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Your Song of the Day

Discussion in 'OFF TOPIC' started by Prime Time, Feb 16, 2014.

  1. Mojo Ram On double secret probation

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    One of my favorite male vocalists ever. They're hard to come by anymore it seems.
     
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  2. Prime Time RODerator

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    Lou Gramm does have that rare voice that doesn't come along too often. That song I posted slipped under the radar. Btw I too love Daniel Lanois' producing work along with his own music. Thanks for the videos.
     
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  3. ram29jackson Well-Known Member

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    LOL classic and cliché at the same time
     
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  4. ram29jackson Well-Known Member

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  5. Dagonet Grillin and Chillin

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    How about some Celtic Punk?

     
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  6. Selassie I H. I. M.

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    Takin it back to the 808 again. J Boog brings in Peetah Morgan for this one...

     
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  7. Thordaddy Binding you with ancient logic

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  8. Prime Time RODerator

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    The Pretenders - 'Back on the Chain Gang'



    CLASSIC TRACKS: The Pretenders: Back On The Chain Gang
    Producer: Chris Thomas; Engineer: Steve Churchyard

    In 1982, the Pretenders responded to desperate circumstances with some of the strongest material they would ever produce. Engineer Steve Churchyard was there to record it.
    By Richard Buskin

    When the Pretenders regrouped, for want of a better word, at AIR Studios in central London on July 20, 1982, it was amid traumatic circumstances. Only singer/songwriter Chrissie Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers remained from the depleted band. The previous month, on June 14, bass player Pete Farndon had been kicked out due to his chronic drug habit, and two days later fate had then dealt the ultimate ironic blow to one of those who'd been party to Farndon's sacking: lead guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, whose musical versatility had played a large part in the band's success, was found dead from an overdose of heroin and cocaine.

    Farndon would succumb in similar fashion the following year, yet in the meantime Hynde, pregnant with the child of Kinks frontman Ray Davies, penned a moving tribute to Honeyman-Scott entitled 'Back On The Chain Gang'. She and Chambers recruited some replacements at very short notice in order to record the song: former Manfred Mann's Earth Band guitarist Robbie McIntosh, whom Honeyman-Scott had already enlisted to play alongside him in the Pretenders, plus Rockpile guitarist Billy Bremner and Big Country bassist Tony Butler. As on the band's first two albums, Pretenders and Pretenders II, Chris Thomas was in the producer's chair, yet this time around the engineering would be taken care of by Steve Churchyard instead of Bill Price.

    After Nick Lowe had produced the band's first single, a cover of Ray Davies' 'Stop Your Sobbing' which made the UK top 40 in early 1979, the Pretenders had enjoyed chart success on both sides of the Atlantic with the aforementioned albums, as well as the singles 'Kid', 'Brass In Pocket' and 'Talk Of The Town'. And according to Churchyard it was the "creative genius" of Chris Thomas that accounted in large part for the group's distinctive sound, as well as their ability to bridge the gap between punk, new wave and melodic pop.

    "Without a doubt, if George Martin was the fifth Beatle, then Chris Thomas was the fifth Pretender," Churchyard says. "He was hands-on in all aspects of the recording, whereas a lot of producers produce from their phone in the car. He was there for every moment of whatever was going on, directing either me or the musicians, and in many respects he was my mentor. I probably learned more from him than anybody else."

    Fresh Air
    The producer and/or engineer for an incredible array of artists, including the Stranglers, Rod Stewart, INXS, Madness, Paul McCartney, Big Country, Joni Mitchell, Counting Crows, Cliff Richard, Ricky Martin, Celine Dion, Sinéad O'Connor, Tim McGraw, LeAnn Rimes and, most recently, the Eagles, Herbie Hancock, Dishwalla, Beck, Ben Folds and Sheryl Crow, Steve Churchyard grew up in Surbiton, Surrey, and entered the business in 1974 as an assistant at the tiny Orange Music 16-track studio in London's Soho. This was located in the basement of a guitar shop on New Compton Street, where it wasn't unusual to see the likes of Jimmy Page or Paul Kossoff trying out new instruments, and Churchyard remained there three years before continuing his engineering career at AIR.

    [​IMG]
    When Chris Thomas set up the Pretenders in the live room at AIR Studios, he chose to mimic the familiar feel of a live gig, with the drums on a riser and PA speakers used for monitoring. This shot shows the Learning To Crawl line-up of Chrissie Hynde, drummer Martin Chambers, Robbie McIntosh on guitar and Malcolm Foster on bass, playing at the Montreux Festival in 1984.


    "That's where I'd always wanted to work," he says. "I'd initially failed to get an interview there and went to Orange instead, but after three years I called AIR's manager Dave Harries and he offered me a job as an assistant. This was kind of a step back, because I'd gone from a tape-op at Orange to being an engineer, chief tech and studio manager — it was like a one-man operation. However, I jumped at the chance. A lot of the records that I listened to back then were made at AIR, as well as at Olympic and Morgan — Rod Stewart and the Stones and Zeppelin — so I really wanted to work at AIR, and my first job there was assisting Geoff Emerick on Wings' London Town album, at which point I realised I really knew nothing at all about recording.

