music production in the 70s

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I'm a journalist for a newspaper in Iowa, and I'm trying to write a story about music recording in the 70s. I'm not sure where to start....I'd of course like to include some historical information, but I really want to try and get a hold of a reputable producer of the 70s, so I can hear first hand about innovative techniques and technology of that time. If anyone has recommendations for Web sites or people or books, let me know. I definitely need some help.
Thanks!!

Stacey Palevsky, Friday, 8 August 2003 14:55 (eighteen years ago) link

Read the section on David Briggs in 'Shakey' esp. his long rap. One of THE great 70s producers, RIP.

stanx3, Friday, 8 August 2003 15:05 (eighteen years ago) link

You should find the man who produced the yes album in 1971, it's probally the first record where they used stereo technology correctly so your eyes would stop jiggling.

mallory bourgeois (painter man), Friday, 8 August 2003 15:13 (eighteen years ago) link

"Alex Van Halen: In the early 70s, bands like Led Zeppelin and Cream - Bonham and Baker - wouldn't let anybody near the drum kit with a mic - I know this cause I've talked to them. They always had to be recorded from a distance and then the drummer would accomodate. But then a funny thing happeend and engineers wanted to be able to pan things and isolate them. Of course, if you put a mic a 1/4" from a drum head you're not going to get a drum sound, you're going to get a plastic, small "poof." So they developed these ambience boxes, but they don't sound anything like a real room to me, even the best of them. The distance of the mics, the phasing, all these things aren't properly represented in the box. The close miking makes things simple for in-house engineers - it didn't really matter who the drummer or the band was.
"On "Van Halen I" [engineer] Don Landee asked me to take the front heads off the kick drums and I said "what's the matter with you, the drums are supposed to have two heads!" But he knew a lot more about recording than I did, so I accomodated him and his style of working at that point.
"I kept hammering Don and I said, drums make sound omnidirectionally, and I understand it's difficult to catpure, but you gotta put the mics back a little bit. Of course when you do that you get a problem with phase cancellation and you have to work on it, and the drummer has a responsibility to keep the levels right between the cymbals and the kcik and the other drums. The point of close miking was to expedite the recording process, and I guess some poeole don't think drums are as important as drummers do. It's funny because the drums are the only acoustic insturment on our records - you change the drums and it changes the whole sound of the record. So now we record the drums from a distance.
Now on the toms and kick we typically use Sennheisers 421s up close, and a shotgun for the snare. And then room mics, of course. On the kick there's a mic inside, one on the front head, and one about 5 feet away. We don't use all the mics in the mixes. We don't layer the songs, we all play together on the rhythm tracks - it's always a crap shoot - so it's better to have some of these extra mcis on tape."

dave q, Friday, 8 August 2003 15:20 (eighteen years ago) link


strawberry studios and 10CC changed everything
http://rylibweb.man.ac.uk/data1/sy/pw/pwstrawb.html

and that brian eno really
http://music.hyperreal.org/artists/brian_eno/interviews/musn79.html

scratch's black ark era '74 '79
http://home.swipnet.se/~w-26153/perry.htm

or if you want write a tighter article

daniel miller did warm leatherette in '78 (normal)
moroder felt love in '77
larry levan in '78,'79 with Instant Funk
arthur russel sneaks in under the wire with 'Kiss me again'

dz, Friday, 8 August 2003 16:52 (eighteen years ago) link

The best thing about 70s production is that muted bass sound. The first example I can thing of is Dylan's 'John Wesley Harding', which isn't 70s I know, but it's all over every 70s mainstream record.

Eyeball Kicks (Eyeball Kicks), Friday, 8 August 2003 16:59 (eighteen years ago) link

You may want to ask around at www.tapeop.com--lots of producers and engineers who recorded in the seventies lurk, post replies, etc.

