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DCC Archive A bit of Motown recording method

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Cousin It, Dec 26, 2001.

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  1. Cousin It

    Cousin It Senior Member Thread Starter

    Sydney, Australia
    A series of articles by Bob Dennis who worked at Motown during the 60's,I've just put all the article parts together

    When I joined the Motown Engineering Department as a technician in fall of 1963, I had thought a job was something that you worked at steadily for 8 hours with a lunch hour sandwiched in. It wasn't long before I realized that part of my job description was to engage in social chatter and the discussing of life philosophy with the boss and crew of the department. This activity accounted for at least one-quarter of the work time.

    The "stars" of Motown were very ordinary people and many had jobs in the day-to-day running of the company. When the Contours went out for a series of shows, it seemed as though we lost our shipping department.

    Every week or two, 13 year old Stevie Wonder would wander in to the department and visit for about a half-hour. He would always be greeted by the boss or the shop foreman saying, "Are you getting any yet Stevie?" At the tender age of 17 I didn't know what they meant by this but I did know it was the signal to take a "socializing break" and join in the chatter. Stevie's purpose apparently was to keep informed about what was happening in the department, using his gift of chatter rather than his absent gift of eyesight. I do know that we managed to "jive-around" and have no significant dialog during the visits.

    Stevie was a comical and steady victim of Motown's expansion. "Pop's" Gordy and his assistant constantly changed the floor-plan of 3 houses on West Grand Blvd. Attempting to continually add more work areas to the same square-footage. This building-maintenance crew changed the location of walls and doors at least twice a month. Stevie's favorite trick was to give the slip to his assigned guide ("handler") and go off on his own to discover the changes. You would regularly see him walk into walls where doors had been a month ago. After finally finding his way in to an area, he would ask "So what's in this area now?"

    Today, Stevie remains very much like that 13-year-old kid. Several times I have run into him on the display floor of the Audio Engineering Society checking things out, alone. When greeted, he seems genuinely happy to "see you" and chat for a few.

    My first job at Motown involved drafting. One of the first tasks I had was to complete a set of drawings for something they were building - an 8 track recorder! By 1963, the largest number of tracks that you could buy from a dealer was 4. An eight-track recorder had been built by Les Paul, but you couldn't order one from a dealer. Motown very much wanted an eight-track, so they were building one. It turned out to be fall, 1964 before the machine was installed.
    The eight-track project was not unusual by any means. Throughout my time at Motown, the company always had more technical engineers than recording engineers. The creative elements of the company (lead by Berry Gordy) and the recording engineers would want a certain effect or a certain function. Engineering head, Mike McLean, would get it designed and built for the company.

    In many ways, this technical staff helped Motown establish a unique sound and saved them money to boot. But Technical Engineering wasn't always so efficient.

    Motown used to mix every multitrack master several times. There was an average of twenty mixes done for each tune released. In 1964, a cost cutting Vice President, Ralph Seltzer noticed that each mixing session used a full reel of tape and usually only three minutes or so was cut out off the reel and kept. The Tape Librarian, Fran Heard, used to take the rest of the tape off of the reel and toss it, so that the metal reel could be salvaged.

    Mr. Seltzer asked Mike, "Why can't the tape be re-used?" Mike's response was "If the splice was made poorly, the level would drop when the engineer tried to record over it." Pushing the issue, the penny-pinching executive wanted to know if Mike could build a machine that would detect bad splices. Mike, who never backed down from a technical challenge, agreed to do so.

    Back at his desk, Mike figured that the splice would be silent if the dropout was less than 1 dB. Mike worked on the design for two weeks straight. He designed a tape transport with record and playback heads. The machine would record a tone on the tape, and then play it back; if there was a drop-out of more than 1 dB, the machine stopped so that the splice could be redone. After completing the design, he got his shop supervisor, John Windt, to get it built. Six months and 1300 man-hours later, it was done.

    The machine worked exactly as planned, but Mike found out the rest of the story. It wound up that none of the recording engineers, no matter how careful they were, could make a splice in tape that didn't have a drop-out of more that 1 dB. Mike, and Berry, himself, tried with the same result. The machine went under the work bench to gather dust, until I left Motown in 1968.

