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Author Topic: Good Vibrations tracking/ mixing studios?  (Read 1645 times)
CenturyDeprived
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« on: July 07, 2022, 09:33:04 AM »

A friend of mine emailed me a BBs question that I am unable to answer, but I figure somebody on this board would know.

Was any of Good Vibrations tracked or mixed at Capitol Studios?

I suppose the question would also include unreleased portions of the song, since I know there were so many different sessions which wound up not being used in the final released version edit.

Thanks in advance!
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2022, 02:19:53 PM »

No work on Good Vibrations was done at Capitol, other than, I suppose mastering?  Everything was tracked at Gold Star, Western, Sunset Sound, or Columbia, and the final mix(es) were done at Columbia on their 8-track machine.
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sloopjohnb72
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« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2022, 08:41:00 PM »

Yes, and the one session that took place at Sunset Sound was not used in the final version. The only thing from Sunset you can hear in the final mix is the piano during the first bridge, which was actually moved to Western for that date. So the backing track is made up of pieces from just Western and Gold Star - Gold Star being the verses, and Western being the rest. Overdubs, like the theremin, cello, tambourine, and all of the vocals, were recorded at Columbia. Despite some comments from Brian and Chuck Britz, RCA was never used for Good Vibrations.
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CenturyDeprived
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« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2022, 12:47:55 AM »

Appreciate the help!  Smiley
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guitarfool2002
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« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2022, 08:41:34 AM »

I want to flash back to 2011 and take an opinion poll: This was something I noticed on the familiar silent film shot at Western that was in the American Band doc, where Brian and Chuck are working with an 8-track machine in Western 3. Do you think they are mixing Good Vibrations in this clip?

Here's the link to the original thread (fascinating info, thanks especially to Donny L and everyone who contributed back then)

http://smileysmile.net/board/index.php/topic,10570.msg194833.html#msg194833

And here are the screen shots I took and posted showing the tape machine in action:

Speaking of Chuck, here he is taking a drag:


Another shot of him at the tape machine:


Can anyone identify this magazine Carl is holding? I don't recognize the cover:



Here's a neat one: Behind a layer of darkness this shot in the film revealed another man sitting in the control room. Does anyone have a guess as to who this guy could be?



Now we have two mystery men from that film: The guy wearing the white shirt and tie (most likely a studio employee), and this guy sitting behind Brian. And note the fire extinguisher hanging on the wall to the right side of the photo. Smiley

It's all very confusing, indeed! Why would Heider's have 8 modules when as you said, the Dynatrack was 8 tracks grouped as 2-times-4 tracks? Bizarre.

One more piece of evidence, compare this photo dated January 1967 to the film: Same studio control room Western 3, same people Brian, VDP, Chuck, and there is that same tape machine as the film, 8 tracks. You can see more of the rack units behind Brian's hat.



The magazine Carl is reading was identified as a German magazine called "Bravo", the issue dated September 24, 1966 which would place the filming date as Fall '66.

I think they're mixing GV in the film...anyone else 11 years after that find and discussion here agree?
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« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2022, 01:33:46 PM »

Intriguing possibility, but there are a number of quotes from Brian and others about mixing Good Vibrations to mono at Columbia. Plus, Good Vibrations has the trademark Columbia step fade, which is a dead giveaway whenever it appears. The final mixdown box is dated September 26 which would be cutting it close for Carl to get hold of that magazine from Germany.

Two plausible sessions, as far as I can tell, are October 5 and October 11. If it's October 5, Brian had just been using that 8-track machine to record Wind Chimes with Van Dyke (who's there in some other footage). If October 11, it'd be following a Child tracking session and presumably dubbing that and/or Cabin Essence over to 8-track before taking the tape and the Boys over to Columbia to record vocals that same evening. Either way, I think this is probably sometime after the GV promo shoot where they'd used those fire hats.
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« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2022, 07:36:06 AM »

This is the Bravo magazine cover with Ringo on it

Also available on eBay
https://www.ebay.com/itm/125298330387
« Last Edit: July 11, 2022, 07:36:43 AM by Vale » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2022, 06:40:06 PM »

Intriguing possibility, but there are a number of quotes from Brian and others about mixing Good Vibrations to mono at Columbia. Plus, Good Vibrations has the trademark Columbia step fade, which is a dead giveaway whenever it appears. The final mixdown box is dated September 26 which would be cutting it close for Carl to get hold of that magazine from Germany.

Two plausible sessions, as far as I can tell, are October 5 and October 11. If it's October 5, Brian had just been using that 8-track machine to record Wind Chimes with Van Dyke (who's there in some other footage). If October 11, it'd be following a Child tracking session and presumably dubbing that and/or Cabin Essence over to 8-track before taking the tape and the Boys over to Columbia to record vocals that same evening. Either way, I think this is probably sometime after the GV promo shoot where they'd used those fire hats.

