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Author Topic: The Big ZZ Top thread  (Read 71701 times)

thesoundguy

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The Big ZZ Top thread
« on: February 07, 2005, 10:19:32 pm »

Terry-

Its probably not worth me trying to convey what kind of influence the ZZTop catalog has been on me on various levels professionally, personally, whatever.  The early catalog is rarely celebrated for the incredible recordings that they are, and its rare where Im from to be able to have any kind of sophisticated conversation about the band, I hope I dont scare you away with a barrage of questions:

First off, the edit from Waiting For The Bus onto the one of Jesus has got to be the single most bestest greatest edit that any human has ever done with a razor blade.  That edit alone is worthy of a big space on the wall in the rock and roll hall of fame, put the master tape right up there.

What kind of console was Tres Hombres mixed on?  Im assuming this is a 16 track master mixed to 1/4"?

Can you comment on the drum setup on this record?  Were they in a booth, or baffled in a larger room?  Was the kit on a linoleum floor?  Sounds a little brighter than carpet.

Assuming there were scratch vocals from the tracking sessions, were any used on the LP or are all the vocals overdubbed?

The Fadeout on Beer Drinkers is about the most insanely perfect fadeout anyone could make...

Are we hearing mostly fender tweed amps on this record?

Do you recall if during the tracking sessions, the guitar solos were played live with the rhythm tracks, or if the backing rhythm guitar over the solos went down with the band?

Do you recall how long it took to track and mix?

Were you involved in preproduction meeting for Tejas?  If so, was there an intentional and motivated effort to take the record in a new direction, or did the sound of the record just simply result from the work flow?  

Do you recall if Ten Dollar Man was one of the fiirst songs tracked for this record or if it was recorded towards the end of the sessions?  The snare drum move right before the DI guitar comes in absolutely gets me off every time I hear that song and is one of my favorite mix moments on all the zz records.  Leaving  dusty's cough coming into the last verse is a righteous rock moment, more people should take note of stuff like that, the average engineer would have muted that.

Was the master for Gimmie All Your Lovin VSO'd up a whole step?  I have an original LP that definitley has a pitched up version, always wondered at which step along the way this occured.

Thanks for enduring my somewhat long list of questions I never imagined Id ever be able to ask the source...

dave
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Pramrod

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2005, 10:49:05 pm »

YA MAN!!! Like he said! ZZ rule NATIONWIDE and Terry, your work with them is beyond heavy- seminal in fact!!! and let me just say that ZZ STILL kicks major ass (i've seen them 3 times in the last couple of years, including a front row center directly in front of the reverend- YESSSSSS). any further insight into ZZ and your working methods with them are greatly appreciated. long live ZZ TOP!!! tone, tone, tone for days...
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russrags

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2005, 09:21:54 am »

Hey Dave,

I don't think Terry worked on Tres Hombres, he came on board later during Fandango.  The 1st few albums were recorded in Tyler, TX my home town !!!!   I've spent a lot of time in that room and have pictures I'll have to dig up.  When I worked at the Studio 1982-1985 the board was an MCI console.  There's a Custom board all wrapped in plastic in the attic, it might have been used, I can find out.  This was the desk I learned on ... a funny story:  I live in Nashville now and do a lot of work for Leon Russell.  While digging through Leon's warehouse I found the MCI board and turns out Robin Hood Bryans sold him the board the the late 80's.  Small world.

Yea I'm REALLY interested in some great ZZ stories too.
I've always been a huge fan of Terry Manning's work.

Russ
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compasspnt

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2005, 10:33:49 am »

Hey Dave,

I'll try to get to some answers to your great questions tonight.  Thanks!

Russ, as mentioned in some previous thread here, Tres Hombres was mostly tracked at Robin Hood's.  It came to me for overdubs and mixing, which I did.

Thanks, guys!

TM
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compasspnt

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2005, 02:10:44 am »

thesoundguy wrote on Mon, 07 February 2005 22:19



First off, the edit from Waiting For The Bus onto the one of Jesus has got to be the single most bestest greatest edit that any human has ever done with a razor blade. That edit alone is worthy of a big space on the wall in the rock and roll hall of fame, put the master tape right up there.


Wow, thanks!!!

Quote:

What kind of console was Tres Hombres mixed on?  Im assuming this is a 16 track master mixed to 1/4"?


The console was our (Ardent's) custom designed SpectraSonics, built by Auditronics of Memphis under license from SpectraS in Utah.  It was a 16 tr 2" recording, mixed to 1/4".

