More Desper Archives

Thanks to Dan Lega for retrieving these

By Cam Mott (Cam) on Saturday, November 23, 2002 - 02:09 pm: 

Mr. Desper, 

Were you the first engineer yet when "Do It Again" was recorded? 


By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Saturday, November 23, 2002 - 
03:56 pm: 

REPLY TO CAM MOTT's COMMENTS: You asked, "Were you the first engineer 
yet when "Do It Again" was recorded?" and first of all, I have never 
been a second engineer at any studio in my life. I recorded Do It 
Again and by creating the drum effect, sealed my union with the Beach 
Boys until I resigned, not wanting to travel to Holland. 

Good Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper 

By Cam Mott (Cam) on Saturday, November 23, 2002 - 04:07 pm: 

So that was the first recording engineered by you for the Beach Boys 
after Jim Lockert left, which is what I was meaning to ask? Was that 
Dennis playing the drum for that fab effect? 


By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Saturday, November 23, 2002 - 
09:09 pm: 

REPLY TO CAM MOTT's COMMENTS: Jimmy set up a makeshift studio in 
Brian's house for recording vocals on Friends and Smilie-Smile. I was 
asked to observe the sessions. I was mixing the shows then. Jimmy was 
getting sicker and sicker and concerned Carl and Brian. His constant 
coughing was getting in the way of tracking. More and more he was late 
or could not show because of sickness. Since I was already mixing for 
the Boys, I would cover for Jim when he couldn't make the date. 
Finally Jim excused himself and I took over, building the house 
studio. To answer your question, "[what was] the first recording 
engineered by you for the Beach Boys after Jim Lockert left?" it would 
be those vocal sessions on Friends, etc. The first album I ever worked 
on was Stack 'O Tracks. 

Dennis played the drums on Do It Again. The "fab effect" (thank you) 
was something I came up with during the mixdown. I had commissioned 
Phillips, in Holland, to build two tape delay units for use on the 
road (to double live vocals). I moved four of the Phillips PB heads 
very close together so that one drum strike was repeated four times 
about 10 milliseconds apart, and blended it with the original to give 
the effect you hear. Everyone liked the sound and credited me with 
adding to the commercial success of the single. Whether or not that 
was true, I don't know, but it put me in the engineering seat for many 

Good Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper 

By Markrudd (Markrudd) on Saturday, November 23, 2002 - 10:28 pm: 

So you could've engineered Holland! 

Evidently the Dutch have cute women so maybe you should've gone. 

Speaking of 20/20. I Can Hear Music sounds so much 'clearer' if you 
like than every other song on that album. Maybe it's the accoustic 
guitars perhaps. Such a great Carl vocal. I love it. 

By Cam Mott (Cam) on Sunday, November 24, 2002 - 04:57 am: 

Did you then record the "Lei'd In Hawaii" concerts with Brian and the 
other Boys in the summer of 1967? If so, did you or Jim do 
the "sweetening" of those concert recordings? 

Thanks for the memories. 

By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Sunday, November 24, 2002 - 
10:40 am: 

REPLY TO CAM's COMMENTS: Jim did the sweetening for the most part. 

REPLY TO MARKRUDD's COMMENTS: I did not go to Holland because Mike 
Love wanted a TM person in the mix. I have no problem with 
Transendental Meditation or people who use it, but I was not about to 
change my religious beliefs or customs to engineer in Holland. I 
resigned and went on tour with Zappa. Sail on Sail is , however, a 
leftover recording from the Surf's Up collection of masters that got 
put on "Holland," but I never got engineering credit for it. If you 
can get the LP 20/20 I think you will find the sound is better than 
subsequent CD masterings. 

Good Listening to all, 
~Stephen W. Desper 

By Bicyclerider (Bicyclerider) on Sunday, November 24, 2002 - 02:59 

Stephen - Why would the LP 20/20 sound better than recent CD 
remasterings from the master tapes? I realize many people prefer the 
warmer sound of analogue to digital, but is there something else 
you're referencing here? Was the LP mix different than the master used 
for CD? 

By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Sunday, November 24, 2002 - 
03:49 pm: 