    "At Orange I'd been working with a home-made, two-inch tape recorder, built by one of the guys who worked there, and it sort of worked here and there. There was no remote control for it — I was the remote control — whereas AIR was a 24-track facility with four studios, about eight technical engineers and probably eight full-time sound engineers, including Pete Henderson, Steve Nye, Jon Kelly, Colin Fairley and, of course, Geoff, who was chief engineer. Not only did I get to assist the greatest, but George Martin was my boss and I just made myself available for whatever was going on, so I got to work with George on a lot of different things, including a number of Paul McCartney sessions."

    A Difficult Time
    It was after spending five years at AIR that Steve Churchyard began working with Chris Thomas. Bill Price normally engineered for Thomas, but Churchyard filled in on a Big Country assignment when Price was occupied with the management of AIR's sister studio, Wessex, and it was in the middle of the Big Country project that Churchyard was then asked by Thomas to record 'Back On The Chain Gang'.

    "Since they had previously recorded at AIR and Wessex, I'd already met the Pretenders," Churchyard remarks. "I'd be down the pub chatting to them, so I knew them all socially before I ever worked with them. Now Jimmy [Honeyman-Scott] and Pete were gone, and it was a really difficult time for Chrissie and Martin. They were still in shock, basically, and the rest of us were all very sympathetic to what was going on. I don't think anybody really knew what state the Pretenders were in at that point. Chris got hold of a number of different people and the session was just kind of pasted together."

    While Tony Butler played bass on 'Chain Gang', with Robbie McIntosh playing rhythm guitar and Billy Bremner playing the memorable lead part, McIntosh would take over on lead for the subsequent, appropriately titled Learning To Crawl album, which would mostly feature Malcolm Foster on bass. All of the recordings took place in AIR's Studio One, which housed a 56-input, 24-track Neve 8078, one of three built for AIR, designed in conjunction with George Martin, and now considered vintage although it was then state-of-the-art, boasting a frequency response from 40Hz to 100kHz, ±1dB.

    "Its EQ was designed by Geoff Emerick and it had 34427 remote mic pres that are on the new Neve 88R," Churchyard states. "That console, which had no automation, is now at AIR Lyndhurst and has got GML. Everything we did was manual mixing."

    A Studer A800 Mk III tape machine and JBL 4350 monitors were housed inside AIR's spaceous fourth-floor Studio One control room, where windows afforded real daylight from London's Oxford Circus, and the adjacent live room was large enough to accomodate a 60-piece orchestra. "That fourth-floor space was originally a banqueting hall," says Churchyard. "The main room was pretty live, with very high ceilings and linoleum on the floor, and there were also three isolation rooms; one on the left as you looked through the control-room glass, one to the right, and one at the back that was always full of gear."

    According to the engineer's recollection, he never heard a demo of 'Back On The Chain Gang'. Instead, he assumes it was rehearsed before the band entered the studio. "The 'B' side of that single was 'My City Was Gone', and the bass riff was something that Tony Butler used to play just as a warm-up," Churchyard recalls. "He was playing it in rehearsals and the song grew out of that. I wasn't at the rehearsals, but I do remember the tracking session, and because it was the 'B' side, we knocked it out real quick."

    First, however, there was the 'A' side...

    "The structure for 'Chain Gang' had already been figured out when they came into the studio. I mean, Chris [Thomas] was always well into the song and the arrangement, even though some stuff was invariably changed on the fly. We would do a number of takes, and because everything was 24-track analogue we'd do takes and then we'd do edits. Chris would say 'OK, take three,' and we'd take a chunk out of that and splice it together with various other takes before getting ready to do overdubs.

    [​IMG]
    Photo courtesy Redferns
    Steve Churchyard today.



    "The Pretenders were set up as if they were going to play live — for 'Chain Gang' we had Martin's kit on a foot-high riser in the centre of the room. I'm not sure what the riser did for the sound, but it looked great. We used a PA behind him — some small Yamaha self-powered speakers — and once we got the drum sound we'd send stuff back from the control room out through that PA just to pump up the sound in the room. It would either be snare drum or toms, and if he was playing along to a Linn 2 drum machine, which we used a lot as a click, that might also go back out through the PA and become part of the drum sound. The delays that you can hear on the drum sound of 'My City Was Gone' were AMS delays sent through the console and back through the PA, giving a kind of tinny quality — tinny in a good way.

    "As a drummer, Martin was great. Invariably, we'd go for performance over any timing factor, and we'd cut it together old-school style. The Linn 2 sat beside his drum kit, we'd figure out the tempo for the song, and he'd either play to a click track or some kind of loop that he would make. Then, depending on the loop, with some songs we would actually feed that back through the PA. There's Linn drum running throughout the song 'I Hurt You' — it was going out through the PA, into the room, and Martin was playing along to it, so it became part of the song.

    "This whole PA thing was kind of new to me. Chris Thomas and Bill Price had designed it to fill the room with more sound, and Martin also liked it because it was like being on stage, hearing everything through his monitors. He'd feel the kick drum coming back at him, and it was just more live than the usual studio dryness. His kit was miked with [an AKG] D12 on the kick, Sennheiser 421s on the toms, a [Shure] SM57 on top of the snare, a [Neumann] KM84 on the bottom of the snare and a KM84 on the hi-hat. This was kind of a standard setup. The overheads were AKG 451s, although to this day I normally use Coles 4038s.

