11
May 11

VIC REEVES AND THE WONDER STUFF – “Dizzy”

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#669, 9th November 1991

Student idol Vic Reeves teams up with student favourites The Wonder Stuff for a student disco friendly cover of “Dizzy” which – going to University a year later – I unsurprisingly became utterly sick of. It was inescapable, or at least if you didn’t get “Dizzy” it was only because you’d been treated to the wretched “Size Of A Cow” instead.

Listening to it now it’s better than I remember: certainly at least as good as Tommy Roe’s oddly polite original. On one of Vic Reeves’ sketches he and Bob Mortimer imagined the home life of Slade, and Reeves’ bellowing good humour here has more than a bit of the Noddy Holders about it – he is clearly having a monster of a time, jumping into each “DI-ZEE!” like a kid in a puddle. He also quite upstages the full-time pop singer he’s replacing – Miles Hunt gets a few rotten backing vocals near the end (“Like a whiiiirlpool….”) and almost sours the entire thing. His band clodhop their way through an arrangement not built for subtlety – just as well, since the Stuffies have none to offer. It was a brutish, ruthless kind of single, meant for red-faced hollering and floors slicked with cider and black, and it filled that role all too well.

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Comments

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  1. 61

    are we back at the stupid/stoopid dialectic? (it’s not a terminology i like, but it is EXACTLY the light-entertainment seam that vic and bob have always mined)

  2. 62
    Tim Byron on 13 May 2011 #

    Yep, Antipodean comedian Tony Martin wrote an op-ed in The Age a couple of years ago about how there was a poll of the most influential comedians of the 1990s, and the names that topped the list were Alan Partridge, Chris Morris, and Reeves and Mortimer. And none of these ever really got very much of a go in Australia – the ABC programming department apparently just wasn’t interested, didn’t get it. Hopefully a newer generation in the programming department nowadays could rectify this by putting on, say, The Trip in primetime, if any happen to be reading this.

    So, when Dizzy got to #3 in Australia, I had no context for it at all, and neither did most of the (other) people who bought the single, I’d bet. It was just a straightforward simple pop song for us, with a charmingly English-accented vocal. I suppose I would have been aware it was a cover – it sounded uncomplicated, in a way that 1960s pop songs often do. But it’s interesting in a way that something like Dizzy could rise in the charts over here, shorn of context – sometimes a sugar rush and some hooks is enough! I can’t find the video clip on YouTube right now, but I recall Reeves doing some vaguely comical routines in it, and that probably made for a video that was more entertaining than the average fare on Rage’s Saturday morning Top 50 countdown at the time, even if I had no idea he was a comedian.

    I know someone who escorted Vic Reeves around for a day a couple of years ago for some sort of promo thing, who said he was incredibly painful to deal with. I only knew who she was talking about because he’d been on QI a few times (which I’d started torrenting, before it got shown on Australian screens) – this song had totally slipped my mind, it certainly wasn’t omnipresent for years afterwards here like I gather it was in the UK from the above comments.

  3. 63

    The LP was around in the Wire office, and we certainly discussed doing something about the free improv involvement — Steve Beresford having also been an element in the latterday sound of the Slits — but didn’t. This is the month we put SID VICIOUS on the cover, despite Miles Davis just having died. I actually loved R&M at that time, and referenced them positively several times, in reviews of this or that avant-garde flimflam, so I cna only assume neither Richard or I thought much of the rest of the music.

  4. 64
    Stevie T on 13 May 2011 #

    Wasn’t Reeves signed to Island through some short-lived sub-label run by Paul Morley? I always suspected that explained the presence of Beresford etc…

  5. 65

    That does ring a very faint bell, Stevie, yes.

  6. 66
    Mark G on 13 May 2011 #

    Also, the very ZTT-stylings of the back of the sleeves of the LP and the 12″ singles.

  7. 67
    Rory on 13 May 2011 #

    At the same time as I was getting a musical education and an academic education in my new English surroundings, I was also getting a comedy education. My love of comedy, written, drawn, and performed, long predated my love of popular music, but as Tim has pointed out* @62, by 1991 Australian television wasn’t doing a good job of keeping us up-to-date on the latest and greatest comedy from the UK – by far my favourite kind.

    Fortunately, I was now surrounded by comedy evangelists. During freshers’ week I’d checked out a few possible areas of extracurricular activity to leaven nine month sof Thinking. I gave the student newspaper a miss because I’d been there, done that a few years earlier; gave rowing a miss because there was no way I was getting up in the dark to practice; and instead gave comedy performing a go, for the first time since I was 11. Fortunately, I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself, and after getting my first laugh was hooked. I ended up falling in with a bunch of fellow newcomers (some of us MPhil students, some first-years) and putting on a couple of shows with them, which did pretty well in the local context; my writing and performing partner that year has been a good friend ever since. I also have him to thank for half of the new music I discovered that year (and in later years, thanks to tapes swapped through the mail), as like many aspiring comedians he was also a frustrated rockstar.

