Who hands over original tape of "Join Together" to Nissan

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 24 15:41:42 CDT 2008

I can't believe they gave this guy the tape...

>From Broadcast Newsroom:

Margarita Mix' Jimmy Hite Remixes Classic Who Track for Nissan

DMN Newswire--2008-9-24--It's not every day that an audio mixer is
asked to recreate the past, but such an opportunity did arise recently
for Margarita Mix's Jimmy Hite. The occasion was an ad for the 2009
Nissan Maxima. For the spot, the automaker's ad agency, TBWA\Chiat\Day,
had licensed the classic 1972 song "Join Together" by The Who, and Hite
was asked to provide flexibility for the final mix by separating the
vocal and instrumental elements. 

Making an alteration to a
36-year-old recording-even a very small one-is not easy. For one thing,
in the '70s, vocals and instrumentals were rarely mixed as separate
tracks, so adjusting a vocal element would require the whole song to be
remixed. And that remixing would have to be done very faithfully. "It
would have to match the original track as exactly as possible because
everyone knows the mix of a classic song " Hite explains. 

Hite was given access to the original analog 16-track recording of the song, produced by rock legend Glyn Johns. But before he could
begin the remix, the tracks had to be converted into a digital format,
and even that proved complicated. The three decades old tape was in
fragile condition and had to go through a baking process-where the tape
is placed in a specially configured convection oven-before it could be
played back on a tape deck and be converted to digital. "Old tape tends
to suffer from a shedding process where the oxide begins to come off
the polymer backing and playing it could destroy it," Hite says. "The
baking process stabilizes it." 

As Hite delved into the original
tracks, he began to gain a sense of how difficult it would be to
accurately reproduce the original mix (as a reference for that, he used
an off-the-shelf CD recording). It would take more than trying to set
the right levels by ear, it would require recreating the ambience of
the original recording studio. 

"Every studio has its unique
collection of gear. Songs are mixed through a certain equalizer, a
certain compressor, a certain toy here and there. That's why you can't
take a recording from one studio to another and get the same sound,"
Hite observes. "Every studio is a snowflake."

Attempting to
reproduce the idiosyncrasies of the original studio as well as the many
echoes and delays built into the track by Johns would be terribly
time-consuming, even for the 30-second section used in the spot. Hite
instead decided to remix only the vocal segments and to marry that with
the original mix. There again was a small hurdle to overcome in that
part of the process due to a quirk of analog technology. 
"Tape machines are not like digital recorders, the playback speed
varies ever so slightly from one use to the next," Hite says. "To make
the remix blend seamlessly with the original mix, I had to adjust the
pitch by 1/200ths of a semitone."

Working so closely with the
tracks, Hite, a longtime fan of the Who, gained insight into how the
original recording was made. "I got to hear things that they ultimately
didn't use-like a penny whistle Pete Townsend played in the middle of
the track - and parts of the chorus that were edited out to shorten the
song - likely done for AM radio play" he recalls. "It also turned out
that the synthesizer was recorded first, probably by Pete in his home studio, and the band played to it. It was really great to have a chance
to hear that-it's stuff that hasn't seen the light of day for 30 years."

 -Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!


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