    "Aside from Martin's playing, it was also thanks to Chris Thomas that the drums sounded so great. The live tracking, playing with the Linn drum, putting it out through the PA — Chris ensured that it sounded very organic while at the same time employing some trickery that the listener wouldn't really be aware of in order to make it sound exciting. You know, we might just set up a mic in the middle that would have some kind of ridiculous compression on it, or something like that, and mix that back in there. This was the result of Chris having been George Martin's assistant on the Beatles' White Album, through the Badfinger days and working with Roxy Music and Brian Eno. He's been around a lot of creative people."


    A Solo Performance
    [​IMG]
    Photo: Ian Dickson / Redferns


    "When it came to her vocals, Chrissie was great so long as nobody else was in the room," Churchyard says. "The band, everybody was kicked out. They all went upstairs and played pool, and nobody was allowed to come back down until we'd got them. Only Chris Thomas and myself were in the control room while Chrissie sang, and he'd have to coax a performance out of her. Chris was all about that. On a vocal day we might sit around for hours and drink tea and have lunch and chat about everything other than what we were about to do, and then at a certain point — which was part of Chris's gift as a producer — he would say 'OK, how about now?' Sometimes he'd also wait for her to decide when to sing it.
    "The 'Chain Gang' vocal was comped from three or four takes, and then Chris sang her own harmonies before Martin and Tony did the backgrounds.

    That lead vocal was all Chrissie. I put a [Neumann] FET 47 in front of her and had [a Urei] 1176 compressing her through the custom Neve board, and that was basically it. Still, having just listened to the song again to remind myself what it sounds like, I've noticed a giant pop on the first line — 'I found a picture of you...' Hearing it 20-odd years later I'm thinking 'Oh, I wish I fixed that.' That's what happens when you don't use a pop shield.

    "On the surface, Chris [Hynde] was all business when it came to this song — let's get this done, and don't let anybody in the control room or else you'll suffer the wrath of Chrissie. If she was at all acerbic, then rightly so. The studio is never a very natural environment in which to sing, and so we'd do anything we could to make her comfortable. If you catch her on the wrong day, things can be heavy, but she can also be very funny, and she was very easy to work with when we did 'Chain Gang'. Only later did I realise how emotional it must have been for her."

    Heavy Weight
    While bass player Tony Butler, standing to Martin Chambers' left, was DI'd, Robbie McIntosh played his Strats on the other side of the kit, his amp in one of the isolation booths, miked with a combination of Shure SM57 and Neumann U87. "A lot of the time the guitar sounds were so layered with multiple guitars, it's hard to now figure out where one starts and another ends," says Churchyard. "We'd use Rickenbacker six-strings and 12-strings, Strats, Les Pauls, everything."

    Billy Bremner, standing next to the bassist, played a Telecaster, as did Chrissie Hynde, standing in front of Martin Chambers. Both guitars were miked with the same SM57/U87 combination employed for Robbie McIntosh, while Hynde's scratch vocals were recorded with a Shure SM58.

    "The band members could almost touch each other," Churchyard says, and given the circumstances surrounding the sessions, the mood was not as bleak as you might imagine. "As I've said, there was a slightly strange atmosphere, with no one really sure if the Pretenders would continue as a band, but we also had some fun. For instance, that hammer sound in the choruses involved us all going around banging stuff together to try to get the right effect. In the end, the best sound came from these 25-pound weights that were normally used to hold the orchestral boom mics in place and stop them falling over. My assistant, Jeremy Allom, was therefore commissioned to bang them together — if you meet him today, his arms are probably a little bit longer than they should be. It took more than one take. I mean, you can imagine trying to smash two weights together in time. In those days there was no digital technology to sample a take and paste it in. It all had to be played.

    "Then there were the background vocals, the 'oohs' and 'aahs'. Martin Chambers and Tony Butler did these, but at first Chrissie didn't think their efforts were good enough, so she bent over in front of them and wiggled her bum while they were singing. We all fell about laughing, but I have to say it achieved the right results."

    No such encouragement was required for Billy Bremner's ringing, countrified solo which, along with Hynde's vocal, served as the backbone and focal point of the song. "That was probably done in one take," Churchyard surmises. "I think he just played it. I don't remember any struggle. It was one of those inspired things. Everyone flipped at how he played it and then we all went down the pub."

    Effects were sparse. "They were pretty much spurned," says Churchyard. "And besides, we didn't have many. There was an EMT 140 echo with tape delay, maybe an MXR flanger here and there on the drums, some compression on bass and overall compression in the mix, but back in 1982 things were still pretty basic."

    'Chain Gang' was tracked and cut together in a day, and then a couple of days were spent on the overdubs: lead vocal, backgrounds and some additional guitar parts, as well as Jeremy Allom's bashing together of the 25lb weights.

