putting out "Surf's Up" with just the piano. Unlike the other songs from SMiLE which were relatively simply written (for more info, see Tobias Bernsand's excellent essay on the subject) "Surf's Up" sounds interesting, full and complete, even in this arrangement. Contrast that to this simple piano and vocal demos of "Heroes & Villains" (on the ENDLESS HARMONY SOUNDTRACK) or "Vega-Tables" (to be found on Dumb Angel's MILLENIUM SMILE and other bootlegs). Those songs clearly need more instruments to fully bring them to life. "Surf's Up" on the other hand, stands fine alone. Certainly better than the confused creature that gave title to the SURF'S UP album.
from the 1993 box set
To my ears, the version from 20/20 doesn't sound all that much different, but the box set version was done during SMiLE, and that one wasn't, so we'll stick with that one. Of course, one of the reasons why I went for the double A side concept for SMiLE instead of simply calling Side A, Side 2 was so that "our Prayer" could still sort of be considered the first song on the album. It's about the only given that all SMiLE compilers can agree upon. But given it's short running time and word-less vocals, "Our Prayer" belongs more with the experiments on Side A than it does with the songs on Side 1.
"Heroes & Villains"
the sections from the 1993 box set
Is this the infamous missing "Heroes & Villains Part 2"? No. Is "Part 2" in there somewhere? Maybe. Was there even a "Part 2" ever assembled? If there was no one can prove conclusively that they've found it. Was there ever a "Part 2" worked on? Some believe so. Was there even a "Part 2" planned? Maybe Brian considered it at one point. Although Brad Elliott gives a fairly compelling case that there wasn't. While many have tried to reconstruct a "part 2" using what may or may not have been Brian's guidelines, either way, the actual real "Heroes & Villains Part 2" has not been discovered.
Of course, people's frustrations surrounding any or both parts of "Heroes & Villains" I think again illustrates how the possibility of SMiLE is much greater than any actual SMiLE. You hear all of these wonderful segments and recording and you can just imagine a awe-inspiring kaleidoscope being possible from them. But really any possible combination that could be created (even by Brian himself - and this may have also lead to his giving up on the project) would fall short of that ideal. There is no way to sequence a single coherent work out of this mess without leaving behind a large disappointing pile of stuff. It's just not possible to live up to the potential that these snippets seem to have.
So, once again I defer to the 1993 box set. Now I'm not as gung-ho about it as say Paul Williams, who suggests just considering the last 30 minutes of disc 2, including the SMILEY SMILE song "With Me Tonight" as SMiLE. Although I think he made the comment in order to be done with SMiLE rather than any feeling that it really is SMiLE. And while others may quibble with certain things, the inclusion of "I Love To Say Da-Da", the wrong mix and speed for "Do You Like Worms?", some inappropriate tag at the end of "Vega-Tables", the incorrect title of "Heroes & Villains (intro)", for me I take the box set at it's word. And not just because I'm trying to justify the $63 I spent on it (much more than any bootleg. So who's the scalper now, Capitol?). But particularly on such sticky matter such as the leftovers from "Heroes & Villains", this is the only piece of music that Brian has personally signed off on. Or at least there's a reproduction of his signature at the end of his introduction to the liner notes. That's good enough for me.
"Do You Like Worms?"
from the 1993 box set
Again we're introduced to the "Bicycle Rider" theme, tying it to the "Heroes & Villains (sections)". It also appears as the chorus of the SMILEY SMILE version of "Heroes & Villains". I don't think "Bicycle Rider" was ever meant to stand on its own as a track. This much piece - I hesitate to call it a song - also ties in with its predecessor in that it's vocals veer from the highly repetitive ("Plymouth rock..") to meaningless gibberish (the Hawaiian Chant). It's much shorter and more cohesive structure helps leads us to the next section of Side A.
available only on bootlegs
"I Love To Say Da-Da"
from the 1993 box set
These two pieces are often lumped together, because both the recording of "Water Chant" and the melody of "I Love To Say Da-Da" were combined (along with other non-SMiLE writings) to create SUNFLOWER's magnum opus, "Cool, Cool Water". Although as far as I know, there is no evidence to suggest that these two were ever linked during the making of SMiLE. In fact when you listen to them, these two don't have a whole lot in common. The reason I put these two here is rather because their lyrics are either droning ("water water water water...") or dadaistic ("Da-Da"), linking it to "Do You Like Worms?". While both clock in just around one minute apiece helping segue us to the next section
THE BARNYARD SONG CYCLE??:
"Well, You're Welcome"
B-Side from the "Heroes & Villains" 45 RPM single
"I'm In Great Shape"
from the ENDLESS HARMONY SOUNDTRACK's "Heroes & Villains (demo)"
"He Gives Speeches"
available only on bootlegs
available only on bootlegs
"The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine"
available only on bootlegs
Was the next group of songs meant to be lumped together into one suite? Or chopped up and put into more coherent songs ala "Cabinessence"? Or are they just more unused segments of "Heroes & Villains"? Or were they each going to be elongated to become full songs of their own? Or maybe each piece had a different fate planned? Quite possibly all of these might have been considered at one point. But this is what we were left with. A group of "songs" all ranging from just under a minute to about a minute and a half. Yet all featuring far more full and fleshed-out lyrics than what we've heard so far on Side A.
So we begin with "Well, You're Welcome", a song that in being short with a repetitive vocal belongs more with "Child Is Father of The Man", "Water Chant" and "Our Prayer" than the rest of this song cycle. While "Heroes & Villains (sections)" is certainly the first piece on the chopping block if I were editing this SMiLE for historical accuracy (and Side A does run a bit long to fit onto one side of a 33 1/3 RPM at this point), the Barnyard Song Cycle is definitely the first to go for reasons of what I personally want to hear. Particularly "Well, You're Welcome".
For "I'm In Great Shape" I used the segment from the "Heroes & Villains (demo)" simply because, as far as I believe, it's the only recording of it available. Granted there was a vocal session logged - before the instrumental session! The session, which in reality, spawned "I Wanna Be Around/Friday Night" only somebody mislabeled it. Who knows if instruments were even planned for the final "I'm In Great Shape" or if it was going to be a cappella. Either way, it doesn't matter. Until a tape from that session surfaces it does us no good either way.
For the version of "Barnyard" I used a fan edit (something I normally avoid). I don't even know who did it, but some very clever person lifted Brian's vocals and lyrics from the same "Heroes & Villains (demo)" and wedded them to the usual instrumental version with its backing vocals. While the mix is not great, considering what he had to work with, I'm impressed. And it's about the best were going to find without sacrificing either the lyrics or the arrangement.
And then the song cycle ends with "The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine" whose purely instrumental first half clues us in on things to come. (Although there are some rumblings about vocals being recorded for that section too.) Do not however use the SOT bootleg version as it is sadly missing Dennis's somnambulant, past tense take on "You Are My Sunshine". So is this cover (non-original) song the "Sloop John B" of the album? Who knows? Speaking of which I've never actually heard the original version of "The Old Master Painter" before. Some say, and for all I know they're right, that "I Wanna Be Around" is also an old standard. I'm kinda curious to hear them in their non-SMiLE-ified states.
THE ELEMENTS SUITE??:
available only on bootlegs
available only on bootlegs
"Mrs. O'Leary's Cow"
available only on bootlegs
"I Wanna Be Around/Friday Night"
available only on bootlegs
Perhaps no part of SMiLE is fraught with more peril that "The Elements Suite". Supposedly a series of songs representing Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. I always liked the way the Smile Shop FAQ puts it, that all we know for sure about "The Elements" is that "Fire" is "Fire". And Brian was even going scrap that and try to do something that (in his mind) didn't endanger the world, but rather invoked a candle. Many theories abound on the subject. The Frank Holmes illustrations from the pre-printed SMiLE booklet caption "Vega-Tables" as an element, and most think it's Earth. But that same empty record sleeve also lists "Vega-Tables" and "The Elements Suite" as separate entries. So who do you believe? Did Frank make a mistake? Or was "Vega-Tables" listed separately because it was a possible candidate for a single? Other theories suggested that "Wind Chimes" is the Air section, because it has the word "wind" in the title I guess. But than Brian is quoted as saying that Air was a solo piano instrumental. One that no one has yet turned up. Can Brian's memory be trusted? Was this piece ever recorded? If it wasn't, a fat lot of good it does us now. And then there's Water. Both "Water Chant" and/or "I Love To Say Da-Da" are raised as possibilities, probably because both were later incorporated into the song "Cool, Cool Water".
Certainly there has been no overwhelming evidence in any directions clearing this up for us. So what is there to do? Try this little experiment. Find a friend who was never heard of any of the stories or whatnot surrounding SMiLE. Play him "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow". You may want to skip the first section with the Keystone Cops-ish firemen arriving at the scene. Don't tell him or her who did it or what the title is. Just make them listen. And when they're done, asking 'em what it made them think of. The answer is "fire" obviously. Brian was a bit crazy, but if someone were to tell me that there existed a single recording that could've caused a rash of fires, "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" is the only possibility.
Problem is: none of the other songs sound that much like any element. "Vega-Tables" kind of reminds me of random items falling off of a third story fire escape into an empty metal trash can (don't ask me why). At least until the backing vocals and rhythmic crunching starts. Certainly not Earth. "Wind Chimes" does sound a lot like wind chimes, particularly at the triple-tracked, high-pitched piano coda. But you don't hear either a light breeze of a gusting gale swirling anywhere in there. (Although I suppose you can't really hear air by itself, only when it moves other objects). While "Water Chant" certainly invokes Water by repeating the word "water" over and over again, that seems like kind of a cheap way out. I could write a song that reminds one of zesty eggplant parmesan by having a group of people chanting that phrase over and over. And "I Love To Say Da-Da" is not particularly wet or liquid either. In fact it's sudden stops and pauses break up the even flow that water would naturally have.
Who knows what Brian might have had in mind? Carol Kaye is quoted as saying the woodshop noises in "I Wanna Be Around/Friday Night" was supposed to be the re-building after the fire. I put it after "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" on my mix, but does that make it one of the Elements? If so which one? The Water that I assume was used to put out the fire? Or the Earth that they're building on? Was the "Elements Suite" meant to be literally translatable program music, like say "Peter and the Wolf" where the oboe stands for the duck or whatever? Or was this supposed to be more like a tone poem that just sort of gives you a vague impression of the things described? Who knows? My guess is, most of the Elements weren't even written. And the only one recorded was Fire. So instead I just put together an Instrumental Suite to help contrast with the cycle of songs that preceded it.
