SH Spotlight How the Warner Bros. Sound Dept. recorded the score for "THE MUSIC MAN" in multi-channel in 1961..

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, May 2, 2023.

  1. COBill

    COBill Forum Resident

    Colorado, USA
    Oh how I wish La La Land or another soundtrack specialist could license your version of the soundtrack and release it.
    Jonathan L likes this.
  2. Changingman

    Changingman Forum Resident

    On a curious note, composer Meredith Wilson made more money from The Beatles’ cover of Till There Was You (on million-selling albums With The Beatles and Meet The Beatles) than he did from the actual Broadway show.
    Dawg In Control, Playloud and McLover like this.
  3. Jskoda

    Jskoda Forum Resident

    Washington, DC
    That must be why Warners movies always had a distinct sound--even in the dialog scenes. In the late-night drinking scene in CASABLANCA when Bogart yells "If she can stand it, I can!" it sounds like he's making the rafters ring and it sends a chill up your spine.

    To this day, you can turn on Turner Classic Movies and know with just 10 seconds of listening if they're showing a Warners movie.
    McLover, WMTC and Grootna like this.
  4. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    That is indeed the reason. Best sound department of the studios.
    McLover, WMTC, BobbyG and 4 others like this.
  5. Jskoda

    Jskoda Forum Resident

    Washington, DC
    I read somewhere there was a practical reason for this. When movies got out of the big cities and nice theaters, you never knew what kind of lousy sound setups the smaller theaters had. The way Warners sound was mixed, it would be effective even on the worst speakers.

    Back to THE MUSIC MAN, there's a couple of sound glitches in "Piano Lesson & If You Don't Mind My Saying So" when Pert Kelton sings the line "With the suitcase! Who may be your very last chance." It's always been on the album and it's in the movie too. What the heck is that?

    That's how many times I've listened to that album!
    McLover and Grootna like this.
  6. alchemy

    alchemy Forum Resident

    Sterling, VA
    Any inside baseball on The Chicken Fat song? Besides the following?

    Chicken Fat (song) - Wikipedia

    "Chicken Fat" was the theme song for President John F. Kennedy's youth fitness program, and millions of 7-inch 33 RPM discs which were pressed for free by Capitol Records were heard in elementary, junior high school and high school gymnasiums across the United States throughout the 1960s and 1970s.[2] Willson contacted Fitness Council administrator Dick Snider with an offer to write a song to be used to promote exercise for children. Willson's offer was accepted and he consulted with Physical Fitness Council director Ted Forbes to ensure that the song would be effective.[1] The bouncy chorus ended with the words "Go, you chicken fat, go!"[1][2]

    The song was originally recorded on a Warner Bros. Pictures soundstage in early 1962 at the same time as the recordings for the film soundtrack of the Warner Bros. film The Music Man, starring Robert Preston. Recorded on the same three-track 35mm magnetic film as the soundtrack recordings, it features Preston's vocal isolated on one track, with the Bernie Green Orchestra isolated on the second track and a chorus of boys and girls isolated on the third track. However, the location of the original multi-track tapes is unknown. As a result, with only the full-track quarter-inch 15 IPS monophonic composite master being available from which Capitol mastered their records in 1962, no stereophonic version of the song is currently possible and it remains in monophonic sound on the CD re-issue.[2]
    McLover and Steve Hoffman like this.
  7. Veech

    Veech Space In Sounds

    Los Angeles, CA
    What really impresses me about these musicals is how well the musical numbers were lip-synced. Robert Preston was basically doing scat-rap in parts of "Ya Got Trouble" and his lip-sync performance was nearly flawless.

    Here's a musical number from 1941 that impresses me with the mime and lip-sync. "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" from the film Sun Valley Serenade.

    Last edited: May 3, 2023
    ROFLnaked and Steve Hoffman like this.
  8. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Regarding "Chicken Fat" -- my wife is 6 years younger than me, and we largely went through the public school systems in the same state, but she is completely flabbergasted when I tell her that I remember exercising to that song when I was in elementary school. It strikes her as being from ancient world history.
    Last edited: May 3, 2023
  9. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Take a look at that recording card from the mags I posted earlier. That's all that remains! All of the three-channel mag was erased and used over for the next big production: GYPSY.
    McLover and Radley like this.
  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Very good ear, my friend.

