This is the ninth 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 the first time he had the opportunity to work with British artist Joe Jackson, and the complications of planning live recordings in the ‘80s. If you missed his last post, you can read it here.
Before you hit Record…
In this age of instantly finding anything, anywhere, at any time, it’s easy to procrastinate on advance preparation for a recording session – especially a live recording. The number of people and problems involved in a live performance often grow exponentially as the date gets closer. If you are the recording engineer, you are directly responsible for a successful session.
It can get complicated…
Of the thousands of live recordings I have been involved in, one was a perfect example of “willful ignorance” in advance preparation on the part of the client.
In my years as Director of Remote Recording at Record Plant Studios, NY, we had a great client who produced live recordings for later radio broadcast. Remember, this was before digital recorders and internet everywhere – you had to bring a mobile recording studio and do it yourself.
The British singer Joe Jackson was returning to the U.S. for a 1983 tour and we were booked to record the first show at the classic Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh. I was having trouble getting band contact information out of the client’s producer, despite numerous phone calls. He finally left a message with Record Plant to “stop trying to bother the band! We will take care of all the production stuff, you just be there to record it.” I even had to call the local promoter to make sure the theater knew we were coming.
So, the crew and I arrived the night before and showed up early the next morning to interface with the sound company and band production. The only problem was, they had not been told about any recording and were not about to let us patch into their system! Joe’s manager was flying in that morning, but in those pre-cell phone days, we just had to wait. He finally arrived on site and was quite bemused to see the RPS Black Truck waiting for him.
It seems that the artist had signed with a new manager and whatever deal my client had made with the old one was null and void. Nobody bothered to check.
It was too late to get a flight out then, so we had a nice dinner and watched a great Joe Jackson show. Of course, the client didn’t want to pay for a wasted day of recording and was quite upset when told that he would indeed be paying for our trip, but at least he saved on overtime.
After leaving Record Plant to form my own company (Remote Recording Services), I would work with Joe Jackson on several more records, including providing recording gear for Body and Soul and also to Le Mobile for recording the live-to-two-track album Big World. Great mixing by Michael Frondelli; I have a copy on vinyl, which is worth finding if you can!
David W Hewitt
P.S. The photo of the Black Truck shown here was taken on the 1981 Rolling Stones American tour. Our recordings were used for the platinum live album Still Life and the Hal Ashby film Let’s Spend the Night Together.