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Old 23rd February 2003
Re: "It Sound so 80s"

Originally posted by Bernd G
After multitrack, would some of the most significant changes to the recording process have happened through the 80's ?

Lovely comments everyone I have been trying to get to the bottom of this "80s sound", if there ever was one... . It would be great to start a new thread, but I do not wish to bore you gentlemen. One can see Trevor Horn's "vision" on things like "Owner of a Lonely Heart". I just listened to this again and really think it pointed to the future at the time.
Early digital era 8-bit vs. early 16-bit quantization noise, distortions, low sampling rates etc. (I believe this is what Al described as lack of transients in digital). Drummachines ! Linn, MPCs - distorted and quantized sounds. But what I think is most fascinating is the crass polarity in complexity between synthsounds and "real sounds" (i.e. sounds recorded with microphones) , a theme that seems to run throughout the 80s (FM anyone?). BTW, what kind of stuff did SAW produce?
Of course a marked difference in London vs. NY sound. Could it be that U.K. producers never so much cared about the "fidelity" of the production, but rather about finding new and interesting sounds? This, of course, is not to slag off the talents on the other side of the Atlantic (B. Swedien, Quincy Jones etc.)
BTW. When did it first become so popular to use electro-compressors?


Looking back at the 80's(when I firsted started in the biz) the biggest "ripple" in how music was produced was the advent of MIDI(including the Yamaha DX7).

It changed the whole process and it gave a whole lot of technical geeks(like myself) a chance to be cool by making music.

I think in the 80's the best and most adventurous music came out of the U.K.(this is a biased opinion coming from tech geek remember).heh

The synths gave you whole new pallette of fresh sounds to orchestrate from. Also coming out of the four on the floor disco era and the edginess of punk, early 80's music was like a combination(before they killed it and saturated it of course). I think the biggest splash came from 2 bands-Soft Cell and The Human League. They proved that you could have a hit record(here in the states and abroad) without "live musicians". This totally revolutinized the industry. The music industry was sagging(almost like it is now) and this gave them a whole new face into which to put "new" spins on(it also didn't hurt that these bands were androgynous ala "Bowie"and this created controversy in itself).

I think the programming had more to do with the "lack of transients" not the units(I mixed rap for a long time and the"pop"you can get out of an old EMU SP12 is amaxing).

SAW produced lots of pop hits (Banarama-"Cruel Summer",Rick Astley,Kylie Minogue,Samantha Fox and many others that I am sure they are still getting their royalty checks from).

The usage of lots of comps on mixes was probably popularized the most by Tom Lord Alge and Chris Lord Alge over at Unique Recording Studios. In its day Unique Recording Studios had the biggest collection of midi keyboards in America(and i was there). A lot of the "big"keyboard records were produced and mixed there. Tom was one of the first guys to do mixes(for keyboard songs) strictly on the SSL alone(no outboard, which of course has changed if you look at his and his brother's collection). He and Chris popularized a sound which was not "sappy"like a lot of the records out of LA, but "jumpin and poppin"which worked great on the radio(which they continue to this day).

The other person that popularized the sound was Bob Clearmountain. Bob's name speaks for itself. Just look at the hit songs from the 80's and see who mixed them. Bob probably mixed over 70% of them(and this is not an exageration). Bob pioneered the role of the mixer as an important part of the production process(he is also an SSL guy). To me as a mixer, he is the standard by which anyone is judged. He is still doing his thing, sure he doesn't work on as many hits(hey could you imagine Bob doing a Nelly mix?) But once in a while a gem sneaks out from his Mix This studio.