REPLY TO BICYCLERIDER's COMMENTS: You asked, "Why would the LP 20/20 
sound better than recent CD remasterings from the master tapes?" and 
there are several reasons. First, I mastered the LP sound and it was 
OKed by the Beach Boys as producers. CD's are mastered by engineers 
who are not as connected to the desired sound as those who created it. 
Second, the master tapes are analog and the CD is digital. All analog 
to digital converters have a "sound" about the algorithm used to make 
the conversion from energy (algorythm) to information (digital) forms 
of storage. So analog recordings always sound best as analog playbacks 
and digital always best as digital. The culprit isn't so much the 
medium as the conversion. Third, there are two sets of master tapes. 
One is the original master and the other is the LP master. The 
original master is as was delivered to the mastering house from the 
(in this case) Beach Boys' studio. Whereas the LP master is a tape 
copy made at the same time th!
e LP matrix is cut and contains all the corrections for level 
differences and EQ changes needed to make the entire album sound 
cohearent. Many times the record company will use the LP master to cut 
the CD because all the changes are worked out. However, the EQ changes 
are for the LP medium (a mechanical medium) and do not transfer to 
digital without being re-corrected. Sometimes it is not possible to 
locate the original master because it is lost or mis-placed, in fact 
that is the case more times than not. The original recording and 
production was made with the idea in mind that the end product would 
be an LP. There is a big difference between how the sound is when 
played by a stylus in a grove and a beam of light reading dots and 
dashes. The only way to get back to what the original sound should 
really be is to go to the LP. The LP record and the LP master tape are 
the same. That is the end product. Making a CD from these old tapes is 
quite a challange and if the record is t!
o just to fill inventory (as 20/20) and not expected to sell millions 
of copies, it's transfer is treated as if in an assembly line. The 
engineer is given ten or fifteen tapes in the morning and expected to 
transfer them by the end of the day. Not much time is devoted to each 
transfer -- not the kind of tender loving care we gave to the LP 

Good Listening off the record, ~Stephen W. Desper 

By Edroach2002 (Edroach2002) on Monday, November 25, 2002 - 05:48 am: 

Stephen, Thought these guys would be interested in hearing that our 
dear departed Mr. Zappa purchased the board from the Belagio Studio, 
and that's what you were mixing his live shows with. 
I am correct, no? 

By Textus (Textus) on Monday, November 25, 2002 - 10:22 am: 

Does that mean you mixed the 1973 tour that had Ponty, Duke, the 
Underwoods and the Fowlers in a prodominantly instrumental set? I saw 
that show 3/9/73 in Oklahoma City and was simply blown away by that 
band. None of the recordings the next couple of years (Overnite 
Sensation, Apostrophe, Roxy & Elsewhere) really captured that odd high-
end blend of violin, vibes and reed for me. 

Your work? 

By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Monday, November 25, 2002 - 
01:25 pm: 

REPLY TO TEXTUS's COMMENTS: What a fantastic tour ("Does that mean you 
mixed the 1973 tour?") that was to be the house mixer for all the US 
and Australian tours with the such outstanding ("Ponty, Duke, the 
Underwoods and the Fowlers") musicians. I still have all the show 
mixing notes and music for the shows indicating mixing cues and gain 
changes. There was never a moment to loose consentration -- an intence 
show to mix, but the music was very rewarding. It was ten times more 
demanding than anything the Beach Boys were doing on the road. We 
brought out 362 lines from the stage, each representing a sound 
source. Those went into preset sub-mixers before coming to the main 
mixer. Sound checks could easily take two hours. Zappa demanded 
nothing short of perfection from his band and from me. I learned how 
to hear in the present time while mixing (or setting up changes) in 
future time. Most of the time I was about ten beats ahead of the band, 
ready to execute the changes on the be!

Eien and Ruth Underwood were dear friends, very kind and just terrific 
at their craft. George Duke was a star performer just waiting to 
evolve. He too, a real gentleman and such skill. Jon Luke Ponty and 
his blue violin could send you to another dimension, yet he also was 
such a pleasure to work with. Fellow, was he the trumpet player or 
drummer? Either way, those two were the routy ones of the bunch and 
kept us all laughing. 

Now Frank was serious and keen to every detail of his music and the 
band arrangements. Those arrangements were played to the note with 
jazz vamps at certain intervals to allow these gifted performers to 
express their individuality. Frank was disciplined and expected his 
musicians and technical staff to hold the line -- no fooling around. 
Of course his Guitar performances were out-of-this-world. I have yet 
to hear his equal. I have mixed Jimmy Hendrix at Monterey Pops 
Festival, and would have to say that he came very close. I only hope 
those two are now playing together in some sort of heavenly all-star 

Let me set the record stright here about Frank Zappa, in that while I 
was with him, I never saw him use or advocate the use of drugs. He was 
hooked on caffeine and drank coffee from morning to night. His public 
persona sometimes paints him as a druged up, long-hair, hip pothead -- 
but nothing could be further from the truth. To this day I can say I 
have never worked for a more honest, upright, gentelman. All the time 
I worked for him, I, along with the band, had the utmost respect and 
admiration for him as a person and his abilities as a 

I recorded every show on a pro-cassette recorder for my own record. 
Some kid stole all the tapes from my house years later, and by the 
time I retrieved them, he had used most of them to re-record disco 
music from the radio. I still have a few complete shows left. The 
sound is incredible. 

