High Quality Recording and Reproducing of Music and Speech

High Quality Recording and Reproducing of Music and Speech

By J P Mald and H C Harrison (Bell Telephone Laboratories 1926).      Fromhttp://www.charm.rhul.ac.uk/history/p20_4_1_3.html


The Age of electrical recording


In this tAudio Reproductionime of incredible technical achievements in every field of scientific endeavour, it is perhaps hard to imagine the effect that Maxfield and Harrison’s work had on the recording industry. Nothing has matched it since. The change from LP to CD was marked by longer playing times and a reduction in already low ambient noise levels. Sound quality was much as before (or worse according to some). The change from 78 rpm discs to LP again brought playing time and noise benefits, but in terms of quality of reproduction, the change over to microgroove was often very marginal, and sometimes showed a loss.

However, the change from mechanical (acoustic) recording to electrical recording was very different. The new system compared to the old, really was a chalk and cheese affair. Not just a wider frequency range, and frequencies in correct and designed proportion, but for the first time, the whole ambience and feel of a performance and its surroundings was reproduced. The nearest analogy is that of hearing a performance of say an orchestra though a closed door and down a corridor, and then being brought into a box at the venue. Admittedly perhaps not at the front of the box, but the difference was astounding. Listen to the examples in “A brief history of recording” to hear what I mean.

Maxfield and Harrison came from a telephone engineering background – then the height of technology. Their work on equalisers and line transmission systems, together with additional work with high power audio amplifiers all came together by one of those happy chances. For the first time, recording (and reproduction) was subjected to a proper system of scientific research, as against the largely empirical developments of the mechanical recording system. The resulting Western Electric recording system was an elegant solution to the deficiencies of mechanical recording. And it worked, again and again.

PDF of original book

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The Marconi-Stille magnetic recorder-reproducer.


On Christmas Day 1932 the British Broadcasting Corporation first used a tape recorder for their broadcasts. The device used was a Marconi-Stille recorder, a huge tape machine which used steel razor tape 3 mm wide and 0.08 mm thick. In order to reproduce the higher audio frequencies it was necessary to run the tape at 60 inches per second past the recording and reproducing heads. This meant that the length of tape required for a half-hour program was nearly 1.8 miles and a full reel weighed 55.5. For safety reasons these machines would only be operated in a locked room by remote control. Due to the tape’s speed, springiness and razor-like sharp edges, if the tape broke while in operation, it could unspool, fly off and cause serious injury. Besides this, the methods of recording could lead to massive data loss and poor audio quality because of their nature.

When you add all the support equipment needed to operate. It would be considered the largest recorder ever built.



Marconi-Stille tape recorder in machine room

Here’s a contemporary view of the machine, from ‘Modern Wonder’, September 1937:


The magazine wrote:One of the wonderful machines in use by the BBC is the Marconi-Stille magnetic recorder-reproducer. This instrument enables broadcast speeches and music to be “stored” on a long steel ribbon by magnetism so that they may be re-broadcast at any time…..The machine comprises two large drums on which special steel tape is wound by means of an electric motor. Between the drums, electro-magnets are arranged, and the tape passes between the pole-pieces of these magnets. The impulses in the coils of the electro-magnets cause the tape to be magnetized in larger and smaller amounts, and when the tape has been treated, it forms a highly accurate record of speech and music.’

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Mullard – The Blackburn Vacuum Tubes Factory

This great documentary about the manufacturing of thermionic valves was made by Mullard at the Blackburn factory in Great Britain. The plant was closed in the early 80’s due to the decrease of demand for this kind of devices.

The story begins in 1919 with the collapse of the Z Electric Lamp Company of Southfields run by Captain Stanley R Mullard. The following year, Captain Mullard moved on to set up the Mullard Radio Valve Company Limited. In 1924, still wanting to expand as the demand for valves continued to grow, Captain Mullard sold half his shares in the Mullard Radio Valve Company to NV Philips Gloeilampenfabriken of Eindhoven, Netherlands. This injection of capital allowed for the construction in Blackburn of what was to become the largest valve assembly works in the world. When the doors opened in 1938, the new Mullard Radio Valve Company Limited site employed 28 staff. This grew to about 3,000 people by 1945 and by 1954 the site was capable of manufacturing 500,000 valves per day. At its peak in 1961, the Mullard site generated its own gas and electricity, making it fully independent of the local town supplies. Over 6,200 people were employed both in Blackburn and the various feeder factories supplying raw materials and sub-components to the valve works. Sadly, due to the demise of the valve in favour of the transistor, by 1984 all these factories had closed or moved to other activities. The Mullard organisation changed its name to Philips Electronics Components (the main share holder) and continued to make and develop cathodes for use in cathode ray tube (CRT) applications.

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1932 New Phonograph Record Plays Half Hour Music Program

The phonograph, long overshadowed by the radio, now promises to come back into popularity, thanks to the development of an improved type of phonograph record recently introduced. Capable of running for a full half hour, the new long-playing record reproduces entire symphonies and vaudeville and musical comedy acts with-out the necessity of changing the discs.

The long-playing feature is obtained by slowing down the turn-table speed 78 to 33 -1/ rpm., and by introducing almost double the number of grooves in the playing surface. The new discs are made from a composition called Vitrolac, which permits placing finer grooves in the record.

The slower turn-table speed for playing the new records is obtained by the use of a special gear shift arrangement, which can be installed in any electric phonograph. The needles are chromium plated.

From Modern Mechanix,  February 1932

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The coming record revolution: digital discs. Popular Science (Nov, 1981)



The coming record revolution: digital discs

A laser “reads” the compact, no-wear disc to deliver superior hi-fi


Tokyo, Japan

A Sony technician slipped a small disc into the slot of a player no larger than a portable cassette machine. I noticed the record’s shiny surface broke light into rainbow colors. Seconds later I was bathed in rich, wide-ranging stereo music that sounded better than anything I’d ever heard from discs or tapes.

Sony Corporation’s Dr. Toshi Doi, a leading digital-systems designer, explained that this was a true digital record: Information stored as number codes on its surface was being converted into music. Instead of grooves, this disc had an optical track “read” by a laser beam. I heard absolutely no surface noise or distortion and no pitch fluctuations from the spinning disc. Dynamic range, or the difference between the loudest and softest musical sounds, was awesome.

You can’t buy such a digital audio disc (DAD) now at any price. But players and digital discs will be on the market in 1982-’83”sooner than anticipated. The new DAD technology merges hardware similar to that used for videodiscs IPS, July ’801 with specially developed digital integrated circuits. Disc players, which can be plugged into any conventional hi-fi system, could cost from $500 to $1,000. Discs, initially, will cost about $15. They have unique advantages-detailed shortly compared with conventional LP records.

Setting standards

For more than three years representatives of companies participating in DAD technology have been trying to establish a disc standard. Audio firms want to avoid confusing consumers with incompatible discs and hardware.