Stephen Boyle (SBoyle), Friday, 8 August 2003 17:00 (eighteen years ago) link

If you don't include something about King Tubby, it'll be so very incomplete.

oops (Oops), Friday, 8 August 2003 19:54 (eighteen years ago) link

difficult to catpure

Catpure vs. ratpure.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Friday, 8 August 2003 20:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Cripes, now Mark E. Smith is in my head.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Friday, 8 August 2003 20:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Thomas Bell and The Spinners own this thread

kiiki, Saturday, 9 August 2003 14:56 (eighteen years ago) link

Joe fuckin Boyd

Curt1s St3ph3ns, Saturday, 9 August 2003 15:23 (eighteen years ago) link

Giorgio Moroder was a genius; he was to the sonic architecture of the 1970s what Paul Williams was to songwriting:

http://www.algonet.se/~jonwar/moroder.html

Ian Christe (Ian Christe), Saturday, 9 August 2003 15:46 (eighteen years ago) link

Conny Plank,,,, Neu!, Scorpions(first Album!), almost every Brain band.... amazing producer of early german sounds....

josh stevenson, Sunday, 10 August 2003 03:11 (eighteen years ago) link

eighteen years pass...

There's a lot of talk about the painstaking craft and arduous recording processes of such famous late 70s records as Aja, Rumours, Wish You Were Here, etc.
I was wondering, are there superstar records from this era whose recording process was notably sloppy, rushed, rough or substandard? I'm not talking about e.g. The Clash, I mean established acts with an audience and radio play. Here's what comes to mind:

- Most of Neil Young
- Presence?
- Wasn't Elton John known for cranking out his records as fast as possible, with Captain Fantastic an exception? Is that haste audible in the way they sound?

Any other examples?

Halfway there but for you, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 16:46 (one week ago) link

bob dylan and the band : the basement tapes ??

mark e, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 17:15 (one week ago) link

That was an archival release from 1967 (mostly), but Blood on the Tracks, Desire and Street Legal all have much-discussed technical shortcomings.

Halfway there but for you, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 17:17 (one week ago) link

Well, the Zep stuff at Headley Grange with the mobile rig has a bit of that flavor.

The Who demos that Pete recorded at home are perfectionist but decidedly nonstandard in the production method.

Some BOC stuff is just two dudes in a couple takes, plus some overdubs, I think? Burnin' for You.

popcornoscenti (Ye Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 17:21 (one week ago) link

Not sure they were considered "superstars" or studio aesthetes, but the production on the Stooges' Raw Power by Bowie is widely seen as a botched job, both technically and aurally.

henry s, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 17:36 (one week ago) link

The Kinks put out a lot of dreary sounding records in the 70s. Three albums that I associate with a sort of murky over-stuffed 70s sound - though that might have been the pressings I heard them on - are "Quadrophenia", "Physical Graffiti" and "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway".

When Smeato Met Moaty (Tom D.), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 18:32 (one week ago) link

yeah when I finally heard Muswell Hillbillies on a decent system I was surprised to find that it sounded like garbage

frogbs, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 18:34 (one week ago) link

The Kinks are not really noted for their production values tbf.

When Smeato Met Moaty (Tom D.), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 18:36 (one week ago) link

see I think Neil Young's records sound great...like Harvest, I can't really imagine a folk rock record sounding better, or Zuma, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, Goldrush, Comes a Time...I think Time Fades Away and Tonight's the Night are rough (in amazing and awesome ways) but I'd say overall he made great sounding records

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 19:16 (one week ago) link

There's categories here that shouldn't necessarily be conflated:

- "records that were recorded in a spontaneous or sloppy way"
- "records that don't sound good"

Halfway there but for you, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 19:38 (one week ago) link

Elton John records of the era generally sound pretty slick.

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 19:45 (one week ago) link

There's A Riot Goin' On

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 19:47 (one week ago) link

Exile on Main St!

the plant based god (bendy), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:00 (one week ago) link

I thought of Goats Head Soup too, but I feel like the standards changed about 1975, which is why my examples were drawn from that era - it was harder to get away with a raw sound later in the decade.