    Layer Upon Layer
    The remainder of the Learning To Crawl album was recorded and mixed through the end of 1983, with plenty of breaks interspersing the sessions while Hynde came up with new material, the last of which was that ethereally beautiful Christmas number '2000 Miles'. "For the intro guitars on '2000 Miles' we used an Eventide 949 Harmonizer, with the guitars pitched up two octaves and some feedback," Churchyard recalls. "If you check the song out, there's this really high guitar part that runs throughout, played by Robbie McIntosh. By that point he was playing all the lead guitar. He was a great guitarist and a lot of his solos were done in just one take. In 1983, the Pretenders went out on the road a little and got to know each other and learned to be a band again.

    "One of the most challenging songs on the album for me was one that sounded kind of simple but had layer upon layer of guitars — 'Middle Of The Road'. It sounds like one guitar playing the riff, but there were at least six guitars. The riff itself was chopped up into pieces — there were the high and the low parts, both doubled, and each part was played individually and left to ring, sustained through the next part. It was Chris Thomas's idea to do it that way, and although it took a long time and was quite a laborious process, the end result was fantastic.

    "Invariably, when we'd get to guitars everything would be layered. That's the classic Pretenders sound. It's a sound that Jimmy [Honeyman-Scott] had created, along with the great live feel of Martin's drums and having Chrissie's vocal really loud in the mix, leaving no doubt that she's in control of the song. Over the years people have asked me 'How did you get that sound on her vocals?' Well, I put a 47 in front of her, she sang it and we made sure you could hear it. It was all Chrissie Hynde. And it was very much in the tradition of all that early British pop where the vocals were so far out front. That would never fly today.

    "Unlike some vocalists, Chrissie wasn't all that shy about people hearing her, and she also didn't hold back when it came to her opinion on a song. Chris Thomas once told me that Chrissie had said '"Brass In Pocket" goes out as a single over my dead body.' Of course, it did, and it did OK. She was quite happy, meanwhile, to track her guitar parts and have all the other guitars layered on top. We were very conscious about retaining that Pretenders sound, and if anything got too challenging we just went down the pub. I don't remember any violent mood swings. Everybody was very mellow."

    The New Pretenders
    The mix, which took place in the same studio, on the same console, in August 1983, basically amounted to balancing the tracks and trying to present them in their best light. As Steve Churchyard remarks, "there were no real surprises. I'd generally spend a few hours setting things up, and then once I'd got the track in what I considered to be a reasonable shape, Chris [Thomas] would come in and we'd work on the mix together. We'd just put it down on half-inch analogue at 30ips, and, because there was no automation, if we had to punch in we'd just stop the tape, wind it back a little bit and make an edit.

    "The only song that wasn't mixed in Studio One was 'My City Was Gone', which was mixed in Studio Two. I remember saying to Chris 'Why don't we try mixing this at 15ips on half-inch? That might be cool.' And that was an interesting moment, because we had the mix and then it was 10 o'clock and time to go down the pub before it closed. When we came back to check the mix, Chris said 'Yeah, it sounds good, but I've got an idea for an edit.' I said 'Chris, I'm a bit drunk right now. This is not the time for razor blades.' He said 'No, no, don't worry about it. I'll tell you where to cut.' The job's difficult enough when you're sober, so that wasn't a great moment... I got through it, but I don't recommend it."

    After recording a couple of the Pretenders' 1984 Stateside concerts for MTV broadcast, Churchyard didn't work with the band again. That same year he departed AIR to go independent, and following numerous US assignments he relocated there in the early '90s, where he now resides in San Diego while doing much of his work in LA. Among his most recent engineering projects was the mix of an album by Juliette & The Licks, the outfit of actress Juliette Lewis. "She tracked me down because of my work with the Pretenders," says Churchyard. "The Learning To Crawl album has generated a lot of work for me, and while that's great, it's sometimes difficult when people want me to reproduce that Pretenders guitar sound. 'OK, well, can you play like Robbie McIntosh?' Still, I'm flattered by how I'm associated with that album, I think it's awesome. Unlike a lot of '80s recordings, especially the synth-based stuff, the Pretenders' material hasn't dated, and the reason for that is it's a rock band.

    "When we finished 'Chain Gang', it was the first song by the new Pretenders, and I've always thought it sounded a bit thin, lacking in bottom end. That's my own personal issue with it, whereas I think the subsequent tracks were tonally better. However, it never seemed to bother anybody else, and if it was a bit thin then it actually might have helped the sound on the radio. Now, listening to it for this interview, it sounded pretty good.

    "I mean, everything was analogue — it was tracked on analogue, cut together, and then everything was comped and worked within that medium. It was also mixed to analogue, and then once we did all the mixes we'd do what Chris [Thomas] would call a production master, where, rather than let the mastering engineer EQ it, we would do our own EQ, balance it all out, level from track to track, cut and sequence it, and comp it to another two-track. So, I don't know how many analogue generations that is, but in this day and age it's pretty astounding that there's anything left of it."
     
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  9. Mojo Ram On double secret probation

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  10. rocknram29 Live, Love, Laugh, & Learn

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  11. RhodyRams Well-Known Member

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    saw these guys last night at a local bar

     
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    Selassie I and Prime Time like this.
  12. Selassie I H. I. M.