    “Dizzy” wasn’t one of his gifts to me, but he at least helped me work out who this Vic Reeves bloke was. My knowledge remained second-hand, though: I’d missed the original run of Big Night Out by six months, and had no means of watching a video of it even if one had been released by that point. So to me, Vic was some guy who apparently put a Caramac under a rabbit, who also sang on a number one single.

    It was everywhere for a while, and I bought the hype enough to buy… a C90, onto which I recorded a copy of Never Loved Elvis and selections from the Wonder Stuff’s earlier albums courtesy of the college music room. It was only then that I realised I wasn’t a big fan of Miles Hunt’s vocals and didn’t like the albums much either; they were soon eclipsed in my affections by the Stone Roses, Blur, et al.

    I didn’t mind “Dizzy”, though. Listening to it now, it holds up fairly well until Hunt’s backing vocals kick in, as long as you aren’t expecting any kind of comedy. A couple of years later I bought a second-hand CD single of it back in Australia, out of early nostalgia for those early months in Britain, but it never got much play. Tom’s score of 4 feels exactly right.

    *Thanks for the link to that Tony Martin op ed, Tim; it’s alerted me to his latest book, which is good to know about (except that if I’d known about it in 2009 I could have picked it up when I was out there for Christmas that year; and now I can’t even ask my folks to grab a copy to bring with them on their impending visit, because they’re already enroute; gah). He’s bang-on about the dearth of good UK comedy on Australian screens since the 1980s, but it cuts both ways: not many in Britain know about the D-Generation and their various spin-offs (who admittedly might not travel well), or about the superlative Shaun Micallef (who absolutely would). Kath and Kim got a run here, at least.

  8. 68
    pink champale on 14 May 2011 #

    now then. i’m afriad i was a proper wonder stuff fan. as i said on another thread, ‘eight legged groove machine’ was the first indie record i ever bought (that Q review again), they were the first proper band i ever saw live and i even went to their stadium gig (at the world’s smallest and most rubbish stadium) despite knowing it would get me sacked from my saturday job (er, because it was on a saturday, not because lex was my boss). so, much as i can see why they’ve been getting a bit of a kicking, i feel i owe it to my sixteen year old self to put some some sort of defence.
    let’s see. well, i listened to ‘eight legged groove machine’ today and it was alright – sarky, slightly sixties, slightly punky guitar pop is a perfectly acceptable thing to have i go at i think, and on that record they’re better than most. admittedly hup and never loved elvis, are fairly rub. but i can kind of defend ‘never loved elvis’ as a title. it’s taken from a lyric that goes “i never loved elvis/and i never sang the blues” which i think is probably taking a pop at rattle and hum or (hopefully) deacon blue’s eye-watering ‘fergus sings the blues’ (in bars of twelve or less, of course) which are fine things to be taking a pop at. they’re on their own with the bealtes hunter one though.
    i also think the personal kicking miles hunt’s been getting is maybe a little unfair. his kind of dour, cynical, self deprecating/ironic self agrandising persona is a total midlands thing, and i think got a bit lost in translation away from the very specific midlands context. or to put it another way, he’s probalby not quite as much of a twat as he seems. for a start, i can’t really beleive that the shampoo thing was deadly serious rather than some sort of slegehammer irony joke that didn’t really come off. it’s certainly the case that (like most of the chapter 22/grebo bands) a lot of their records were produced by an actual woman, which still seems to be a very, very rare thing. but yeah, dizzy is not great; the backing vocals truly are atrocious and i’ve deliberately avoided going back and reading his notes on the lyric sheet of ‘never loved elvis’ as i fear i wouldn’t be able to maintain even luke warm positivty in the face of those.

  9. 69
    punctum on 16 May 2011 #

    Many thought that with Vic Reeves New Pop had finally found its comedian, albeit a decade too late. When Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out debuted on Channel 4 in the autumn of 1990 its seemingly total avoidance of logic or purpose in humour seemed a curiously apt reverse side of the Twin Peaks coin. I found the series incredibly funny at the time but have strenuously avoided revisiting it over the last fifteen years for fear of inevitable anti-climax, since the subsequent career of Reeves and Mortimer – for they were always really a double act – is remarkable only for their total failure to initiate any focus or energy, or for that matter any true humanity, into their stock randomised gallery of what is finally a rather cold humour.

