Thursday, March 20, 2008

Home Studio Recording then and now

I was dipping once again into Eddie Shaw's 'Black Monk Time' (a really entertaining read whether you like the Monk's music or not), when I came across this passage:

...We found the only studio in Heidelburg, situated in the house of of an elderly man. We had never seen a recording studio before, and he had never recorded a beat band before. We stacked our equipment against the wall, in a room containing just enough standing room for five people and a couch. The old man then warned us that the recording wouldn't sound good if we played loud. We recorded two songs, originally written by Dave and Gary. In compliance with the old man's directions, we almost whispered the words to "Boys are Boys," and "There She Walks."
Having listened to western music in East Germany, Angelika's new knowledge was somehow disappointing. If only the East Germans knew. It had to be one of the best kept secrets of the cold war. How many kids would enjoy those romantic reveries if they knew how the records were made? "Only You," her favorite song in the East Zone, would never sound the same. Certainly it had been recorded in someone's house, as in an old-fashioned photographer's studio with a couch and family photographs, and cooking smells from the kitchen.
I wonder what the 'old man' thought of this recording session - and exactly what was his 'studio' intended for when not being used by four ex-servicemen stationed in Germany 40+ years ago.
Strange how so much has changed in a few short years since the introduction of the digital audio work station. A few microphones, a functioning computer, some free software and you have a recording studio. Add some instruments, production skills and a heap of talent and you've got all you need to make great music and chase the big four out of town! They make product, not music.
I found out that Dave Day of the Monks, the world's foremost (possibly only) exponent of the electrified banjo passed on recently. His playing on 'Black Monk Time' is a great contribution to the music world and surely his like will never been seen or heard again.

It is 42 years since the release of "Black Monk Time" and it still kicks ass due in large part to Dave's staccato hacking and chopping on the banjo strings. Great stuff indeed. Surprisingly unavailable on iTunes so you might just have to find it on CD. A vinyl copy might actually be worth something. Very rare I'm sure. No sign of it on E-bay at present. You can get the CD as an import from Amazon, or so the Monks' official website says. Oh, and the 'Black Monk Time' album was not actually recorded in the old man's parlour! It was recorded in a 'real' studio...

... and a special treat is seeing and hearing the singular uberbeat style of the Monks in action in these YouTube videos.

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