    Recently, I had a chat with Guy Gordon of Channel 7 in Detroit. He was in the studio taping an interview with Tom Gelardi, about the Beatles. Tom was a local Capital Records Representative when the Beatles hit. Guy wanted to get him on video tape for a special November broadcast regarding the Beatles.
    At the time the Beatles hit, Motown was establishing itself as the largest independent record company in the world. The world took notice as the Beatles had three records in the Top 10 in mid 1964 - an unheard of event. The World was shocked when the Motown Supremes busted though the Beatles, and replaced them with their #1 record, "Baby Love." The Beatles took notice also and began recording their own versions of some of the early Motown hits. By fall of 1964, Motown employees had Beatles key chains, T-Shirts, etc. A strong mutual respect developed between the Beatles, and Motown.

    Guy was very interested in this because it tied into his Beatles story and, as a matter of fact, he asked me about it. The conversation shifted from Beatles to Motown. I related a Motown story that Engineer's Quarterly readers may well be interested in.

    In the Spring of 1964, the 4 Tops had a number one hit - "I Can't Help Myself." Before coming to Motown, the "Tops" were signed to Columbia Records (Now CBS/Sony). Columbia went into the vaults in the Summer of 1964, and released a tune they had recorded on the Tops. They were trying to get the "recorders" off of Motown's hit record. Distributors put in standing orders with record companies that they will take a certain number of copies of ANY release by a certain artist who has a large hit. Knowing this, Columbia timed their release correctly to "fill" these reorders.

    Berry was pissed! No, Berry was PISSED!

    Immediately, all recording and production people were advised that everyone would be working on the next Tops release and it was to get out TODAY!

    The writing & producing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, met chief engineer Lawrence Horn in the studio at 3PM. With the musicians and the Tops standing by, they wrote "It’s The Same Old Song" on the spot. The musicians were running the tune down with Brian Holland and Lawrence, as Eddie Holland was finishing the lyrics and Lamont Dozier was finishing the melody at 3:30 PM. By 5 PM, I received the first mix from the hands of Robert Gordy, and he waited for me while I cut a reference disk on it. I immediately began cutting 7 inch records of this mix, and hand-stamping the hand-typed labels with "MOTOWN." At 5:40 PM, I got another mix from Robert, and he again waited for the test cut.

    At 6:00 PM, I got a call to cut a master for a strike-off. A strike-off is a stamper to press out the records very quickly - you can only get about 1000 pressings from a strike-off, but the stamper can be made very fast.

    At 6:05, I received a call to cut a second master and put it in the same box - I was slightly pissed because I had already started packing the first master. By 6:35 PM, someone (probably some "Gordy" person) was speeding toward Owosso, Michigan, to the American Record Pressing Plant. I was still hand cutting records.

    Between 6 PM and Midnight, I received six more mixes of the tune, each time changing the tape I was using to hand-cut copies for DJ's. I got an engineer in at 10 PM and another to relive him at 9 AM. I made sure that the engineer knew exactly what to do and left around midnight. At 8 AM I was making sure all the hand-cut records were finished (some 300) and handing them off to Ester Gordy.

    By 3 PM (24 hours after beginning), Motown managed to have 1500 records in the hands of the key DJ's in the country, and "It's The Same Old Song" became a hit literally overnight. The record eventually went #2, and "almost" went gold - not bad for a little company in three houses on West Grand Blvd. The Columbia release went to #39 and sold a lot of records.

    Whenever I listened to the "Same Old Song" Motown release, it sounded "thrown-together" and sub-standard. I guess I was right to some degree because it only went to #2. I had the disadvantage of knowing how it was done. Most other people liked it and didn't notice any lack.

    The lingering snow in April reminds me of the days of Motown.
    In the fall of 1963, Motown was contained in three large houses on West Grand Blvd. These houses were large enough to have 3 floors, including the basement. Between the two main houses, there was a covered passageway that shielded you from the cold. The recording studio was an add-on in the back of the main building. When I went from Engineering to Shipping, there was a hall-sized passageway that was shielded on three sides.

    By the end of 1964, Motown had added a fourth building that housed the mixing suite and more offices. They also had purchased Golden World Studios on Davison Avenue, about 4 miles from the main studio. The fourth house was a few doors down from the main building. To do a mix in the Winter, the engineer sometimes had to sign out the tape in the main building, put on his coat, and walk through a blizzard for a half-block. To do a session at "Studio B" (Davison Avenue), the engineer had to drive four miles though the blizzard.

    All studios and mixing rooms operated 22 hours a day, shutting down for daily maintenance between 8 and 10 in the morning. So these Winter treks were made at all hours and in the coldest dead of night.