But recently a council of 51 companies in the field ended its deliberations without establishing a definite DAD standard. Instead, the council leaned heavily toward the Compact Digital Disc system I had seen in Tokyo. This system was originally developed by Philips of Holland. Since its first showings [PS, Oct. ’79], Sony and Philips have been working together to improve the system and convince others quite successfully that it should become a world standard.

While the Philips-Sony DAD system is based on optical laser technology, Telefunken of West Germany has been demonstrating a different groove-type disc system. A mechanical pickup stylus traces digital information contained in the spiral groove. It now seems unlikely, however, that Telefunken’s system will be accepted as a world standard, or even be offered to the public in the near future.

That leaves one other system, based on a grooveless disc that uses a pickup to sense minute changes in disc capacitance. This DAD was developed by JVC as a companion to its VHD (video high density) disc player for TV, slated for marketing early next year. JVC’s audio-disc system uses the videodisc player with an extra plug-in adapter.

Music reproduction for these DAD’s begins with a master tape using digital encoding (see box). Recording studios have been using this digital technology for several years. (Some conventional LP records are now called digital discs, but these are simply regular records made from digitally recorded master tapes.) Here’s how this digital music information from a master tape is used for the Philips-Sony DAD.

The disc is only 4.75 inches in diameter, but it can store up to one hour of stereo on a single side. Four-channel recordings at reduced playing times are also possible. Digital audio information is stored in the form of microscopic pits in a thin metal layer beneath the clear plastic disc surface. The pits are only about 0.6 micron (millionth of a meter) in width and about 0.2 micron deep.

Digital signals from the master tape turn a laser on and off, creating a continuous spiral pattern of these pits for a master disc, which become projections rather than pits on production stamping discs. For an hour-long disc, the track of pits and flat, highly reflective area between them is some 2.5 miles long.

This track is made up of six billion bits, the ones and zeros of binary language. It is read from the disc by a laser beam focused many times finer than a human hair. The beam is produced by a tiny solid-state laser. Light reflected from the flat areas between the pits is detected by a light-sensitive diode. Other circuits then convert these light flashes into music.

Since there’s no physical contact between the laser beam and the disc surface, no matter how many times you play a disc there’s no record wear. Also, the transparent plastic coating of the disc makes it immune to dust, most smudges, and rough handling. That’s because the laser penetrates minor imperfections on the outer plastic coating.

Actually, each side of a Philips-Sony disc has a storage capacity of over eight billion bits. This is more capacity than 60 minutes of sound requires, so the added digital storage space offers fascinating new possibilities for hi-fi recordings. Some of the extra two-billion-odd bits, for example, can store detailed information about the music tracks, length, sequence, title, or perhaps the text of selections. This added information might be displayed on an alphanumeric display on the player, or other models could put it on a TV monitor.

Digital delights

The sonic impact of music from a digital disc player must be heard to be appreciated. But the specifications for the prototype Dr. Doi demonstrated for me at Sony help explain why the sound is so impressive. For one thing, the frequency response is ruler-flat from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.

Also, there is no measureable wow or flutter and no audible rumble. The signal-to-noise ratio, dynamic range, and even stereo channel separation are all in excess of 90 dB. By contrast, carefully pressed analog LP records seldom have noise and dynamic-range specifications above 60 dB, and channel separation of 35 dB is available only with superior phono cartridges. Harmonic distortion from the digital discs is less than 0.05 percent, compared with pickup distortion on vinyl LP’s that’s rarely less than one percent.

These remarkable performance figures are obtained with a Sony or Philips player that’s constantly changing the speed at which discs spin. Unlike today’s constant-speed record players, the compact DAD is laser-scanned at 500 rpm near the inner circumference, gradually slowing down to about 200 rpm near the outer disc circumference. This variable rotation rate keeps the linear speed along the digital tracks constant at about 1.2 meters per second.

Last spring, at a joint news conference held in New York, Sony and Philips announced plans for marketing their disc system. Europe and Japan will see the players in late 1982 if plans hold, while the U.S. introduction may be early in 1983. Both giant electronics firms know that disc availability will be critical for the new system to succeed. They’ve made arrangements with the Polygram Group, a major worldwide record company, and CBS/Sony Inc., the largest record firm in Japan, to produce albums in the new compact format.

JVC’s digital disc

The second digital audio-disc system we’re likely to see next year is AHD (audio high density), developed by JVC with its videodisc. This format carries audio information as multiple rows of pits arranged in spiral tracks on discs. The disc rotates at a constant 900 rpm. A diamond pickup stylus with a metallic section glides along the surface of the grooveless disc, guided by additional tracking signals located alongside the audio tracks. AHD discs are made with an electro-conductive plastic. The stylus reads millions of tiny pits as changes in capacitance. This information is translated into digital signals and then into hi-fi audio signals. Discs are 10.2 inches in diameter and are automatically loaded from a protective case slipped into the player.

JVC says it plans to market its videodisc player, used to play AHD digital discs, at a price that’s competitive with the $500 capacitance-type video machines made by RCA and others. But it has not said how much the addon digital audio processor will cost.

The Japanese company has demonstrated a variety of ways a combined AHD/VHD format could be used. An AHD disc I saw demonstrated at an Audio Engineering Society convention was capable of playing either three-channel stereo music or two-channel stereo with still video pictures changing every few seconds.

While JVC’s system uses a single player for both video and audio discs, the larger disc size, plus the physical contact between pickup stylus and disc surface precludes adopting the format for car stereo. Sony and Philips executives say this will be an important plus for their compact disc.

Which system, JVC’s AHD or the Philips-Sony compact disc, will win? My guess is that JVC’s success will be largely with the videodisc portion of its system and that the no-wear, laser-playback compact disc will become a world standard. But the transition to digital audio will be slow. And compact DAD’s take up so little space you’ll easily find room for your old and new record collections.

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Electronics at Work

This is an odd educational film, possibly intended for the school audio-visual market. Like any film meant to be shown in Electronic Shop I, it isn’t very flashy but it has a lot of infomation to offer.

It starts off with a rather crude Valve Parade, which is well lit and becomes almost an eerily prescient Valve Dance at times.

It moves right into a dry but effective explanation of how vacuum tubes work and why anyone ever wanted to bother with them at all. The theory is incredibly basic, but it’s well presented. Today’s students raised on iPods and smart phones would undoubtedly learn a thing or two, if they didn’t tune out of the typical 1940s plodding pace and fall asleep first. The application scenes are a hoot, with all kinds of scary 1940s industrial equipment doing scary 1940s industrial things like RF heating, controlling steel mills, speeding up production of some kind of plated metal stuff, exposing chest x-ray patients to huge levels of ionizing radiation, and throwing out UV rays against which some unfortunate paramecia (shown in micrograph) never stand a chance.

Since it’s 1943, we don’t have to wait long before the military applications climax the show, with typically heroic newsreel footage of British coastal defenses giving Hitler’s Luftwaffe a nasty reception indeed. We are assured that, as soon as Mister Valve has helped win the war, the consumer can expect all manner of wonderful new miracles of technology. We segue into another Valve Parade, as up comes the same typically stirring WWII canned march music that began the film. Triumphantly, we then decisively fade out over the Westinghouse logo. Civilization marches on.

