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Author Topic: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...  (Read 12124 times)

Jim Frazier

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The sound I'm referring to is kind of a looped vocal pad sound. It was used in a handful of songs that I remember, most notably are 10CC's "I'm Not In Love", Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are", and James Taylor's "Shower The People".

If it had only been on one song, I might chalk it up to creative production techniques, but hearing it on several songs by various artists makes me wonder if it was something else.

I thought it might have been a Mellotron, but I doubt it, because of the lengths of some of the notes in the songs (although I know there were ways around this).

Anyhow, I'm posting here, because I know George was in the game at that time, as well as others who visit here, and I was hoping someone could tell me they knew exactly what, or how that sound was achieved.

Thanks in advance...

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JGreenslade

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2004, 08:22:20 am »

The 10cc "vocal pad" you refer to IS a Mellotron. Ask yourself this: they didn't have digital sampling then, what the hell else could they have done it with? The Mellotron's use by 10cc is well documented, maybe someone else can supply a link.

A Mellotron is credited as being used on the LP/track according to this search here: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8& q=mellotron+%2810cc+I%27m+not+in+love%29

Cheers,
Justin

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George Massenburg

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2004, 08:55:59 am »

I'll find out the pad on "Shower The People".  

At this time all I remember is how James took that particular song on the road.  It was decided that for this one tune he'd stand up in concert and do a "duet" with a (I think) Revox tape recorder providing the BG/chorus parts.  Maybe it was Edd ("take the 'war' out of Edward) Kolakowski who came up with the idea of a foot switch for James that would start the machine for each chorus entrance appropriate to the tune, and I think I remember the Revox's having an auto-stop on leader (or aluminum strip?) feature that stopped it in the right place, ready for the next cue.

George
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Andy Simpson

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2004, 09:56:49 am »

I saw a 10cc interview a couple of years ago describing the band riding faders on a multitrack tape for those voice pad sounds....I think they were just multitrack'd voices, done in harmony in several different chords. However, I'm sure in the video it shows a guy using a 'keyboard' for those sounds.....

Andy
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Jim Frazier

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2004, 10:33:35 am »

George Massenburg wrote on Sun, 11 July 2004 13:55

I'll find out the pad on "Shower The People".  


Thanks George. I'll be anxiously waiting any info you can obtain! By the way, I just checked the credits listed on that song (found on the greatest hits CD), and it credits Nick DeCaro as playing the "voiceorgan". ???

Quote:

... It was decided that for this one tune he'd stand up in concert and do a "duet" with a (I think) Revox tape recorder providing the BG/chorus parts....

George


Yea, the first time I got to see JT was back in 1980, and he was using that tape machine on "Shower The People". It was extremely entertaining, especially because he had pre-recorded some "banter" that went on between himself and... himself, prior to the song starting.

He did use a footswitch to start and stop the machine. It was pretty cool. Two spotlights on the stage. One on him, and one on the tape machine!

Thanks Andy and Justin for your replies as well. I just went and downloaded "I'm Not In Love" from itunes, and gave it a good listen. There is quite a bit that does sound "human" enough to have been sung and manipulated. But there are also single notes or short phrases that come in and out, that sound like a sample played below it's usable range (by today's definition). I suppose that could have been the Mellotron.

Still, I have doubts that JT or Billy Joel ( and by that I really mean the engineers and producers) went to the great lengths that 10CC did to achieve that vocal pad sound and arrangement. 10CC's is by far more involved than the other two songs I mentioned.
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JGreenslade

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2004, 11:40:17 am »

There is a review on the Sound-on-Sound website of the new re-released Mellotron if you're interested:

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/Aug02/articles/mellotron.asp ?session=d980442e2b6dbc47569aaab0fca2101a

If the above link doesn't work go to the main sos site and put Mellotron into the search bar.

I was always under the impression the harmonies on "I'm not in love" were produced using a Mellotron, but I'm open-minded if anyone can produce evidence to the contrary.

Justin
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PP

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2004, 06:08:26 pm »

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Jim Frazier

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2004, 07:39:10 pm »

Hi Peter.

Thank you for replying. I completely agree that the harmonies on "I'm Not In Love" do not sound like a Mellotron, at least the majority of them. The note lengths were my arguing factor as well.

As I've embarked on this search, I suppose it could be circumstantial that the "vocal pad" sound on the James Taylor and Billy Joel songs sounded similar. When I first posted this question, I had assumed they were all from the same source, but upon close listening to the 10CC song today, I realize it was probably achieved in a different fashion.