    By the end of 1966, just before the company moved its offices downtown, there were 8 buildings up and down Grand Blvd. As a recording supervisor, I had to take the time cards for my employees down to "Finance" each week. This Department was a long city block (1/4 mile) down and across the street. In the dead of Winter, this was quite a walk. I suppose I could have driven, but then I would have had to dig out the car.

    It seems as though there was a lot more snow and cold in the 60's. I lived a block away from Motown in these years, and I remember at least 5 occasions where the snow was knee to hip high.

    When Motown moved to Woodward and the Fisher Freeway in the Summer of 1967, we were so happy to have all the departments in the same building. We also had elevators.

    Motown was a hit record factory in the 1960's. Between 1961 and 1964, they grew to be the largest independent record company in the world. They had more hit records than any company - including the major labels.
    A big part of their formula was competition and central control. When a production was recorded (the multitrack recording done), any engineer could mix the production. The engineers would mix in 4 hour periods, and complete about 3 mixes. These mixes were submitted to the Disc Recording Department. The Disc Recording engineers would cut an acetate of the mix (a hand-cut record), and pass the acetates and tapes onto the Quality Control Department. Quality Control would listen only to the acetates and pick out the best mix or mixes. Quality Control would then have the engineer or engineer who did the best mixes, do another set of mixes. Q.C. would send instructions on the changes to be made to the original mix.

    The producer was out of the loop. The producer wasn't present when the mix or re-mix was done. If a producer could also mix, the producer could submit mixes of the production. The producer's mixes were given no preference over other engineer's mix.

    This whole process resulted in a tune being mixed 20 times before a final master was chosen. The idea was to get the last ounce of sound out of the production.

    Until mid-1964, the master multitrack tapes were 3 track tapes. Track 1 had the rhythm instruments (drums, bass guitar, and piano). Track 2 had the "Sweetening" instruments (strings & horns). Track 3 had the vocals. The multitrack master was mixed down to a mono master tape.

    When the engineer wanted to make an instrument louder or fuller, he reached to the equalizer, because the instruments were recorded onto one track. The engineer had equalizers, compressors and reverberation chambers to use to make the mix better (or even different) than the last mix plus only three channel faders for the main tracks!

    In early 1964, Motown was cranking out hits at a tremendous pace. All of the recording and mixing was done in one studio/control room complex. To keep the demand met for recording and mixing, the control room operated 22 hours a day in 3 shifts, seven days a week. The other two hours were for electronic maintenance and alignment. Motown had been on this recording schedule for over a year, but at the end of 1963 and beginning of 1964, the scheduling of recording was hyper-critical.
    Berry Gordy had an office recording system that he actually was using to overdub things like vocals for "The Way You Do The Things You Do" by the Temptations and for doing initial mixes on productions he was personally involved in.

    By the end of 1964, Motown had bought another studio, and installed an additional mixdown room; but at the beginning of 1964, any hour of lost recording time was perceived by the executives of the company as a major loss of income. The Engineering Department was hard-pressed to get any time (other than the allotted 2 hours a day) for additional maintenance, installation or improvements.

    Time, however, was taken when the worst fears of the Engineering Department happened, the breakdown that caused immediate down time and death of the music production, until repairs are made.

    Speaker Fire - 24 Hours Dead

    In a very small control room, six high powered speakers were driven by hopped-up power amplifiers. The recording engineers cranked the system full blast for hours. Many would suffer partial deafness within months, but loud monitoring was a fact of life in the mid-60's. Sessions were usually 3 hours long. One day in a double-length session, one of the woofers caught on fire. The Engineering Department got the damage repaired in 24 hours.

    Installation Breakdown - 7 Days Dead

    The Motown control room was haphazardly installed over a two year period with things wired in without documentation. Small "boxes" of electronics were on top of racks & machines, and under furniture. There were constant additions to the equipment over these years. The result was a constant barrage of small problems that didn't totally shut down the operation, but slowed it down almost every day. The only solution was to rip out all the equipment and rewire the control room.

    Mike McLean, the Engineering Department Head, used the excuse that he would not be able to install 8 track recording until the control room was re-wired. He was given the necessary time for re-wiring.

    Over these 7 days, all equipment was put in racks, all wiring was redone, and cables tagged with numbers. The whole back wall of the control room was made a wall of racks. Once the control room was operational, all of the small, constant problems disappeared.

