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Author Topic: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...  (Read 12098 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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volodia

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2004, 09:18:18 am »

HI,

I started at EMI studios and my mentor told me about what they called a "choir machine" in the 70's which was a multitrack with one note per track and a keyboard that would unmute the console channels . apparently every EMI studio (ie abbey road) had one and Alan Parsons, when he came to EMI France had his own too .
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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 #16 on: July 14, 2004, 10:20:00 am »

volodia wrote on Wed, 14 July 2004 14:18

HI,

I started at EMI studios and my mentor told me about what they called a "choir machine" in the 70's which was a multitrack with one note per track and a keyboard that would unmute the console channels . apparently every EMI studio (ie abbey road) had one and Alan Parsons, when he came to EMI France had his own too .


O.K. Now we're getting somewhere! This sounds like in all probability what might have been used on the James Taylor and Billy Joel songs. So by your definition, it was a standard keyboard, and pressing any key simply unmuted that channel on a console, where the note was playing from the reel of tape, correct? I'd like to find out more about this thing. Does anyone have anymore info? Thanks for that volodia.

J.J.,

Regarding the 10CC tune, I totally agree with you. The Mellotron (or Chamberlain) certainly didn't make up for a large majority of the vocal pad, but starting in the second verse, and in the middle break down section, there is a sound playing an octave lower than the vocal "Ahh's" that has the distinct sound of the choir and/or string sound(s) from the Mellotron tapes. Very "midrangy" and "honkey", if you know what I mean.
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ssltech

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #17 on: July 14, 2004, 05:22:43 pm »

"I'm not in love" was not a Mellotron. Neither (strictly speaking) was it a 24-track machine running in sync. The notes were not "punched in to extend them".

Other than that, you're close. Very close.

It was recorded at the Band's Strawberry Studios in Stockport. The console was a Bright red wrap-around Helios (a picture of which is actually on Dan Alexander's website, -the exact console) and the tape machine was a Studer A80 2" 24-track. The notes were sung one at a time,perhaps ten seconds long, about as long as the note could comfortably be held (multitracked, 24 of each) onto 24 tracks, then mixed to 1/4". Then the next note was done. When all the notes were mixed down to 1/4", the mixed "submasters" were cut into loops. The loops were various in length, perhaps some were 7-point-something seconds long, others might be eleven seconds... who knows, who really cares! Where splice points sounded in any way too obvious, the tape was cut and the edit was re-tried, until a better sounding loop point was found.

Next the loops were loaded one at a time onto the 1/4" machine. They were played back, loop points happening wherever they randomly ocurred, and each was recorded onto a blank piece of 2" tape, each note onto a different track.

The resulting "Mega-loop-multitrack" was played back and the faders formed the "notes" for the "players" to 'play' the voice "aah" loops back into the tune, on the "real" multitrack tape.

There was no synchronisation. None was needed. There is no timing information contained in the "aah" reel, and if it ever ran out, or if any of the "playing" was late, early, or just plain wrong notes, the 'proper' multitrack could be rewound and a punch-in made, without ever having to rewind or re-sync the "aah" reel. Similarly, if the "aah" reel ever ran out, it could be rewound to the start, and the multitrack tape backed up a few seconds, and a punch-in ("drop-in" was the term in use at the time) made, then carry on as before.

The idea for the whispered voice in the Middle section:
"Be quiet... big boys don't cry....
big boys don't cry....

big boys don't cry....
big boys don't cry...." etc...
was from the receptionist, who came in while they were listening during the recording part of the session, while they were looking for an idea to put in there. She didn't want to interrupt, so she went up to Graham ( I think it was Graham, anyway..) and whispered to him that there was a phone call for him. -The sound of her whispering gave him the idea to put her in front of the mic, and from that moment forward, she had a place in music history!

Anyhow, just wanted to put the record straight.

That helios was a pretty individual thing! -It even had a cigarette lighter (12V, out of a car!) in it!

Keith
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MDM (maxdimario) wrote on Fri, 16 November 2007 21:36

I have the feeling that I have more experience in my little finger than you do in your whole body about audio electronics..