Interesting. I didn't think it was *the* GV mixdown, but wanted to hear some other opinions so this is cool. Van Dyke is indeed in the film, and wearing a fire hat too! So yes it feels a little late for a GV mix session, and could very well be Wind Chimes or Cabinessence.

Obviously we can only piece together some of the threadbare evidence to try to date the film, but what strikes me is if it were one of those Smile sessions, why would all the Beach Boys be there? The firehats are pretty self explanatory, they had them around for the film and eventually the actual Fire track session, but why would all the Boys be at Western 3 if it was Brian dubbing down or mixing a track? Carl, yes, Van Dyke, yes, but what were they all doing there?
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2022, 10:48:48 PM »

but what were they all doing there?

It's a good question.  One explanation might be that they were simply there to appear on the film.  Could be a semi-staged thing at the end of a real session.
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« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2022, 11:31:53 PM »

Intriguing possibility, but there are a number of quotes from Brian and others about mixing Good Vibrations to mono at Columbia. Plus, Good Vibrations has the trademark Columbia step fade, which is a dead giveaway whenever it appears. The final mixdown box is dated September 26 which would be cutting it close for Carl to get hold of that magazine from Germany.

Two plausible sessions, as far as I can tell, are October 5 and October 11. If it's October 5, Brian had just been using that 8-track machine to record Wind Chimes with Van Dyke (who's there in some other footage). If October 11, it'd be following a Child tracking session and presumably dubbing that and/or Cabin Essence over to 8-track before taking the tape and the Boys over to Columbia to record vocals that same evening. Either way, I think this is probably sometime after the GV promo shoot where they'd used those fire hats.

Interesting. I didn't think it was *the* GV mixdown, but wanted to hear some other opinions so this is cool. Van Dyke is indeed in the film, and wearing a fire hat too! So yes it feels a little late for a GV mix session, and could very well be Wind Chimes or Cabinessence.

Obviously we can only piece together some of the threadbare evidence to try to date the film, but what strikes me is if it were one of those Smile sessions, why would all the Beach Boys be there? The firehats are pretty self explanatory, they had them around for the film and eventually the actual Fire track session, but why would all the Boys be at Western 3 if it was Brian dubbing down or mixing a track? Carl, yes, Van Dyke, yes, but what were they all doing there?

That's why Oct 11 is the one I sort of lean towards - could be they all convened to hear a playback before heading a couple of minutes down the street to Columbia. It's the only date at Western that month with a group vocal session occuring right after. Or, as Joshilyn says, could be semi-staged.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2022, 06:39:20 AM by WillJC » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2022, 07:15:27 AM »

I have to think it wasn't staged because if you watch, the meters on the 8-track machine are actually moving, and Brian is directing Chuck to stop or roll back the tape they're working on, so they are "working". And I could be mistaken, please correct if I am, but the film itself was shot by Dennis, as he did often at this time and which explains why he's not in the film. Plus if you look close, there are too many people in Western 3 (in the background) for this to have been staged, and I think it's an actual working session that Dennis just happened to film.

I don't have the info in front of me, but on October 11 '66, did they really book Western 3 AND Columbia on that same day? I realize they were close to each other, but that seems unusual to me for some reason. Any info on why that was the case and why if they had 8-track at Western they didn't just stay there and save the hassle? I agree the October 11th date could be the most plausible, but we'd also need to check what the actual release date of that German magazine was apart from the date on the issue itself, since they often didn't match and were a month or so off.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2022, 07:16:19 AM by guitarfool2002 » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2022, 08:25:37 AM »

I have to think it wasn't staged because if you watch, the meters on the 8-track machine are actually moving, and Brian is directing Chuck to stop or roll back the tape they're working on, so they are "working". And I could be mistaken, please correct if I am, but the film itself was shot by Dennis, as he did often at this time and which explains why he's not in the film. Plus if you look close, there are too many people in Western 3 (in the background) for this to have been staged, and I think it's an actual working session that Dennis just happened to film.

I don't have the info in front of me, but on October 11 '66, did they really book Western 3 AND Columbia on that same day? I realize they were close to each other, but that seems unusual to me for some reason. Any info on why that was the case and why if they had 8-track at Western they didn't just stay there and save the hassle? I agree the October 11th date could be the most plausible, but we'd also need to check what the actual release date of that German magazine was apart from the date on the issue itself, since they often didn't match and were a month or so off.

Who knows, Western was gonna be booked up? Brian preferred the sound he got from vocals at Columbia? That day he recorded the second Child track at Western from 2pm to 6pm (mistakenly titled 'Cabin Essence' on the AFM sheet), then there's a Capitol worksheet for a 'Home on the Range' vocal session from 8pm to 2am, and the first Cabin Essence mono mix is also marked with that date.

Brian did something similar on October 18 - recorded the Do You Like Worms track at Western, then took Carl to Columbia an hour and a half later to add some vocals. Those vocals were done on 4-track, so I think it may have been a matter of studio availability or sound preference over format. I remember Brian once commenting that he liked Columbia for its vocal sound.
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« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2022, 09:23:05 AM »

By semi-staged, I didn't mean it would've been a complete sham, or anything, just that they were there more for some reason other than working on anything.