And we start with "Look" and "Holidays". Two songs that give a lot of SMiLE-o-philes trouble. One hopes they would've been given more evocative titles before release. Even I have a hard time keeping the two of the apart. On the other hand, they are definitely my favorites, and often sadly overlooked. If I were in Domenic's shoes, and was asked by the brass at Capitol what title or two from SMiLE to include on the box set, I certainly would have vouched for these two.
There are many ways of looking at this pair of songs. Either they are the "Trombone Dixie"s of SMiLE. Vague sketches that once he heard them didn't need any further work or lyrics - because they were dropped from the line-up. Or maybe they were the "Pet Sounds" and "Let's Get Away For A While". Brian is one of the few pop stars who aren?t afraid of the instrumental. And his instrumentals are showcases for improvisation and technical prowess on your instrument. Rather they are gestures that illustrate Brian's talent at texture, composing and arranging. Or maybe they are like so much else on this album, unfinished. They were suppose to have lyrics and either Van Dyke never got to them, or they were just never recorded. Actually, there is much evidence that, in fact, "Child Is Father Of The Man" and "Do You Dig Worms?" were the ones with missing lyrics, regulating the current vocals to background status. While I'm of course curious what those words were meant to be, I'm more anxious to hear the melody lives they would have incorporated. But since no recordings of the lead vocals were made, even if Van Dyke decided to share those lost lyrics with us, they wouldn't do us any good.
instrumental version from disc 5 of the 1993 box set
In attempt to tie together the divergent paths that Side 1 and Side A took, I tried to get them to reflect each other just a little bit. Both start with versions of "Heroes & Villains" (except for a brief intro) and both end with "Surf's Up" (save for a short coda). Plus as much as I think that the solo piano version of "Surf's Up is full and complete unto itself, these "crazy horns" (as Brian called 'em) and percussive keychains are fun to listen to too. They give a whole new look to the song. Less stately and elegant, wilder and harder. Plus given its shorter running time and instrumental status, it makes a welcome addition to Side A.
"Child Is Father Of The Man""
available only on bootlegs
Of course, there's been a lot of talk about whether or not "Child" was meant as a part of "Surf's Up" like its used on the SURF'S UP album or not. While I'm not sure I'm thoroughly convinced they're part of the same song, it does follow here pretty nicely. Of course what version of "Child" to use is hard to decide. There were at least three different parts recorded. A version with just piano and group vocals, a version with just full orchestration, and then another with the full band and the group vocals. Whatever edit you choose, you should make sure to get a least one of each. Although who knows how often and in what order Brian intended them. My suggestion is to start out with the piano verse, that way it hooks onto the tickling piano that sort of end's the previous "Surf's Up".
So anyway ... that's SMiLE - as I see it. I'm sure you'll disagree with me somewhere. Heck, I myself will probably become embarrassed by some of the assertions I've made as time goes by, as more evidence is discovered, and as I become a different person. But that's the fun of SMiLE, it can be as much yours as it is anyone else's. So don't worry, baby, about getting it just right. Have fun with it!
By Joe_blow (Joe_blow) on Monday, February 25, 2002 - 11:15 pm:
Susan that's the most incredible post I'v ever read. What more can I say.
By Howard (Howard) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 01:36 am:
This is why we come here: so much to absorb & wonderful to read. Great stuff.
By Sopalin (Sopalin) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 08:16 am:
I pinch your claws, Scot. Fascinating, good-humoured, impassioned, knowledgable. I still think *my* Smile is better than yours, but that's your point, really, isn't it?
By Textus (Textus) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 08:52 am:
actually talked with Marcus about the similarities both in timing and in
content between SMiLE and the Basement Tapes. (Interview was for an article on
invisible Republic and the semi-concurrent release of the Harry Smith Anthology
and Time Out of Mind. and the Bri stuff didn't really get into the article at
all, so I don't think anyone is going to be interested in a transcript.)
I suggested that he might believe that Dylan and the Band accidentally accopmplished what Wilson, Parks and the BBs worked hard at and didn't achieve -- to sketch out a slightly tongue-in-check American epic.
Marcus's response surprised me. I'm not putting in quotes because notes are onb a disc that I don't immediatley have access to. He said, I don't think Brian Wilson failed at all with SMiLE. If you listen to what got released, he very much succeeded at his goals, whether he realizes it or not. The music is there, and because of how they've been released, they have a quality to them that is very much like a folk epic.
anywa, I know a lot of you think GM has his head permanantly up his butt, and I recognize the flaws implicit in the academic school of rock criticism. that said, these were interesting comments from someone whose only comment about the previous album was "it bores me. I don't understand it and I don't understand its cult."
By Jon_hunt (Jon_hunt) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 10:46 am:
wanted to correct a little bit here:
>> The names of these men (Paul Williams,
David Ardele, etc. etc.)
That's "Anderle," and yeah, they are well
known, but they're respected journalists,
music industry folk, etc. Not a bunch of crazy
druggies and such. Paul Williams founded
Crawdaddy magazine, David Anderle and Mike
Vosse worked A&R for years, Jules Siegel is a
respected writer, etc.
>>> These were guys who would do any crazy
thing Brian asked.
He really didn't ask anything too terribly crazy!
He had them recording all kinds of interesting
experimental chants but hey, he had free
studio time, why not?
<<< Whether cynically seeking it in money
I'm actually very sure that none of those folks
were seeking it for this reason. These people
are STILL to this day very loyal to Brian Wilson.
They were definitely very much his loyal and
genuine friends at that point in time.
By Topgazza (Topgazza) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 11:44 am:
when I slipped you the tounge at the BB King Club I obviuosly transfered more
than several days of unbrushed tooth spit. I always thought brilliance was
taught and not transmitted in saliva. As the man said, "I pinch your
n.b Note quotations to protect copyright
By Susan (Susan) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 12:08 pm:
baby, i'm STILL on antibiotics trying to get rid of what you DID pass
on.......but honey, i did not write that piece. A fellow named Scot Livingston
wrote it. He sent it to the Cabinessencequestions@hotmail.com
address, and i've just passed it along.
I'm hoping to be fully cured by the time i grace your shores this summer.
By Topgazza (Topgazza) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 01:43 pm:
Passing it along is the brilliance. Scot is a genius and I've not even snogged him.....yet. I've got friends in Immigration, they keep an eye and a rubber glove out for Sopalin. I'll tell them you're coming over.
By Gooseboy (Gooseboy) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 02:51 pm:
Hmmm... the post started out good but then I stopped reading once I realized that it had no end.
By Disneygirl (Disneygirl) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 06:10 pm:
siegel, eh? fans of his might be interested in this forward from Monroe: Peyote Vacation.
the Smile item was fascinating / none of that Bootleg Only stuff have i heard / but the titles are fascinating: "old master painter" puts in the mind of me one of the post.Kyd "additions" to The Spanish Tragedy [author forgotten] / was this something with words? something VDP might've been in on? the whole shabhang like unto some bright companion of dark star 00000, the Mystery Rocket in gravity's rainbow.
By Rob (Rob) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 07:13 pm:
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 07:56 pm:
TO SCOT's COMMENTS:
Having been around for most of the action envisioned by Mr. Livingston in his Smile post (and recorded about 40% of the material), all I can say is, you've got one hell of an imagination my friend.
~ Stephen W. Desper
By Disneygirl (Disneygirl) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 08:13 pm:
TELL US MORE, STEPHEN DESPER!!
By Jft (Jft) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 08:45 pm:
Desper, every Beach boys fan in the world has his homemade Smile. If you had to
construct a Smile album with pieces that fans have, what would be your selected
songs and the running order.
I'm asking this question to you because based on the excellent quality of Sunflower, you are an incredible engineer and co-producer. Hearing Sunflower for the first time, I remember telling myself that this is the best sounding Beach Boys album.
Thanks in advance Mr. Desper, it's very cool to have you here!!!!
By Mikie (Mikie) on Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - 09:10 pm:
rights! Mr. Desper did a helluva job on Sunflower.
Steve, if you have time, we'd be real interested in hearing your "counter" to Scot Livingston's post above, just to set the record straight.
......Unless you'd like to address it with an essay or by other means on your web site in the near future. :>)
By Topgazza (Topgazza) on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 - 02:10 am:
The mystery deepens........and its fun
By Bungalow Bill (Bungalow_bill) on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 - 09:51 am:
it David 'The Frog' Anderle ? That's the way he's listed on the Rhinoceros LP
he produced . Stephen , do you remember this group from the '60s ? Put together
by Paul Rothchild (?) from the Doors . Featuring Billy Mundi from the Mothers ,
Doug Hastings from Buffalo Springfield , Mike Fonfara from Electric Flag , Alan
Gerber , Danny Weis and a Mike (?) Finley who , I've read , sang background for
the BBs on record in the '70's . They'd had the intrsumental Apricot Brandy
which both Pizza Hut and GE have used illegally recently .
..and I agree with Disneygirl , please , do tell .
By Gl (Gl) on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 - 11:54 am:
just read Scott's "essay".
I think it's fantastic - meaning "very good!" - not "a flight of fancy"!
Who is he?
WHO ARE YOU SCOTT?
Interesting response from you, Mr Desper.
Care to elaborate?
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 - 12:22 pm:
TO JFT’s COMMENTS:
I don’t know if I am up to the challenge you present JFT, but thanks for the kind words. I think Mr. Livingston did a masterful job at his assembly. The other comments are, however, pure conjecture. I think I’m too close to the whole thing. In many ways I could say I’ve already done my SMILEing, only I had the help of six talented guys to see it through.
Let's take a different approach to assembling a SMILE offering. Let us look to the not-too-distant future of sound delivery systems. At present the CD is capable of four-channel sound storage. I know we only use two-channels today, but the actual specifications are setup to store four-channels. DVD storage systems are even more capable of multi-track storage. All things considered, many of you will live to see the day when you will be able to buy a disc with 48 channels of sound stored on it. In fact it is technically possible today, it has yet to be realized on a commercial level. Just digitize the multi-track for computer ROM storage or 48 mp3 files, call-up one of the virtual studio programs such as DigiDesign, pop-in the CD-ROM, load-in the multi-track(s) from the SMILE period, and MIX YOUR OWN.
