That’s what we have in Ken Scott’s book, Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust, a detailed chronicling of one of the most fertile times of popular music recording. This first-person narrative is rich in historical documentation, technical detail, and the indelible memories of a great engineer who pulled all-nighters (a lot of them) with the Beatles. And of course he didn’t spend quality time with just the Beatles. He also worked with David Bowie, Elton John, Billy Cobham, the Brecker brothers, John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck, Steve Morse, Kansas, Supertramp, and many others.
Scott’s writing style is anecdotal, humble and disarming, evidenced by subtitles such as How George Martin Nearly Fired Me … a Third Time. He relates, with universal pathos, how a relatively unsophisticated 16-year-old landed a job at EMI (later Abbey Road) studios in the entry-level jobs of “button pusher” (tape machine operator) and “cutter” (editor) before he was ever allowed to touch a fader. Then fate intervenes and Scott suddenly finds himself behind the board for the second half of Magical Mystery Tour. He describes in vivid detail how he gets through it, having to take charge while being scared to death of making a mistake and getting tossed from the project, the studio, and his career.
You can see Ken Scott is a great talent with a great story to tell. But part of what makes the experience so satisfying is the support team behind Scott’s raconteurial skills. Mike Lawson and Bobby Owsinski, two veteran music industry and publishing veterans, conceived and co-wrote (respectively) the book with Scott. It is a model of what all tech books should be.
The book weighs in at over 400 pages, so you really get your money’s worth. But the creative team has employed some very nifty mechanisms that really make the book appealing on many levels. For example, if you read just the body text, the book becomes a page-turner, and you breeze through Scott’s narrative in a linear fashion, as he recounts his amazing life and career. But if you’re hankering for some technical depth, you can refer to the shaded sidebars that liberally pepper the chapters. To some tech types, this hard data will be some of the most intriguing and tangible info in the book.
There is a lot of artwork, including photos (both within the chapters and in a special insert section), technical illustrations, track sheets, and ephemera (such as a signed greeting card from George Harrison urging Scott to quit smoking). In another nifty production addition, the authors have gathered the recollections of witnesses to complement Scott’s accounts of events, offsetting these quotations in italics. And finally, to help with a more modular and less linear read, helpful subheads appear every few paragraphs throughout the text.
We are grateful to Ken Scott for his memories, in that they produced such a riveting story. But this is a book that also gives inspiration and hope to all of us who may sometimes wonder whether we’ve chosen the right path. He may not have matched the monetary wealth or garnered the fame of the musicians he worked so closely with, but Ken Scott lived his life for music, and it is a life well lived. And we are all richer for it.—Jon Chappell
|This Week on HC|
You many have noticed your inbox is a little more active with messages from GrooveZoo, the online community for musical collaboration. These notices read “Open Session” in the subject line, and are invitations to come and check out the compositions and works in progress by others.
Depending on your profile, you receive these messages only if you’ve logged some style or skill set that may be beneficial to the person who’s sent the invitation. The session might need your help because of an instrument you play, a style of music you’re conversant in, or the types of artists you’ve listed as favorites.Whatever the reason for the invitation landing in your inbox, the main point is that someone is seeking help, direction, or creative input that you may be able to provide. It’s the perfect opportunity to try out your producer chops, to exercise your mettle as a sideman given an assignment to play an appropriate track, or just to lend a helping hand. If your efforts don’t make the final cut, no biggie; it’s just a thought or a couple of passes through a different piece of music for you. But if you do strike a nerve with the session host, it could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
By Craig Anderton
We reviewed this last year with guitar, but it turns out to work great with bass, too. This article includes guitar and bass audio examples, as well as a "Quick Take" summary video.
By Phil O'Keefe
Fixed, cocked and locked, parked, cracked—regardless of what you call it, a stationary wah can be a terrific tonal tool
By Jon Cohan
By Jon Chappell
For video recording, use a handheld audio recorder whenever possible
|Featured Industry News|
This week's pick hits from our News section
Small production runs of the Verbrovibe, Royal Reverb, and Blue Lamp 112 now available.
Three sizes to fit all musical styles, these offer the power and the crack to cut through.
Paul Reed Smith custom designed these p’ups to capture the iconic tones of 1950’s-era guitars.
72 mic inputs, dynamic EQ, multiband compressors, and more make this a must for contractors and production companies.
The distinctive sound of Alnico V pickups in both the neck and bridge are now available in the ASAT Classic.
Thousands of dollars’ worth of prizes from the Loop Loft, SoundCloud, and Propellerhead for the best loop-based composition.
A wireless mic system for accordion players now allows them to move freely about the stage.
The popular arranger and series author turns his talents toward the best of Broadway.
A focused line of products aimed at production and rental companies, AV and professional sound reinforcement applications hits the road.
A new software update includes a set of brand new Lo-Fi FX, plus a collection of 50 additional Amp Profiles collected from a range of guitarists with outstanding amp setups.
A few of this week's top discussions from our Forums
Many people don’t know the tonal differences between a 10" and a 12" speaker, so this thread explores the distinction, and even using some simple math. While we’re on the subject, what are the advantages of a 2x12 cab over a 1x12? Is a dual-speaker configuration worth the extra weight and cost?
How do the Sub and “by Sterling” models stack up against the real thing? Find out here.
The Recording Trenches forum debates the merits of various condenser mics, and describe how they’re used.
These types of threads always bring out a wealth of advice, and the Keys, Synths, & Samplers forum doesn’t disappoint.
J. Backlund makes elegantly retro-futuristic guitar designs that are drool-worthy but expensive. Now the company as found a way to keep the look and feel while bringing the price down: they’ve announced a Korean-made line. And it has sparked much discussion,with thousands of views, and hundreds of posts.
Does re-arranging a faster song to a more downtempo, acoustic-based version end up as a crowd-please or a snoozefest? Opinions definitely vary in this discussion.
It’s not so much selling out, as just . . . well . . . deteriorating to a lower common denominator. Got any nominations?
Where else but the HC Forums can you get such expert advice on a guitar repair, just by uploading photos? The opening poster’s Ovation had an unusual neck-alignment problem, and by posting pix and following instructions (like fitting a straightedge against the fingerboard and then photographing it), he was able to get an accurate diagnosis.
One mark of a sophisticated song is that it modulates, or changes key at an important point in the song (often the bridge or final verse). In this thread in the Songwriting forum, you can learn all about this dramatic technique, including the difference between a “shift” and “pivot chord” modulation.
Actually the article that’s referenced applies to all musicians, and relates to why recording yourself on video periodically can help you improve on multiple levels.
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Editorial Craig Anderton, Editor in Chief • Jon Chappell, Senior Editor • Phil O’Keefe, Associate Editor • Chris Loeffler, Reviews Editor
HarmonyCentral.com is the leading Internet resource for musicians, supplying valuable information from news and product reviews, to classified ads and chat rooms.