I think we are just starting to better understand Brian's relationship with the different studios, and I would buy that thought that the boys showed up to walk over to CBS after Brian was done at Western.  Whether it was a booking thing or a preference thing, there was plenty of studio hopping as a quotidian practice.

I think that I can understand why Brian liked going over to CBS for the group vocals.  It's a lot more spacious for all the entourage to spread out a little bit, and their technology did offer him some more options.  We are talking about Western getting an 8-track, but I'm not sure if the Western 3 console was replaced by a proper 8-track board right away, so that might have been somewhat limiting for mixing purposes, although you could certainly do basic tracking and some sel-sync on the three-track board.  Columbia had a more luxurious vibe and more outboard equipment, not to mention all those AKG c-12s.
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« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2022, 10:35:47 AM »

Info update: that Bravo magazine was published weekly, and the one Carl's reading is actually the October 10 issue, not September 24. Might've just narrowed it down.
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« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2022, 02:48:21 PM »

Definitely great updates! I wasn't sure for years and I don't think anyone clarified until now that Bravo magazine was a weekly in '66. So that definitely narrows it down, if not nails it down.

Brian at this time (1966) did indeed have those preferences for studios, instrumental backings at Western or Gold Star (when they were available) and Columbia for vocals. I've seen that referenced too, if not spoken by the man himself. Whether all the sessions at that time followed that preference or not, it was definitely a factor.

I do think this bit of film busted some of the myths too, after seeing that 8-track at Western. Prior to that, it was just assumed Brian cut at Columbia because they had an 8-track, which was the draw when Bruce suggested cutting there back in '65. But when Brian had 8-track machines at both Western and Columbia by this point in '66 (and maybe sooner?), and still chose to track vocals at Columbia, it suggests it was a matter of preference. He could have done his 1966 "process" at either place by this time, the missing part is still the pedigree and history of that specific 8-track machine. Was it Brian's machine, did Western/Putnam own it and have it housed there in '66, or was it a rental? Who knows. But it was definitely there and in use. Only later into '67 did Western get their own 8-track machines, and they were different models entirely.

I'd hate to have to rewire or find a short on that Columbia board in '66 though. That thing was massive! Same with that patch bay.



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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2022, 05:08:44 PM »

To that end, it's pretty easy to see why one might like recording at Columbia.  Look how spacious --










Compared to Western 3:




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« Reply #16 on: July 15, 2022, 07:53:39 AM »

Those photos almost tell the story, don't they? If you were going for a "wall of sound" style production, you would probably go for the smaller rooms like Western 3 and Gold Star where you could pack all the musicians into the same smaller room and capture (or even harness) more of the leakage and overall ensemble sound which would be confined to however high the ceilings were and how wide the floor itself was. When you see Columbia's room, it looks like it was designed to record large orchestras. It's huge compared to Western, Gold Star the converted dentist office, and Sunset Sound, the converted auto garage. If you put one of Brian's or Spector's instrumental ensembles inside Columbia, you'd have sound bouncing all over the place and you'd lose that tightness in the overall blend of having those instruments crammed into a small room.

That's not saying some great instrumental tracks weren't cut at Columbia, obviously they were, but for Brian and Spector I can see where that room might be too big.

For recording vocals, though, the opposite is true. It would be like recording in an empty cathedral. I can see where having that large of a room would be a great bonus. Again just showing the size of those rooms almost explains how or why Brian preferred cutting instruments at Western and cutting vocals at Columbia at this specific time.

I also found it hilarious how Simon and Garfunkel are dressed 100% like New York cats sitting in a Los Angeles studio.  Grin
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« Reply #17 on: July 17, 2022, 09:28:14 AM »

Pretty sure Brian didn't own an 8-track of his own at that point, but rather rented or leased one. First off, it would have been extreeeemely expensive to buy, as there were likely only a handful in the world at that point (apparently all in the USA, since Abbey Road didn't get a UK-compatible one for almost another two years). Secondly, when they recorded the "Lei'd In Hawaii" shows the following year, it's known they rented a pair of 8-tracks from Heider's - and I believe that initially, at least, that was also the case when they were recording at Brian's house on Bellagio. Not sure if Wally Heider was running a remote recording-related business yet in fall '66, as the first reference I find to his studios is from '67. But he may have been!
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« Reply #18 on: July 17, 2022, 01:03:45 PM »

Pretty sure Brian didn't own an 8-track of his own at that point, but rather rented or leased one. First off, it would have been extreeeemely expensive to buy, as there were likely only a handful in the world at that point (apparently all in the USA, since Abbey Road didn't get a UK-compatible one for almost another two years). Secondly, when they recorded the "Lei'd In Hawaii" shows the following year, it's known they rented a pair of 8-tracks from Heider's - and I believe that initially, at least, that was also the case when they were recording at Brian's house on Bellagio. Not sure if Wally Heider was running a remote recording-related business yet in fall '66, as the first reference I find to his studios is from '67. But he may have been!