The saga continues...
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PP

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2004, 03:32:50 am »

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henchman

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2004, 09:46:39 am »

I had an old recording of a Live version of "I'm not in love". And while the lead singer is talking, you can hear the BG's start and then stop again. It sounds like soemoen accidentally starting a backing tape too soon.
I wopuld think they were using a reel to reel backing tape. Just as OMD used to do. If I'm correct they would run an 8-track reel to reel.  Prominently diplayed on stage.

WhyKooper

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2004, 02:50:36 am »

And the winner is...riding faders from 24 tracks of a slaved machine.  

Each track of the tape had one sung drone note (punched in over and over to give length)and then at one point, they cut the entire 2" tape and made it into a huge loop...similar to what B Gibb did with Galutan etc at Miami's Criteria a lot in those days with long 24 track loops, looped around pencils and who knows what else.  

The multitrack was played in sync with the basic track and the console faders were ridden by several guys to build various, flowing, changing, weird chords behind the already tracked electric piano, bass drum and scratch lead vocal.  To be fair, they did have automation working in there somehow.  The staccato snips of oohs etc were simply overdubs recorded at the end of the whole process.

The article describing the above sessions in pretty good detail was in R-E-P (the real one) back in the mid 70s where Creme etc were also promoting the little electric wheels (Gizmo) that would strum your guitar/bass strings...which was hideous...I bought one for bass (which was the only version they managed to bring to market).  In fact I still have it..and the screw marks on one of my basses where the thing was attached.  Dumbest idea ever invented apart from Arp's Avatar which I also bought back then.  Ahh, the 70's.  

Even if I didn't already know the real story, it couldn't have been a Mellotron because I also have one of those that I bought in 73 ...and the wobbling...and 8 second signal length...and horrible frequency range..could have never resulted in what is going on on the 10cc song.  Even with the only known way to tame a Mellotron in the studio..massive compression, reverb, continual punching in at about 6 seconds for long chords.
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natpub

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2004, 03:18:22 am »

Jim Frazier wrote on Sun, 11 July 2004 09:33


Yea, the first time I got to see JT was back in 1980, and he was using that tape machine on "Shower The People". It was extremely entertaining, especially because he had pre-recorded some "banter" that went on between himself and... himself, prior to the song starting.

He did use a footswitch to start and stop the machine. It was pretty cool. Two spotlights on the stage. One on him, and one on the tape machine!



You can see this same thing on JT's Saturday Night Live performance of this song, during the same time period. The fun thing was how everytime the chorus would come around, the cameras would pan and zoom out a little, to show the tape deck, sitting on its own special stool, as if it were one of the performers. You could see the start/stop action of the deck in the shot.

Interesting to find it was a footswitch--I had always though the FOH or monitor mixer was controlling it Smile
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Jim Frazier

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2004, 08:39:31 am »

WhyKooper,

Thanks for the "final" answer! I'm always amazed at stories like this one. The great lengths artists, producers and engineers had to go through to create stuff like that. We have it far to easy nowadays, huh...?

Anyhow, this just leaves in question the Billy Joel and James Taylor songs, and how the "vocal pad" sound was achieved in those instances.
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James Craft

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2004, 04:13:57 pm »

henchman wrote on Mon, 12 July 2004 14:46

I had an old recording of a Live version of "I'm not in love". And while the lead singer is talking, you can hear the BG's start and then stop again. It sounds like soemoen accidentally starting a backing tape too soon.
I wopuld think they were using a reel to reel backing tape. Just as OMD used to do. If I'm correct they would run an 8-track reel to reel.  Prominently diplayed on stage.
When "I'm not in love" came out B. Joel was starting the tour in Memphis and they booked the studio I was involved in (Allied) and spent the afternoon layering BGVs on a Scully 1" 8-track, 4-5 voices to a track and there might have been some bouncing. They where mixed with a little bit of EMT to a Nakimichi cassette deck the FOH used and these were brought up in the mix as the band played. This was around 1977 or so and if I remember correctly, the talk in the studio was that on the record a choir was used.
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J.J. Blair

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2004, 04:59:51 am »

Why Kooper is correct and incorrect, I think.  Jon Brion lived on my couch for about a year once upon a time, and we would sit around geeking out on records trying to figure out how they got this or that sound, etc.  One song that we were always fascinated with was "I'm Not In Love".  I have listened to that entire record a gazillion times, studying the production.  I swear to god that I hear the Mellotron choral tape in the mix and/or possibly a Chamberlain.
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