    Equipment Rack Fire - 7 Hours Dead

    In order to get the control room back up in 7 days, Mike McLean had ordered the technical engineering crew to tag the wires with temporary tags. The tags that were used were stuff paper with thin wire twists. Each tag was about 2 inches by 3 inches. The idea was that these temporary tags could be replaced with permanent markers. This, however, wasn't scheduled to be done until the 8 track recorder was ready for installation.

    In the early 1960's, all audio equipment had tubes and threw off a tremendous amount of heat. In addition, the equipment was never turned off.

    One day, an audio tone generator developed a short and its power transformer overheated. Since it was an inexpensive item, it had no power fuse. One of the paper tags caught on fire, and all of the tags caught on fire. The fire was quickly put out, and there was little damage to the wiring.

    The Engineering Department needed 7 hours to repair the wire damage, and check out the installation. Mike was so embarrassed that he immediately made it strict policy to use permanent markers and make sure all equipment had fuses installed to prevent a reoccurrence

    When I was in junior high school, I heard a radio broadcast about a revolutionary new method of recording - 8 track. The commentator gave a picture of the different sections of an orchestra being recorded separately, and then played back through a set of 8 speakers. Each of the eight speakers would be positioned where the instruments would sit on the stage. The "violin" section speaker would be positioned where the violins would be, etc. I found this whole idea interesting. After all, this was before stereo systems were on the market, and you couldn't buy a stereo record.

    When I went to work for Motown (1963), they had a 3 track recording system. There were 3 sets of speakers in the control room (left, center, and right). The three speakers played the three tracks on the master recordings. Other studios that were 4 track, had 4 speakers, again one for each track.

    One of the first jobs I had was making drawings of the 8 track machine that was being built by the Engineering Department. Everyone had more or less assumed that when we got the 8 track up and running, there would be 8 speakers in the control room. This was the thinking of the day.

    Mike McLean, head of the Engineering Department let us know that when the 8 track was installed, there wouldn't be 8 sets of speakers in the control room. Instead, a monitor mixer would be installed so that one amplifier would drive the speakers into mono. Each of the 8 tracks would be "mixed." The engineers were doubtful how this revolutionary new idea would work in practice.

    By the time the 8 track was installed, a stereo monitor system was built with both a left and right side. The 8 monitor mixing controls also had pan pots, so each track could be sent left, right, or center.

    The Future

    Its amazing how most of us cling to the present ways that things are done, even in the face of new developments. We try and plug in the new inventions and methods into familiar surroundings. Ten years from now, it is likely that:

    1. There won't be multitrack tapes. Tape as a storage medium will be considered "old school" and we will save our recordings to our studio memory bank. The work "gigabytes" will not be used very much because it only refers to the small quantity of 1,000,000,000 bytes of information. A "small" central storage system for a project studio will hold at least 1,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. A central backup system will back up these files at night to some medium, not yet invented. The medium will be removable memory that will hold at least 1,000 gigabytes per cartridge, and the cartridges will be smaller that a current floppy disk.

    2. You won't be buying CD's and DVD's (digital video discs) at all for your home. You'll be downloading from a central provider into your personal central memory system at home. You'll be charged for downloads on your bill, which will automatically appear and be paid by your VISA account (yes, VISA will still be here). When you go on a picnic, wanting to take along your "boom box" for music with the mosquitoes and hot dogs (yes, there still will be hot dogs), you'll be downloading from your home central memory storage system into your boom box.

    The whole idea of tape, CD's, and DVD's will be "interesting history" to your children, but have no relevance to then current times. Are you ready?
  2. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    I remember reading this a while back.

    Is this guy right, that all Motown sessions from the middle of 1964 were done to 8-track?

    It would explain how the "footsteps" on "Where Did Our Love Go" could be panned across the stereo image without dragging any other instruments with them, I guess.

    But, I dunno. Anyone know for sure?
  3. Sckott

    Sckott Hand Tighten Only.

    South Plymouth, Ma
    That could have been done boounced over in OD, couldn't it?
  4. Jeff H.

    Jeff H. Senior Member

    Northern, OR
    RE: Where Did Our Love Go? Steve from what I've heard, that particular track was done on the 3 track. The first single Motown did on the newly installed 8 track machine was "Baby Love".
  5. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Yeah, I've heard that as well, Jeff.

    Thing is, the songs sound so darn similar sonically, and mix wise....