Enjoy the film

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MIX Magazines Class of 2012


Malibu, CA, June 14, 2012 The Year’s Finest Facilities Featured in MIX magazine’s Class of 2012.

Each Year MIX magazine names the Hottest Recording/Production studios around the globe. Among this year’s studios was Creative Audio Works located in Plymouth MA

Designed by Lou Clarke of Sonic-Space with studio owner Stewart Adam, the design of this multipurpose studio. Creative Audio Works is geared for analog transfer and restoration, music mixing, mastering and sound-for-picture work.

The critical listening area pictured here incorporates a 3-foot deep broadband absorber behind each Genelec 8240A speaker. A raised floor between the speakers and the listener to remove floor reflections, broadband sidewall absorption and 12 inches in the ceiling.  A custom designed floor-to-ceiling is mounted in the front of he room and wrapped around a video monitor

Please visit our studio page for more information.

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The First Music Video, 1895 The Dickson Experimental Sound Film.

This film, known as The Dickson Experimental Sound Film, is the first known film with live-recorded sound. The film features William Dicksonplaying the melody “Song of the Cabin Boy” from the light opera “The Chimes of Normandy“, composed by Robert Planquette in 1877.

The two men dancing are likely to be employees at Edison’s studio – the Black Maria. The lyric of the song they are dancing to describes life at sea without women.

This short film was a test for Edison’s “Kinetophone” project, the first attempt in history to record sound and moving image in synchronization. This was an experiment by William Dickson to put sound and film together either in 1894 or 1895. Unfortunately, this experiment failed because they didn’t understand synchronization of sound and film. The large cone on the left hand side of the frame is the “microphone” for the wax cylinder recorder (off-camera). The Library of Congress had the film. The wax cylinder soundtrack, however, was believed lost for many years. Tantalizingly, a broken cylinder labeled “Violin by WKL Dickson with Kineto” was catalogued in the 1964 inventory at the Edison National Historic Site. In 1998, Patrick Loughney, curator of Film and Television at the Library of Congress, retrieved the cylinder and had it repaired and re-recorded at the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound, Lincoln Center, New York. Since the Library did not possess the necessary synchronizing technology, Loughney – at the suggestion of producer Rick Schmidlin – sent multi-Oscar winner Walter Murch a videotape of the 17 seconds of film and an audiocassette of 3 minutes and 20 seconds of sound with a request to marry the two. By digitizing the media and using digital editing software, Murch was able to synchronize them and complete the failed experiment 105 years later

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May 17 1965, Moog introduces the first analog synthesizer.

The Moog synthesizer, though Robert Moog preferred the former) may refer to any number of analog synthesizers designed by Dr. Robert Moog or manufactured by Moog Music, and is commonly used as a generic term for older-generation analog music synthesizers. The Moog Company pioneered the commercial manufacture of modular voltage-controlled analog synthesizer systems in the early 1950s. The technological development that led to the creation of the Moog synthesizer was the invention of the transistor, which enabled researchers like Moog to build electronic music systems that were considerably smaller, cheaper and far more reliable than earlier vacuum tube-based systems.

The Moog synthesizer gained wider attention in the music industry after it was demonstrated at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967. The commercial breakthrough of a Moog recording was made by Wendy Carlos in the 1968 record Switched-On Bach, which became one of the highest-selling classical music recordings of its era. The success of Switched-On Bach sparked a slew of other synthesizer records in the late 1960s to mid 1970s. In 1974 the German electronic group Kraftwerk further popularized the sound of the synthesizer with their landmark album Autobahn, which used several types of synthesizer including a Minimoog. German-based Italian producer-composer Giorgio Moroder helped to shape the development of disco music.

Later Moog modular systems featured various improvements, such as a scaled-down, simplified, self-contained musical instrument designed for use in live performance. The Minimoog became the most popular monophonic synthesizer of the 1970s, and it was quickly taken up by leading rock and electronic music groups such as Yes and Tangerine Dream.

 Early history

The Moog Company pioneered the commercial manufacture of modular voltage-controlled analog synthesizer systems. Company founder Dr. Robert Arthur Moog had begun manufacturing and selling vacuum-tube theremins in kit form while he was a student in the early 1950s and marketed his first transistorized theremin kits in 1961. Moog became interested in the design and construction of complex electronic music systems in the mid 1960s and the burgeoning interest in his designs enabled him to establish a small company (R. A. Moog Co., which became Moog Music and later, Moog Electronics) to manufacture and market the new devices.

Pioneering electronic music experimenters like Leon Theremin, Louis and Bebe Barron, Christopher R. Morgan, and Raymond Scott had built sound-generating devices and systems of varying complexity, and several large electronic synthesizers (e.g. the RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer) had been built prior to the advent of the Moog, but these were essentially unique, custom-built devices or systems. Electronic music studios typically had many different oscillators, filters and other devices to generate and manipulate electronic sound. In the case of the famous electronic score for the 1955 science fiction film Forbidden Planet, for example, the Barrons had to design and build many different circuits to produce particular sounds, and each could only perform a limited range of functions.

Early electronic music performance devices like the Theremin were also relatively limited in function. The classic Theremin, for example, produces only a simple sine wave tone, and the antennae which control the pitch and volume respond to small changes in the proximity of the operator’s hands to the device, making it difficult to play accurately.

In the period from 1950 to the mid-1960s, studio musicians and composers were also heavily dependent on magnetic tape to realize their works. The limitations of existing electronic music components meant that in many cases each note or tone had to be recorded separately, with changes in pitch often achieved by speeding up or slowing down the tape, and then splicing or overdubbing the result into the master tape. These tape-recorded electronic works could be extremely laborious and time-consuming to create—according to the 1967 Moog 900 Series demonstration record, such recordings could have as many as eight edits per inch of tape. The key technological development that led to the creation of the Moog synthesizer was the invention of the transistor, which enabled researchers like Moog to build electronic music systems that were considerably smaller, cheaper and far more reliable than earlier systems, which depended on the older vacuum tube technology.

Moog began to develop his synthesizer systems after he met educator and composer Herbert Deutsch at a conference in late 1963. Over the next year, with encouragement from Myron Hoffman of the University of Toronto, Moog and Deutsch developed the first modular voltage-controlled subtractive synthesizer. Through Hoffman, Moog was invited to demonstrate these prototype devices at the Audio Engineering Society convention in October 1964, where composer Alwin Nikolais saw them and immediately placed an order.

Moog’s innovations were set out in his 1964 paper Voltage-Controlled Electronic Music Modules, presented at the AES conference in October 1964, where he also demonstrated his prototype synthesizer modules. There were two key features in Moog’s new system: he analyzed and systematized the production of electronically generated sounds, breaking down the process into a number of basic functional “blocks”, which could be carried out by standardized modules. He proposed the use of a standardized scale of voltages for the electrical signals that controlled the various functions of these modules—the Moog oscillators and keyboard, for example, used a standard progression of 1 volt per octave for pitch control.

