How Did They Get Those Sounds?
June 20, 2008 7:44 AM   Subscribe

Looking for technical info (gear, configurations, studio acoustics, etc.) on the recording sessions for early Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello albums.

Specifically, "Look Sharp," "I'm the Man," "My Aim is True," and "This Year's Model."

Would like to get pointers to web resources (my Google foo fails me) magazine articles (scans if possible), and other resources.

posted by ZenMasterThis to Technology (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
On the two disc re-release of "My Aim Is True", EC goes into some detail about the recording process IIRC. Essentially though what you're hearing is the sound of piss poor equipment played in anger. The one factoid that sticks in my mind is that the drum sound for Watching The Detectives was achieved by over-amplifying the drums *just* to the point of distortion - and then compressing them (i think).

One of the bonus tracks on the re-release is a take of another song recorded literally minutes after "Detectives" with the drums set to the same levels. It's the same "sound" but it sounds dreadful.

\going to go and listen to it now!
posted by Jofus at 7:53 AM on June 20, 2008

Alex Call says:
Elvis Costello was at that time Dec McManus, he was using his real name. He was just this mild-mannered, meek little songwriter who would hang out around Stiff Records, which was our management office. Elvis once said, "Man, I wish I could sing like you." He went to cut some demos, and they used Clover. Huey and I did not participate in those recordings because they had no need for us, but I remember they went and cut at this little place called Pathways - a little 8-track studio so small that all you had just enough space to play your instrument. They went in that first session, and in one session they cut "Alison" and "Red Shoes" and "Less Than Zero," these classic songs. I remember hearing them at this Rock 'n' Roll house we lived in outside of Headley, South of London called the Headley Grange House. John McFee brought back a reel-to-reel tape on one of those old Wollensak tape recorders. He played this stuff, and I mean, I was ready to quit after hearing that - it was so astounding. They did like three 8-12 hour sessions, and that was My Aim Is True, that album.
So find out what Pathways had back then (besides what's mentioned above) and what Clover were playing.
posted by pracowity at 11:17 AM on June 20, 2008

Tim Crowther says (about Pathway with no s):
The studio closed a few years ago. I am a guitarist and I recorded three albums there in the early 1990s, one with my power trio Groon, the others with Geoff Serle and King Crimson violinist David Cross. The studio was owned by Mike Finesilver and the engineers we used were Justin Underhill and Jim Coustance. It was a very low key place, a bit cold and damp with a unique sweet musty smell that clung to your clothes and equipment for days afterwards. The studio was very small, about 8 x 8 metres with a 2 x 2m control booth in the corner and an upright piano next to it. You could just squeeze three people into the control booth! The tape deck was a Brennell 1 inch 8 track. The monitors and desk were custom made, and they had a pair of Auratones as well, fed from Quad power amps. The desk was quite small, pushed hard against the front wall with the custom monitors hung above and the Auratones on the meter bridge. Outboard was very basic: a Bel delay line, an Alesis digital reverb and Drawmer gates, but they had a nice plate reverb in a cupboard in the office upstairs. I can't recall all the mics but they were the industry standard stuff. We got big warm sounding mixes and despite the cramped conditions the mixing process seemed effortless compared to the difficult digital learning curve I have been on in the last two years.
posted by pracowity at 11:26 AM on June 20, 2008

Pictures of Squeeze at Pathway. Some equipment and layout visible.
posted by pracowity at 11:30 AM on June 20, 2008

Depending on which sites you check, Look Sharp and This Year's Model were both recorded at Eden Studios. You'll have to verify that yourself. Eden closed down recently, but maybe you can find out more (or make contacts, if you appear to be worth their time) by writing to Natalie Horton (, who was the studio manager at the time it folded.
posted by pracowity at 1:29 AM on June 21, 2008

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