I vividly remember the day I got access to the vault, The Beach Boy multi-track vault, that is. One of the first multi-tracks I dissected was something Brian was working on called “Heroes & Villains.” Now Brian has worked, on and off, with that song for many years. When I first heard this song, it was not already mixed; it was on eight tracks, eight mono tracks of vocals. Eight different tracks of vocals all doing their thing separately but in synchronism. It was marvelous to play with. If I played each track alone, it was it’s own tune. No matter how I combined tracks, a new song emerged. All the parts fit together like a well-oiled machine. Sliding over and around each other so fine. I pictured a steam engine. Ever look at the piston moving back and forth, and all the little side-mechanisms moving together, some slightly out of time but yet in sync with the whole. Little do-dads flipping levers while riding along on the master cylinder – some steam hissing as a precursor to the main escarpment opening later. I guess my visualization shows the engineer in me.
I’m on the inside of this industry. At the rate things are progressing, I would expect that, within a few years, you will be able to buy and download the multi-track from an Internet service, plug it into a virtual mixing board, and build your own mix . . . your own SMILE! :-)
And not just the Beach Boys; everyone.
I know part of the fascination is the mystery. How did this all come to be? It is intriguing and fun. And rightly so.
After reading Mr. Livingston’s dissertation and many of the other posts here at cabenessence.com, I can see there is some confusion. Some of this is because you are not familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the process. Other confusion is generated when you try to construct the past from its finished product. It’s like throwing a jigsaw puzzle up into the air and reassembling all the pieces face down.
Many of these bootlegged “reissued” or “unissued” or “issued for the first time” songs are not meant for release. Some are spliced together test fragments. I’ve heard several test mixes made for evaluation on systems outside the studio. Some are practice lead sessions. I even heard a bootleg of a test I recorded to evaluate the broadcast compatibility of an echo chamber. On one release I could hear Dennis smoking pot and trying not to laugh. Many are “in-progress” mixes for the ‘Boys to take home and practice new parts with. Of course, the hot sounding release mixes are for 45 RPM. It’s my job to be familiar with the sound of the mix. I know how they’re put together. But trying to put it together in reverse has many pitfalls. You have no idea how much control and power the engineer has over what you hear.
Soon, all this will be academic only. Once you can play the multi-track, those of you who are THIS interested in the history and construction of the “official” release will be able to roll your own. Then there will be CD’s of only one song, mixed by different people. Don’t laugh!!
Not long ago I bought a CD of techno music, it was one song only, mixed – or should I say, produced by twelve separate people. The multi-track was given to twelve different producer/engineer teams to reduce to the stereo mix for the CD. Amazingly each rendition was in such contrast the other it seemed a separate song. Prince did it too.
There seems to be enough fan interest in Beach Boy music and history that when the technology is ready the market will be, also. If I were Mr. Boyd and company, I’d be looking to digitize the multi-track soon.
At the time many of these songs were made, not all the instrumentation could be maintained on separate tracks, so there are limitations as to how far you can go back. When things are added “on-the-fly,” you can’t go before them without loosing a part. Also, many effects were added at the time of the final mix and cannot be reclaimed
Nevertheless, there is plenty on the multi-track to provide unimaginable enjoyment to those fans who might do their own mixes. In the near future, “there is a plurality of plausible possibilities presented,” as Scot puts it.
You can’t do your own mix now, but you can move back in time, back to the original. Listen only to the 33 1/3 RPM vinyl record. The CD’s have a different sound, although more convenient to use. Analog-to-digital converters and Sonic Solution’s noise reduction system only add several layers of processing to the original sound captured and meant to be heard from playing the LP record.
Happy Listening (to your multi-track), ~Stephen W. Desper
By Howard (Howard) on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 - 12:51 pm:
Stephen - another stimulating post; I love the steam engine analogy for the way the music fitted together. A question I have concerns preservation of the recordings. I have no idea what or where the 'vault' is. Regardless of geography, do the companies have programs in place to archive these recordings? Is the material, the acetate or whatever, of the original tapes strong enough to last for many more years? In the movie industry films from 60 or more years ago are beginning to break up. The Smile recordings are nearly 40 years old. Is there any danger of them being lost due to neglect?
By Mcramahamasham (Mcramahamasham) on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 - 04:42 pm:
Of course it's pure conjecture. I wasn't even born yet. It's just a guess. I'm sure I'm wrong somewhere.
And yes I would love to be able to fiddle with all the knobs and play with and re-mix the original tracks as soon as that technology becomes available.
Assuming of course, that they ever do get released once that becomes possible. (Brian's master plan?)
Until then I'm gonna have fun with what's available (legally or not).
Actually I'm not sure where exactly you disagree with me. You're probably more right about this stuff than I am. But still it's fun to think about.
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 - 04:59 pm:
TO HOWARD's COMMENTS: Yes, everyone is concerned. Digital storage of events can
be backed up with a copy that is an exact duplicute of the original. Analog
tape deteriorates as it is copied. Therefore the original is unique and the
best sounding, that is the Master Tape. There is only one. Next are safety
copies. The LP record is copied from the Master Tape and the best for the
consummer. The Master LP Tape is of the sound going to the LP disk. It has
added EQ and limiting to make the transition from tape to LP. The Master LP
Tape is also sent to foreign cutting and pressing centers abroad for all those
All of these mediums are subject to physical decay. Eventually we will lose all the original analog tape masters. Digital copies will be left.
Original film is being digitized as are many old recordings -- not only to preserve them, but to continue to release, as thus, make money from them.
Mr. Boyd is more up-to-date on where the Beach Boy vault is located.
The industry name is "vault," but it generally is an air conditioned, lockable room with many shelves. All the tapes are storied there. When I came onto the scene, tapes were in valults all over town. We tried to consolidate many tapes at Capitol (an excellent vault, with a liberian) but later moved them to the Beach Boy, or rather, Brother Records offices. While I was with them, some of the precious old masters were moved to Colorado.
Colorado has a popular storage facility for long-term storage of masters. Many film studios use the storage facility. The storage is in temperature stable caves deep underground. It is a large business.
I think the tapes that were there are now back at the BB vault at BR. Some are lost.
The tapes I recorded were done on AGFA an imported German recording tape. It is very stable for long term storage. AMPEX and 3M tape, also popular is not as stable. The BB used both.
When we worked on "Loop de Loop," I "cooked" the 29 year old multi-track. Cooking is a process for re-stablizing the tape binders which breakdown in long-time storge. The tape is placed in a hot oven for about an hour. I had a friend of mine cook "Loop de Loop" as he had experience in that field. But I had only a limited time to transfer the old master to 24 track Dolby noise reduction new tape for adding tracks and finishing.
Some of the old tapes can be revived, but in another ten or fifteen years we will loose them . . . unless some preservation process in invented before that time. Who knows?
If we are to be able to re-mix or release the multi-track for fun and profit, soon, we had better start digitizing BEFORE the master tape. That is, to digitize the multi-track, even though other elements were added at the time of mixdown.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 - 05:14 pm:
TO SCOT's COMMENTS: I don't disagree with you at all, as long as you know it's
all conjecture. And it is fun. With my memories of 30 years past, some is
conjecture for me too!
I guess the point I was making is that it's not all what it is represented to be. So it is not necessarily the most accurated foundation upon which to base the conjecture. As long as you don't take yourself too seriously and retain perspective, which I can see you do, you're OK in my book.
I sincerely hope you do get the chance to "fiddle with the knobs" and even add your own vocal parts -- how 'bout that!!
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Mcramahamasham (Mcramahamasham) on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 - 06:42 pm:
I ain't about to add my vocals to nuthin'.
By Tapenade (Tapenade) on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 - 06:53 pm:
Bungalow: I vaguely recall Rhinoceros, although I didn't remember that Anderle produced them (interesting!); they were very hot on the L.A. scene back in the early 70s or so. I think the guy's name was Jay or John Finley though, not Mike Finley. He wrote a song that was a fairly big hit (Top 20 at least) for Three Dog Night in 1973 called Let Me Serenade You, which I think was a track from the Rhinoceros album (I don't have it unfortunately so can't refer to it).
By Howard (Howard) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 05:10 am:
seems a risky form of preservation! Did anyone ever lose a master this way?
Heat is the last thing I'd think of applying to tapes. I can understand the
chemistry might require it though.
Is there any body funding important digital media preservation in the US? The commercial imperative is one thing (and exploiting the backlist is an easy way of makng dollars - look at the 120 or so Beach Boy compilation albums listed on www.spinner.com!) but not all recordings may be viewed as potential goldmines by their owners.
In the UK the British Film Institute is doing work with historically valuable movies, and I guess the BBC has funds for its materials as well - radio and TV. But a lot of good stuff got lost when tape was seen as an expensive medium and original recordings were wiped in order that tapes could be reused.
But cooking masters?
By Topgazza (Topgazza) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 05:43 am:
Gas mark 3 with a sprig of fresh, not dryed tarragon.
By Textus (Textus) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 06:43 am:
was on Elektra, right? And that's where D.A. went to work after the whole Brian
period ended, right?
A friend of mine co-produced a Rita Coolidge record on Elektra with him in the '80s.
By Bungalow Bill (Bungalow_bill) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 09:28 am:
right Tapenade . It was 'John' Finley . I Will Serenade You was on Rhino's 1st
LP. Their website is www.Rhinoceros-group.com some great soundfiles . It
mentions Anderle there , maybe as producer for a solo LP ? and that Mike Finley
sang background on Chicago and BBs lps in the '70's .
Electra is correct , Text . Unbelievably , no one puts their 3 LPs on CD , yet . There's a campaign to do so .
By Cam Mott (Cam) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 09:57 am:
Did you work for the Beach Boys in some capacity in 1966 or 1967?
The tapes you used in the Chamberlin [spelling?] you set up for the Beach Boys, were they recorded previously by others or by you?
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 10:14 am:
TO HOWARD's COMMENTS:
Cooking tapes is a risky business, but there is no alternative. Cooking tape masters is not used to preserve them. Keeping them under constant temperature in relative dry storage surroundings is best for preservation.