Wally's first gig as an independent operator other than engineering in studios was remote recording, years before '67. Then he got into equipment rentals, including some of the first 8 track machines in LA which he paid a lot for but also charged a lot more to rent, so he did well as the go to studio rental guy for that kind of gear.

I only remember someone saying Brian owned an 8 track during Smile but can't remember who or where. Van Dyke?

I also did a ton of research on Wally's operation and history years ago and have some of it on this board, but I dont have the exact details with me now. But he was definitely doing remotes as an independent prior to 66 or 67, mostly jazz and big band recordings.
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« Reply #19 on: July 18, 2022, 10:00:01 AM »

Just adding that one of Wally Heider's earliest if not his first bigger client at his new LA studio was Brian, when work was being done on Smiley Smile in summer 67. I have more details of this somewhere on this board, but it was suggested if I remember that Wally even had a special area set up for Brian to work as the other areas were being built and finished.

So that pegs the timeline of when Wally opened his new brick and mortar studio in LA, at Selma and Cahuenga, to summer '67. So in that same summer Wally would have had Brian there to work on Smiley, he would have rented various gear to Brian for recording at the house, and he rented what was one of the most state of the art 8 track mobile recording setups to Brian, including a custom built console, closed circuit tv monitoring, and several staff members included to record the Hawaii shows in late August. Then in September the guys did the Hawaii rerecords at Wally's LA studio.

The new segment of Wally's businesses at that time would have been his brick and mortar studio, everything else he had been doing in the years prior. And that also includes renting the gear for Monterey Pop in June 67.
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« Reply #20 on: July 19, 2022, 04:52:02 AM »

I've been passed along some diligent research by Cam Mott on Heider's with lots of sources, dates, Dale Manquen recollections, etc. Still trying to wrap my head around everything, but the long and short of it is:

- Heider was doing remote recording for United by at least the 1963 Monterey Jazz Festival

- Wally Heider Recording became a business by June 1964 in an office on Cahuengo Blvd West, and the studio at 6373 Selma Ave was open by August 1964 (there's a Cash Box ad)

- According to Dale Manquen, they used a 3M M-23 8-track prototype to record the September 16-18 1966 Monterey Jazz Fest
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« Reply #21 on: July 19, 2022, 08:40:04 AM »

I've been passed along some diligent research by Cam Mott on Heider's with lots of sources, dates, Dale Manquen recollections, etc. Still trying to wrap my head around everything, but the long and short of it is:

- Heider was doing remote recording for United by at least the 1963 Monterey Jazz Festival

- Wally Heider Recording became a business by June 1964 in an office on Cahuengo Blvd West, and the studio at 6373 Selma Ave was open by August 1964 (there's a Cash Box ad)

- According to Dale Manquen, they used a 3M M-23 8-track prototype to record the September 16-18 1966 Monterey Jazz Fest

It's sad that Dale Manquen passed away 5 years ago, and there was a website dedicated to Wally Heider in the 2000's that is now down and only available on the Wayback Machine archive or whatever it's called where I think most of the original content was archived. This is where Dale Manquen originally posted a lot of this information, including a full description of his experience recording the Beach Boys in Hawaii.

Here's the link:
https://web.archive.org/web/20150511063005/http://wallyheider.com/wordpress/2005/03/recording-the-beach-boys-in-hawaii/

It's fascinating, and it was either here on Smiley later or on a precursor to this forum at that time where I reposted some of that info. I'm the "Craig" who posted more questions to Dale back in 2005 if you scroll all the way down to the comments, and followed up with more that were not published on the site. There was also Stephen Barncard, the Heider engineer who recorded American Beauty for the Dead and Crosby's brilliant solo album "If Only I Could Remember My Name", and I think Stephen ran the Heider site.

Piecing all of it together is difficult because even though legendary albums were recorded at Wally's LA location, much more attention and historical information goes to Wally's San Francisco location. So it's usually piecing together recollections from people like Dale Manquen, Bill Halverson (who also went to Hawaii with the BB's and is shown in the silent film too), and Barncard who experienced it but may not have every exact detail.

Wally's "studio" at Selma and Cahuenga prior to '67 did a lot of dubs and duplications, the meat and potatoes of a studio business. Wally only had what he called "Studio 1" at that time, and if you check around you don't see too many famous or legendary sessions being done there. Again piecing it together, for what was available, a lot of his work was meat and potatoes stuff like voiceovers, dubs/dupes, jingles, etc. His more active operation at that time (if you're pegging it to after '64 referencing the print ad) was his remote recording, and as Manquen said originally, the rental business including those early 3M 8-track machines. And Manquen was involved because he knew those 3M machines intimately, having worked with the engineering and tech aspects through 3M. Wally also had Manquen there on hand in case anything went wrong and they needed to be fixed, he knew the circuitry.

