Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mixing "I Am The Walrus"

Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust book cover image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
It's time for the first excerpt from Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust, the upcoming autobiography by legendary producer/engineer Ken Scott, co-written by yours truly. This excerpt, which comes from the chapter Engineering The Beatles, is about Ken mixing "I Am The Walrus."

You can read more about the book as well as a chapter summary at AbbeytoZiggy.com.

By the way, if you're in Los Angeles next week, you can hear a lot more stories from Ken as he'll be giving one of his great presentations at Musicians Institute at 7Pm on Tuesday the 20th. It's free and all are welcome, but you must RSVP on the event website.

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"Later when it was time to mix “I Am The Walrus,” John decided that something else was needed for the ending of the song, so Ringo was dispatched to a corner of the control room with a radio tuner to scan around the dial to different stations. What was tricky was that since we didn’t have any extra tracks to record it on, he had to perform the radio tuning live as the song was mixed. On one pass he hit on a performance of Shakespeare’s King Lear on the BBC’s Third Programme, which we all determined worked perfectly for the track. We kept the end of that take and decided to use another mix for the first part of the song. 

I was asked to do an edit between takes to marry the good ending with a better front half of the song. Now EMI engineers were not supposed to take a razor blade to the tape because, as explained previously, the studio employed a team of dedicated editors. But when you’re working with The Beatles and they want to hear the first half of one mix and the second half of another, you can’t wait until the next day for the editors to arrive. Even though I was used to banding, this was one of my first real actual edits, so once again I was gripped by fear. As I was rocking the tape backwards and forwards to try and find the edit point everyone seemed to be talking at once at the top of their voices, and I couldn’t hear a damned thing. At some point I lost it and screamed in a panic, “Please, shut up. I’m trying to do this!” Much to my surprise, everything immediately fell quiet, which might have been even worse because now the spotlight was directed squarely on me. “Can I cut this without spilling any of my own blood on a precious Beatles master?”, I wondered. Luckily when I played it, all sounded fine and everyone was pleased, especially me. Dodged yet another bullet.


The mix of “Walrus” that we did that night was mono, and it wasn’t until later that Geoff [Emerick] remixed it in stereo. If you listen to the end of the stereo mix where the radio comes in, it suddenly changes to fake stereo with the bass on one side and the treble on the other. This was because the part with the radio was done live as part of the mono mix and there was no other way to recreate it in stereo at the time. Later when it came time to do the Love soundtrack, it had been discovered exactly which broadcast it was that Ringo had tuned into, and the BBC made it available so it could finally be recreated in proper stereo and 5.1."


You can preorder the book at AbbeytoZiggy.com.

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1 comment:

Rand Bliss said...

Excellent! Thanks Bobby for this tasty hors d'Ĺ“uvre from a book I can't wait to get my sweaty palms on then devour;-)

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