Cooking has to do with restoring a master you intend to play and to preserve by way of the copy. Some masters literally fall apart upon playback – so you’ve only got one pass to capture the sonic information and copy it. Sometimes the magnetic compound is wiped off as the tape is passed over the tape guides and heads. Cooking prevents the few playbacks that remain from being needlessly physically destroyed. After playback, the master is of no further use because of the deterioration from the first playing. The information magnetized within it, is lost.
I baked four tapes for the Endless Harmony and Ultimate Christmas albums – new releases of old material. In all cases I expected to loose the master tapes full signal. These old masters on AGFA and AMPEX tape were treated as if they only had one last playback to give, after the baking process. Alan Jardine was producer of the final renditions. He intended to add some vocal parts and replace other vocal parts that were recorded over twenty years ago. In the end, we also sweetened Brian’s original basic backing track too.
Alan became interested in the backing process and even baked two masters in his home kitchen. The studio is on the same property, so when the master had cooled, we transferred it immediately. All the tapes were transferred to 24 Track, 15 IPS, Dolby SR professional noise reduction, multi-tracks using a Sony studio machine. We did not copy to digital tape because the sound of the analog tape was judged to be more true to the original recordings.
Once the twenty-plus year old multi-track masters were transferred, a new 24-Track multi-track master immerged. From that point forward, we worked with this new master. We never erased any of the old tracks. Some were not used, but replaced with new performances on other tracks. The old originals (copied) were left intact for posterity.
As you may know, the current situation between Love and Jardine is stressed due to conflicting concert venues and such. However, during the final production of these four old songs, twenty-plus years later, you would never know of the tension between these two Beach Boys. Alan treated Michael’s performance, his background parts and his vocal leads with respect and TLC, spending hours trying to get the best sound from the mix, no matter who was singing.
The vocal renditions on these old tapes cannot be replaced. The voices of the band members have changed and, of course, Carl and Dennis have departed. Working with the old multi-tracks was like having the Beach Boys singing in the studio as if it were 1965 again. All the comments and off-mic joking were still there – coming alive once again. And, Alan is amazing. His voice is in excellent shape. I could not get over how close he could come, all these years later, to his younger voice as he replaced some of the original parts. Same quality, intonation, breathing, character, and phrasing – sounding as if he were still 25 years old!!
INFORMATON ON BAKING MASTER TAPES:
INFORMATION ON DOLBY SR NOISE REDUCTION:
PHOTO OF DOLBY UNIT WE USED:
PHOTOS OF ALAN’S STUDIO CONSOLE & 2-INCH, 24-TRACK SONY JH-24
W/24 TRACKS OF DOLBY SR: (click on Studio Gear)
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Howard (Howard) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 10:31 am:
ask questions, we get answers in depth. Thanks for the time - I'll follow those
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 10:34 am:
TO CAM MOTT’s COMMENTS: Hello Cam, The large Chamberlin used tapes recorded by
The small Chamberlin, I modified so that I could use each of its internal playback heads for recording or re-recording each of the tape-threads in the instrument without needing to remove them from the unit. I assembled a variety of water sounds and bubble sounds tuned in one-half note steps for a 2½ octave spread – to be used for “Cool, Cool Water” – and installed or recorded them one by one into the smaller Chamberlin.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Jft (Jft) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 10:37 am:
Desper, your presence here is priceless. I have to ask you a question about
One of the greatest mystery about the Beach Boys is a track called "The Elements" which probably consisted of four pieces representing the earth, air, fire and water. Fans obviously know that the Fire piece is the one heard on the documentary "An American Band" and known as Mrs. O'leary's cow. Water is known to be the "Water chant" used in Cool Cool Water. What about "Earth" and "Air"? Did Brian or Carl discussed this track with you?
Thanks in advance as always!
By Paul_dash (Paul_dash) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 10:55 am:
THANK YOU STEVE DESPER....REALLY enjoy reading your posts... Ever thought of writing a book. A music book on BB BW..???
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 11:57 am:
TO JEAN-FRANÇOIS TREMBLAY’s COMMENTS:
The elements are discussed in my upcoming “Recording the Beach Boys” essay soon to be released on the web. Otherwise this is a question best answered by Brad Elliott or Alan Boyd. Maybe they are reading along and can give you correct answers about this or show you what books to read on the subject. I can tell you this – there are more snippets of these recordings interwoven into finished works than you realize. You usually hear about or even hear these recordings as mixed down composites. However, as multi-track four and eight track tapes, some parts have been copied and used to build entire new versions by Carl, Brian, Dennis and Alan, with only a fragment of the original remaining. Michael and Bruce have also been involved in such projects.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 12:16 pm:
ATTENTION ALL BEACH BOY FANS =========
Just in case you have not found this link, read on. . .
Link to the address below for about two hours of Beach Boy music from "the Beach Boy radio station of the Internet" -- for lack of a better term.
Under SPECIAL PROGRAMMING
click on: "The Beach Boys/The Brother Years Documentary" -- dial-up.
Using the "dial-up" setting will download to realplayer several hours of continous BB music from many songs, some usually not heard. You can then shrink realplayer back down to the Windows bottom tool bar while you multi-task (run other applications) on your computer while listening to this Beach Boy presentation. The program is in Stereo too! Don't know if this works on Mac's, but I would think it would.
Happy Internet Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Jft (Jft) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 12:28 pm:
you are a gentleman!
Thanks again for your responses!
Be sure we are waiting for your essay!
By Jon_hunt (Jon_hunt) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 01:21 pm:
know I should just wait until he prints the essay, but I have to speculate on
possible post-Smile songs with "Smile" content, and especially
- Obviously, "Cool Cool Water"
- And even more obviously, "Surf's Up" "Cabinessence" and "Our Prayer"
- "Do It Again" (the woodchopping sound effects)
- "Can't Wait Too Long"
- "Little Bird"
Good lord, I wonder what else? My heart of course hopes its something like "Country Air" that we've all speculated about for a dog's age...
...but who knows, maybe its "Beaks of Eagles!"
By Textus (Textus) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 01:32 pm:
wondered lately if "The Elements" could have been a round of the four
individual elements weaving in and out of an instrumental backing. Stephen's
post about how Brian's H&V vocals lined up and overlapped makes me think of
Think about "Country Air," "CCW," the Veg chorus and the disturbing "Cow" instrumentals. I'm at work so I can't answer next q. Same key?
By Phlip (Phlip) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 07:19 pm:
If "Diamond Head" (from the "Friends" LP) had been left untitled, and you told me it was "The Elements," I'd believe it. It sounds like what I think "The Elements" would have sounded like if it had been completed... a relatively concise 3-4 minute non-vocal track (instrumental, with suggestive sound effects).
By Ab (Ab) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 07:30 pm:
Jon Hunt sent me a message about this
thread and I'm definitely going to copy it for the
Steve - your insights are priceless. Thank you
so much for sharing your knowledge and
In regards to your question regarding
archiving material, the answer is yes - over the
last few years whenever Mark has worked with
original BB multi-tracks he always makes
digital backups from the original tapes. If we
had the budgets I guarantee there'd be a
massive preservation effort - we've lobbied for
it, but unfortunately no one wants to preserve
these items for their own sake, so it's a matter
of doing the best we can within the
parameters of whatever project is being
The tapes are stored in a giant warehouse in
Southern California, a well-established, very
secure facility that's also used by many of the
major studios to store master film, video, and
audio elements. Temperature and humidity
are pretty constant, and the security is very
tight. Some of the tapes themselves seem a
little beat up - the boxes are falling apart, and
they definitely need some restoration and
TLC. If only, if only - maybe if we think and
wish and hope and pray.....
By the way, I'm also working with some really
old material - nitrate film - as part of an
ongoing restoration of a series of classical
music performances filmed in the late 1940's
and then left to rot in an abandoned film vault
in Hollywood. We just got a grant to transfer
the films to digital betacam, so at least they'll
be preserved in SOME form. So much media
- film, TV, audio - is presently in a state of
imminent decay, in some cases literally
turning to powder. The sad fact is, we can't
take any of this "recorded culture" for granted...
it will disappear if people don't take an active
role in preservation. Hell, we've already lost
(by conservative estimates) at least 80,
possibly 90% of all the silent films that were
ever produced. Frightening, and very, very
sad, if you ask me.
OK - I'll get off my soapbox now!
In the meantime, I'm waiting for the day when
Steve's vision becomes reality!
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 07:49 pm:
TO ALAN BOYD's COMMENTS: Hello Alan,
Keep up the good work buddy!! We are all enjoying the fruits of your harvest. ~Stephen W. Desper
By Mikie (Mikie) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 08:20 pm:
Thanks a lot Alan!
By Anthony1 (Anthony1) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 08:47 pm:
I was wondering:
a) You said that you were around for about 40% of the material covered in Mr. livingston's post; does this mean that you were one of the engineers on the original Smile project? Forgive me, but in all the books you are mentioned as coming in to the Beach boys studio around 1968 to mix Friends and rebuild the board;if yuo're one of the orignal Smile sessions engineers, I'm wondering at which studio did you work at?
b) You mentioned that you remember taking the tapes out of "Heroes and villains" to work on them, and that this was a song that Brian "has been working on for several years"; well, this is obviously an intrigueing statement. May I ask, did you mean to say that Brian HAD been working on it for several years? So, I see three possible meanings for this statement: either you mean that in 1967 you engineered a session for "Heroes", and that Brian had been working on it for more than a year, or you mean that, at some date later than 1967, you engineered a session where Brian was still working on "Heroes", perhaps in the late sixties or the early 70's, or you mean that Brian is still working on "Heroes" to this day.
I'd sure appreciate it if you could clear up these mysteries for me!
P.S. I agree with the person who queried as to why you are not the individual remixing all the Beach boys material foe CD release!
By STE (Ste) on Thursday, February 28, 2002 - 11:54 pm:
Did you check the radio special out?
Does the speaker (who is he?) say that he played bongos on the "Sail On, Sailor" demo ?!
Want to know more.
Anyway, that was "Long Promised Road" not "Feel Flows"...
By Cam Mott (Cam) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 10:04 am:
Thanks for your patience and devotion.
I think there is an impression that you worked for the Beach Boys before 1968 recording water sounds for the SMiLE album, are we mistaken?