At a time when digital circuits were still relatively costly and in an early stage of development, voltage control was a practical design choice. In the Moog topology, each voltage-controllable module has one or more inputs that accept a voltage of typically 10 V or less. The magnitude of this voltage controls one or more key parameters of the module’s circuits, such as the frequency of an audio (or sub-audio—”low frequency”) oscillator, the attenuation or gain of an amplifier, or the cutoff frequency of a wide-frequency-range filter. Thus, frequency determines pitch, attenuation determines instantaneous loudness (as well as silence between notes), and cutoff frequency determines relative timbre.

Voltage control in analog music synthesizers is similar in principle to how voltage is used in electronic analog computers, in which voltage is a scaled analog of a quantity that is part of the computation. For instance, control voltages can be added or subtracted in a circuit almost identical to an adder in such a computer. Inside a synthesizer VCO, an analog exponential function provides the 1 volt per octave control of an oscillator that basically runs on a volts/kHz basis. Positive voltage polarity raises pitch, and negative lowers it. The result is that, for example, a standard keyboard can have its output scaled to that of a quarter-tone keyboard by changing its output to one-half volt per octave, with no other technical changes.

Using this approach, Moog built a range of signal-generating, signal-modifying and controller modules, each of which could be easily inter-connected to control or modify the functions and outputs of any other. The central component was the voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO), which generated the primary sound signal, capable of producing a variety of waveforms including sawtooth, square and sine waves. The output from the VCO could then be modified and shaped by feeding the signal into other modules such as voltage-controlled amplifiers (VCA), voltage-controlled filters (VCF), envelope generators, and ring modulators. Another customization as part of the Moog Modular Synthesizer is the sequencer, which provided a source of timed step control voltages that were programmed to create repetitive note patterns, without using the keyboard.  The inputs and outputs of any module could be cross-linked with patch cords (using tip-sleeve (“mono”) ¼-inch plugs) and, together with the module control knobs and switches, could create a nearly infinite variety of sounds and effects.

The final output could be controlled by an organ-style keyboard as the primary user interface, but the notes—individual sounds—could also be triggered and/or modulated by a ribbon controller or by other modules such as white noise generators or low-frequency oscillators. The Moog modular systems were not designed as a performance instrument, but rather a sophisticated, studio-based professional audio system which could be used as a musical instrument for creating and recording electronic music in the studio

Moog’s first customized modular systems were built during 1965 and demonstrated at a summer workshop at Moog’s Trumansburg, New York, factory in August 1965, culminating with an afternoon concert of electronic music and musique concrète on August 28. Although far more compact than previous tube-based systems (e.g. the RCA Mark II) the Moog modular systems were quite large by modern standards, since they predated the introduction of integrated circuit (“microchip”) technology; one the biggest of these, the Moog-based “TONTO” system (built by Malcolm Cecil and used by Stevie Wonder in the 1970s) occupies several cubic meters when fully assembled. These early Moogs were also complex to operate—it sometimes took hours to set up the machine for a new sound—and they were prone to pitch instability because the oscillators tended to drift out of tune as the device heated up] As a result, ownership and use was at first mainly limited to clients such as educational institutions and major recording studios and a handful of adventurous audio professionals.

Through contacts at the Columbia-Princeton Center, Moog met Wendy (then Walter) Carlos, a recording engineer at New York’s studio Gotham Recording and a former student of Vladimir Ussachevsky. Carlos was then building an electronic music system and began ordering Moog modules. Moog credits Carlos with making many suggestions and improvements to his systems. During 1967 Moog introduced its first production model, the 900 series, which was promoted with a free demonstration record composed, realised and produced by Carlos.[4] After assembling a Moog system and a custom-built 8-track recorder in early 1968, Carlos and collaborator Rachel Elkind (secretary to CBS Records president Goddard Lieberson) began recording pieces by Bach which were entirely realized on the new Moog. When Moog played one of their pieces at the AES convention in 1968 it received a standing ovation.

The use of flexible cords with plugs at their ends and sockets (jacks) to make temporary connections dates back to cord-type manually operated telephone switchboards (if not even earlier, possibly for telegraph circuits). Cords with plugs at both ends had been used for many decades before the advent of Dr. Moog’s synthesizers to make temporary connections (“patches”) in such places as radio and recording studios. These came to be known as “patch cords”, and that term was also used for Moog modular systems. As familiarity developed, a given setup of the synthesizer (both cord connections and knob settings) came to be referred to as a “patch”, and the term has persisted, applying to systems that do not use patch cords.

Late 1960s

The Moog synthesizer began to gain wider attention in the music industry after it was demonstrated at the epochal Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967. Electronic music pioneers Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause had bought one of Moog’s first synthesizers in 1966 and had spent a fruitless year trying to interest Hollywood studios in its use for movie soundtracks. In June 1967 they set up a booth at the Monterey festival to demonstrate the Moog, and it attracted the interest of several of the major acts who attended, including The Byrds and Simon & Garfunkel. This quickly built into a steady stream of studio session work in Los Angeles and a recording contract with Warner Brothers.

Some of the first rock recordings to feature the Moog synthesizer included the Diana Ross & the Supremes single, “Reflections” (released July 1967) and prominently throughout albums of the Summer of Love era such as on Strange Days by The Doors (released September 1967 Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones, Ltd. by The Monkees, Cosmic Sounds by The Zodiac, (the latter two both released November 1967), Their Satanic Majesties Request by The Rolling Stones (released December 1967), The Notorious Byrd Brothers by The Byrds (released January 1968), and Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends (released April 1968). Buck Owens made the second purchase of the Moog, his longtime collaborator Jeff Haskell recording Switched On Buck, an album of Owens material recorded entirely on the Moog and released by Capitol Records in 1971. (Carlos purchased the first and Micky Dolenz of the Monkees purchased the third model).

At this early stage the Moog synthesizer was still widely perceived as a novel form of electronic keyboard, not unlike the Mellotron, which had appeared a few years earlier. Most early Moog appearances on popular recordings tended to make limited use of the synthesizer, exploiting the new device for its novel sonic qualities, and it was generally only used to augment or ‘color’ standard rock arrangements, rather than as an alternative to them—as for example in its use by Simon and Garfunkel on their 1968 LP Bookends and The Beatles’ Abbey Road.

According to the American Physical Society, “The first live performance of a music synthesizer was made by pianist Paul Bley at Lincoln Center in New York City on December 26, 1969. Bley developed a proprietary interface that allowed real-time performance on the music synthesizer.” However, according to biographical notes on the Hofstra University website, Herbert Deutsch gave a concert at the New York Town Hall on September 25, 1965 with his New York Improvisation Quartet which included the first live performance with a Moog synthesizer. The Moog was also heard on August 28, 1969 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in a performance which included Moog and Deutsch. Keyboardist/composer Keith Emerson is also pointed as the first musician to play live with a Moog in 1968 with his band The Nice accompanied by orchestra.