    I dunno. All Motown until 1968 sounds like three or four track to me...
  6. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    No, I'm pretty sure they were all 8-track by 1965 anyway, if not earlier (mid 64). The 3-track stuff is easy to spot, but check out how the bass moves to the center (or at any rate, away from the drums) as time went by. The three track stuff was almost always rhythm on one side, strings and stuff on the other, vocals center. Around 1965 stuff spread out a lot more.

    I know my buddy Danny has done some Motown. Not sure what access he had to the multitracks.
  7. pauljones

    pauljones Forum Chef

    columbia, sc
    How about some perspectives on Motown reissues: again, the great mono versus stereo debate, basically. But, I like the John Matousek Motown remasters for CD of the 1980's. The sound is fresh, alive, and crisp stereo. You do hear distortion at times, but I would imagine it is on the master tapes, and I do not detect use of noise reduction. Of particular note is the hard-to-find "The Supremes' Never-Before Released Masters."
  8. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    United States
    Yes, Motown BUILT an 8-track board. In fact, they used to build things because it was CHEAPER than buying things. Berry Gordy ran that place like any other manufacturing company right down to the punch clock, NON union, of course!

    Luke, Danny Caccavo may have had access to the multis because a stripped down version of "My Girl" is on the Temptations box. You can still hear the instruments very faintly in the background

    Steve Hoffman, after listening to "You Keep me hanging On" by the Supremes, from 1966, you still think everything sounds like four tracks???
  9. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    United States
    I find the Motown CDs of the early-mid 80s as trebly and thin. John Matousek was handed a job of monsterous proprotions, to get everything on CD, FAST! He dug up some interesting tapes but many times he got bad tapes, copies, and wrong mixes, all in the name of stereo for stereo's sake. Everyone should know by now that the converters were terrible back then, and many times tapes EQ's for vinyl or consumer tape production were used.

    We didn't really start seeing qiality Motown Cds until Bill Inglot helped Motown straighten out their catalog and vault. They had tapes, literally, all over the country. They found a smorgasboard of master tapes at RCA in New York, who did much of their pressing in the 60s. Some were in LA because some songs and artists recorded there all through the 60s. Smokey Robinson did a quite of bit of production there. All of the Jackson 5 material was done at Hitsville West.

    [ December 27, 2001: Message edited by: Grant T. ]
  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Motown experts,

    Let's talk about this for a minute, can we?

    I really am on the outside looking in regarding Motown, as I've only worked with mono and two-track originals, never anything with more tracks.

    While I agree that "You Keep Me Hanging On" sounds eight-track, so many others from (let's say) 1965 don't...

    I had a buddy years ago who worked on some Motown albums in the 1970's (bad ones...)

    He said that Motown only had ONE eight-track machine, in the main recording room. Since they didn't have one in the STEREO room, the engineer did a three-track or four-track (can't remember which) DUB in the main room, and sent that over for a stereo mix to be made from. So: TWO bad stereo dub downs for one song. Ecch. Twice the overload distortion in stereo.

    Is that possible? It would explain why the stereo's for the most part sound so terrible.

    Even if that guy was crazy and they had TWO eight-track machines, one in the main room and one for mixing in the stereo room, HOW ON EARTH did some of those stereo mixes come out sounding so bad, distortion wise?

    Example: Listen to "I Can't Help Myself" by The Four Tops. Great song. In the stereo intro, the distortion on the right channel is about 35%! This is more than Hendrix's guitar! Sounds really bad. But, on the mono mix, the intro is "clean", with no overload distortion. Was the stereo room really that bad? Couldn't they hear it? Always confuses me...

    Anyway, Grant and others. Comments?

  11. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    Could be. Remember, though, that stuff was remixed a lot. For instance, compare the original (I think) stereo mix of "Reach Out" to the one on the Cooley High soundtrack. The CH one totally blows away the original.

    No doubt about that one being an 8-track mix...
  12. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    United States
    That may have been true up until about 1965 (I think 1966). By then many of the stereo mixes were "modern" mixes with little or no distortion. My favorite example for the moment, You Keep me Hanging On" was beautifully mixed in stereo, with the 45 single just folded down to mono. "Reflections" sounds better in stereo as well, partially because H-D-H was experimanting with stereo. But the other producers were still messing about the old way because a year or two later Motown product like "Love Child" was specifically mixed to mono with the stereo being an afterthought. This happened until the end of 1971. Hmmmm, H-D-H product on the Hot Wax/Invictus labels follow the old Motown school of mixing.