Jim Lockert had told me that the equipment he used in the home studio was rented from Wally Hieder and that they had a 4 track and an 8 track recorder, I never got to ask Jim if either recorder was owned out-right by the Beach Boys/Brian or whether they were also rented or what model they were [nitpicky, I know].
Thanks for the memories.
By Paul_dash (Paul_dash) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 10:59 am:
Very Interesting reading.. Some of the best stuff ive ever read online...Steve ya oughta do a book.. Not just on BB but ALL your experiences...Put a bunch of essays together online for sale...Id buy it.. Music + Industry has changed..You were there near the begining..Your experiences should be perserved...Cause those times will never happen again.. I myself would like to hear about Surfs Up recording you helped record early 70"s.. Brian was supposed to have spent many hours doing vocal but not to his satisfaction.. So CW sang it.. Brians voice appeared to still be in fine shape then so i allways found that curious...And thanks again for all previous posts..Paul
By Mikie (Mikie) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 11:29 am:
Paul, did you see the interview with Mr. Desper conducted by Brad Elliott about Surf's Up? It's in the "Writings" section of this here web site.
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 11:32 am:
TO ANTHONY1’s COMMENT: Tony, I am not certain who the original engineer was,
maybe Mr. Elliott knows. It could have been Britz, or Lockart, or someone at
Brian had, has, and continued to work on H&V both before I came along, and during my time as engineer. Dates are not my expertise. (Brad, help me out here.) Mr. Elliott is very knowledgeable on the history – See his book, I just turn the knobs.
My involvement with the BB organization started while I was engineering at MGM Studios. I was involved with touring and equipment design for the road at least a year before I broke off with MGM to do full-time work behind the BB studio board. It was because of my road mixing that the group ask me to make the change jobs in their favor. During that multi-seasonal apprenticeship I had an open invitation to visit any session and/or rehearsal, which I thought I might find interesting, including some at Columbia and Capitol.
My direct involvement started the day Carl showed up with a pile of, obviously, old tapes, mostly eight-track. I transferred to 16-Tks and under Carl’s direction he and group embellished the original H&V with vocal sweetening following Brian’s original. Other snips of song sections were used to build the entire song. This all took about six months. Then we mixed it to Stereo and Mono, that is, two separate mixes, plus a mix for an English TV show. They sung some parts live and some were already recorded. There aren’t enough people to sing all the parts live. Another couple of months and three more overseas. I have worked on other versions of H&V also. Don’t know if they have been released as “alternate versions” or not.
Sorry I can’t give your specifics on dates, but I hope this helps clarify the topic.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Jon_hunt (Jon_hunt) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 12:06 pm:
Desper -- When you say you did a mix "for an English TV show," do you
mean that this alternate version Carl built followed essentially the same order
as the single release, and this version was just an embellishment on the
original designed for a live TV appearance?
Or are we talking an entirely alternate version of the song, with a different section order?
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 12:27 pm:
TO By CAM MOTT’s COMMENT: The equipment Jim rented was designed for a radio
station. That’s all he could find at the time. It was not MASTER quality. It
was all quite megshift. The recorder was OK but old.
The studio quality equipment was in the road equipment, about $200,000 (1968 dollars) worth. I designed that system. It later formed the bases of the house studio. It’s one subject covered in “Recording the Beach Boys,” on line soon.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 12:40 pm:
TO JON_HUNT’s COMMENT: John, it is the common practive to make a “TV Backing
Track” for television performances. The parts to be performed at the time of
perduction are played and sung by the band members live, everything else is
added into the mix from previously recorded tracks. In other words, a new mix
is created with the parts to be performed live, left out. Almost every song had
a TV Backing Track mix. The English Show was more than a one song deal, it was
more like a short live special promoting their tour. It was a four camera shoot
with an elaborate set. I’ve done BB TV productions in France, Finland, England,
Germany, etc. Mostly as guest performance or promos. Backing track always used.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Textus (Textus) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 12:41 pm:
I have a boot of some Stones TV appearances in which this is pretty clear -- two or three instruments clearly come from the studio version, but other instruments and the vocals clearly come from the stage.
By Brad Elliott (Brad_elliott) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 12:48 pm:
Steve! Thanks for the kind words! I'm always glad to help out where I can.
** Tony, I am not certain who the original engineer was, maybe Mr. Elliott knows. It could have been Britz, or Lockart, or someone at Columbia. **
The original engineers on the SMILE material depended on where it was recorded. For tracks that started at Western, the original engineer would have been Chuck Britz. For tracks such as "Cabinessence" and "Fire" that started at Gold Star, the original engineer would have been Larry Levine. Most of the vocal work on the SMILE material was done at Columbia, though, so the original engineer on those would have been Ralph Balantin.
** Brian had, has, and continued to work on H&V both before I came along, and during my time as engineer. Dates are not my expertise. (Brad, help me out here.) Mr. Elliott is very knowledgeable on the history – See his book, I just turn the knobs. **
I may not be of much help in this particular instance. As far as I knew, Brian stopped work on "Heroes & Villains" in June 1967, just prior to its release as a single in July. Steve, you've been holding out on me! I never knew you worked on a reworking/remix of "H&V"! Obviously, that had to be after October 1969 (when you upgraded to a 16-track recorder at Brian's home studio). Was this for the fabled early 1970s effort at preparing a releasable version of SMILE for Warner Brothers? Inquiring minds are dying to know!
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 01:20 pm:
TO BRAD ELLIOTT's COMMENTS: As I said, Carl took over where Brian stopped. More
comments will require me time to gather my thoughts.
I would never remember we went to 16 track in '69. You mean at the house, I presume. Was that with the 3M machine or the Ampex. We had an Ampex at first. Got better sound with the 3M, but the erase head gave me problems. Otherwise, good sounding machine.
Can't remember for certain if that was all outside work or at the house. I think some was at the house. Outside 16 tk work would move the date back. I don't think I transfered this at the house. I usually did transfers at outside studios. I did outside studio work too. I'm sure we mixed this at the house.
~Stephen W. Desper
By Harmonymeister (Harmonymeister) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 03:55 pm:
i cut'n'pasted this one. 37pgs,reduced font 27pgs,no margins or paragraphs gaps
19 pgs. one of the best post i've read.
smile (h&v)question for anyone- i recently found an mp3 that i think is from "heros and vibrations", the transfer was bad and i think it got cut off, but it sounds like Mike talking about dildos and vibrators, most likely the "mike f's w/ the formula" from the "heros and vibrations" cd. since my copy is cut-off it feels like i walked into the second half of a joke. does anyone know the history of this snippet of studio chatter or the context in which it was spoken.
By Ed_hemingway (Ed_hemingway) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 03:58 pm:
Isn't there an interview with Al in which he states that H&V (in some form or other - perhaps only the chorus) was something Brian had been working on for several years - right from the beginning of their recording career, in fact?
By Brad Elliott (Brad_elliott) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 04:43 pm:
** I would never remember we went to 16 track in '69. You mean at the house, I presume. [...] Can't remember for certain if that was all outside work or at the house. I think some was at the house. Outside 16 tk work would move the date back. **
That certainly jibes with my information. From what I've been able to determine, the first 16-track work by The Beach Boys probably was the single version of "Cottonfields," cut in August 1969 at either SIR or Sunset Sound (there's conflicting information). That's the oldest 2-inch tape in the vault.
The first 16-track work I can document at the house is sessions for "When Girls Get Together," "This Whole World" and "At My Window" in early November 1969. The last 8-track work at the house appears to have been the first Flame track ("See The Light") in mid-October.
So, c'mon, Steve, you've got our curiousity piqued! Please tell us -- what was the planned use of the reworked "H&V"? I can understand the TV mix, but what was going to be done with the stereo and mono mixes? You don't plan to leave us hanging like this, do you? :-)
By Puptent_Hookah (Puptent_hookah) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 08:16 pm:
Harmonymeister, the snippet you refer to is from the attempted SMILE vocal sessions,documented in last month's MOJO. Mike Love doing what he does best. Sabotage.
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Friday, March 1, 2002 - 08:26 pm:
REPLY TO BRAD ELLIOTT's COMMENTS: No. We go much further back with 16tk then "Cottonfields" -- something is lost or mislabled or misplaced. Flame is 16tk -- must have been transfered. Did any of the 40 track multi-tracks make it? The ones done on the rented STEVENS machine? That will tell me something about the history of these multi-tracks. ~SWD
By Brad Elliott (Brad_elliott) on Saturday, March 2, 2002 - 05:06 am:
** We go much further back with 16tk then "Cottonfields" -- something is lost or mislabled or misplaced. **
That very well could be. All I can do is report what was there recently. What's your best recollection of when you started working with 16-track? Everything from the first half of 1969 ("San Miguel," "Loop De Loop," Break Away," "Slip On Through," etc.) is on 8-track (1-inch) tape, apparently regardless of where it was recorded (Sunset Sound, Gold Star, the house). Everything from the SUNFLOWER sessions that began in the fall ("When Girls Get Together," "This Whole World," "At My Window," "Tears In The Morning," etc.) is on 16-track (2-inch) tape.
** Flame is 16tk -- must have been transfered. **
All the Flame material, except that first track, is on 16-track.
** Did any of the 40 track multi-tracks make it? The ones done on the rented STEVENS machine? That will tell me something about the history of these multi-tracks. **
Honestly, that's the first I've heard of that! What size tape did a 40-track machine use?!! And what did you record on it?
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Saturday, March 2, 2002 - 09:26 am:
TO BRAD ELLIOTT's COMMENTS: Brad, thanks for looking all that up. I know it
takes time to find all these lost details.
The first 16tk machine rented was an AMPEX. During the time we were deciding on a tape machine to use long-term, we did rent a STEVENS multi-track from the company with the same name. It used a 2" headstack with 40 heads. Each track was about the size of a cassette tape track. With NR the system wasn't too bad. Stevens was ahead of the times in terms of design. We made some test recordings including some (3 or 4) original tracks using the Steven machine. Given that the Beach Boy style of recording needs either lots of tracks or a machine quiet enough to make several ping-pongs, we were, at that time, deciding which way to go. In the end we elected to not close ourselves out of other studios by using the esoteric Stevens fourty-track machine, but to deal with the problems ping-pongs present as they emerged. We rented the 3M multi-track for a long run, but there were other machines at the house before the 3M was moved in. The 3M had the advantage of greater dynamic range than any other machine of that time. With a greater dynamic range, lower noise base-lines could be adjusted, thus resulting in the ability to do more track moving without increasing the noise levels too much. The captionless/closed-loop tape delivery mechanism was vastly superior to the drag/pressure system used by Ampex in terms of wow and flutter and tape-to-head contact efficiency IMO.