J.J. Blair

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2004, 06:09:56 pm »

Two things:

First, thanks ssl tech for the true story.  I listened to the song on my plane flight yesterday and I correct myself.  There is not mellotron choral sounds in the pad, but there IS mellotron cello in the bridge (before the final verse, I think it was).  I'll be damned if anybody tells me that's not the truth.

On another note, whoever said that it can't be a mellotron due to the length of the note should know that all you need to do to extend the length of a mellotron note is to play the track, start playing the tron before the recorded tron drops out and then start recording over the existing track.  

Very coincidentally, as I just checked my e-mail, I received one from Markus Resch, who now owns Mellotron and builds the new ones.  He wanted to know if I want some new tapes made before he comes and visits LA soon.  
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"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

ssltech

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2004, 12:20:07 pm »

Cool-ee-oh!

Here's a pic of the console, BTW...
http://www.danalexanderaudio.com/danspics/redconsole.jpg

This was from just before it was finally sold from the Strawberry/"Yellow 2" (Strawberry two after it was renamed... just across the road from the original strawberry site...) studio site.

The Yamaha REV-1 remote and the early British Telecom phone date this picture as about 1986... yes that's a 'Q-Lok' remote in the picture, no it wasn't there when "I'm Not In Love" was done! Smile

The reason for not just looping the "AAH" 24-track tape was that the loop splice points would then have come at the same instant for all the same notes simultaneously. -Listen to the fadeout of the tune and you can hear where they slowly started to "Broom-handle" all the faders up towards the top of their travel, making a glorious, dissonant but fluffy atonal pad that slowly swamps the whole tune... if you concentrate and try to focus in on one signe note, you can sometimes hear the looping rhythm at this point, but you know what... it just don't matter... the darned thing is a plain ol' work of genius, and if that's what it took to make that sound, I'm all for it!

Very Happy

Note the tape machine remotes at the bottom of the picture... A 'Star' layout, with the blue stop buttons in the middle, Green PLAY at the bottom, red RECORD at the top, and white FF/REW to the left and right. That darned console was totally idiosynchratic.. I loved it!

Keith
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MDM (maxdimario) wrote on Fri, 16 November 2007 21:36

I have the feeling that I have more experience in my little finger than you do in your whole body about audio electronics..

echorec

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #20 on: July 16, 2004, 06:42:31 pm »

ssltech wrote on Fri, 16 July 2004 17:20

Cool-ee-oh!

Here's a pic of the console, BTW...



Ouch! That is so beautiful Cool
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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 #21 on: July 16, 2004, 09:38:49 pm »

ssl tech,

Thanks so much for all that information! What a cool story! I know there's lots of these kinds of tales out there, but this was one I was unaware of. It makes listening to that song even more enjoyable than it already is!

I used to close my eyes when listening to that song, and see mental images of forest greens, warm blues and misty gray colors. Now I'll only be able to see that helios red!! Razz
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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 #22 on: July 16, 2004, 10:08:03 pm »

[quote title=Jim Frazier wrote on Fri, 16 July 2004 18:38] I used to close my eyes when listening to that song, and see mental images of forest greens, warm blues and misty gray colors./quote]

I'll have what he's having.  
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

Jim Frazier

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #23 on: July 16, 2004, 10:37:58 pm »

[quote title=J.J. wrote on Sat, 17 July 2004 03:08]
Jim Frazier wrote on Fri, 16 July 2004 18:38

 I used to close my eyes when listening to that song, and see mental images of forest greens, warm blues and misty gray colors./quote]

I'll have what he's having.  


No man! I only get high off the music man! Laughing

I was trying to tie in that blinding red console... creative writing obviously isn't my strength!
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Bryson

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #24 on: July 16, 2004, 10:38:32 pm »

ssltech wrote on Fri, 16 July 2004 09:20

Cool-ee-oh!

Here's a pic of the console, BTW...





I don't see the fag lighter.
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screws

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #25 on: July 18, 2004, 06:15:11 pm »

Bryson wrote on Fri, 16 July 2004 22:38

I don't see the fag lighter.



Not that there's anything wrong with that...
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compasspnt

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Re: I'm trying to pinpoint the source of a sound from the 70's...
« Reply #26 on: January 06, 2010, 12:32:41 am »

WhyKooper wrote on Tue, 13 July 2004 02:50

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.




http://recforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/m/163263/6490/?sr ch=Ardotron#msg_163263
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