Commercial breakthrough

 The commercial breakthrough was made by New York-based recording engineer, musician and composer Wendy Carlos who, with producer and collaborator Rachel Elkind, was primarily responsible for introducing the Moog synthesizer to the general public and demonstrating its extraordinary musical possibilities. Carlos worked closely with Moog during 1967-68, suggesting many improvements and refinements to his modules, and during 1967 Carlos composed, realized and produced electronic sounds and music for a demonstration record for the Moog Company. Carlos purchased a large Moog modular system in 1968 and then constructed a state-of-the-art eight-track multitrack recorder from superseded studio equipment. Carlos and Elkind then began recording a selection of instrumental compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, realized entirely on the Moog synthesizer, with each piece painstakingly assembled one part at a time on the multitrack tape.

The resulting album was released by CBS Records in late 1968 under the title Switched-On Bach. It quickly captured the public imagination, becoming one of the highest-selling classical music recordings ever released up to that time and earning Carlos three Grammy awards. The success of Switched-On Bach led to three more successful albums of electronically realized Baroque music by Carlos, as well as the acclaimed electronic soundtrack music for the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, which featured original music by Carlos along with several Moog versions of classical pieces by Beethoven and Rossini. Still in 1968 Keith Emerson purchased the second Moog modular system in the UK after hearing Switched-On Bach. Having problems with its assembly and tuning, he met and collaborated with Dr. Moog so helping to develop even more stable oscillators and many new features for live and studio performance. This led the way to full commercial production of many types of synthesizers on the next decade and brought new rival manufacturers to the market.

In July, 1969 Dick Hyman’s recording of his jazz composition “The Minotaur” became the first Moog-based Billboard Top 40 hit single. Other early modular Moog users were Bread on ‘London Bridge’ released in 1969, Leon Russell on “Stranger In A Strange Land” (programmed by Terry Manning), recorded in 1970, and Terry Manning’s Home Sweet Home, (programmed by Dr. Robert Moog himself) recorded in 1968, but released in 1970. The Beatles have also experimented with the use of the Moog synthesizer during the recording of their album, Abbey Road, used prominently in the songs “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, “Because”, “Here Comes the Sun”, and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”.

The success of Switched-On Bach sparked a slew of other synthesizer records in the late 1960s to mid 1970s. Most of these albums featured covers of songs arranged for Moog synthesizer in the most dramatic and flamboyant way possible, covering rock, country and other genres of music. The albums often had “Moog” in their titles (i.e. Country Moog Classics, Martin Denny’s Exotic Moog, Gershon Kingsley’s Music To Moog By etc.) although many used a variety of other brands of synthesizers and even organs as well. The kitsch appeal of these albums continue to have a small fanbase and the 1990s band The Moog Cookbook is a tribute to this style of music. Indeed, considering it was the first practical and widely used analog synthesizer, many people came to use “moog” to refer to music synthesizers.


One of the most important and successful uses of the Moog in popular music in the early-to-mid 1970s was the extended collaboration between Stevie Wonder and electronic musicians Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff on the series of albums Wonder released during this period. These recordings made extensive use of the duo’s large synthesiser system, which they dubbed TONTO (an acronym for “The Original New Timbral Orchestra”), reputedly the world’s first and largest multitimbral polyphonic analog synthesizer. Designed and constructed by Cecil, it was based on Moog Series III components, together with additional modules made by other manufacturers including ARP.

The duo’s 1971 album Zero Time — released under the pseudonym “Tonto’s Expanding Head Band” — gained critical acclaim and attracted the attention of many musicians including Wonder. He first worked with Cecil, Margouleff and TONTO on his 1972 album Music of My Mind and the collaboration continued and expanded over his subsequent albums, Talking Book (1972), which won several Grammy awards, Innervisions (1973), which won the ‘Album of the Year’ Grammy, Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974) and Songs In The Key Of Life (1976).

A more portable version was created and the “Minimoog” was played by a number of musicians, most notably by Jan Hammer in the Mahavishnu Orchestra beginning in 1971. The Minimoog proved versatile enough to allow Hammer to solo with equal musicality/facility to that of his colleagues John McLaughlin on guitar and Jerry Goodman on violin. Avant garde jazz musician Sun Ra often used the Moog as his instrument of choice to achieve his unique sound. A custom Moog Modular System was also featured prominently on Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s song “Lucky Man”, Keith Emerson’s Moog solo at the end making it arguably the group’s most popular piece. Another famous use of the Moog was in Tangerine Dream’s electronic landmark album Phaedra in 1974, which was a major hit in the UK—it reached #15 on the British album charts and playing a significant role in establishing the fledgling independent label Virgin Records.

Perhaps the most commercially successful, pop-industry recording primarily featuring the Moog was of Popcorn (instrumental) performed by Hot Butter and released in 1972, which made #1 in Australia and in a series of European countries, and made the Top 10 in both the UK #5 and in US #9.

In 1974 the German electronic group Kraftwerk further popularized the sound of the synthesizer with their landmark album Autobahn, which used several types of synthesizer including a Minimoog. A single featuring an edited version of the title track became an international hit in early 1975, reaching #25 in the USA and #11 in the UK. Gary Wright was one of the first musicians to perfect the Moog sound on his album The Dream Weaver.

German-based Italian producer-composer Giorgio Moroder helped to shape the development of disco music by incorporating the Moog synthesizer in the 1975 Donna Summer hit “Love to Love You Baby”. The use of the synthesizer created the sensual feel that is characteristic of disco and paved the way for Donna Summer’s landmark hit “I Feel Love” in 1977. The Moog bassline in this song, combined with the syn-drum created the hi-NRG category of disco music.[25]

In 1976, the Gordon Lightfoot standard The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald would feature a Moog unit that appears on the verse that included the line … “and later that night when its lights went out of sight, came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

On the 1977 Beach Boys album Love You, Brian Wilson, who composed almost every song on the album, used the Moog on a great number of tracks.

In the late 70s and early 80s, Tejano music groups such as Mazz began using Moogs which would later be used as part of what is called modern Tejano.

Bernard Herrmann also used two Moog synthesizers in his chilling score for Brian de Palma’s Sisters (1973 film).

Contemporary composer Christopher R. Morgan used nearly two dozen Moog synthesizers for his second album, “The Quad: C.”

 Product development

Later Moog modular systems featured improvements to the electronics design, and in the early 1970s Moog introduced new models featuring scaled-down, simplified designs that made them much more stable and well suited to real-time musical performance. In 1970 Moog (R. A. Moog Inc. at that time) began production of the Minimoog Model D, a small, monophonic three-oscillator keyboard synthesizer which—alongside the British-made EMS VCS 3 — was one of the first widely available, portable and relatively affordable synthesizers. Unlike the early modular systems, the Minimoog was specifically created as a self-contained musical instrument designed for use in live performance by keyboard players. Although its sonic capabilities were drastically reduced from the large modular systems, the Minimoog combined a user-friendly physical design, pitch stability, portability and the ability to create wide range of sounds and effects.