Quote:

Can you comment on the drum setup on this record?  Were they in a booth, or baffled in a larger room?  Was the kit on a linoleum floor?  Sounds a little brighter than carpet.


I wasn't at the original tracking, which was done at Robin Hood's Studios in Tyler, TX.  Tres Hombres came to me for overdubs and mixing.

Quote:

Assuming there were scratch vocals from the tracking sessions, were any used on the LP or are all the vocals overdubbed?


There were some scratch vocals used, but most were overdubbed.  I reached back to the scratch for some of the "aside comments,"  such as "they gotta lotta nice girls there" in LaGrange.   There was one great one that I almost put in, and have always wished I had, into LaGrange.  During the mid point of the guitar walk-down/drum stop bit, Billy said "Goin' halfway round the world and back again..."  but we left that out, amongst many other things he said.

Quote:

The Fadeout on Beer Drinkers is about the most insanely perfect fadeout anyone could make...


Thanks!  Good ole "Philly Ending."

Quote:

Are we hearing mostly fender tweed amps on this record?


Some, but some are also from BG's customised Marshall heads, which he renamed "Rio Grande" brand.  The controls were all labelled in Spanish, and the logo was palm trees.

Quote:

Do you recall if during the tracking sessions, the guitar solos were played live with the rhythm tracks, or if the backing rhythm guitar over the solos went down with the band?


Most of the solos were overdubbed.  The rhythm was usually played with the band.  There were a lot of overdubs here, for instance many of the tom rolls are doubled.

Quote:

Do you recall how long it took to track and mix?


Can't remember how long I took in yesterday's session...I think we mixed one or two songs a day average.

Quote:

Were you involved in preproduction meeting for Tejas?  If so, was there an intentional and motivated effort to take the record in a new direction, or did the sound of the record just simply result from the work flow?


What is a "preproduction meeting?"  Seriously, Billy and I were just always looking for new ways to do everything.  New or different guitars, amps, everything.  On this session, the amps were Vox Super Beatle transistor ones.  We just went in a bit cleaner direction.

Quote:

Do you recall if Ten Dollar Man was one of the first songs tracked for this record or if it was recorded towards the end of the sessions?  The snare drum move right before the DI guitar comes in absolutely gets me off every time I hear that song and is one of my favorite mix moments on all the zz records.  Leaving  dusty's cough coming into the last verse is a righteous rock moment, more people should take note of stuff like that, the average engineer would have muted that.


Thanks.  Can't remember tracking order, unfortunately.  I like finding little anomoly things to leave in certain tracks.  There's a lot of that in ZZ stuff.  I used to look for and find it in Beatles' records, so I had to do it too.

Quote:

Was the master for Gimmie All Your Lovin VSO'd up a whole step?  I have an original LP that definitely has a pitched up version, always wondered at which step along the way this occured.


Not sure about this one.  I think I may have done a sped up version for a single.  But this was on an LP???

Quote:

Thanks for enduring my somewhat long list of questions...


That's it, this puny little list?
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Andi Gisler

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2005, 04:01:09 am »

compasspnt wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 08:10


I like finding little anomoly things to leave in certain tracks.  There's a lot of that in ZZ stuff.  I used to look for and find it in Beatles' records, so I had to do it too.



This site here is really cool....

http://www.pootle.demon.co.uk/wgo.htm

Andi

russrags

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2005, 09:23:06 am »

This is for you Dave,

You were asking about ZZ Tops 1st few records, about consoles and Studio space.  I dug up a couple of pictures for you.

Tyler, TX  Robin Hood Studios.
This is an MCI console although I'm not sure if it was the board used in tracking.  Terry if you were ever over there at anytime during Tres Hombres or Fandango???  As I said there's a custom board in the attic.  The Machine was MCI 2" 16-track / Scully 1/4" 2-track.

The Control room sits 4 or 5 feet above the tracking room floor  looking down.The Tracking room is aprox 24' square with a 10' ceiling and wood floor, with two booths behind the left side of the picture.  

Robin Hood Bryans said his contribution to the sound was by EQing the Bass up high and the GTRs down low.  Robin had already worked with Billy Gibbons before with his band before ZZ, "The Moving Sidewalks" I believe???   The 1st Album, Rio Grande Mud, Tres Hombres were all tracked here.  