Thanks again, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Topgazza (Topgazza) on Saturday, March 2, 2002 - 10:33 am:
My Real Player, its the free basic version, comes up with "unable to connect to server" for the BB/Brother years progam. Any ideas guys?
By Anthony1 (Anthony1) on Saturday, March 2, 2002 - 07:11 pm:
Thanks so much for answering my questions; I know all of us are very excited to have a person who was really there tell us about Brian's activities. I've always considered Chuck Britz,Jim Lockhart,yourself,Stephen Moffit,Earl Mankey and Mark Linnett the unsung angels of Brian's music, and luckily you and Mark are interacting on the internet; we really should look up Earl and Stephen M. and pepper them with queries also!
I recall a statement you made many years ago, perhaps to David Leaf for his book; you said "I've erased more Brian Wilson music than most people have heard"; I also recall that you said that the original lyrics to "Til I Die" were much better than the released version, but that you could not prevent Brian from erasing them to make way for the revised ones. Could you possibly expand on these comments?
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Sunday, March 3, 2002 - 07:01 am:
TO ANTHONY1's COMMENTS: Tony, I would say Chuck shaped Brian into a first class
record producer. My involvement may have had that affect with the rest of the
group. The other people you mentioned did not get involved with production but
were all good engineers.
Everyone in the control room was aghast when Brian wanted to record new lyrics and argued for about half an hour against changes. The original lyrics had been recorded weeks before and everyone had settled in with them – they were Till I Die. Out of nowhere, Brian wanted to redo and completely change the words. There were no open tracks to use for the new lyric, thus preserving the original, and no facility to make a quick copy. So I erased the original and replaced it with what Brian wanted. I preferred the old lyrics as did Carl, but what can you do? They are gone.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Anthony1 (Anthony1) on Sunday, March 3, 2002 - 11:23 am:
again, Stephen; I'm looking forward to your site (and I hope you write a book
By Mr_marcus (Mr_marcus) on Saturday, March 16, 2002 - 02:48 pm:
Does anybody know the whereabouts of this guy who engineered "Smiley Smile", "Wild Honey" & "Friends"? His insights into The Beach Boys' recording process in the Byron Preiss book have always intrigued me-recording in the empty swimming pool and the shower with the water running and the way "Smiley Smile" was done in sections etc.
By Cam Mott (Cam) on Saturday, March 16, 2002 - 03:21 pm:
Mr. Gloom here. Jim Lockert passed away last November.
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Sunday, March 17, 2002 - 09:19 am:
REPLY TO MR_MARCUS's
Perhaps I can answer some questions as I was there assisting Jim on various songs and engineered the following songs (but did not receive album credit) when Jim got sick. He was in and out a lot due to excessive coughing and breathing problems. A great guy!
Anna Lee, The Healer
Be Here in the Mornin'
Wake the World
Hereos and Villains
Fall Breaks and Back To Winter
(W. Woodpecker Symphony)
She's Goin' Bald
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Cam Mott (Cam) on Monday, March 18, 2002 - 02:04 pm:
I've got a question or few. Were you involved in any of the recordings in the swimming pool or shower for Heroes and Villians? Can you identify any of those recordings in the finished song?
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 12:09 pm:
REPLY TO CAM MOTT's
COMMENTS: H&V vocals recorded in Brian's old pool, not the new olympic
sized pool. The olympic was too large to make any acoustical difference. The
smaller pool recording was really only a hoot for the guys, acoustically it
made it more difficult and the pool characteristics were EQed out. Like singing
in the shower, it was fun to hear if you were there, but not if you were in the
There were so many versions of H&V recorded, it is sometimes hard to tell which track is which. However, I can identify a few of mine.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Cam Mott (Cam) on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 03:13 pm:
Were these sessions you listed the first work you had done with Brian and/or the Beach Boys?
Jim had given a discription of the process for the all night mixing of the tracks and the assembly of the Smiley Smile album at Wally Heider's, along with Bill Halverson I believe, to a biographer. Were you present for that too?
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 06:05 pm:
REPLY TO CAM MOTT's
COMMENTS: (1) Early studio work, Yes. (2) No, Even David Leaf passed me by for
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Cam Mott (Cam) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 09:16 am:
I may have bolluxed up
that second question, I was trying to ask if you were at the mixing and
assembly of the Smiley Smile album at Wally Heider's rather then if you were at
Jim's interview explaining it. Is that any clearer, it doesn't seem so.
Hopefully you somehow understood the first time and I haven't wasted your time.
I'll go sit down now. [blushing]
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 10:31 am:
REPLY TO CAM MOTT’s
COMMENTS: Sorry Cam, I did misunderstand your question. Answer is no. My
involvement at the time was to cover for Jim when he was ill yet the creative
will was there for the ‘Boys to record. Since I was mixing on the road it was
natural for them to call on me for recording (tracking). I remember doing mixes
of some of these songs, but whether or not my mixes were used or re-done later
by Jim is gone from my memory. It is quite possible that some were merely
spliced into the final master reel, but I cannot say. Most of the time I was on
the road or readying the equipment for tours. Of course, in the process of
recording, I've sub-mixed tracks and those are locked-in.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 10:33 am:
REPLY TO CAM MOTT’s COMMENTS: When I can find the time I'll go back and listen to the songs again -- which I haven't heard in a decade -- to see if I can better remember ~SWD
By Cam Mott (Cam) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 03:23 pm:
Thanks Stephen for taking
It used to be thought that Brian was demoralised and not fully committed musically or emotionally to the producing and songs and methods and techniques used for the "Smiley Smile" album. In your experience with engineering of the recordings you did for the "Smiley Smile" album, did you find that to be true or was Brian creatively excited and emotionally "into" the making of Smiley Smile?
Do I understand you correctly that before you covered for Jim as an engineer for the "Smiley Smile" album that you were an engineer for the touring Beach Boys? Can you remember about when you started that [ie. after the release of "Good Vibrations", New Years 1967, the filing of the lawsuit against Capitol, the tour of England in May 1967]?
Thanks again for your patience and the fascinating insights into a fascinating time.
Question for Steven Desper: BB vocal rehearsals
By Gusrusso (Gusrusso) on Sunday, March 17, 2002 - 02:48 pm:
Hi Steven. It occured to
me that you can
answer what have always been nagging
questions for me. When the Boys began
working up vocals for a recording, what was
the modus operandi? Did Brian always dole
out the parts around a piano? I have a hunch
that, having sung together so long, the
individual singers could often intuit their own
parts; or was Brian authoritarian about what
he wanted,since vocals were so dear to his
heart? Also, how long on average did it take
them to work out their parts- and were some
songs particularly troublesome to pull off?
By Love to say MaMa (Love_2_say_mama) on Sunday, March 17, 2002 - 03:03 pm:
I have wondered about
this on occasion too. I notice that the liner notes for some of the later
albums it says 'vocals arranged by Brian Wilson and the BeachBoys', which suggests
that later on they had a hand in it as well.
"mama mama mama mama"
By Gusrusso (Gusrusso) on Sunday, March 17, 2002 - 05:18 pm:
OOPS! Stephen, sorry
about the misspelling.
It's been a long day.
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Sunday, March 17, 2002 - 08:45 pm:
REPLY TO GUSRUSSO's
COMMENTS: If Brian was the arranger, parts were always sang by Brian, whether
playing the piano or not, learned on the spot and usually written down by
someone else (Carl or Bruce) for further study or group use. Brian did not
write music. The reverse would happen if Bruce arranged the vocals. Someone
would read and sing Brian's part for him to learn it.
Happy Listenting, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Sunday, March 17, 2002 - 08:55 pm:
Further REPLY TO
GUSRUSSO's COMMENTS: Vocals usually evolved as the song evolved. That could be
over several months -- Loop de Loop was 29 years.
Yes, some songs are as easy to sing as a Methodist Hymn and others, with tight harmony changes, could take several hours to learn. Of course you can always punch-in and correct mistakes, to some extent. You never know, some words of a lead may be recorded one week and other words changed weeks or months later. Listening to it, you would never know. That's the art and level of performance these guys had/have.
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Sunday, March 17, 2002 - 09:00 pm:
REPLY TO MAMA's COMMENTS:
If the vocal arrangement was extensive, and Brian was the arranger, it was so stated. Otherwise, the credit was given to the group. The entire group decided together who would get credit for what.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Anthony1 (Anthony1) on Monday, March 18, 2002 - 07:34 pm:
I think you are implying that Brian doesn't know how to read or wrte music, yet David Sandler (in Chris Andrew's fanzine "Open Sky") recalls how he was in Brian's office with him (c. 1972) and as they were talking about Sandler's home state, Brian was simultaneously writing out the music arrangement for the horns for "Good Time"; soon after, I believe Sandler watched the horns record the part. Does this gibe with your memory, or do you hold that Brian couldn't write music? (cue Perry Mason music here).
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 12:30 pm:
REPLY TO ANTHONY1's
COMMENTS: During my employment I never witnessed him read or write music,
always handing that duty over to Carl or others. I wrote he DID NOT write
music, I did not write he COULD NOT write music. You can conclude whatever you
wish. Again I ask you, are you a lawyer? (see 02/02/22) Life is not played out
as if in a TV court room.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Anthony1 (Anthony1) on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 08:19 pm:
Thanks for your comments!
I was almost a lawyer- passed my ELSAT and was admitted into a program, but decided to follow music instead (you're making me feel that was a big mistake!)
Coincidentally, I was talking with a friend just last week who's somewhat "in the know" about Brian, and when I told him the David Sandler story, he replied that Brian's writing music has always been a big lie. I replied "What about all those pictures of him writing music for Pet Sounds?" and he said "Those are just promotional pictures- all faked!". Than I mentioned that Carol Kaye (on her web-site) recounts how Brian used to write all the parts for the musicians, and my friend replied "either he was writing the chords only in a shorthand form, or she's just misremembering." Now Darian Sanahaja (hope I didn't mispell his name) also maintains (again in the pages of "Open Sky") that he has never seen Brian write music, and furthermore (if my memory is correct) that Brian doesn't know how to write music. So I'm left wondering: did Brian used to know how to write music, and has now forgotten, or does he know and has become lazy, or did he never know? And if the third option is true, I think Brian's accomplishments are even more amazing than ever.