Halfway there but for you, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:05 (one week ago) link

How about the Beach Boys' Love You from 1977? That one is really weird production wise. Their other albums that would follow would be very slick, but Love You sticks out like a sore thumb.

MarkoP, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:10 (one week ago) link

Darkness On The Edge Of Town has been criticized for being a too-dry production.

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:11 (one week ago) link

Big Star - 3rd

MarkoP, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:19 (one week ago) link

I guess that doesn't count as it was mostly recorded in 1974.

MarkoP, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:20 (one week ago) link

Also pretty sure it isn't a superstar record by an established act with an audience and radio play!

When Smeato Met Moaty (Tom D.), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:21 (one week ago) link

The Kinks are not really noted for their production values

Somewhere I read that it wasn't until they finished Konk studios in 1974 that they had access to (and time to spend in) decent recording facilities, right as Ray's songwriting dropped off.

Elton John records of the era generally sound pretty slick

I think so, too, so why did Fleetwood Mac or Steely Dan spend a year making records that sounded no better than what he and Gus Dudgeon could do in a few weeks?

Halfway there but for you, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:22 (one week ago) link

True enough. I kind of forgot about the superstar part and was more thinking of "not established"" as meaning more along the lines of "part of the burgeoning punk/new wave movement".

MarkoP, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:24 (one week ago) link

Let it Be

kurt schwitterz, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:26 (one week ago) link

Also Todd R's Wizard/TrueStar/Something/Anything were made mostly by one dude fuckin around in a studio, tho he had lots of toys and time and good equipment

kurt schwitterz, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:27 (one week ago) link

An interesting thing about 3rd/Sister Lovers is that they tried to shop it to major labels who wouldn't even accept it as a demo (much less a ready to release album) because of the sound/performance quality.

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:29 (one week ago) link

oh what about tusk recorded in lindsey's bathroom

kurt schwitterz, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:31 (one week ago) link

Mentioning Rundgren reminds me of this write-up by Scott Miller, in his book Music: What Happened? on "Cliche" from Faithful:

This perfectly delightful song unfortunately illustrates a certain creeping crumminess to the sound of many mid-seventies mainstream recordings. The FM radio era just brought an aesthetic requiring too many tracks too laboriously recorded: the industry had iron-poor blood.

...which makes me think of the "murky over-stuffed 70s sound" mentioned above on records by the Who and Genesis.

Halfway there but for you, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:33 (one week ago) link

so why did Fleetwood Mac or Steely Dan spend a year making records that sounded no better than what he and Gus Dudgeon could do in a few weeks?

Some of it was probably work ethic, plus they'd developed a assembly line mentality partially borne of contractual requirements those other acts didn't necessarily have to abide by.

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:33 (one week ago) link

Well, Todd would keep trying to stuff 30 minutes of music on to one side of a vinyl LP.

When Smeato Met Moaty (Tom D.), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:35 (one week ago) link

Some Girls ?

AlXTC from Paris, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:36 (one week ago) link

Compared to those other groups, the palette of sounds for an Elton record was less extensive, too - 80% of the songs are going to be based around a piano, the rockers will have loud guitars, the ballads may have a string section, the band will sing harmony parts etc.

Halfway there but for you, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:45 (one week ago) link

yea Todd I think is a great producer but some of the production/sound design of his 70s records (AWATS, TR's Utopia, and Initiation in particular) were clearly affected by his decision to go 30 minutes (or more!) a side - unless you have a microline stylus they distort pretty heavily by the end

frogbs, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 20:55 (one week ago) link

Re: aborted Goodbye Yellow Brick Road sessions

Instead, the singer-songwriter formerly known as Reginald Kenneth Dwight opted to capitalise on his exploding international status — and comply with a two-albums-per-year contractual obligation to MCA — by commencing sessions for another new collection of songs penned with lyricist Bernie Taupin. Impressed that the Rolling Stones had recently been recording tracks for Goats Head Soup in Kingston, Jamaica, Elton also opted to work there. It was a decision he, Taupin, producer Gus Dudgeon and the band members — guitarist Davey Johnstone, bass player Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson — quickly regretted, thanks to the economically depressed locale's tense, violent atmosphere and a studio that fell far short of professional standards.

