Studio musicians and the popular music industry of the 1960s

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The popular music industries of the 1960s produced thousands of recordings, with each studio relying on an infrastructure of producers, engineers, music directors, songwriters and, of course, musicians. In recent years, documentaries have introduced us to instrumentalists and singers who have formed the artistic backbone of major American studios. In Detroit, the Funk Brothers purred the Motown hit assembly line for The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Temptations and many more. In Los Angeles, the so-called Wrecking Crew gave us the instrumental support of The Beach Boys, The Byrds, and The Mamas and the Papas, to name a few. Indeed, all the major studios relied on such professionals, whether in Muscle Shoals, Memphis, Chicago or New Orleans. And so it was across the Atlantic in London.

Like Los Angeles, London had a network of recording studios associated not only with popular music, but also with cinema. An orchestral musician might take part in an afternoon film music session and read a George Martin arrangement for Cilla Black at night, if he wasn’t already engaged in a theatrical pit. But the heart of London’s profitable popular music industry depended on various combinations of guitars, basses, keyboards, and drums, often with backing vocals on hand.

Session guitarists “Big Jim” Sullivan, Vic Flick, Jimmy Page (sometimes referred to as “Little Jim”), Joe Moretti, Bryan Daly and Joe Brown all started playing in bands until their technique, their knowledge. and their sound brings them to the attention of producers and entrepreneurs. Likewise, bassists Allan Weighell, Herbie Flowers, John Paul Jones, Eric Ford and Ron Prentice established their reputations as performers on stage before becoming inhabitants of the sunless world of recording studios. Producers turned to drummers like Bobby Graham, Clem Cattini, Ronnie Verrell, and Andy White because they had learned to read music, hold a band on stage, and when to play (and not).

The major studios have collectively agreed to three standard session hours per day: 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., 2:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Entrepreneurs like Charlie and Nita Katz (who will turn 100 in October) could book a musician to play a morning session at EMI recording studios in St. John’s Wood, an afternoon session at Decca Studios in West Hampstead and an evening session at Pye Studios near Marble Arch. Musicians can also be hired to record an advertisement before the morning session or after the evening session. Other studios like Olympic, Regent Sound, Trident or IBC had more flexible schedules, but all had to bypass the system put in place by the majors.

In the first half of the 1960s, production crews and musicians generally assumed that during a three-hour session (which did not include arriving in time to set up your equipment and allow staff at the studio to position the microphones), a singer and musicians would be able to produce at least four complete recordings. Giving musicians a few hours to find the right groove for a song wasn’t on the schedule, unless stars like the Beatles were involved, and even they might end up recording late at night to avoid scheduled use of the song. ‘NDE during the day.

Many of the best-known recordings of the era by The Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits and Them, as well as Peter and Gordon, Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black, feature these musicians, whether recognized or not. Indeed, producers (commonly referred to as artist and repertoire managers in the early 1960s) and music directors relied on session musicians to realize their often non-specific ideas about a studio performance.

In 1964, pianist and musical director Reg Guest came up with at least two different arrangements for the historic recording of “The Crying Game” (the orchestral version was never released), but it was the inventive guitar musically and technically. by Jim Sullivan who played delicately at Dave’s embroidery. The voice of Berry that sets this record apart. Using a DeArmond pedal (originally intended for a steel pedal guitar) to play with tone and volume, Sullivan painted tears over Geoff Stephens’ song.

The power of this performance was not wasted on Beatle George Harrison, who experienced this sound on recordings like “Yes It Is” and “I Need You”. Equally important, Sullivan invented these iconic guitar licks in the studio. Indeed, the ability not only to perform perfectly, but also to be infinitely creative and spontaneous at the right time, were the fundamental characteristics of a successful session musician. The daily grind could be grueling and psychologically exhausting, but the frosty humor between the musicians and the mutual professional respect helped keep them going. They accepted their session fees and got along on the car stereo as they drove from gig to gig.

This version of the studio world faded away after 1968, when the first eight-track and then sixteen-track recording equipment arrived with the creation of more private studios, meaning the need for four perfect sides in three. hours was no longer so pressing. But their impact on the music of this golden age is undeniable, and there is much to be learned from this process.

Featured Image: Old radio. (c) via iStock.

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