Thursday, March 19, 2009

Apocryphal Joni Mitchell stories

Anyone able to help me out?

There's a story I heard many years ago that may not be true but certainly should be. Joni Mithcell is in the studio, not happy with the way a recording is sounding. She asks the engineer if he's ever been to Paris. He replies that he has. She asks if he went to the Louvre. He did. Does he recall a particular painting? He thinks he does. There's a particular shade of blue in one corner, says Joni. Make it sound like that.

Anyway, great story and all, but I'm not sure I've got the details right, and can't find it online. Anyone able to corroborate or provide a reference?

Please feel free to use this thread to share other possibly apocyrphal musical anecdotes.

[Since you ask... I'm writing some career profiles for a magazine for sixth formers, and this seemed like the perfect intro for the 'sound engineer' one]

10 comments:

Chris said...

Sorry, barbryn, I can't help with your Joni story but I have a similar, true, Grateful Dead tale.
In 1967 the boys had been given unlimited studio time by Warner Bros to record/assemble Anthem Of The Sun and were discovering what you could do with all those (analogue) toys, much to annoyance of the 'official' producer, Dave Hassinger. In one song, Born Cross-Eyed, Bob Weir insisted he needed to fill a gap with the sound of 'thick air'. Exit producer, stage left, muttering.

TatankaYotanka said...

A few years back, Jackie Leven used to tell a story of getting roundly cussed by Joni after he inadvertently stepped on the back of her heel in Soho one evening. In Jackie's story, on returning to his local (The Warwick Castle in Little Venice) his response to being asked what he'd been up to was, " ... just been spending some time with Joni Mitchell"

goneforeign said...

One recording studio incident comes to mind, in the early 70's I was at Capitol in Hollywood with Quicksilver, they were mixing 'What About Me', it was well past midnight. All the joints had gone so Cippolina called Ron Polte, the manager in SF, he said he'd do what he could. A messenger arrived about 90 mins later with a large paper shopping bag, it contained a kilo of high end weed. Dino Valenti outraged the Capital tech staff by dumping it all on the mixing board to clean it! He then rolled a dozen very large spliffs which he lined up along the top of the board. Then he added insult to injury by demanding TWO 120" ips Ampex 2" recorders just to use for echo! All at 2am!
Dan Healy their chief engineer was so pleased with the sculptural quality of the huge stack of electronic gear he'd assembled he asked me to do a complete photo essay on it.

Shoey said...

Never got Joni (& the a are not really helping). What am I missing?

Shoey said...

That should be anecdotes (sp). My bad.

Chris said...

Aw, c'mon goneforeign, you must have a whole stack of stories if you were around West Coast bands in the early seventies. Is there not a book?!

I presume the Dan Healy you mention was the Grateful Dead's main sound man for almost 30 years, finally sacked for keeping Bob Weir out of the live sound mix (as Healy thought he could do Weir's job better).

goneforeign said...

Chris: Healy 'floated' amongst several SF bands of that era, not sure how he handled conflicting gigs but I usually saw him at QS events.
There was an old house on the mudflats in Marin, a totally deserted area, it was shared by the Dead, QS, Airplane et al as a rehearsal place. I was there one night and suddenly Greg Elmore [drummer] roared through the door and into the living room on a brand new Harley, "Hey man, where'd you get that" everyone shouted, "Oh, I told Polte I wanted a bike and he told me to go to the dealers and sign for it, he'd cover it!" "Jeez, I'm gonna get me one of them tomorrow" said everyone in the room.
I don't know about Weir's ability at a mixing board but I suspect Healy was probably better, he lived for that, that was his life.
Somewhere here I've got a 'bulletin' put out by the Dead for the fans in the early 70's, it was written by Healy and it describes in detail with tech diagrams and illustrations a one million watts per channel sound system for use at outdoor events. The back of the very wide stage is stacked with banks of amps and speakers to a height of approx 20 ft; he wanted to get loud, clear undistorted sound at a quarter mile. I don't know if it ever went beyond the design stage.
We didn't worry about tinnitus in those days, do now though.

Chris said...

gf: keep them stories a comin'!

No, I meant Healy kept Weir's guitar out of the sound mix as Healy thought he should be on stage doing the playing!

Healy and his cohorts (including Bear, aka Owsley Stanley III) did create a Wall Of Sound for the Dead in 1974. It contained 604 speakers and had a potential 27,000 watts of power, with each instrument and vocal having its own dedicated section. They reckoned it sounded pretty good a quarter of a mile away. But, as it needed up to 26 crew 14 hours to set up, it only lasted for 37 shows. Another way for the band and crew to blow a vast amount of money (in a good cause, though!).

Here's a photo of it.

goneforeign said...

Chris: I hadn't heard about him keeping Weir out of the mix, that could lead to fisticuffs or worse.
I think what I referred to was called the Wall of Sound but maybe they scaled back on the power, I recall reading something about it needing 2-3 18 wheelers to transport it all. I don't have a photo since it was just at the idea stage but there was an illustration and looking at your photo the entire space was solid amps and speakers, no spaces!
This week I had the horror that we all dread, a crash, it deleted all my Safari bookmarks accumulated over several years. Therein there were several very good websites specifically devoted to many of the SF bands and written by those involved. There were reams of great stuff about QS by another English bloke who spent time with them, it might be gone but I'm going to see about the possibilities of recovery. When you showed interest my first thought was to send you the websites then I realised...

sourpus said...

One of my fave apocryphal (musical) tales involves the not-so-legendary Job Sandal, lead singer of 80's Los Angeles neo-nazi underground band The Black List. Apparently, Sandal actually tried to sue one fan for wearing a Prussian picklehaube helmet while he was attempting to crowd surf in just his swastika covered, silk underpants, resulting in pointy tip of the aforementioned headgear becoming temporarily lodged in his outbox wizzway.

For the disinterested present, a moment of poetry to witness, surely?