    Anyway, Motown's stereo mixing room was literally two dors down. Seems the doctor next door refused to sell his house to berry gordy so berry bought the one next to the doc and ran cables from the main studio to the stereo room in the basement. What they did was play the tape on the eight track in the main room and the poor, frostbitten night engineer mixed to stereo by remote. No joke! This could explain a lot of things. The monitors in the stereo mixing room were not that good. But neither were the Altecs in the main room. They had a bad frequency response, and the producers liked to crank them up so loud that the engineers had to leave. Mickey Stevenson and H-D-H were the worst.

    Stereo. In the late 60s and 70s, producer Norman Whitfield was given the Temptations permanantly. Whitfield liked to experiment with stereo, and he used local studios because Hitsville Detroit was, by then, woefully inadequate for his work. but the mono was still mixed at Hitsville.

    [ December 27, 2001: Message edited by: Grant T. ]
  13. Angel

    Angel New Member

    Hollywood, Ca.

    If the main studio was in use 22 hours a day for recording as stated in that article, then how in hell could the 8 track machine be used for stereo mixing (even by remote cable) at all?

    It would have constantly been in use for recording, wouldn't it? They wouldn't stop a session just to do a remote stereo mix. Doesn't make sense.
  14. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    United States
    The main tracking and mixing rooms were always in a state of caos. The engineers were always upgrading or repairing things, even during sessions. Berry Gordy would not allow downtime. The machines were always running, always. They also ran two mono tape machines, one for backup. This could also explain the hit and miss quality of Motown recordings.

    Berry, as you know, never auditioned the tapes because he reasoned that the consumer didn't, so why judge the recordings that way? Berry had test pressings done on site for fast turnaround. He had a full-track mono and cutting lathe set up in or near his office.

    BTW, the way they made the stereo mixes reinforces that stereo was usually as far away from the Motown vision as possible. This is also why I usually prefer the mono mixes.
  15. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    United States
    No, it doesn't. Maybe it was during downtime or he considers it all recording. Who knows? I got most of my info from an old Audio magazine interview with Motown's cheif engineer at the time. If I forgot something, anybody feel free to jump it.

    Anyone know of any interviews with Motown people like Robert Bateman, Art Sterart, or that one engineer in prision for killing his family?
  16. CM Wolff

    CM Wolff Senior Member

    Maybe they are only realizing it now. The newly released alternate stereo mix of "I Can't Help Myself" (on Fourever) does not appear to have the distortion you are referring to. :)

    CM Wolff
  17. pauljones

    pauljones Forum Chef

    columbia, sc
    I still hold steadfastly to stereo in the "Mono versus Stereo" debate. I want to hear all the details and stereo offers them. Even in the instances where an engineer used poor judgment on instrument placement, I feel the listener should be offered a choice. That is why I feel in the case of classic releases where the mono is highly regarded, the cd should be offered with the original mono and stereo mixes; a good example of this is RCA's gold release of Jefferson Airplane's "Surrealistic Pillow".
  18. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    United States
    I agree in that both stereo AND mono be given as a choice. And, I think Motown (UNI)is coming around to that way of thinking too. You can get mono if you like, or stereo. Some things still need to be released in mono, though.

    But, since I grew up in the 60s-early 70s, I listened to all the Motown hits as they came out on mono 45s, some on stereo LP. The mono may not always sound so special but they had a special quality. The mixes sounded powerful, while the stereo mixes were weak and had missing elements.

    Paul, when you listen to some of the stereo mixes you ARE missing some of the sound. The drums are usually back in the mix, the background vocals are missing or almost non-existient, the bass is sometimes weak, things are washed in reverb...sometimes the mixes are just plain different. If you don't compare the stereo to their mono hit counterparts you won't know.

    With Motown, as with most soul music from the 60s-early 70s, it isn't about sound quality or seperation and detail, it's about the FEEL, the gritty, sweaty soul! Hard to get down with a sterile, audiophile, upper crust wide mix. Put a mono 45 on the overheated, overdriven, over-biased tube RECORD PLAYER, crank up the volume, and do the BOOGALOO! Now, if Steve could just get THAT on CD...

    You know, Berry Gordy didn't approve the TAPES, he approved the VINYL PRESSINGS. Maybe the remedy for this mono controversey IS to do disc dubs direct to digital using cheap tube electronics. I'm serious, if I had all those 45s back I would do just that!

    [ December 28, 2001: Message edited by: Grant T. ]
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