"The first sign we got that something might be a bit wrong was when the guy who ran the studio, we heard him say, 'Carlton, get the microphone!'” Johnstone recalled in a 2001 VH1 Classic Albums TV documentary. "We went, 'Oh, fuck! Get the microphone?' We used 20 mics on the drums even in those days. It was like, 'Oh, we're in deep shit here.'”

The 25 Best Songs Ever Ranked In Order (Deflatormouse), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 21:13 (one week ago) link

agree with ums re: neil young

The 25 Best Songs Ever Ranked In Order (Deflatormouse), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 21:15 (one week ago) link

I think so, too, so why did Fleetwood Mac or Steely Dan spend a year making records that sounded no better than what he and Gus Dudgeon could do in a few weeks?

― Halfway there but for you, Tuesday, November 23, 2021 2:22 PM (fifty-four minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

i'd love a log of how much time fleetwood mac spent *actually recording music* vs...other stuff

feel like steely dan was probably working all the time though

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 21:19 (one week ago) link

Early rather than late 70s, but the sessions for Deep Purple's Machine Head sound like a total shitshow, the story of which can of course be heard in "Smoke on the Water". Always thought the production was pretty weak on that album tbh.

We had the Rolling Stones' mobile recording unit sitting outside in the snow ... once we got to the truck for a playback, even if we didn't think it was a perfect take, we'd go, 'Yeah, that's good enough.' Because we just couldn't stand going back again.

—Ritchie Blackmore[16]

foley track out of sync (Matt #2), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 21:48 (one week ago) link

Prolly on the earlier tip too, but the first few Kiss albums are horribly produced, borderline unlistenable. Destroyer was their first studio album with any oomph.

henry s, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 22:07 (one week ago) link

I like electric sitars

J. Sam, Tuesday, 23 November 2021 22:13 (one week ago) link

The Kinks are not really noted for their production values tbf.

Their records are all over the place. Production-wise, their best stuff was with Shel Talmy. Ray always seemed indifferent at best, accepting whatever the then-current mode of production was, but never attempting to perfect it or bend it to the Kinks’ needs. One exception is Give The People What They Want, but the great production is wasted on middling material. Their ‘70s theatrical records all sound meh, especially Preservation (though that was apparently rushed; they finished the mix literally the day before they left for a US tour).

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 23:35 (one week ago) link

Three albums that I associate with a sort of murky over-stuffed 70s sound - though that might have been the pressings I heard them on - are "Quadrophenia", "Physical Graffiti" and "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway".

Same engineer on Quadrophenia and (the ‘74 recordings on) Physical Graffiti, Ron Nevison. He designed Ronnie Lane’s mobile studio which the Who used for Quadrophenia while their control room was being built, so they kept him on as the engineer. He didn’t know how to mic Moon’s kit — few did — and supposedly after the first session with Zep, Bonham had to take him aside to tell him how he wanted his kit miked. This is why the drums on Quadrophenia are close-miked vs. the more ambient approach on Physical Graffiti. But the overall sound of Quadrophenia was heavily criticized in Lenny Kaye’s Rolling Stone review.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Tuesday, 23 November 2021 23:51 (one week ago) link

I mean

is no one going to talk about Nebraska

it's like

i

i don't even KNOW you people

popcornoscenti (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 24 November 2021 06:20 (one week ago) link

Nebraska isn't '70s.

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 24 November 2021 06:36 (one week ago) link

Oh! Right. My bad

popcornoscenti (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 24 November 2021 13:03 (one week ago) link

Music production in the 80s is another kettle of fish altogether

procter and gamble and huff (Matt #2), Wednesday, 24 November 2021 14:39 (one week ago) link


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