An extremely important Minimoog innovation was the introduction of its now-famous wheel controllers, with which the musician could easily bend pitch and add modulation effects in real time. The two wheels are mounted to the left of the keyboard, next to the lowest key. The function of the Pitch wheel was assigned solely to control oscillator pitch (either sharp or flat from a default, detented, non spring-loaded center position), whereas its neighboring Mod (Modulation) wheel was assignable to control a mixable amount of oscillator 3 and/or Noise routed to the three oscillators and/or the VCF cutoff frequency. In particular, the intuitive function and feel of the Pitch wheel allowed Minimoog users to create similar expressive pitch-bending effects that musicians such as guitarists achieve by physically ‘bending’ strings and using “whammy” bars.

Although many other types of left hand controllers have been used by various synthesizer manufacturers over the years – including levers, joysticks, ribbon controllers and buttons – the Pitch and Mod wheels introduced on the Minimoog have become de facto standard ‘left-hand controllers’ and have since been used by almost every major synthesizer manufacturer, including Korg, Yamaha, Kawai and (now defunct) Sequential Circuits on their ground-breaking Prophet-5 programmable polyphonic synthesizer (1977). A notable exception is the Japanese manufacturer Roland, who have never included Pitch and Modulation wheels on any synthesizer they have produced, opting instead to include alternative controllers of their own design.

The Minimoog was the first product to really solidify the synthesizer’s popular image as a “keyboard” instrument and it became the most popular monophonic synthesizer of the 1970s, selling approximately 13,180 units between 1970 and 1981,[4] and it was quickly taken up by leading rock and electronic music groups such as the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Tangerine Dream and Gary Numan. Although the popularity of analog synthesis faded in the 1980s with the advent of affordable digital synthesizers and sampling keyboards, the Minimoog remained a sought-after instrument for producers and recording artists, and it continued to be used extensively on electronic, techno, dance and disco recordings into the 1980s due to its distinctive tonal qualities, particularly that of its patented Moog “ladder” filter.

The rarest Moog production model was the little Minitmoog (1975–1976), a direct descendant of the rather obscure Moog Satellite preset synthesizer. It is rumored that only a few hundred Minitmoogs were made, although firm numbers are unavailable. While it lacked programmability and memory storage, the Minitmoog did offer some forward features, such as keyboard aftertouch and a sync-sweep feature, thanks to its dual voltage controlled oscillators.

A widely used and extremely popular Moog synthesizer was the Taurus bass pedal synthesizer. Released in 1975, its 13-note pedalboard was similar in design to small spinet organ pedals and triggered bold, penetrating synthesized bass sounds. The Taurus was known for an especially “fat” bass timbre and was used by Genesis, Rush, Electric Light Orchestra, Yes, Pink Floyd, Parliament-Funkadelic, Paul Davis, and many others. Production of the original was discontinued in 1981, when it was replaced by the Taurus II, which never achieved the popularity of its predecessor. In November 2009, Moog Music introduced the limited production Moog Taurus 3 pedal synthesizer, which, the company reports, exactly duplicates the original Taurus I timbre and presets, while adding modern features such as velocity sensitivity, greatly expanded memory for user presets, a backlit LC display, and MIDI and USB interfacing. Still, the original Taurus I units are highly sought after and typically command a high resale value on the used market.

Moog Music was the first company to commercially release a keytar, the Moog Liberation. The last Moog synthesizer released by the original Moog Music, the programmable polyphonic Memorymoog (and subsequent Memorymoog Plus), was manufactured from 1983–85, just before the company declared bankruptcy in 1986.

By the mid-1990s, analog synthesizers were again highly sought after and prized for their classic sound. In 2001, Robert Moog’s company Big Briar was able to acquire the rights to the Moog name and officially became Moog Music. Moog Music has been producing the Minimoog Voyager modeled after the original Minimoog since 2002. As of 2006, more than 15 companies are making Moog-style synthesizer modules.

In March 2006, Moog Music unveiled the Little Phatty Analog Synthesizer, boasting “hand-built quality and that unmatched Moog sound, at a price every musician can afford”. The first limited edition run of 1200 were a Bob Moog Tribute Edition with a Performer edition announced subsequently. In 2011, a number of Moog products can still be purchased, such as Moogerfoogers, Taurus 3 bass pedals and Minimoog Voyagers. The original Minimoog however remains so popular that they regularly sell for over US $3000 on online auction sites.

List of models

  • Moog modular synthesizer (1963–80)
  • Minimoog (1970–81) [4]
  • Moog Satellite (1974–79)
  • Moog Sonic 6 (1974–79)
  • Minitmoog (1975–76)
  • Micromoog (1975–79)
  • Polymoog (1975–80)
  • Moog Taurus (bass pedals) (1976–83)
  • Multimoog (1978–81)
  • Moog Prodigy (1979–84)
  • Moog Liberation (1980)
  • Moog Opus-3 (1980)
  • Moog Concertmate MG-1 (1981)
  • Moog Rogue (1981)
  • Moog Source (1981)
  • Memorymoog (1982–85)
  • Moogerfooger (1998–present)
  • Minimoog Voyager (2002–present)
  • Moog Little Phatty (2006–present)
  • Old School (2008–09)
  • Slim Phatty (2010)
  • Taurus 3 bass pedal (2011)
  • Minitaur (2011)

Via Wikipedia

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Pet Sounds:Released May 16, 1966

Pet Sounds is the eleventh studio album by the American rock band The Beach Boys, released May 16, 1966, on Capitol Records. It has since been recognized as one of the most influential records in the history of popular music and one of the best albums of the 1960s, including songs such as “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows”. Pet Sounds was created several months after Brian Wilson had quit touring with the band in order to focus his attention on writing and recording. In it, he wove elaborate layers of vocal harmonies, coupled with sound effects and unconventional instruments such as bicycle bells, buzzing organs, harpsichords, flutes, Electro-Theremin, dog whistles, trains, Hawaiian-sounding string instruments, Coca-Cola cans and barking dogs, along with the more usual keyboards and guitars.

Although Pet Sounds has been credited as one of the most important albums of its time, its initial release failed to reach gold status, where it reached #10 on the American Billboard 200. A heralding album in the emerging psychedelic rock style, Pet Sounds has been championed and emulated for its dramatic and revolutionary baroque instrumentation. It has been ranked at #1 in several music magazines’ lists of greatest albums of all time, including New Musical Express, The Times and Mojo Magazine. It was ranked #2 in Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

The track “Sloop John B” predated the recording of the rest of the LP by some months, but it proved to be a pivotal point in the album’s development. It was a traditional Caribbean folk song that had been suggested to Wilson by group member Al Jardine. Wilson recorded a backing track on July 12, 1965, but after laying down a rough lead vocal, he set the song aside for some time, concentrating on the recording of what became their next LP, the “live in the studio’ album” Beach Boys’ Party!, which was provided in response to their record company so the Beach Boys could have a new album ready for the Christmas 1965 market. What would become the Pet Sounds record could not be finished in time for Christmas 1965.