Although these records are very dear to my heart, Terry Manning did take ZZ Top to the next level.  Throughout their career they have always changed and we have welcomed the next level.  That's one thing I like about them for sure.

enjoy the pics,
Russ

index.php/fa/795/0/

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russrags

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2005, 09:29:17 am »

The picture (of another session) doesn't show the room off as well as I would like, but Franks drums were setup where the horn players are on the left, in front of a wood wall.  Alot of early reflections were captured in the recording.  


index.php/fa/796/0/
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tenaciousJay

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2005, 02:10:56 pm »

Wow, great to have you here, Terry. Billy Gibbons is one of my biggest influences on guitar, both playing and tone-wise (And Jimmy Page is the other!).

I'd love to know anything about the sessions for Deguello, specifically anything you can remember about the wide range of incredible guitar tones - amps, guitars, pedals, microphones, rooms, whatever.

That one seems to get overlooked as a classic ZZ LP but it's always been one of my favorites. Bad, Nationwide kills me every time I hear it. Do you recall how Billy played that first solo? There's a part right after the intro of the solo where it sounds like he's quickly tapping 2 notes octave apart with his left hand but I could never get it to sound right.

Also, have you heard the new CD box set at all? I've heard it's a much better representation of the way the LPs sound but haven't actually gotten a chance to listen myself.
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compasspnt

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2005, 09:37:54 pm »

tenaciousJay wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 14:10

Wow, great to have you here, Terry. Billy Gibbons is one of my biggest influences on guitar, both playing and tone-wise (And Jimmy Page is the other!).


Me, too!  I have been very lucky!

Quote:

I'd love to know anything about the sessions for Deguello, specifically anything you can remember about the wide range of incredible guitar tones - amps, guitars, pedals, microphones, rooms, whatever.


On the Deguello sessions, we were really ramping things up as far as equipment and direction.  This album I think is the progenitor of "Eliminator."  Billy brought for the first time A LOT of guitars and amps to the session.  I had always in the past only had one or two, maybe three guitars, and usually just "the" one amp around, for almost any session.  It just wasn't thought of in the 'earlier' days to need a wide selection, just as it wasn't contemplated to need any outnoard mic pre's or such.  But this time was the first time I remember a truckload of gear coming in...today it's common practice; anyone who has the gear brings it!  (REM were recently in our studio here in Nassau for three months, and they brought EVERYTHING they own, which is a LOT of gear.  It filled over 90 LARGE road cases.)

We did indeed use various guitars and amplifiers during this Deguello session (by the way the "Deguello" is the bugle call that used to be played by the Mexican army back in the Texas-Mexico war days.  It meant "There will be no quarter, only death, for any who don't surrender now!"  This was played, for instance, at  The Alamo.), and I employed for one of the first times during an album session, various mic's and mic placements for guitar.  Billy had his Les Paul (Pearly Gates) of course, but also Strats, and some wild cheesy Japanese guitars.  Amps would have been the various Marshall's (or his Rio Grande customised ones) as well as some Fenders, old Gibson's and I think maybe a Magnavox.

Again, this entire album was recorded in Ardent Studio A, on the SpectraSonics/Auditronics console (USING THE CONSOLE MIC PRE'S OF COURSE), and tracked to either 16 or 24 track 2" (can't remember which now).  It would have been mixed probably to 1/4".  BG did indeed have an assortment of pedals, the ones out then which are 'vintage' pedals now.

Quote:

That one seems to get overlooked as a classic ZZ LP but it's always been one of my favorites. Bad, Nationwide kills me every time I hear it. Do you recall how Billy played that first solo? There's a part right after the intro of the solo where it sounds like he's quickly tapping 2 notes octave apart with his left hand but I could never get it to sound right.


Unfortunately, I don't remember that exact guitar moment right now.  I haven't heard this album for many years, again because I refuse to get anywhere near the AWFUL "CD Remixes" which totally ruined ZZ Top's legacy on CD.  But I did purchase the box set recently; haven't had any time to listen to it, but I will look to see if this is on it, and try to figure out what you mean.

A couple of items concerning the recording of Deguello, though:

•On "Dust My Broom," there was, intentionally, absolutely NO reverb or delay of any kind, and every instrument possible was recorded by direct injection (DI); no amplifiers were harmed in the making of this recording.

•The horns which appear on a couple of songs were actually played by the three group members themselves.  They had bought the saxes, and spent months learning and practicing for this purpose.  I did have to use some pre-Protools sampling and editing techniques to get them right, but they did play it!  (I would often then use my early methods for sampling and moving parts out of time, or other methods to tune things which needed it.  Also, vocals were heavily comp'd, or at least heavily punched.  So much for the "good ole days" of REAL live music!)

•On "Manic Mechanic," which I really loved, there was obviously heavy treatment on the vocals...quite a bit of it was recorded with the multi vari-sped up, so it would be slow and huge on playback.