    That scene (as simple as it is) was filmed many times, eventually all of the sound was combined onto one channel for ease of production. That is when the glitch/short happened. No one fixed, no one maybe heard it, or they decided to ignore it. It's the SAME WAY in the actual movie!

    I had the unglitched dialog and could have done a new, clean version of that part but no one cared!

    Still, drives me bonkers.
    hi_watt, McLover, Jskoda and 2 others like this.
  11. ROFLnaked

    ROFLnaked Forum Resident

    Watching the Nicholas Brothers is absolutely brain-spraining.
    Veech likes this.
  12. Veech

    Veech Space In Sounds

    Los Angeles, CA
    I'm fascinated by early filming techniques of musical numbers like this one. Since all the shots of the Nicholas Brothers were fairly tight I assume there were boom mics just out of frame and their taps were recorded live but was there music playing while they performed?
  13. McLover

    McLover Senior Member

    MLutthans. I am a child of the 1970 onward era. "Chicken Fat" was played in Adaptive PE. I was exposed to it, as a special needs person. Disability, and all. I was a multiple President's Physical Fitness award winner when I was a little guy. Early 1970's. This outlook and my Mom's "No Limits, Let McLover Try" attitude dictated the path in life and living, and the path I still follow to this very day. So, even today is "Go You Chicken Fat, Go". I was one of the very pioneering wheelchair athletes. I am still on this path, forever. To the ends of my existence. I will not change this approach, as long as I am on earth. Not an option!
    Smiler, Dawg In Control and MLutthans like this.
  14. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Taps were recorded in post, always.
    hi_watt, McLover and Veech like this.
  15. Jskoda

    Jskoda Forum Resident

    Washington, DC
    Wow! To hear that from YOU? You made my month!
  16. jojo_f

    jojo_f Forum Resident

    Washington, USA
    Cool post, I love this stuff. A few questions.

    1. How did WB keep four tape recorders in sync? I have heard of other famous recordings where the sync method is "hit both play buttons at the same time."

    2. What kind of mix capabilities did they have for the 4-track master? It appears that each 3-track went to tracks 1,2,3 on the master. Was everything premixed in recording (on the 3-tracks) and then just combined with a little volume balancing? Aside from lead vox which ended up on track 4?

    3. In the case of the 'Trouble' song, why would the chorus use a third machine and not overdub the vacant tracks on the second machine? Did they need all three tracks or did not have the ability to overdub individual tracks on a tape? If the end result is mono or stereo, three tracks seems unnecessary, if they could channel multiple mics to stereo. (See #2)
    Steve Hoffman likes this.
  17. Beachbouys

    Beachbouys Forum Resident

    South UK
    I worked at the A.B.C Cinema (UK) in the 60s and we had this promotion 45 to play in the interval. They let me have the 45. Unfortunately a certain disgraced DJ had a spoken part. Here it is but i've cut down 'sav..'
    hi_watt and Steve Hoffman like this.
  18. Jskoda

    Jskoda Forum Resident

    Washington, DC
    You should reach out to George Feltenstein--he does all the Warner Archives releases and restorations for Warner Home Video. He's also a big fan of these movies. Tell him when they get around to doing a remaster/restoration of THE MUSIC MAN (which many have been asking for) that you've got a remix of the music all ready to go that will knock his socks off.

    Who knows, it might prompt some action. I'm just being selfish here--it might be a way we'd get to hear the work you've done on this!
    McLover likes this.
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    1. The way movie companies have kept stuff in sync since the beginning of the sound era. Grease pencil, slugs, leader film!

    2. The four-track? Well, Merrick mixed the music, chorus to the three tracks and the vocal to the fourth, live, from the console on music scoring stage 9 to brand new Ampex four-track from the 35mm mag dubbers rolling in the sound department.

    Just like he mixed it for the four-track movie. The difference is that in the movie the music was "dipped" for dialog in certain spots and sound effects were also added (feet moving, etc.) Also, the movie soundtrack was left/center/right for dialog, music, effects and the fourth channel was the back speakers or surround channel.