The real catalyst for Pet Sounds was the U.S. version of The Beatles’ album Rubber Soul, which was released that December in time for the Christmas market. (The British version of Rubber Soul was edited prior to its release in the U.S.A. to emphasise its folk rock feel that critics attributed to Bob Dylan and The Byrds.)

Wilson later recalled his first impressions of the groundbreaking album:

“I really wasn’t quite ready for the unity. It felt like it all belonged together. Rubber Soul was a collection of songs … that somehow went together like no album ever made before, and I was very impressed. I said, “That’s it. I really am challenged to do a great album”

Wilson found Rubber Soul was filled with all-original songs and, more importantly, all good ones, none of them filler. Inspired, he rushed to his wife and proclaimed, “Marilyn, I’m gonna make the greatest album! The greatest rock album ever made!”. In early January 1966 Wilson contacted Tony Asher, a young lyricist and copywriter who had been working on advertising jingles, and whom Wilson had met in a Hollywood recording studio months earlier. Within ten days they were writing together. Wilson played him some of the music he had been recording, and gave him a cassette of the finished backing track for a piece with the working title “In My Childhood”; it had lyrics, but Wilson refused to show them to Asher, who took the music away and wrote new lyrics. The result was eventually retitled “You Still Believe in Me” and the success of the piece convinced Wilson that Tony Asher was the collaborator he was looking for.

“The general tenor of the lyrics was always his,” Asher later recalled, “and the actual choice of words was usually mine. I was really just his interpreter.”

Writing and composition

Most of the songs on the album were written during December 1965 and January 1966. While most were composed with Tony Asher, “I Know There’s an Answer” was co-written by another new associate, Terry Sachen.[15]

Mike Love is co-credited on the album’s opening track, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, and on “I Know There’s an Answer” but with the exception of his co-credit on “I’m Waiting for the Day,” (originally copyrighted in February 1964, to Wilson alone) his contributions are thought to have been minimal. The exact degree of Love’s contribution to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is still hazy, but under oath in a court of law, Tony Asher has stated that it consisted of the tag “Good night my baby/Sleep tight, my baby.”

Love, in addition to Dennis Wilson and Al Jardine, was taken aback by Brian’s new sound (and Asher’s lyrics) when they returned from touring in Asia to record their vocals. Love in particular was nonplussed by Brian’s complete abandonment of the “fast cars, cute girls, and sunny beaches” formula that had marked the group’s hit-making career up to that point.

Love’s main influence on “I Know There’s an Answer” is reputed to have consisted of his strenuous opposition to the song’s original title, “Hang On to Your Ego”, and his insistence that it be partially rewritten and retitled. The original lyrics created quite a stir within the group. “I was aware that Brian was beginning to experiment with LSD and other psychedelics,” explained Love. “The prevailing drug jargon at the time had it that doses of LSD would shatter your ego, as if that were a positive thing… I wasn’t interested in taking acid or getting rid of my ego.” Jardine recalled that the decision to change the lyrics was ultimately Wilson’s. “Brian was very concerned. He wanted to know what we thought about it. To be honest, I don’t think we even knew what an ego was… Finally Brian decided, ‘Forget it. I’m changing the lyrics. There’s too much controversy.'” Terry Sachen, who co-wrote the revised lyrics to this song, was the Beach Boys’ road manager in 1966.

The album included two sophisticated instrumental tracks, the wistful “Let’s Go Away for Awhile” – with a working parenthetical title of “And Then We’ll have World Peace”[and the brittle brassy surf of the title track, “Pet Sounds” (originally “Run James, Run”, the suggestion being that it would be offered for use in a James Bond movie). The subtitle of “Let’s Go Away For A While” was a catchphrase from one of Wilson’s favorite comedy recordings, John Brent and Del Close’s How To Speak Hip (1959) (which Wilson can be heard talking about in a session outtake included on the Pet Sounds boxed set). Both titles had been recorded as backing tracks for existing songs, but by the time the album neared completion Wilson had decided that the tracks worked better without vocals and so left them as such. A third instrumental, called “Trombone Dixie,” had been fully recorded, but it remained in the vaults until its inclusion on the album’s 1990 remastered CD release.

Recording process

With writing well under way, Wilson worked rapidly through January and early February 1966, recording six backing tracks for the new material. When the other Beach Boys returned from a three-week tour of Japan and Hawaii, they were presented with a substantial portion of a new album, with music that was in many ways a radical departure from their earlier attempts.[19] Both Asher and Wilson state that there was resistance to the project from within the group, but on this occasion, Wilson’s belief in his new work convinced the other members of the group. The backing tracks for Pet Sounds were recorded over a four-month period, using major Los Angeles studios (Gold Star Studios, Western Studios and Sunset Sound) and an ensemble that included some highly regarded session musicians, including jazz guitarist Barney Kessel, bassist Carol Kaye, and session drummer Hal Blaine. The tracks were produced and arranged by Brian Wilson. He also wrote or co-wrote every track on the album.

Wilson had developed his production methods over several years, bringing them to their zenith with the recording of Pet Sounds during late 1965 and early 1966. Wilson’s approach was in some respects a refinement and development of the famous “Wall of Sound” technique created by his mentor and rival Phil Spector. With new Ampex 8-track recorders, Wilson produced tracks of great complexity using his regular team of ‘first call’ players, sometimes known collectively as “The Wrecking Crew”.

Wilson’s typical production method on Pet Sounds was to record the instrumental backing tracks for each song as a live ensemble performance direct onto 4-track recorders. His engineer Larry Levine has reported that Wilson also typically mixed these backing tracks live, as they were being taped. Subsequently transferring the sounds onto 8-track machines. Like Spector, Wilson was a pioneer of the ‘studio as instrument’ concept, exploiting novel combinations of sounds that sprang from the use of multiple electric instruments and voices in an ensemble and combining them with echo and reverberation. He often doubled bass, guitar and keyboard parts, blending them with reverberation and adding other unusual instruments.

Although the self-taught Wilson often had entire arrangements worked out in his head (which were usually written in a shorthand form for the other players by one of his session musicians), surviving tapes of his recording sessions show that he was remarkably open to input from his musicians, often taking advice and suggestions from them and even incorporating apparent ‘mistakes’ if they provided a useful or interesting alternative.

In spite of the availability of complex multitrack recording, Wilson always mixed the final version of his recordings in mono, as did Phil Spector. He did this for several reasons; one of which was that he felt that mono mastering provided more sonic control over the final result that the listener heard, regardless of the vagaries of speaker placement and sound system quality.

 “God Only Knows” (stereo version)

God Only Knows broke new ground in many ways. It was one of the first commercial songs to use the word ‘God’ in its title. The song was also far more technically sophisticated than anything the Beach Boys, or arguably any group, had ever attempted before.

It was also motivated by the knowledge that, back then, radio and TV were broadcast in mono, and most domestic and automotive radios and record players were monophonic. Another and more personal reason for Wilson’s preference of recording in mono was due to his being almost totally deaf in his right ear, rumored to be the result of childhood injury to his eardrum caused by a blow from his violent father Murry Wilson, although Wilson has claimed that he was born deaf in one ear.