    Words like Dada are carelessly tossed about by Reeves and Mortimer’s admirers – and there have been enough of them to ensure that the two live an opulent life as gentleman farmers in Kent – but Dada by definition was an explicit and violent reaction to the reduction of humanity to nonsense wreaked by the First World War. Such rootless observations as “Oh Mr Cat Burglar, thieve me some muesli from Van Morrison” would have been of no interest to Duchamp or Picabia or Tzara – in other words, it’s unclear what, if anything, Reeves and Mortimer are reacting against (and they have dropped several subsequent hints that politically they incline towards the Right). Even with the slightly depoliticised compromise that was Surrealism, Andre Breton was the first to admit that demonstrating the true process of thought was not achievable by “pure psychic automation” alone. There were the Goons, but when viewed in its post-war context – the only meaningful way in which to view it – Milligan’s writing was a drastic post-traumatic stress disorder coping facility; the endless explosions and comedy mutilations depicting a World War II where no one was killed or scarred for life, where Bluebottle could be “deaded” on a weekly basis and then spring back, spotless, the following week, just like Tom, the cat with nine million lives.

    The comedy of Reeves and Mortimer, though, is more to do with random whimsy, and is in the direct lineage of that semi-forgotten movement of Northern comedians in the first half of the 20th century – Sid Field, Frank Randle, Jimmy James and above all Dave Morris, who was doing Vic Reeves half a century ahead of his time – and including some figures, like Harry Worth and Ted Ray, who were genial TV presences throughout the sixties and seventies but whose stage acts were far more wayward.

    But no comedian worth their laughs exists in a vacuum where pain and doubt do not penetrate; every great comedian always finds a way to let on that it’s not just about the laughs. Thus Morecambe and Wise were the most successful and hip of all comedians in seventies Britain – but their nowness was only made possible by constant, ongoing refinement and development of routines which they had done forty years previously, when still teenagers. In other words, you cared about Eric and Ernie; their palpable, tactile interdependence heightened their best material and forgave their worst.

    Tom Jones did a routine with Morecambe and Wise in 1971 where he sang “Exactly Like You” while the duo did exaggerated “yeah-yeah-yeahs” and indulged in hysterically funny, over-the-top dancing (Ernie even resorting to the grinning tap dancing he’d done in the pubs and clubs of Depression-era Leeds as half of Carson and Kid). But when Jones repeated the routine nearly thirty years later with Reeves and Mortimer it was bereft of any humour, and only served to remind one of the absolute importance of technical mastery and natural comedic projection, neither of which the latter, I do not think, possesses. In pop, of course, there is the obvious precedent of the Bonzos; but again the nonsensical syllables of Stanshall’s unending Rawlinson’s End sagas have their own terrible order and the humour is deployed to express a very specific rage and hurt, and Stanshall’s fire met its perfect counterpart in the melancholic shoulder-gazing of Neil Innes – it is no accident that Innes named one of the most moving of Bonzo songs, “Readymades,” after Duchamp.

    But one of the people who thought that New Pop’s comedian had come along with Vic Reeves was Paul Morley, who by 1991 was still at Island Records, but running a shortlived subsidiary called Sense, with which he hoped to recapture some of the long-dissipated magic of the original ZTT. Under Morley’s patronage Reeves recorded what to date remains his only album, I Will Cure You. The sleeve photos demonstrate that he can’t decide whether to be Bryan Ferry or Eric Morecambe, and his random lists defy any reasonable or unreasonable laughter.

    Most intriguingly, for a few tracks Morley hired Steve Beresford to arrange and produce, and Beresford brought with him an imposing crowd of improv names, including Evan Parker, Han Bennink, Tony Coe, Harry Beckett and others, but they are by and large wasted by Reeves’ relentless focus on his own, rather arid personality (Reeves’ exclamation of “Pack it in, Parker!” after the latter’s cyclical tenor solo on “Oh Mr Songwriter” should have earned him a slap). The record is a mess, but did yield two top ten singles; a reading of “Born Free” (strangely superimposed over the backing track of “Strawberry Letter 23” – to paraphrase Ellroy: the concept rocked but the reality sounded like Roy Castle, and in Reeves’ rather offputting self-glorification – “The song was originally sung by ex-bus driver Matt Monro, although I personally think I sing it better” – there is a certain unattractive aura of resentment within him) and “Dizzy,” the old Tommy Roe chart-topper redone with Mortimer, a megaphone and Staffordshire meat-and-potatoes indie favourites the Wonder Stuff. “Dizzy” had enough superficial dynamics about it to turn it into a student disco staple, but it remains resolutely unfunny; Reeves turning the original’s swooning post-psychedelic bubblegum swirl into a hard-nosed boozy stomper.