When space became available on that block in LA, Wally acquired it and made plans to design his own "Studio 3" which would be a replica of Bill Putnam's Western 3. According to Halverson, Wally booked time at Western 3 solely to measure dimensions, and take notes on the design and materials of that room so his builder could make a copy at Wally's newly-acquired space. That also included asking producers/engineers like Bones Howe what kind of gear and capabilities they would need at the new studio to woo them over to Wally's and start booking time. So that was done too, and soon Wally began booking higher-profile clients like Bones Howe at Wally's "Studio 3"...which again was basically a hot-rodded version of Western 3 where Bones had been cutting hit after hit.

And obviously with Western 3 being Brian's go-to studio as well, Brian was similarly convinced to start booking at Wally's new "3", which also solved his problem of Western 3 and his other favored rooms being booked up and unavailable.

So the issue isn't so much when Wally opened his studio overall, that was indeed around the time that ad would have appeared. But it was when Wally had his Studio 3 operational and available for sessions, and that would likely have been at the time Brian would have been doing Smiley Smile, Wild Honey, and the Redwood sessions. I believe - as I said before - that Brian was one of the first higher-profile artists Wally would have booked in that new facility. And it makes sense to some degree - Brian would be using basically the same room as he did at Western only with more modern and high-tech equipment.

If I can find it, I'll put it here - but there is a reference to Wally having a room set aside for Brian to work at his facility, I just can't remember where it was published, spoken, or where I may have it.

It's good to see the Wayback Machine saved all of the old Wally Heider site's pages where a lot of that info appeared originally, but sad now that Dale Manquen has passed away and the Heider site is no longer active and updated.

Everything old is new again. In this case, it was a lot of fun digging into this stuff and corresponding with these people back in the early 2000's. I miss it.
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« Reply #22 on: July 19, 2022, 09:04:55 AM »

And I did indeed find it, right here on this board in an answer to a question I posted to Stephen Desper about this very topic, and when Wally's "Studio 3" opened.

Note the section in bold

COMMENT:  I have engineered Beach Boy sessions in ALL of the studios mentioned in this thread.

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Hello Stephen, I definitely have a few!  Smiley

For roughly 20 years off and on I've been trying to keep up with any new info available about Wally Heider's LA studio, where he basically copied Western's studio 3 for one of his rooms. I listed some general info about it here in this discussion and scattered around various old forums and discussions, but I'm still curious about the first 6 months or so of Wally's studio after he opened it. Along those lines:

Do you recall more specifically when Wally opened his doors in LA to his studio 3? I recall reading that it was roughly in the summer of '67, and that Brian and the Boys *may* have been one of Wally's first big-name clients to book it. Jim Lockert in the interview published in the Byron Preiss book says he and Brian mixed down Smiley Smile in a "marathon" session that saw a lot of editing and moving sections of songs around, basically what sounded like digital DAW editing only done with the razor blade. I've always been interested in what they did that day at Heider's - Do you recall anything from the Smiley mixdown session(s) Jim described as a "marathon"?

As far as recording, did you take part in the re-recordings of the Hawaii material that was booked at Heider's in early September 1967 or do you recall any further work being done on those Heider tapes after the sessions? They already had the full concerts taped from Hawaii, engineered by Jim, and then the re-records, and a memo from Fall '67 points to a release of these around the Wild Honey album. Do you recall working on or with any of these Hawaii tapes, and was there a sense that they were "ready" as far as opinions of the band, or were the opinions negative after hearing all of them?

Brian was working often at Heider's in October '67 and thereabouts, including with Redwood and involving larger groups of musicians. Did you work any of those sessions at Heider's with Redwood, and what was the atmosphere like surrounding those sessions and those tapes? Ultimately Carl and Mike took the tapes for the BB's to use, but it seems Brian had a burst of creative energy recording that way at Heider's with outside musicians.

There are very few photos I've found showing Wally's LA studio in '67, do you happen to have any or know of any? Wally's San Francisco studio picked up more fame and therefore has more info and photos available, but I've always been curious if anything exists showing inside Wally's studio 3 "recreation" of Western 3, if it was as obsessively copied as quite a few around Wally at the time have said.

Comment to guitarfool 2020:

I’m afraid the questions you ask were about a time after I left recording activity. While Wally was expanding his San Francisco studio complex into the LA area, I was designing studios for other people and going into the studio equipment manufacturing business.  What I can tell you are my impressions and experiences with Wally Heider – a name synonymous with the recording scene of the 60’s and 70’s – while engineering for the Beach Boys.



Wally Heider was a presence in any setting. He was a portly man, always casually dressed, and spoke in a hip hop way or with many jive expressions, probably from his background of recording big bands from the 40’s and 50’s. Today he would be right at home with rap music. But aside from his jazz manner of speaking, he was an astute businessman. Early on he saw a need in the just-getting-started independent studio action beginning to take shape and was successful at filling that need.