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    Your LOCAL BAR had Morgan Heritage jamming?
     
    #352
  13. RhodyRams Well-Known Member

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    yes... The Ocean Mist has alot of big names come around. Anthem has been there, Steve Smith and the Nakeds, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, YellowMan, Room Full of Blues just to name a few
     
    #353
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  14. Selassie I H. I. M.

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    freaking awesome. Very very cool.
     
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  15. RhodyRams Well-Known Member

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    recorded at The Ocean Mist
     
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  16. RhodyRams Well-Known Member

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  17. Selassie I H. I. M.

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    So I'm jammin to the Classic or Vinyl station on Sirius yesterday,,, this song comes on. Talk about having a kick ass flashback...


     
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  18. Prime Time RODerator

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    Lynyrd Skynyrd - 'Sweet Home Alabama'



    Lynyrd Skynyrd 'Sweet Home Alabama' | Classic Tracks
    Producer: Al Kooper • Engineers: Al Kooper, Rodney Mills
    By Richard Buskin

    In 1973, a band from Florida and California went to a studio in Georgia to record a song, provoked by a Canadian, about Alabama - and managed to define the sound of Southern rock while they were at it.


    The quintessential Southern rock band, Lynryd Skynyrd not only performed some of the grittiest, most uncompromising blues-driven music of the '70s, but thanks to the songwriting of frontman Ronnie Van Zant and the hard-living, good ol' boy image of its members, also established themselves as the archetypal proponents of Southern pride and defiance. After all, if Neil Young had the nerve to use numbers such as 1970's 'Southern Man' and 1972's 'Alabama' to portray many Southerners as a bunch of Klan-loving, banjo-playing hicks who needed to forgo lynchings in favour of civil rights, then Van Zant certainly had the balls to respond.

    "Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her," he intoned on 'Sweet Home Alabama', the opening track on Skynyrd's 1974 Second Helping LP. "I heard ol' Neil put her down. Well I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don't need him around, anyhow."

    Although the song served as both a celebration and a vindication of the 'Yellowhammer State', the irony is that neither Van Zant nor his two fellow composers were originally from Alalabama. He and band co-founder/guitarist Gary Rossington were born in Jacksonville, Florida, while guitarist Ed King was from Glendale, California. 'Sweet Home Alabama' was, nevertheless, a top 10 hit in the US, and has subsequently become a staple on AOR radio stations, while in 2006 Country Music Television voted it number one among the 20 Greatest Southern Rock Songs.

    Studio One
    The group themselves first came to prominence with the release of their 1973 debut album, Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd. Produced by Al Kooper, who had signed the band to MCA the year before, this included 'Freebird' and featured the three-pronged guitar line-up of Rossington, King and Allen Collins, together with Bob Burns on drums, Leon Wilkeson playing bass and keyboardist Billy Powell. The same personnel then reassembled for 'Sweet Home Alabama', again with Kooper sitting behind the console at Studio One, a facility located in the Northern Atlanta suburb of Doraville, Georgia, that had been designed and constructed by engineer Rodney Mills, with assistance from music publisher Bill Lowery and future Altlanta Rhythm Section manager Buddy Buie.

    A former bass guitarist with a Georgia outfit named the Bushmen, Mills became the chief engineer at Atlanta's Lefevre Sound Studios in 1968 and recorded a wide variety of rock, R&B, country and gospel acts, including Joe South, James Brown, Billy Joe Royal and the Stamps Quartet. Then, in 1970, Buddy Buie commissioned him to design and oversee the construction of Studio One, and Mills remained there for the next 16 years, engineering and/or producing records by, among others, BJ Thomas, the Outlaws, Journey, Johnny Van Zant, the Atlanta Rhythm Section, 38 Special and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

    "The setup at the time of the first Skynyrd album included a Spectrasonics four-bus custom console made by a company out of Louisville, Kentucky," Mills recalls. "It had a 16-channel monitoring section and was primarily designed for 16-track, which was the highest multitrack then available. It was a discrete console, with all of the sections divided independent of each other, and the monitor section was laid out to the side instead of in-line, as it would become later on. We did not have a lot of discretion in terms of the EQ — the EQs had three sections on the low end, and there were three frequencies available on the high end. There was no mid-range EQ. The control monitoring section was strictly a level and pan, and that was it. You couldn't add any effects to playback at all.

    "The console sounded pretty good for those days, although the only other one I had worked on at that point was the custom-made four-bus console at Lefevre Sound, which had Langevin equalisers and an eight-track capacity. When we built Studio One, that was eight-track as well, and we then switched to 16-track and used a Scully 100 two-inch tape machine, which was a low-economy model. For monitors we had JBL 4320s, which each had a single 15-inch woofer with a mid-range horn, as well as a compression tweeter that I added, and there were also some small Auratones sitting on the console."

    As designed by Mills and Buie, Studio One's live room was V-shaped, with the pointed end at the front and a rear section that widened into a rectangle. Total length from front to back was about 50 feet. The live area wrapped around the control room 'V' and was about 10 feet wide on either side, with a length of 30 feet from the tip of the 'V' to the end of the live area. The console was positioned towards the front of the control room, and the monitors were on either side, suspended from the ceiling and angled inwards. By 1974, those speakers were placed inside specially constructed soffits.