    He has not re-entered the recording studio since, and it may be that Reeves and Mortimer work best when leaving most of the humour generation to others; thus their mock quiz show Shooting Stars, a Friday night peak-time stalwart on BBC2 where twenty years earlier it would have found its natural home at 5:15 pm on Wednesday in the children’s section of BBC1, was frequently very funny, though it was hard not to notice that few of the laughs were emerging directly from either of them (or, to put it another way, see how Ant and Dec have prospered with near-identical source material). Since then they have struggled; a revival of Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased) was, to put it very mildly, ill-advised, and the unattractive nothingness of Catterick confined it to BBC3 status. Not that they would care, but the question remains as to whether Vic Reeves ever really cared, and what, or whom, he cared about. “Look at the size of that sausage.” Is life really that unavoidable?

  10. 70
    Mark G on 16 May 2011 #

    Whoa, if you can’t call “I’m a Believer” re-entering the recording studio… (If you modify your line, I’ll delete this one)

    Apart from that, yes: The ‘northern’ aspect of their humour is usually missed, inexplicably.

    “Catterick” was fine on it’s own terms, I have the ‘complete’ episodes DVD (bought cheap from a closing down sale at the BBC shop), and one day I might even watch it.

    And who had more success, V&B’s “Randall and Hopkirk”, or A&D’s “Likely Lads” ?

  11. 71
    Conrad on 16 May 2011 #

    I thought surrealism played second fiddle to a brave emphasis on unedgy light entertainmnet in Big Night Out. It was that emphasis on entertainment in an era of drab, shouty Bottom-style comedy, that I found so refreshing.

  12. 72

    surrealism versus unedgy light entertainment

    i’m not sure these have ever been unentangled — i lost my copy of nick tosches’s dino long ago, bcz borrowers were so attracted to the dada picture it painted by DESCRIBING the world of dean martin

    and the original cabaret voltaire wasn’t set up in a nightclub because they hated nightclubs…

  13. 73
    thefatgit on 16 May 2011 #

    What’s not surreal about Les Dawson playing “Side By Side” off key on the piano, (he was an accomplished pianist btw) while the audience sing off key with him?

  14. 74

    I guess the power word is “unedgy” — in the sense that every time you present some aspect of light entertainment as properly surreal, it is obviously assumed to stop being describable as unedgy. But what everyone back to the dadaists (and doubtless beyond) were noting is that the mass culture and mass media of any given time are full of norms and elisions and habits, the everyday assumptions we all share and can’t see, sedimented in programming rituals and etc, which will in time to come probably seem very strange and sometimes a bit alarming. (This, come to think of it, is why I tend to argue that it’s only comedy that DOESN’T stand the test of time that was ever genuinely funny…)

  15. 75
    Mark G on 16 May 2011 #

    (I’d say that it’s irrelevant: Comedy that didn’t stand the test of time, isn’t funny now, Comedy that did, *is* funny now. Maybe that that was funny then only, was funnier. Maybe not)

  16. 76

    “Stand the test of repetition” is actually more accurate, if I want to state my own — certainly never very popular- theory correctly: I don’t mean if you read something in Chaucer and burst out laughing, that it isn’t funny; I mean that the things you hear over and over, as being classics, are the things that actually aren’t.

  17. 77
    Mark G on 16 May 2011 #

    Yeah, I’d go along with that:

    “What’s on the end of your stick, Vic?” – a ha ah ha we’re all saying the same thing at the same time!!

  18. 78
    Conrad on 16 May 2011 #

    Les and his fear of chives, and his liking of spirit levels. Well, I found it entertaining, I liked the pens in his lab coat pocket. The setting – the suits, the studio, the live audience, the catchphrases, to me evoked light entertainment. Unedgy and surreal both.

    And cruel to poor man with stick’s kids….

  19. 79

    Obviously repetition is pretty central to humour, but it scales counter-intuitively: ritual catchphrases are very often genuinely funny, though timing of deployment is also central. And they’re also a shorthand — sometimes very quickly — for the “idea of funny” in the hands/mouths of people without any sense of timing.

    And once they stop being funny, once the ritual fails, I’m not sure the effectiveness can ever grow back. Uvavu!

  20. 80
    Conrad on 16 May 2011 #

    79, Is it me or has the phrase “counter-intuitive” suddenly become uber-ubiquitous?

    Anyway, it sounds fine you using it p*nk s lord. It’s all these media types trying to sound dead intelligent that concern me.