As popular music increased in sales the need for studio space also increased. Brian along with many other rock musicians were becoming successful enough to demand independence from the major union operated studios. By the time I got into engineering it seemed as if there was a studio on every block in the Hollywood area – even venturing out into the valley (northern) areas of Los Angeles. Many of these studios, including all those listed in this thread, were built in rented buildings wherein sound walls were constructed to isolate a studio area from a control room area. The studios were damped using basic acoustic panels and were not scientifically designed. The control rooms were likewise converted spaces to house consoles and monitor speakers, In short, with a modest budget you could rent a building, build some sound walls, put up various damping material on the walls, buy or have built a console, install big studio monitor speakers and call yourself a recording studio. AND you could make money as soon as you opened your doors.

I have always said, “this is the music business” with emphasis on business, and Wally saw a business need.  A studio is more than what I listed above, but it’s a start. You also need lots of equipment, peripheral equipment that is beyond the console. All that equipment needed to support a recording session or mixdown session is expensive, not used all the time, and requires adjustment and maintenance. This expense proved beyond the abilities of many young studio entrepreneurs.

With Wally’s familiarity of remote recording, he knew the recording business. In the LA area, he was known as an equipment rental supply person. He already was well- established as the place to rent equipment. He had several garage-size rooms full of professional equipment for rent, several technicians to fix the stuff, headed by his key engineer, Frank DeMedio. Within these buildings he did eventually build some proper studios, but his primary business was equipment rental and remote recording.

So, if you were a smaller studio doing a string recording date, for example, may not have enough microphones in the house to cover such a session, so call up Heider’s and rent what you need. Let’s say for a string date, you need six RCA ribbon mics, booms, cables, six quality headphones, headphone distribution boxes, music stands, music stand lights, low-noise microphone preamps, some UA3A limiters, a couple of Pulec equalizers. To have this equipment on hand, and not use it every day is an investment not every small studio can afford. Or maybe you need an extra 2-track or even an 8-, 16-, or 24-track tape recorder for some session, but don’t have one at the studio – call Heider’s and have it delivered.

Wally saw the advantage to renting and so did many studios. (1) You only pay for the time you actually use the equipment, (2) you don’t have to maintain the equipment, and (3) – the big advantage – since the stuff is rented rather than bought, the cost can be written off as a one-time expense, rather than a capital outlay, which has to be taken over a five-year period. At the end of five years most equipment is obsolete or worn out anyway. This was a great tax advantage.

Another big advantage is that suppose some key piece of equipment develops a problem … a hum or intermittent sound, or who knows what?  Rather than closing down the session and maybe even loosing use of an entire studio until the problem is fixed, just call up Heider’s and get a replacement within an hour. He takes the bad equipment back to his place and fixes it, or has his techs fix it – and your session goes on to make you money.

As new equipment came onto the market, and a demand for that equipment was created, Wally would buy it – and rent it. For example, when we built The House Studio (and by the way, it was always called “The House Studio.” It was never referred to as Brother Studio or Brother Records studio. Brother Records Studio was the name of the later-built studio in Santa Monica. In fact, The House Studio preceded Brother Records creation as a business by a year or so.) was an example of using the Wally Heider business model to the extreme.

The House Studio’s console(s) monitor amps and speakers and many Shure dynamic microphones were all owned by American Productions (a Beach Boy corporation), but all the tape machines, many microphones, outboard EQ’s and esoteric microphone preamps, limiters, delays, etc. were all rented from Heider’s for the entire time that studio was functioning. It was still cheaper than buying the equipment, and I did not need to worry about fixing any of it. All I had to do was keep the tape recorders in alignment.

But before The House Studio was built, Brian and the guys used all the studios listed in this thread. This was a boom time in Hollywood. Studios were constantly booked, many for lock-out bookings lasting weeks at a time. Sometimes Brian would become frustrated when he could not find studio time anywhere. So Wally, being the keen businessman he was, saw an opportunity to help out his friend and good client, Brian Wilson. Wally converted one of his storage rooms into a makeshift studio by putting up some absorption baffles on the walls, and carpeting the concrete floor. He already had all the equipment and set up a little “control room” next to the converted storage room to make it possible for Brian to do some sweetening sessions when he couldn’t get booking elsewhere. And Brian liked it. It was simple; informal; kind of funky, actually; and available on a moment’s notice. As time went along the facility was used by other groups, but I always remembered how accommodating Wally could be. Perhaps over time that kind gesture of one musician to another has translated into “Wally’s first client,” as you said, because Wally did expand on the idea and eventually build some proper studios into the complex. Wally called his friend, Jimmy Lockert when Brian booked time at Heider’s little studio, and so when it became a request of BB management to facilitate a studio at Brian’s home, Jimmy set it up like the one at Heider’s place, with the addition of a black and white monitor and camera between the studio and den. Heider also rented those.