Stephen, I'm not searching for innocence or guilt here. My point is that if Brian has never been able to read or write music, that's equivalent to discovering that Bach couldn't read or write music, and I think that's important for musical history.
P.S. What's 02/02/22 ?
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 02:01 pm:
REPLY TO ANTHONY1’s
COMMENTS: Tony, ever think of being a music business lawyer? Many become heads
of labels. Mo Ostin for one. Recommend the book, “This Business of Music”
published by Billboard – now in its 6th revision – up to date legal info on
every aspect of the music industry. With the Internet changing the entire
industry and digital transfer of information challenging the very fabric of
music, the legalities are more important than ever. If I were a young man
interested in the law, I would re-consider the legal profession specializing in
music as a way to have both worlds, and make money.
AND NOW MR. ANTHONY, isn’t it true that you were heard to say that Brian Wilson (points to defendant) could read music? And isn’t it also true that you have been told that he cannot read music? Now I ask you, Mr. Anthony, please tell the court how do you read or write music? What do you mean when you state that “he can write music?” Couldn’t it be that writing music takes on several forms? Could it be true that the defendant could write chord names but not notes? (Objection – leading the witness . . . OVERRULED, please continue cross examination) Wouldn’t it be fair to say Mr. Wilson has knowledge of music . . . in your opinion? And if so, wouldn’t it be also fair to say he has knowledge of chords by name? Then could not the court conclude that Mr. Wilson could write chord names on music paper while being observed? Could not this alleged music paper have staff lines and give the impression of containing musical notes when actually Mr. Wilson was only making musical notations, not notes. That is, for the courts information, chord names; not the notes of the chords. Chord names written in the approximate appropriate places on musical paper. And Mr. Anthony, could it be that some, who do not read music, would mis-interperate this as the act of writing music, when, in fact, Mr. Anthony, it is not? What do you have to say, Mr. Anthony – the court is listening Mr. Anthony ...
“02/02/22” is the International Standard ISO 8601 date form of 2002/Feburary/2nd day. The United States of America adopted this standard at the beginning of the millennium. Every one still uses the old system, but I, being a hip, up-to-date kind of stubborn engineer that I am, use the new standard, and everyone else can just play catch-up.
If it please the court, Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Anthony1 (Anthony1) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 02:58 pm:
Cue Perry Mason music
(newly recorded 80's version with bad drum sound):
Mr. Anthony: If it please the court, even though I've had my hand on the Bible the whole time, I still feel that the prosecutor has been mercilously badgering me... can I be excused for a ....bathroom break?
Prosecutor Desper: Your Honor, this is clearly a ploy on Mr. Anthony's part to avoid answering the question!
Judge Judy: Mr. Anthony, you are instructed to answer the question.
Mr. Anthony: (visibly shaking) Must I, Your Honor?
Judge Judy: Don't make me tell you again, Mr. Anthony!
Mr. Anthony: Okay, okay! The answer is.. yes, Prosecutor Desper, of course you are right, but didn't I delineate your scenario...
Prosecutor Desper: It's not a scenario, Mr. Anthony, it's the reality; don't forget, in my capacity as chief engineer of Brother studios, c. 1968-1971, I was witness to said events.
Mr. Anthony: Of course, of course, all I meant to say is that one of my original options was, and I am quoting my friend: "...either he was writing the chords only in a shorthand form..." end of quote. And of course, with your response in the affirmative to this possibilty, I now have what I believe the answer to my original inquiry.
Prosecutor Desper: Your honor, I move that Mr. Anthony be immediately declared a hostile witness, and be instructed to read Doesteovsky's "The Grand Inquisitor" every day for one week until he learns proper respect for the court and it's duly apponted officers.
Judge Judy: I wholeheartedly accede to your request, Prosecutor Desper, and furthermore I'm going to instruct that Mr. Anthony alternate the Doesteovsky with readings of the American Audio Engineer's quarterly, issues #120 through #140, i.e. the years including 1965 through 1972.
(The witness is lead away, sobbing quietly, muttering "I just wanted to clear up history, I just wanted to...")
Cue Perry Mason theme.
Seriously, Steve, I appreciate more than you can know your contributions to said musical history, and your clarity of mind and obvious common sense approach, mixed with a rare technical brilliance meant that Brian's and the Beach Boys' music in that wonderful "hinterland" period will stand the test of time and be for the ages. And this is not hyperbole, but my honest belief. So thanks for "Til I Die" and "Friends" and "We're Together Again" and "I Went To Sleep" and "San Miguel" and "Loop de Loop" and "Cool Cool Water" and "Sweet Mountain" and all the other treasures that you midwifed so suuccessfully. I think the Beach Boys story would be significantly lesser were it not for your contributions during that era.
And thanks for responding to my posts!
P.S. Did you see that picture of you in the CD booklet yet?
By Anthony1 (Anthony1) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 03:05 pm:
Excuse me, I should have
typed "Seriously, Stephen".
By Mikie (Mikie) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 03:10 pm:
That's "Mr. Desper" to you, Tony. :>)
Question for Mr. Desper- She's Goin' Bald
By Gregg (Gregg) on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 06:25 am:
Since you offered, I know a lot of us have wondered exactly how the tape-speeding up effect was achieved in "She's Goin' Bald". This was before the days of any pitch shifting type of electronic processing, so I assume the effect was achieved by altering the tape's playback speed.
But the bewildering aspect of the effect is the fact that as the pitch of the guys voices gradually goes up, the tempo seems to stay essentially the same. If the guys just recorded their vocals and then sped up the tape, both the pitch AND the tempo would increase. Did the guys actually sing the line progressively slower so when you sped the tape up the tempo would seem to stay constant while the vocals gradually rose in pitch? This seems like quite a tricky feat to pull off. Anyway, thanks for your time and any info!
By Bungalow Bill (Bungalow_bill) on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 12:28 pm:
...and was helium involved ? Good question , I know the Beatles always played with tape speed (Strawberry Fields , piano solo on In My Life , etc.). Pitch is always a factor , too .
By twentysix (Twentysix) on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 12:53 pm:
gregg: it is possible on many slightly expensive four- and eight-track cassette recorders to alter the pitch without varying the speed. i presume that's what was done here.
By Gregg (Gregg) on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 12:58 pm:
26, yes, but that type of digital pitch-shifting was not available in 1967. It had to be done with varying the tape speed or maybe some type of ring modulation.
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 05:49 pm:
REPLY TO GREGG's
COMMENTS: AND TO ALL YOUR GUESSES SO FAR . . .
The effect in ‘Bald was really a weird one, I must say. In my travels as a working engineer I came across this device, a machine the size of a small refrigerator, that could change pitch without tempo or tempo without pitch. It was invented by a German fellow in 1965 and called the ELTRO PITCH/TEMPO CHANGER. At the time of the ‘Bald recording, I was still working around Hollywood movie studios which is where this device, the Eltro, was used. Mostly used to extend or compress a commercial to fit the 30 or 60 second slot. It’s relatively easy to compress or expand the picture – just cut out or duplicate a frame now and then. But, the sound is quite a different animal since it is continuous rather than a series of still picture flashes seemingly continuous through the phenomena of “sight persistence.” I talked the studio, MGM I think, into letting me take it to a Beach Boy session for a few days, mainly because it could do what seemed impossible, change pitch without affecting the tempo or visa versa. I did not envision using the Eltro for any recording or such, but the guys were equally fascinated by what it could do and wanted to use it on “something” just for the sake of using it. Remember that was back in the late ‘60’s, almost 40 years ago. Today pitch/tempo changers are digital, and from some of the ads for these things you would think it was some new invention – every company claiming to have originated the idea – when actually it just shows me that their PR people did not do their homework. Today they range from $500 (professional) to $39.95 (telephone voice disguise). Both the analog and digital devices work the same way, but to me, the original idea is very clever – and it did work well given you didn’t push the operational envelope too far. We pushed it to the extreme for Going’ Bald and you can hear if crap out too – but the boys didn’t mind – I did, but they said it was OK.
If you really must know how it works I can explain it, but it is a little technical and complex, so please don’t ask unless there is a genuine interest. As usual, if you really, really, really, want to know, I’ll tell.
By twentysix (Twentysix) on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 05:49 pm:
i meant using two tape
decks...digital machinery frightens me.
i suspect that's how it was done.
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 05:50 pm:
If you really must know
how it works I can explain it, but it is a little technical and complex, so
please don’t ask unless there is a genuine interest. As usual, if you really,
really, really, want to know, I’ll tell.
Happy Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Gregg (Gregg) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 04:45 am:
Of course! The ol' ELTRO
PITCH/TEMPO CHANGER! I should have known........
I had no idea something like that existed back then. It's so cool to finally learn how that was done. Thanks so much, Stephen! I don't want to bore everyone with the technical aspects of the device, but I would guess it worked similarly to the old analog delay units, where the amplitude of the input signal at a given moment was represented as a voltage level stored in a capacitor. Sort of like analog sampling. The manipulation of pitch and tempo could then be done much like it is done digitally today. Am I on the right track? -Gregg
By Jon_hunt (Jon_hunt) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 06:10 am:
I have a genuine interest
for sure, Stephen,
because I can't wrap my brain around how an
analog machine could lengthen the signal
without altering the pitch as well.
Is there any way to explain it in layman's
terms?? Or kind of 1/2 in layman's terms?
By Harveywilliams (Harveywilliams) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 10:20 am:
I'd love to know too.
Information on the web about this machine is sketchy to say the least, but it
seems to involve a rotating playback head. As the head would be moving as well
as the tape, this would presumably affect the relative head/tape speed (&
thus the pitch) without affecting the linear absolute tape speed (thus keeping
the tempo constant). In layman's terms...
Are we getting warm?
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 12:51 pm:
REPLY TO GREGG's, JON
HUNT's, & HARVEY WILLIAMS's COMMENTS:
I could only find a “time line” mention of ELTRO at the AES site – not much.