    "The way Buddy primarily liked to work was to have the musicians around him," Mills explains. "The console was therefore placed as far forward as possible in the control room, so that we could see the guys on either side out in the studio. That worked OK part of the time; since the majority of the flooring in the control room was elevated, we could set up a little higher than the musicians and see them better. However, most of the time the guitar players and bass players would all sit in the control room and have their amps in the studio on either side of that 'V'. The 'V' itself was all glass, but we didn't let stuff like monitoring and reflections get in our way! I wound up putting curtains over those windows to cut down on some of the reflection, but that was it."

    Mic Selection For 'Sweet Home Alabama'
    Vocals:

    [​IMG]Neumann U87
    [​IMG]AKG C414
    [​IMG]Beyer M500
    Guitars (electric):
    [​IMG]Shure SM53
    [​IMG]Sennheiser MD421 & MD451
    [​IMG]Neumann U87
    Guitars (acoustic):
    [​IMG]AKG C414
    Bass:
    [​IMG]Neumann U87 & DI
    Organ:
    [​IMG]Electrovoice RE20 (bottom)
    [​IMG]AKG C451 (top)
    Piano:
    [​IMG]Neumann U87 (low strings)
    [​IMG]AKG C451 (high strings)
    Drums:
    [​IMG]Shure SM56 (snare)
    [​IMG]Electrovoice RE20 (kick)
    [​IMG]Neumann KMR81 (hi-hat)
    [​IMG]Sennheiser MD421 (toms)
    [​IMG]Neumann U87 (floor tom)
    [​IMG]AKG C451s (overheads)

    Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd
    While Rodney Mills recorded a small amount of Lynyrd Skynyrd's first album, including the basic track of 'Tuesday's Gone' and guitar overdubs on 'Freebird', he was also involved with another project, so the assignment mainly went to Studio One's other in-house engineer, Bob Langford.

    "There was only one room, and we worked that studio day and night," says Mills. "If you wanted to cut in there, you could take the day shift or the night shift. There were no strict hours, so the only way of doing two projects at one time was for one of them to run from, say, 11 in the morning to seven in the evening, and then for the other to run all the way through the night until the next morning. That's how it worked with Skynyrd on the first album, and after it was completed the band came up with a new song and decided to go back into the studio to record it because they thought it might be strong enough to hold up the album's release."

    That song was 'Sweet Home Alabama', and although it didn't end up being included on the first album, it was in the can before the commencement of sessions for Second Helping. And on hand to take care of the engineering was Rodney Mills.

    "Everyone had been raving about the song when they saw them play live around Atlanta, so when they came in to record it, I kind of jumped at the chance," he explains. "The studio was booked for just one day, so the entire track was recorded in that time, except for the backing vocals by the Sweet Inspirations, which were done in California, where the song was also mixed."

    According to Ed King, it was actually following a band rehearsal in the late summer of 1973 that, inspired by a Gary Rossington guitar riff, he went to bed and the chords and two main solos for 'Sweet Home Alabama' came to him, note for note, in a dream. King presented the new tune to the other band members the very next day, and Ronnie Van Zant, who felt that Neil Young's criticisms of Southern social conditions amounted to "shooting all the ducks in order to kill one or two," subsequently came up with lyrics that caused their own controversy by referencing Watergate and pro-segregation Governor George Wallace.

    The Vampire Drum Box
    "The basic track was recorded with just Ed King, Leon Wilkeson and Bob Burns," recalls Rodney Mills. "In those days, if you could hear ambience on the drums, you were doing something really bad, so we had built a drum booth that was so dead it would suck the life out of anything that entered it. Basically, it was just a big, rectangular room, constructed with a stud floor system, multiple layers of plywood on top, and fibreglass stuffed in between the floor joists, as well as behind the burlap walls and ceiling. There was just one little ventilation hole and no air conditioning, so a drummer could work for about 20 to 30 minutes before a plea for oxygen would make us take a break.

    "You see, we did have an electric fan in there to circulate a little air, but whenever we started recording we'd have to cut the fan off. That meant it was good enough to do about three takes before we had to change the tape reels, and that also gave the drummer a chance to come up for air, put the fan on and step outside for a minute. So, while it wasn't a terrible inconvenience for us, it was not good on the drummer, especially since the booth itself was bright red inside. I don't know what we were thinking.

    "That thing must have weighed a couple of tons, but we put it on wheels so that we could just roll the booth up close to the control room. Normally, however, it sat in the back right-hand corner of the studio, and that's where it was for the recording of 'Sweet Home Alabama'. It was about large enough to get a set of drums in there, so we built a 'snout' at the front to house the kick drum. That meant the drummer could move his kit forward and see a little better out of the tiny one foot by three foot window just above the snout, but it was absolutely awful.

    "It was not tall, about eight feet high at the most, and about 12 feet wide and eight feet deep, with another three feet for the snout. The whole thing back then was to control the drums and not let them speak out as far as ambience was concerned. We would tape the snare, put wallets on it, treat the toms to remove any overtones, and do everything we could to make the drums as dead as possible.