Other times the Beach Boy’s have used Heider’s rentals was during the time we or they decided to venture up to Alan Jardine’s home in the hills of Big Sur, California, at his request. At that time, Alan was breading Arabian horses. He had about five, maybe six, I remember. The so-called Red Barn, on his property, was their home, but the horses would soon be moved to a new stable complex he was building further up the road. Inside the 100+ year old red barn was a large space with a staging area at one end. The stables had been removed, but two were still occupied, but the doors now faced to the outside and the inside was walled off, so there was no hey smell inside the barn. Two horses were still there, but you would never know it. I used one old stable as a drum booth. So Alan wanted Brian and everyone to come up to Monterey, stay with him or at a nearby resort hotel, and record in the barn. That was reasonable enough, but was before the actual Red Barn Studio was constructed. That would come years later. In order to record up in Big Sur, and get Brian out of drug-infested LA, the Beach Boys rented one of Heider’s well-outfitted sound trucks or mobile recording trucks.

Wally had two such trucks, and each was equipped with a twenty input console and a sixteen-track recorder. It had JBL monitors, lots of UA limiters and Pultec EQ’s, de-sers, envelope generators, and things like that, with a Harrison (if I remember) 24 position console; at that time all SOTA. Wally’s sound truck was packed with equipment normally including a 16-track recorder, but if I recall we took an 8-track on that trip. The inside is acoustically damped, the console stretched from one side of the truck to the other. The two monitors were on a shelf, forward of the console. Behind me (as I faced the console) was a door flanked by the multi-track and an equipment cabinet/patch bay. With the door closed, it became a technical ambiance of sound completely isolated from the outside world.

John Parks drove the truck up the costal route along the California coast. In those days this was a mountain road with rocks on one side and the ocean a hundred feet below on the other side. If you had a flat or lost control of your vehicle, the flimsy little fence between you and disaster was not going to change your fate. It took a day of cautious driving to move the truck from Wally’s in Hollywood up to Monterey, specifically, the complex Alan Jardine called home.

Permit me to reminisce a little.

At Alan’s invitation, I have taken this trip many times to stay with his gracious wife Maryann and Al, along with all the horses, five dogs, numbers of cats, chickens. Alan’s property stretches from the Pacific Ocean inland for a mile or so. As you travel north from LA the road “hangs” or was cut into the mountainside. A hundred feet below you can see the ocean waves breaking with much fury over the rocky shore – more like boulders. Close to the California shore the ocean is still very deep, so the waves have a lot of energy as they hit land (meaning the waves are large and powerful). The drive is both beautiful and dynamic, especially if you get caught in a rainstorm.

This was my first trip to Alan’s ranch, as he calls it. At the time I was driving a Mercedes 190SL convertible sports car – blue with a white leather upholstery, so I wanted to take my car up this demanding road. As I said, John Parks drove the sound truck, at a much slower pace. Sometimes I would drive ahead for the fun and then drive back to the truck as it lumbered along the sometimes steep mountain elevations – steep enough to require shifting to first gear in the truck. After four or five hours of this, we finally got to the point in this journey were the roadway moves inland for several miles and then continues northward. Between this part of the road and the coast are a number of private properties, one of which is Al’s. We had been given instructions where to turn off the road and into Al’s driveway, but it is so secluded we drove past it three times before even recognizing it as a turnoff. No signs, or indications it’s a road. All there is, is  a small break in the trees lining the road – which is actually cut through a thick forest. Turning in, the road becomes one-lane, winding down and following along a small creek. A panoply of tree branches forms a canopy of dense leaves, blocking out direct sunlight, which together with the trapped moisture, causes ferns to carpet the entire forest floor in an intense green color. As we drove down this narrow dirt road, several times it was necessary to cut some of the tree branches so the truck could pass. This road continues for about half a mile or more. Along the way are a few turnoffs for other hidden homes in this area. It takes about five minutes of drive time to reach Alan’s ranch. Just when you wonder if this road will ever get there, it breaks open to reveal two giant tree logs (like redwood trees) standing on end and holding up gates and an overhead rot-iron fixture. I don’t think the gates are ever closed. Passing through this impressive entrance you move down another one-lane road for several hundred feet and then, rounding a hill, a small lake comes into view as well as a vast clearing of land. Surrounding the lake are five or six small cabins where one houses a young family who serve as help to keep up the property and house. At the far end of the lake you see chickens pecking in a pen with a coop. Moving along you pass the new stables, the old red barn comes into view. Across the road is Al’s 5-bedroom house, which sits on top of a hill. The sides of the hill are completely covered with vibrant wild flowers. The house is surrounded by a deep wooden deck or porch. A hottub, I mean an old-fashion big oakwood tub, filled with hot water, is sunk into the deck. Pulling up, several large and friendly dogs came out to meet us with waging tails. Shortly Al showed up wearing overalls. He had been changing hey in one of the horse stalls. After some discussion we decided to back the truck up close to the barn with the back of the vehicle facing the barn’s big door. This still gave enough room for all the cars arriving the next day with the boys and their wives or girl friends, in tow.