These backing tracks were then dubbed down onto one track of an 8-track recorder (at Columbia studio, the only facility in LA with an 8-track), and, although much of the fine detail in the arrangements was often covered by the group’s rich vocal harmonies, they interacted effectively with the vocal tracks. This mono recording meant that a stereo mixdown could not be achieved. Wilson’s partial deafness made him indifferent to stereo and it was not until the advent of digital recording that it was possible to combine the instrumental and vocal session-tapes to achieve a true stereo release. Six of the remaining seven tracks were usually dedicated to each of the Beach Boys’ vocals (the five-piece group was by then being regularly augmented by singer Bruce Johnston, who later became a permanent member). The last track was usually reserved for additional vocals and/or instruments and other ‘sweetening’ elements.

Provisional tracks and Capitol’s insistence

Wilson was back in the studio with his session band, laying down the first takes for a new composition, “Good Vibrations”. Around February 23, Wilson gave Capitol a provisional track listing for the new LP, which included both “Sloop John B” and “Good Vibrations.” This contradicts the long held misconception that “Sloop John B” was a forced inclusion as the hit single at Capitol’s insistence: in late February, the song was weeks away from release.

Wilson worked through February and into March fine-tuning the backing tracks. To the group’s surprise he also dropped “Good Vibrations” from the running order, telling them that he wanted to spend more time on it. Al Jardine remembers:

“At the time, we all had assumed that “Good Vibrations” was going to be on the album, but Brian decided to hold it out. It was a judgment call on his part; we felt otherwise but left the ultimate decision up to him.”

Most of March and early April was devoted to recording the remaining backing tracks and to the crucial recording of vocals, a process which proved to be the most exacting work the group had hitherto undertaken, as Mike Love later recalled:

“We worked and worked on the harmonies and, if there was the slightest little hint of a sharp or a flat, it wouldn’t go on. We would do it over again until it was right. [Brian] was going for every subtle nuance that you could conceivably think of. Every voice had to be right, every voice and its resonance and tonality had to be right. The timing had to be right. The timbre of the voices just had to be correct, according to how he felt. And then he might, the next day, completely throw that out and we might have to do it over again.”

Heralding the psychedelic era

Brian Wilson’s response when asked about acid and the song “Hang On To Your Ego”:

“Yeah. I had taken a few drugs, and I had gotten into that kind of thing. I guess it just came up naturally.”—Brian Wilson,

Brian appeared to become interested in Eastern philosophy and the psychedelic experience, in particular; often pointing to ego loss, or ego-death, as the key to a better way of living:

“Studying metaphysics was also crucial, but Koestler’s book really was the big one for me.”—Brian Wilson

Along with Revolver and The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, Pet Sounds is one of the first psychedelic rock masterpieces with its artful experiments, psychedelic lyrics, and new sounds on guitars, organs, pianos and other instruments. Pet Sounds created worlds that only existed on tape and which couldn’t necessarily be duplicated on stage, even with the help of an orchestra. The resulting album is a touching plea for love and understanding. While psychedelic drugs inspired the Beatles to look at the problems in the world around them, they made Brian Wilson turn his attention inward and probe his emotional longings and his deep-seated self-doubts.

Pet Sounds, Revolver and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, relics of the first era of psychedelic rock and shining testaments to what can be accomplished in the recording studio when folks are fueled on the potent drug of rampant imagination.


In 1966, several rock releases were arguably concept albums in the sense that they presented a set of thematically-linked songs – and they also instigated other rock artists to consider using the album format in a similar fashion: Pet Sounds was a musical portrayal of Brian Wilson’s state of mind at the time (and a major inspiration to Paul McCartney). Although it has a unified theme in its emotional content, the writers (Brian Wilson and Tony Asher) have said continuously that it was not necessarily intended to be a narrative. However, Brian Wilson has stated that the idea of the record being a “concept album” is mainly within the way the album was produced and structured.


Although not originally a big seller for the band, Pet Sounds has been influential since the day it was released. Rapturously received in Britain, it was lauded in the music press and championed by many top rock stars. The Beatles, for example, have said that Pet Sounds was a major influence on their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Paul McCartney has repeatedly named it as one of his favorite albums (with “God Only Knows” as his favorite song) – completing a circle begun by The Beatles’ influence on Wilson. McCartney stated that:

“It was Pet Sounds that blew me out of the water. I love the album so much. I’ve just bought my kids each a copy of it for their education in life … I figure no one is educated musically ’til they’ve heard that album … I love the orchestra, the arrangements … it may be going overboard to say it’s the classic of the century … but to me, it certainly is a total, classic record that is unbeatable in many ways … I’ve often played Pet Sounds and cried. I played it to John [Lennon] so much that it would be difficult for him to escape the influence … it was the record of the time. The thing that really made me sit up and take notice was the bass lines … and also, putting melodies in the bass line. That I think was probably the big influence that set me thinking when we recorded Pepper, it set me off on a period I had then for a couple of years of nearly always writing quite melodic bass lines. “God Only Knows” is a big favourite of mine … very emotional, always a bit of a choker for me, that one. On “You Still Believe in Me”, I love that melody – that kills me … that’s my favourite, I think … it’s so beautiful right at the end … comes surging back in these multi-coloured harmonies … sends shivers up my spine.”

Other artists have also cited Pet Sounds as one of the all time classic albums. Eric Clapton stated that “All of us, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and I consider Pet Sounds to be one of the greatest pop LPs to ever be released. It encompasses everything that’s ever knocked me out and rolled it all into one.”

Elton John has said of the album, “For me to say that I was enthralled would be an understatement. I had never heard such magical sounds, so amazingly recorded. It undoubtedly changed the way that I, and countless others, approached recording. It is a timeless and amazing recording of incredible genius and beauty.”

Beatles producer George Martin stated that “Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper wouldn’t have happened… Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds.”

“It was just so much more than a record; it had such a spiritual quality. It wasn’t going in and doing another top ten. It had so much more meaning than that.”

Bob Dylan has said of Brian Wilson’s talents, “That ear – I mean, Jesus, he’s got to will that to the Smithsonian.”

Roger Waters stated that along with Sgt Pepper, Pet Sounds “completely changed everything about records for me.”

Elvis Costello stated “Last summer, I heard “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)” played on the cello. It sounded beautiful and sad, just as it does on Pet Sounds.”

In May 1966, Bruce Johnston flew to London with copies of Pet Sounds and recalls Keith Moon loving the album.[38] Keith later stated “Pet Sounds was too far removed from the style he loved”.

Pete Townshend stated “‘God Only Knows’ is simple and elegant and was stunning when it first appeared; it still sounds perfect”.

Tom Petty stated “I think I would put him up there with any composer – especially Pet Sounds. I don’t think there is anything better than that, necessarily. I don’t think you’d be out of line comparing him to Beethoven – to any composer.”

Via Wikipedia

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