IPS = Inches Per Second, i.e. the distance in inches the tape travels past a given point (playback or record head of a tape recorder)
15/16 ips = archive radio copyright data, flight data recorders
1 7/8 ips = compact cassette
3 ¾ ips = late reel-to-reel commercial releases, 8-track cassettes
7 ½ ips = early reel-to-reel commercial releases, radio station tape cartridges
15 ips = professional master recordings (BB stereo masters)
30 ips = professional master recordings (BB multi-track masters)
60 ips = instrumentation data recordings
120 ips = computer tape speed (you’ve seen ‘em in early sci-fi movies)
I think it would be best to explain the concept first, then you will see how this is done in digital. After the concept is understood, the analog means will be more easily grasped.
Let us say you have finished recording and editing a one minute commercial. At the last minute the sponsor wishes to add the tag-phrase “buy it now” to the end, making the commercial 61 seconds long – too long for the one-minute slot he bought during network time. What is needed is to remove one second from the finished commercial and add the one-second tag.
By way of example, assume a one minute long recording on tape at 15 ips. From start to finish is (60 seconds times 15 = 900 inches divided by 12 inches pre foot = 75 feet) 75 feet long. Take the tape a lay it out on the floor of a long hallway. Now, at every six inches make a mark so you have 150 marks, or so. Next take a razor blade and cut out 1/8 inch of the tape from every mark, butt splicing as you go. Finally put the whole thing back onto the reel. Calculate: (1/8 inch times 150 = approx. 18 inches. – subtract 18 inches from 75 feet = 73.5 feet) Playing the tape with all the little snips removed will reduce the playback from 60 seconds to about 59 seconds (12 inches times 73.5 = 882 feet running at 15 ips = approx. 58.9 seconds). At 15 ips playback you will not hear the missing little 1/8-inch cutouts. Adding the tag “buy it now” of one second makes the final version of the commercial 60 seconds long.
Of course in the above example it is not practical to make so many splices, at least not with a razor blade and splicing tape. But the theory remains the same. If you remove little – tiny little – snips from the tape while butting the ends of the removed snip together, you, in effect, shorten the time of playback while leaving the pitch unchanged.
If you grasp how that can happen, you can reverse the procedure and where you removed 1/8-inch snips, now add copies of the 1/8-inch. First make a copy of the whole tape, next make a mark on both copies every 6 inches, next add 1/8 inch from the copy back into the original at every mark. This will extend the playback time from 60 minutes to about 61 minutes – thus, allowing you to reduce the playback speed and thereby reduce the pitch, but the playback time (tempo) will be the same or 60 seconds.
Again to do this by hand is not possible or at least not practical.
I hope you can see how this could be done within a digital algorithm. Cut/Copy/Paste -- over and over. If you match the wavelength points of exit and entry, you have a seamless splicing job in (almost) real time. That is how the Eventide Harmonizer works.
I hope this is clear so far. On to the ELTRO.
First you have a normal tape transport on a rather large plate. Supply and take-up reels with a rather long tape path between them. A capstan and pinch roller pull the tape past an erase and recording head. However the playback head is really (guessing) 20 heads mounted in a circle on a wheel, one head every 18 degrees. The tape is pushed against this arc so that it is in contact with at least one head for 20 degrees of travel. All the heads are connected to a switching mechanism that switches on each head as it enters the arc and off as it leaves the arc. The output of the switch (which is really part of the same wheel) is the output of the ELTRO. The recording head records a signal and as it passes by one of the stationary heads it does not change tempo or pitch. Now the playback head-wheel is rotated and the switching begins. The ratio of speed to tape changes but the tape speed remains constant, in effect, making little splices as the switch switches from head to head on the wheel. Moving the wheel in one direction changes the pitch up, in the other direction, down. Changing the recording speed or transport speed changes the tempo but rotating the head-wheel corrects the pitch back to normal because as each head of the head-wheel is in contact with the tape itself it is at normal speed – losing a little “snip” at each switch of the head being used. Or, extending the time of contact if the speed of the transport is to its opposite.
I hope this is all clear, as I don’t think I can explain it any clearer.
In ‘Bald, you can hear the pitch rise while the tempo remains the same, but as the pitch is raised more and more, listen for the switching (or electric splices) to become evident. The ELTRO was designed for extending or compressing the length of speech mostly, and for that it can do about a 30 to 40 percent change. Music is much less, about 5 to 10 percent. After that, the electric splice can be heard. In the digital world this can be corrected by the “intelligence” of the circuit, i.e., the enter and exit timing of each “splice” can be optimized to meet its “end” or “beginning” at the exact moment when the waveform is equal. Doing it with a mechanical switch leaves some room for error. Any questions?
Hhaappllyy lliisstteenniinngg,, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Mikie (Mikie) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 02:25 pm:
Thanks Mr. Desper. This is really great stuff to learn about!
By Gregg (Gregg) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 02:41 pm:
Thanks for the thorough
and very informative explanation, Stephen! That was a very cleverly designed
piece of equipment and it's good to find out that time compression/expansion
and pitch shifting was available pre-digital era. Very amazing stuff.
Another long-standing BB mystery is solved (at least for me). Thanks so much!
By the way, is the picture on the cover from the actual Sacramento concert or is it posed? It's always been one of my favorite shots of the guys
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Sunday, December 29, 2002 - 11:04 am:
COMMENTS IN GENERAL:
Brian can't hear stereo, so his decisions to release in Mono shouldn't surprise
you. When Brian hears stereo, he hears a double sound that is not as clear to
him as the single point source of mono (through one speaker, that is).
One of my "job requirements" was to take the Beach Boys from the mono era to the (then) new stereo scene.
Jimmy Lockart and myself were the first to record the group using more than four tracks. Chuck used four tracks. Jimmy used eight. Soon I was using 16 tracks and with ping-pong technique that was more like 30 tracks.
One of the old surf records was released in true stereo (Brad can tell you which one) because the end four-track could be hard-panned to have a spread of tracking and vocals. Otherwise everything was mixed to mono.
Now comes an interesting development.
The re-mixing from multi-track masters of 16 tracks has problems. Some of the elements are missing, so it's very hard, if not impossible to remix songs after the 'Boys entered the "stereo era." Acoustic ping-ponging also makes it impossible to go back to the original multi-track and re-mix to other formates such as 5.1. Those of you familiar with my writings will know my position on this topic.
Mark Linette has been laboring over the old Chuck Britz recordings for some time now and his system of restoration of recordings from the mono era is a brilliant use of today's digital technology with the old style of recording.
Unlike modern multitrack recording, where every track is stacked in sync on the same tape, Chuck had only four tracks to work with. He recorded four tracks on one machine. When those were filled, he mixed to a second machine and then filled up the rest of the tracks (3). Then he would mix again to a third machine and fill up the next remaining tracks (3) -- and so on until a final mix was obtained. Since mono was the goal, it worked good (as we have all heard), but going back was always blocked because of the mono mixes required at each transfer.
Now Chuck had the foresight to not discard any of the stages or tapes as this process moved along, in case he had to go back. So, from what I understand, the various mix stages are all in the vault and you can go back and hear each successive mix from the last to the first.
What Linette has done is to add time-code to all the stages of mixes, from the first to the final. Then copy them to a digital master multi-track. This enables him to have the earlier vocal and instrumental, that were (at first) recorded on seperate tracks, be in sync with each added track. That is, if there were four sets of four-track multi-track tapes used to make the final mix of a song, he can go back in sync-time and have all the tracks that were previously combined in composit mixes, remain seperated and in sync on his multi-track digital (new) master.
This means that when he has completed the transfers to digital, he can remix many tracks of vocals and instruments into true stereo. As I understand, this technique has been applied to the pending 5.1 release of "Pet Sounds" and I am 100% behind this approach, especially with Brian involved with the project, as he produced "Pet Sounds."
I can't get behind the same for "Sunflower" or the pending 5.1 of "Surfs Up" where tracks are missing or the original sounds were done at the time of mixdown and cannot be dublicated. Since the producers of this albums are not with us anymore, new mixes of this albums are NOT "Produced by The Beach Boys" and are only conterfits of the original productions.
My hat is off to Mark in his work with "Pet Sounds" however, and I look forward to hearing the results of this masterful re-mix to true stereo of "Pet Sounds."
Good Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Cam Mott (Cam) on Sunday, December 29, 2002 - 01:24 pm:
Did a reported ear operation allow Brian to participate in any of the stereo mixes during your watch?
By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Sunday, December 29, 2002 - 04:15 pm:
REPLY TO CAM's COMMENTS:
When I first started working with Brian, I realized he had a "fear"
of stereo because he could not emperically experience it, only conceptually
imagine the effect. He knew he had to embrace the new stereo requirement
imposed by the record company. So we decided to set up a monitor (one) speaker
in the Studio that he would hear a composit mix from the stereo mix we were
monitoring in the Control Room -- at the same time. That way he could check
balances and stuff the way he liked to listen, and we in the Control Room could
mix in stereo. It worked out quite nicely. Many times Brian would catch
mistakes or ask for changes. He did not mix at the board, but listened to the
mixes being done and made comments. He did not mix at the board because for him
to hear stereo is like hearing a double image -- a delay from one speaker
relative to the other. For years he had been listening to one speaker. Usually
an Altec 604D model. That is a "point-source" type speaker and I can
see how this type speaker would be best for his situation. That is what we set
up for him in the Studio. Of course he could (and did) come into the Control
Room anytime he wished, but he usually did his listening over the one speaker
in the Studio, with his head turned so the good ear was near the speaker.
I do not think the ear operation allowed him to experience stereo playback as you and I hear it. It did give him a little more abiltiy to hear someone speaking in a room, but not the full stereo experience. Rather sad.
Good Listening to you, ~Stephen W. Desper
By Edroach2002 (Edroach2002) on Sunday, December 29, 2002 - 07:20 pm:
Stephen: I recall a set-up at Brother Studios, where they had both a mono, and a pair of tiny stereo speakers, so they could get the effect of what a mix would sound like on a radio or in the car. I can't remember if that started as far back as Belagio. Does this ring any bells for you?
By AGD (Agd) on Sunday, December 29, 2002 - 11:05 pm:
Apologies for butting in, but I recall several statements from various books that Brian mixed for car radios with inferior speakers as far back as the early/mid sixties. That's something Chuck would have been able to clue us in about.