    On the movie soundtrack album, the stuff was mixed left/center/right and lead vocal on a separate channel, using up the four channels. A much better sounding version than what was in the movie, that's for sure.

    So, mixed by the WB dude, then the four-track was sent over to Radio Recorders in town where they did a reduction mix to stereo and mono tape, adding compression, echo and EQ. Those were marked as LP masters and sent to Warner Bros. Records.

    3. Not sure you understood what I was trying to say. Orchestra left/center/right. Second machine, Chorus left/center/right, third machine Preston, fourth machine, sound effects (feet, etc.) not used on LP soundtrack, added later in post.

    After the soundtrack album was done and the stereo mag print master was done, WB erased all of the 35mm magnetic film for reuse on GYPSY. Ouch.

    Make sense?
    Last edited: May 4, 2023
    Smiler and McLover like this.
  20. McLover

    McLover Senior Member

    This is a Hollywood motion picture score being discussed. There's a reason for all those magnetic film dubber machines. This is done because it is a must for Hollywood motion pictures and all other motion pictures which must keep all elements synchronized together of sound and motion pictures. 35 mm magnetic film recorders are much easier to keep synchronized.

    All audio elements, all mixes of audio dialogue, and music scores, and all sound effects, and they must all be lip synchronized to the motion picture. This is all 35 mm magnetic film until the 4 track musical score was mixed down to 1/2" wide 4 track magnetic tape running at 15 inches per second, NAB equalization curve.

    The tape was mixed and made for Warner Brothers Records, to facilitate mixing the mono and Stereo music score, for release on Mono and Stereo phonograph records, and for pre-recorded Stereo tape releases, and CD by that era. I hope this post explains clearly why all that equipment and labor is necessary.
  21. alchemy

    alchemy Forum Resident

    Sterling, VA

    Were the three-channel mag's that expensive that they had to reuse them?
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    No, nothing like that. The reason was good quality 35mm Mag film was hard to come by, I guess the sound department felt the quality control was lacking so when they found a good batch they reused it until it fell apart.

    The 35mm three-channel mag for AUNTIE MAME was erased and reused for THE MUSIC MAN, then erased and used for GYPSY then erased and used for MY FAIR LADY..

    Jack Warner thought stereo movies were a really bad idea. Distracting, annoying, fragile expensive and just plain stoo-pid. Ironic that the studio that made sound motion pictures a thing disliked evolving to stereo. Warner thought a good picture was a good picture and it didn't need the added expense of stereophonic sound, even though movies like THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY are wonderful in surround stereo.

    Back in the 1990's, Jeff Joseph of SabuCat managed to convince Warner Bros. to pull the vault mag striped 4 channel stereo "do not project" print of THE MUSIC MAN out of mothballs and ship it over to the movie theater across the street from CBS Television City on Fairfax. I remember it was early on a Sunday morning that we gathered there to watch the movie in surround stereo for the first time.

    I had seen it as a kid at the La Reina on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks in mono and loved it. This was our first time seeing it in stereo in a theater.

    Well, it was amazing. Beautiful Technicolor print on a giant screen. The surround was so awesome. When the chorus comes in, it's all around you and ****ing loud. The marching band as well, so lifelike. Even knowing how it was done having worked on it for months I was totally captivated watching it like this. The sound was tremendous.

    I was so impressed. So were we all. When it was over our gang was speechless. Truly old-school Hollywood at its best.

    THE MUSIC MAN is one of the few WB films from that era that had the stereo surround print master preserved..
  23. McLover

    McLover Senior Member

    On early Warner Brothers Records, "The First Name In Sound". As you and I know, not hyperbole. This is both in records and motion pictures.
    Jskoda and Steve Hoffman like this.
  24. McLover

    McLover Senior Member

    I had to do Wollensak to Wollensak, no sel-sync, bounces. Or Wollensak or Magnecord, to Magnecord away from home.
  25. jhw59

    jhw59 Forum Resident

    Rehoboth Beach DE.
    Another classic thread! Thanks Steve and participants!

Share This Page