After laying out some mic lines, headphone wires into the barn and a placing a playback speaker on the stage in the barn, John bowered a car from Al and we both drove back to our rooms at the nearby Big Sur Inn. At this time the area was not developed. Big Sur Inn consisted of a number of cabin rooms laid out in a clearing. My room was cold as I entered. As it was, a pile of firewood had been placed in the room, but it was my duty to build a fire in potbelly stove to heat the room. Likewise if I wanted a hot shower, I had to build a fire under the water-heater boiler that would give me five-minutes of hot water. I knew it was a rustic place, but this was a little over the top. But that was the way it was. There was no TV or telephone, but when darkness set in, this city dweller was completely mesmerized by seeing thousands of stars in the sky. On a moonless night, you could even see the edge of the Milky Way. I just sat outside all evening taking it in.

The next morning I had a wonderful breakfast while sitting in a garden setting, flowers of all types, everywhere. Late in the morning John and I drove back to the complex where some of the fellows were beginning to arrive. Eventually, Michael and Dennis decided to stay on the property in a couple of those cabins. But they had to make their own fires too. When Brian, Carl and Bruce looked over the situation, they decided to rent rooms at the only place with hot water, a five-star premium hotel ($$$) back on the main road. All that got sorted out by the afternoon, and we started to do some recording. I should add that Daryl Dragon, who was also included in the sessions, but unknown to anyone, had rented a small house off one of those turnoffs on Al’s road, and probably had the best living conditions of everyone. I’m not certain but I think Ed Carter came up for some of the sessions also.

The next few days we recorded in the barn doing some tracks and some sweetening with guitars. During breaks, I went hiking back into the forest around the property. You could follow that little creek well back into the trees and overgrowth. I soon saw an opportunity that rarely befalls an engineer. After convincing the guys that it would be productive, everyone agreed to try a full day of vocal recording outside – in the forest!

During my hikes, I found a little abandon campfire area, about fifteen feet square. It was several hundred feet into the forest. John backed the truck up an old farm road and back into the forest as far as we could manage. This was along the creek. Taking a pathway away from the truck for about fifty feet was the clearing. John and I took a couple of oriental rugs from the barn and placed them over the pine needles and leaves in the clearing (to reduce standing noise). We ran a hundred feet of mic cables to a mic boom and a mic stand holding a AKG C-24 stereo mic on the boom and an RCA Ribbon on the stand (for Michael). We also ran lines for six headphones and a talk-back speaker, all sitting on two TV-tables (remember those?) Each Beach Boy carried a chair into the area as we got it setup.

So picture this . . . the singing area was completely encircled by forest trees and growth. You were standing on a carpet. An ice chest had plenty of soft drinks on ice. If you had to pee, that was an easy stroll into the forest. The weather was California perfect. Thankfully, there was no wind in the forest that day. The nearby creek was just audible, but did not prove to be a recording problem. Otherwise the outside acoustics were ideal for vocalizing. The guys enjoyed the experience, and so did I. Going from the technology of the truck out the door to the forest’s edge was really a contrast. I’ll never forget it.

In late afternoon it became too dark in the barn to record, so without anything else to do, everyone went to one of several excellent high-class restruaunts in the area. Everyone went, all the boys, wives, girl friends, Al’s kids (Matt was a teen) John and myself. And we had a blast! Those were the best of the best days!

The Big Sur sessions lasted about ten days, until everyone wanted to get back to Los Angeles. Wally Heider’s remote truck proved to perform without problems and yielded many tracks of music.

I encountered a Heider sound truck on one other occasion; The Monterey Pop Festival. I mixed the sound (live sound) for that event, while Wally had his truck parked behind the staging area to record everything via split mic feeds from my stage microphones. My console was several feet from Wally’s sound truck, but we did have field-phone communication. He stayed in his truck maintaining the recorders. Since each mic feed was being recorded on a separate track, mixing would take place later. He could not see the stage. If you have ever viewed the recent DVD release of that event, made from those tapes and video footage, when the WHO do their stage act and start to destroy everything on stage, you will see Wally come on stage to remove microphones. Seeing what was about to happen during this act, I had called Wally on our phone setup and ask him to run on stage and rescue the mics – which he did. 

That about covers my involvement with Wally Heider. I should add . . . Nick Grillo (past BB manager) told me that when Wally was to retire, he wished to dispose of part of his estate (music copyrights and big band videos,) that he, along with other managers had negotiated that deal with MCA and Filmways, later to become Filmways-Heider Studios. Wally had always been some what of a conspiracy believer, so according to Nick, the properties were sold with the payout to be in gold bullion bricks deposited in Wally’s Swiss Bank account. Wally was planning to retire to Switzerland, he said. This was done, but unfortunately, in the end, his planned retirement never came to be. He was diagnosed with cancer and died at his daughter’s home in California.

I will always remember Wally as a kind and caring man who was a help to me as a young engineer and gave me several good recording tips.


~Stephen W. Desper





That's where the description of the room Wally set up at his facility for Brian came from.
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"All of us have the privilege of making music that helps and heals - to make music that makes people happier, stronger, and kinder. Don't forget: Music is God's voice." - Brian Wilson
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