    "We couldn't have the toms ring out every time the drummer hit the kick. So part of it was about convenience, part of it was the sound of the time, and we weren't looking for drums to have ambience, unless it was a bit of manufactured reverb or room sound that we could control. Back then, we had an 'echo room', as we called it, built out of cinder-block and painted with epoxy paint, and we'd put a speaker and microphone in there. That's what we used if we wanted to create any extra ambience, along with an EMT plate."

    Tracking
    "Outside of that drum booth, the rest of the studio was totally ambient, which was totally crazy. It was as if, once the drums were isolated, everything else would just take care of themselves. We'd put gobos around acoustic pianos, but the rest of the room was pretty live, and that was a boon later on when we did finally free the drums and take them out of the booth. Of course, the idea was for that thing to be mobile, but it weighed so much that it took six people to move it. So it basically stayed in just that one position.

    [​IMG]
    Although of an Alanta Rhythm Section session in 1970, this photo shows the unique layout of the Studio One live room and control room. To the left of the picture is the 'mobile' drum booth.


    "When I recorded Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Burns was miked with an Electrovoice RE20 inside the kick drum, a Shure SM56 on the snare, Sennheiser 421s on the toms, a Neumann 81 on the hi-hat and AKG 451s for the overheads. While the kick and snare were on their own tracks, the toms, hi-hat and overheads were combined on two tracks. So we could get the kit on four tracks, and just by riding the toms and cymbals up and down in the mix I could semi-control everything."

    Looking through the control-room glass, Leon Wilkeson played bass to the right, using both a DI and an amp miked with a Neumann U87, combined onto one track.

    "We only had one RE20, and usually I'd put that on the kick drum," says Mills. "However, if it wasn't being used on the kick, I would use it on the bass."

    To the left of the control room, Ed King played the song's signature guitar lick on a late-'60s Fender Strat that went through a Fender Twin amp, also miked with a U87.

    "Because the rhythm part was not exceptionally loud, I padded the microphone down and put it close to the cabinet," Mills remarks. "That was it; just one mic."

    Formerly a guitarist with the Strawberry Alarm Clock, King had filled in on bass for Skynyrd's first album when Wilkeson surprised his bandmates by quitting shortly before those sessions began. Nonetheless, Van Zant was reportedly none too impressed with King's bass playing, so when Wilkeson rejoined, King returned to doing what he did best, playing rhythm guitar on the basic track of 'Sweet Home Alabama', and later adding the solo.

    "Ronnie Van Zant also sang a scratch vocal when the basic track was recorded," Mills recalls. "At that point, I hadn't yet built a vocal booth that he could stand in, so he was in the room with the other three guys. I put up a couple of gobos, and since I miked him with an 87 for the final vocal I think that mic was already set up when he did the scratch track.

    "We only did a few takes of the basic track. The guys were very familiar with the song, they had played it live since they had written it, and they were known for doing that with much of their material before they recorded it. So when they came to the studio they were prepared, and we probably did only three or four takes of that song. Also, Ed King's first attempt at the long solo was the one that you hear on the record.

    The band members were in the control room when he did that, and at the end they pretty much fell on the floor; they were just knocked out. However, Al Kooper thought there was something wrong with it. He wanted Ed to do another solo, so that's what Ed did and I guess it was put on another track, but to the best of my knowledge the solo that was used was the very first one that he did. That's what Ed remembers and that's what I remember."

    In interviews, King has also stated that, since his Strat had bad pickups, he was forced to crank up the volume on his amp. "His Fender Twin was on the left-hand side of the control room," Mills confirms, "and he had to turn it almost wide open to get any sustain."

    Ad Libs & Overdubs
    While Allen Collins and Gary Rossington each overdubbed rhythm guitars going through Marshall amps, Billy Powell added a piano part that Rodney Mills now describes as "one of the great rock & roll keyboard performances. Considering it was a three-guitar band, his work has always amazed me."

    Powell's performance was captured with a Neumann U87 on the low keys and an AKG 451 on the mid-range and high notes, all recorded to one track. Meanwhile, Van Zant's remark at the start of the song to "Turn it up" stemmed from his request to Al Kooper and Rodney Mills to increase the volume in his headphones.

    [​IMG]
    Equipment manager Kevin Elson (left) and Rodney Mills at the Studio One board.


    "Al had the good sense to leave that in there," says Mills. "Before a song started I'd usually hit 'record' pretty quickly, and in this case I captured Ronnie's comment as he approached the microphone and was getting ready to sing. In terms of the performance itself, like the rest of the band he pretty much knew the song. There may have been some imperfections as far as intonations and stuff like that, but Ronnie was very capable of going out there and singing the song one time through, from beginning to end, the way he felt it. And as Al had a great ear, we'd then go back and fix parts. The 'Sweet Home Alabama' vocal was pretty much all done on one track in just a few takes, and then Ronnie doubled himself pretty quick, too. He didn't do much outside of what he was very comfortable with, so the doubling was not a hard thing for him to do. In fact, Al really liked to double things. Hence all the doubled guitars and layering on tracks like 'Freebird'.

