This is the sixth installment in David Hewitt’s guest blog series chronicling his legendary career working with some of the biggest names in music. Today, David writes about recording Pink Floyd in concert in the late 1980s. If you missed his last post, you can read it here.
Pink Floyd in Concert
Recording the Live Album and Film Delicate Sound of Thunder
After all the years of waiting, my opportunity finally came to record Pink Floyd! Bob Ezrin had been co-producing Pink Floyd’s albums since The Wall and had just finished A Momentary Lapse of Reason. I knew Ezrin from my days as the Director of Remote Recording at Record Plant Studios in New York, where he worked with Alice Cooper, Kiss and on some Pink Floyd sessions. Bob is an incredible producer, musician, and a very colorful character!
I was hired to record shows on Pink Floyd’s 1987/88 tour supporting the album A Momentary Lapse of Reason. It was a huge production and had specific recording requirements, as per Ezrin and their live FOH engineer, Buford Jones, who would also be mixing my finished recordings. Buford was an original Showco mixer, one of the best in the business; we had worked together on Bowie and Prince tours.
These were very busy times for my company, Remote Recording Services, so to cover all the bookings I occasionally had to hire other remote trucks. This was the case for the Pink Floyd dates in Atlanta on November 4 and 5 of 1987.
We had been on tour with U2, recording for the film and album Rattle and Hum, and my Black Truck would be traveling between gigs on those dates. I had to find another truck fast! I knew Gary Hedden as an engineer and that he had built a new remote truck capable of meeting Pink Floyd’s requirements: recording to a pair of Mitsubishi X-850 32-track digital tape machines along with two 24-track analog machines for the drum tracks!
We recorded two shows with the GHL truck. That allowed me to work out all the interface issues with Buford and learn all the cues, and the recordings came out fine. Unfortunately, after reviewing the shows, the band was not happy with their performances and they were not used on the live album or film, although later a bootleg turned up ironically called Would You Buy a Ticket to This Show?
The next Pink Floyd record dates were to be at the Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, N.Y., on August 19-22, 1988. I faced the same booking conflict, as my Black Truck was scheduled to be at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass., for a gala celebration of the famed composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein’s 70th Birthday. The Boston Symphony Orchestra with guest stars ranging from Lauren Bacall to Yo-Yo Ma would be recorded for a PBS Great Performances television special. I wasn’t concerned about arriving late, as the legendary engineer/producer John McClure was on board for the show. Although John was known primarily for his classical work, he had recorded string arrangements for Pink Floyd’s The Wall! Bernstein’s longtime tour manager, Daryl Bornstein, would be taking care of the live sound design. Couldn’t ask for a better team!
I booked Randy Ezratty’s Effanel company to record the N.Y. Pink Floyd shows. Randy had recently purchased the Mobile Audio remote truck out of Atlanta, and I had used it to record Prince on some of the Purple Rain tour, so I was confident with the package. In those days equipment rental companies provided the hyper-expensive digital tape recorders. The Mitsubishi X-850s were probably sourced from Audio Force or Jim Flynn Rentals at around $1,000.00/day times two, plus cartage! Effanel already had two Otari MTR-90 24-track tape recorders.
Thanks to Randy and his crew, with the assistance of Ringo Hyrcyn from Bob Ezrin’s production company, we managed to get it all on tape with no one seriously injured! The shows were great and David Gilmour approved the performances.
Buford flew to London where he had booked Abbey Road Studios to mix the record that would become the Delicate Sound of Thunder.
It was released on vinyl, CD, and video and went triple platinum in the U.S., with many more sold worldwide.
It also became the first rock album played in space when Soviet cosmonauts carried it aboard the Soyuz 7 on a cassette. The record had been released in the Soviet Union on the Melodiya label, Kremlin approved!
I recently bought the new 180-gram vinyl of Delicate Sound of Thunder, remastered by James Guthrie, Joel Plante and Bernie Grundman from the original analog tapes. Can’t beat that team! Aside from a few different takes, it seems to be the same mixes. I’ve stayed in touch with Buford over the years, so I called him up to see what he thought. Same mixes as far as he knew. We had a great conversation about his adventures mixing the original 1988 record while Abbey Road was rebuilding the studio as he worked! That’s a whole ’nother story for another time!
– David W Hewitt