Quote:

Also, have you heard the new CD box set at all? I've heard it's a much better representation of the way the LPs sound but haven't actually gotten a chance to listen myself.


Same here, as mentioned.  I WILL try to find time to check it out and report, though!

Thanks so much for your interest  and questions!

Terry
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Bill Mueller

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2005, 12:17:36 am »

Terry,

I work for Heil Sound out of St Louis, in the early seventies and one of my first bands was ZZ Top. After a couple of months as a PA rodie, the band hired me away to do guitars. I worked with David Blaney and Pete Tickle on tours supporting Rio Grande Mud and Tres Hombres.

Once, Billy broke a string on Pearlie and I had to bring him his black square guitar. I remember it had a palm tree inlaid in the neck. Anyway, it was at Jepperson (I believe) Stadium in Houston. I turned the wrong way when exchanging guitars and found myself facing 75,000 people. Gulp. I managed to make it off stage without falling and was more careful not to look out into the crowd after that.

About those Rio Grande amps. We kept them perfect. I mean perfect. After two years on the road, they looked like the day they were made.

Terry. I just wanted to say that the band worshipped you. I hung out a lot with Frank and then Billy and they always were in awe of your talent.

Best Regards,

Bill
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tenaciousJay

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2005, 03:48:02 am »

Thanks for the detailed answer, Terry.

C'mon, you know the part!

daaah, dit dah.
bu- dumbula dumbula dumbula dumbula dumbula dumbula
daaah, dit dah.
etc.

LOL well that probably doesn't help.

I had also read somewhere that that album was tracked in a bunch of different studios, sounds like that's not true.

And any thoughts on Pearly? could you tell it was special or was it just a typical nice early LP?

Bill you could answer as well - any road stories would also be cool.
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Radd 47

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2005, 06:30:27 pm »

If you want hilarious road stories, check out Sharped Dressed Men by David Blaney. Probably not a favorite book of the band's, but...

My favorite is the gig in the freezing metal shack down in New Mexico somewhere.

Hey Bill, do you remember the Tres Hombres gig at Winterland SF with Eric Burden? I sure would like to know who that guy playing the Les Paul for Burden was.

Man ZZ was was load! I was up front, and all you heard was white noise interspaced by tight moments of silence, then more white noise. That's when they did all those choreographed dance steps.

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Bill Mueller

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2005, 07:53:19 pm »

OH MY GOD. Dave wrote a book? He must be divorced.

Bill
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compasspnt

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Re: The Big ZZ Top thread
« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2005, 01:39:02 am »

tenaciousJay wrote on Fri, 11 February 2005 03:48

Thanks for the detailed answer, Terry.

C'mon, you know the part!

daaah, dit dah.
bu- dumbula dumbula dumbula dumbula dumbula dumbula
daaah, dit dah.
etc.

LOL well that probably doesn't help.

I had also read somewhere that that album was tracked in a bunch of different studios, sounds like that's not true.

And any thoughts on Pearly? could you tell it was special or was it just a typical nice early LP?


Hi Jay,

OK, I listened..the box set seems to have the original mix of "Nationwide," but mastered a bit brighter than the original Ludwig mastering.  But at least it's not

THOSE AWFUL REMIXES FOR CD WHICH WERE RUINED, at least on that song.  I  haven't had time to check them all.

Of course I now remember the "Nationwide" solo part.  It was one of those things only Billy G seems to be able to do.  I think it was......

___________________________
POST EDITED BY MODERATOR:

In the interest of veracity, I have deleted my first educated guess remembrance of how this part was played, in favour of <louder>'s post below.  I happily admit that I probably got the details skewed, and that louder's playing method is more likely to be the correct one.  I do this edit so as not to perpetuate any further myths!
___________________________


...Even though Billy did this, and all of the guitar parts, in the control room right in front of me, I just can't remember every technical detail of the playing.  Sorry not to have the perfect answer!

No this album was totally tracked and mixed by me in the same Ardent Studio A.  It's also not true what Billy has said in some guitar magazine interviews, that we put a whole lot of amps in a circle, facing inwards, with the sound coming out of all of them at once, and had one mic in the centre of the circle.  He just loves to send up the interviewers with a good story!

Pearly was a very good early Les Paul; it was very special to Billy because it was THE guitar for so long for him.  Those instruments were already looked on as vintage, ultra-collectibles, at that time.  So those facts made it special to all of us.

Someone else asked about the guitar sound on "El Diablo."  I remember that Billy and I BOTH played that one, at the same time, on the same instrument.  In other words, four hands!

Regards,

Terry
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