Good Listening, ~Stephen W Desper 

By Textus (Textus) on Monday, November 25, 2002 - 01:34 pm: 

There is some kind of weird cosmic joke implied in that last anecdote. 
I'm not a Zappa fan, but I have to say that this show made me think I 
would be one. Never saw him perform so well as that night, both as a 
guitarist and a bandleader. And although he was a little of his 
legendary testy with the audience that night ("...that song was 
recorded five years and three bands ago. None of these people can play 
it. If you want to hear oldies, stay home with your records"), he was 
a pretty amiable host as well. 

I think the drummer's name was something like Ralph Humphreys. No 
trumpet player in the date I saw, although I think I've read that Sal 
Marquez was on other dates. 

By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Monday, November 25, 2002 - 
01:50 pm: 

REPLY TO TEXTUS's COMMENTS: I was not a Zappa fan either until he 
asked me to mix for him. In fact, I had not heard much of his stuff 
until then. But, believe me, it only took one rehearsal session to 
hook me. Totally on the other side of music from surfing sounds, but 
fantastic stuff, nevertheless. ~SWD 

By Textus (Textus) on Monday, November 25, 2002 - 02:06 pm: 

Any possibility that the experience of doing those wonderful voices 
made you more attuned to the higher-pitched instruments (violin, 
soprano sax, top half of the vibraphone) than another mixer might have 
been? That part of that show is one of the things that stood out for 
me, anyway -- the fact that I could hear and actually understand 
discrete instruments. Didn't even know the term until Zappa named his 
third custom label Discrete... 

By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Monday, November 25, 2002 - 
02:46 pm: 

REPLY TO TEXTUS's COMMENTS: I would say the reason you could hear and 
actually understand discrete instruments would be attributed to the 
362 individual mic and direct line sources we had on stage coming down 
to the mixing board. Such individual (discrete) signal sources add to 
the ability to hear details. ~SWD 

By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Monday, November 25, 2002 - 
02:53 pm: 

REPLY TO TEXTUS's COMMENTS" Further, Ruth's vibraphone's metal bars 
each had a transducer on them so, were each individually "miked" with 
every note coming to a sub-mixer and then to the band mix in stereo. 
The other instruments you mentioned also had individual pick-ups on 
them all adding to the "up-front" sound of the band. ~SWD 

By Edroach2002 (Edroach2002) on Monday, November 25, 2002 - 08:44 pm: 

I WAS a major Zappa fan, and was fortunate enough to do some excellent 
photographic work with him. So glad to see this discussion. 
Now, here's another link: Sal Marquez can be seen doing the flute 
intro to "Forever" in the famous footage of The Boys performing the 
song live! Sal toured with The Boys before he was with Zappa! 
S.W.D.,Brian's board, Sal... there are other connections, too. 



By Edroach2002 (Edroach2002) on Monday, December 30, 2002 - 09:54 am: 

Please don't apologize - this is an OPEN forum, isn't it? And your 
information often clears quite a few memories for me! Now, it's back 
to the books for me... 

By Stephenwdesper (Stephenwdesper) on Monday, December 30, 2002 - 
12:47 pm: 

It is standard proceedure in all recording studios (dating back to the 
50's) to use small speakers as a mix check. At the House Studio we 
used Auratone speakers, a popular brand designed just for this 
purpose. I also installed a low-level FM transmitter in the Control 
Room so that we could listen over portable FM radios around the house 
or the FM radio in any car in the driveway. 

Also standard proceedure is to make "in-progress" copies of mixes as 
the production progresses. Back then such copies were made to 
cassette. (Today such copies are made to CDs.) 

Because there are hundreds of "mix-in-progress" copies lying around, 
many have found there way to the black market (bootlag) where fans 
confuse themselves thinking they have alternate mixes or such 

Chuck or any good engineer would not allow Brian or an client to mix 
using just small speakers. Monitors are the mix reference. Small 
speakers are a mix check. Mix on monitors, check the mix (via 
playback) on small speakers or the car system. 

Technically this is call near-field versus far-field monitoring. The 
far-field or larger studio monitor system is designed to facilitate a 
good, even, balanced mix sound. The near-field, or smaller speaker has 
limitiations as to frequency and imaging. Such limitations should be 
addressed in a successful mix sound, and are best heard on near-field 
monitors or small speakers. In other words, you want the final mix to 
sound good over both a big Hi-Fi system or small boombox. 

The reason for checking in the car or on your home playback system is 
that it is in your car or at home that you listen to all other types 
of music. You know how all the other music sounds in your car, so 
listening to pending mixes in the same envionnment offers good sonic 
insight into how the two compare. 

You may wish to read more about this topic in my book "Recording The 
Beach Boys" at: 

Good Listening, ~Stephen W. Desper 

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