Thursday, August 8, 2013

Theories

Holy cats the sound of that live version of Won't Get Fooled Again off of the movie The Kids Are All Right is even more spectacular than I remembered it watching as an impressionable teenager on late night TV. I remember my dad saying that he didn't think they were so violent. Meaning he didn't like how violent they seemed. I only thought Ha! THIS isn't the Who at their violent!
But looking back, this sound was exuberance. The Who were kings of the power trio. And adding keyboards is something to not be taken lightly. And boy they don't. The sequence (which apparently is just played live on an organ of some sort) freakin ROCKS.
It's funny though. Remember the volume wars? Those volume wars substantially post-date The Who. The Who. I mean those guys had a stage volume that would make dead men wake from their graves.
But on a recording, where you can play back at any volume you desire, they're simply not as loud as a modern bubble-gum pop song. And I'm wondering if the fault lays only partially in multi-band brick wall limiters.

I think the other problem may be how freaking loud we've been mixing drums since sometime in the 1980's.
With The Who you can tell -- yes the drums are loud and being hit hard but they're slightly swamped by the double HiWatt heads driving 4x4 12" cabinets on a guitar with P90's being smashed by a sledgehammer. You can hear the drums, sure, but they're right there next to several hundred watts of guitar amplification that do not mind in the least going into distortion.
Nowadays those drums would be at least 6dB louder in the mix. The snare would smack you in the face every time it came down. And suddenly at that volume it's competing with the vocal (because snare drums have all kinds of sounds which smear right across the vocalist's range -- we can call a snare drum a little band-limited white-noise  generator can't we?)
And once you're fighting with the vocal you're fighting with everything and the answer to making everything loud is to use more compression everywhere. And look! Now we have the ability to use digital multi-band auto-makeup limiters which eliminate pumping and make every part of signal as freaky-deaky loud as we could ever imagine it being.
If we mixed drums quieter this wouldn't be as much an issue. Not that I'm advocating that. I'm just saying. Louder drums = louder everything.
This is just a theory mind you.

Richard Waters, the fellow who invented the Waterphone, passed away on July 4.

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