    "Ronnie had a passion for learning something, and once he learned it he didn't vary from that. In fact, when he was writing a song, he would tend to avoid jamming along with the rest of the band on vocals, trying to formulate the number. His method of working was to actually sit in a corner and get the idea instilled in his head before he would do anything. Sometimes he would write the lyrics on the spot as the band was jamming the song, and he'd also come up with the melody in his head and kind of rehearse to himself. He was sensitive about doing stuff and not appearing to have it together. He may not have always sung with perfect pitch, but he liked to have things together, especially as far as the lyric, the melody and the attitude with which he approached the song. Ronnie had an exceptional gift for telling a story and making you believe it."

    Nevertheless, there was still room for improvisation, such as Van Zant's "My, Montgomery has the answer," during Powell's piano solo at the end of the song.

    "Al certainly helped in coming up with some ad libs that Ronnie did throughout the song," says Mills. "And then there was Al himself, going out into the studio and doing his best impression of Neil Young."

    This refers to Kooper softly singing 'Southern Man' during the second verse, following Van Zant's line, "Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her."

    "Al did that intentionally," Mills recalls. "It was a moment of inspiration after Ronnie did his vocal, and I don't think Al had any preconception of that at all until the moment he said, 'Let me go out there and do something real quick.' Afterwards, I think there was some discussion whether to use it or not, and although it did end up on the finished record I know some people still aren't aware it's there."

    Sometimes there, sometimes not; Ed King's count-in to the song doesn't appear on all versions of 'Sweet Home Alabama', yet Rodney Mills thinks the ones that do have acquired it from the original tape.

    "Back in those days, when you were mixing you did not mute out anything," he says. "You just edited things out, so someone must have found the original mix tape and reinserted that count-in. Still, it sounds to me like whoever did that processed it to get it up to a volume that everybody can hear. I probably had a room mic out there, and Ed must have been standing close to it when he did the count-in."

    Now Muscle Shoals Has Got The Swampers...
    Including backing vocals by Al Kooper, Ed King and Leon Wilkeson, one day was all that was needed to record 'Sweet Home Alabama', bar the Sweet Inspirations' own backing vocals being added in California — the first female voices to appear on a Lynyrd Skynyrd song — prior to the mix.

    "It wasn't one of those all-night sessions," says Mills, "even though most of the sessions back then tended to be that way, whether they needed to be or not. People would just hang out and listen to something over and over again, but in this case the recording didn't take long because, at that point, the band members weren't trying to use the studio as a creative tool. They were trying to get down what they played live on the song, while for his part Al Kooper had a good sense of the band and obviously a lot more studio experience than they did.

    "They had a great idea of how they wanted to sound live, and Al had a better sense of what it took to make a good record, which is why there was all the layering and the ad-libs that they wouldn't necessarily reproduce in concert. I recorded quite a lot of stuff with Al back in those days, because Studio One was the centre of recording for all the projects he was doing, and he sometimes had ideas that the band didn't agree with. In fact, when the guys weren't there, he'd occasionally go in and play a guitar part or a keyboard part, and then when they came in they sometimes took it personally, did not like what he'd done, and were very vocal about this. I remember one time, Billy Powell was really upset that Al had actually played a B3 part on one of the songs. As it happens, Al was a great B3 player, but to them it was a no-no for anybody else to play on their record.

    "I mean, they did invite a couple of people to come in and play, but usually it would be to do something that they themselves didn't play. Don't forget, this was a three-guitar band, and on guitar all those guys could play Al Kooper under the table. So, if they came in and Al had put a guitar part on there, it was like 'How dare you?' Al had his own ideas about things, and he was not a passive record producer, but he was working with a band that pretty much had their own ideas about things, too. Outside the studio, Al and the band members were great friends. Inside the studio, they were sometimes almost at war with each other. But that's not to say they didn't make good records together, and I give Al great credit for what he did with them."

    Afterwards
    'Sweet Home Alabama' was performed by the latest incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd, featuring Johnny Van Zant in place of his late brother, when the band was recently inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, of which their former engineer is also a member.

    "I thought them performing that song in Georgia was great," comments Mills, who, after becoming an independent producer in 1986 and working on projects with, among others, 38 Special, Gregg Allman and the Doobie Brothers, went on to form the Atlanta-based Rodney Mills' Masterhouse in 1994, where he has since mastered records by the likes of Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, the Wallflowers, the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Bonecrusher and many, many more.

    "The thing that strikes me about Skynyrd more than anything else is that there were only four years between them recording their first album and Ronnie's death in 1977," he says. "The songs that those guys came up with during that time were amazing, as was everything that happened, and it was pretty neat to have been involved with some of that, as well as to have been there during the heyday of Southern rock music."


     
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  19. Selassie I H. I. M.

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    For all you Rockers. Here's Steven Tyler doing a tribute to one of Bob's coolest songs. They mixed-in Bob's vocals from the original recordings so it sounds like Bob is singing along with Steven...

     
    #359
    Prime Time likes this.
  20. Prime Time RODerator

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    Like the song a lot but the video editing looks like it was made with stoners in mind, lol.
     
    #360