    Trying to get a handle on your theory here, what are your favourite don’t stand the test of time/repetition comedies?

  21. 81

    Oo good question! I will have think a bit about it.

  22. 82
    Alan on 16 May 2011 #

    i don’t agree that the R&H(D) revival was ill advised. fantasy was an unusual genre for telly at the time, and its mix of comedy and drama has since become the norm but it didn’t sit well with many. (i enjoyed it obv). it gave early work to people who went on to work on new who, and (at a stretch) may even have been instrumental in opening commissioning editors minds to reviving Who too. it was a great thing to want to revive too – the original had only run to 1 series.

  23. 83
    Mark G on 16 May 2011 #

    Mike Pratt, the not-dead partner Randall, (ironically, etc), Didn’t know he wrote or co-wrote a bunch of Tommy Steele’s hits (Little White Bull, AHandful of Songs), and was the brother of Guy Pratt, of Pink Floyd…

  24. 84
    AndyPandy on 16 May 2011 #

    I never realised there was only 1 series of the original R&H(D)made – it was such a part of Sunday afternoons along with ‘the Big Match’ and ‘the Flaxton Boys’ between the ages of about 4 and 7 that there seemed to be loads of them – having said that 27 is a pretty long series!Great late 60s harpsichord theme tune too.

    PS Guy Pratt the Pink Floyd/Orb/Madonna/Roxy Music etc session musician is Mike Pratt’s son not brother.

  25. 85
    Alan on 16 May 2011 #

    yeah more eps than the 2 series remake for sure. great theme tune – i’m sure broadcast would agree ;-)

  26. 86
    23 Daves on 18 May 2011 #

    I’m not going to dispute the fact that R&M were tapping into old school northern comedy in the slightest. I have a couple of comedy 78s I played to a friend of mine recently, and he insisted that I was winding him up and they were parodies because they “seemed too surreal”. I think there’s this modern assumption that all the comics and variety acts of the first half of the twentieth century were straight gag-merchants, but in fact repetition of unusual catchphrases and bizarre off-the-cuff comments were common.

    On the other hand, I don’t think this retro slant to R&M – mixed as it was with knowing references to the likes of Morrissey, Leonard Cohen and Terrance Conran “the Habitat man” – made them bad at their roles. A lot of art revives and adapts redundant or forgotten techniques, equipping them again for the modern age, and mixed in with that material were some parodies and caricatures so extreme as to be almost frightening (the Masterchef sketch being a case in point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=towd9vZWDJg)

    Paul McCartney is apparently a fan of the duo, which if you consider their northern humour and “randomness” and The Beatles’ own attempts isn’t really terribly surprising. But I honestly believe that besides the obvious LOLrandom “Caramac under a rabbit” references, there was some real invention going on as well – there are usually tons of ideas going on in the “car lunchbreak” sketches, for example, which are neatly understated. But they remain a comedy duo that you either love or hate – and I’ve never known anyone to change their minds about their output no matter how many arguments are made in their favour. I do get a bit sick of “Shooting Stars” being brought up as the prime example of their schtick when it’s the real red herring of their career, though.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZ4ZVsRSQQA

    http://youtu.be/Csrx6cKslNc

  27. 87
    Kit on 23 May 2011 #

    Did Hunt not “go grunge”?

    He did! In partnership with: The Third Drummer From The Clash; The Guy From The Senseless Things Who Went On To Be M. Organ And Play In Delakota/The Streets/Gorillaz/Muse; and Billy Duffy From The Cult, the latter of whom jumped ship very early on. Meanwhile, the rest of the Wonder Stuff recruited The Bloke With No Willy from Eat as their lead singer in weknowwhereyoulive, a name that took longer to say than their career lasted.

    Here in Oz, I had no idea Vic Reeves was a comedian and thought Vic Reeves and the Wonder Stuff was an actual band. I wondered why this was their only song. It took me years to realise the truth.

    Counterpointedly, as an Oz schoolboy The Wonder Stuff were one of my favourite bands, and I thus found it frustrating that I couldn’t explore the oeuvre of this bloke they were allowing to front their hit single! Certainly their records were amply stocked in both indie and suburban mainstream record shops, whereas to this day I’ve only seen the Reeves album once, as a sold-on promo.

    Garry might correct me, but I believe that Reeves and Mortimer weren’t seen on Oz TV in any manner, means, shape or form till about five or six years ago when three or four episodes of “Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased)” appeared on a weekday afternoon slot, then vanished forever.

    Late 2003, IIRC. And by this point it’s probable that Charlie Higson’s involvement was what got it an airing, as The Fast Show had enjoyed several runs on SBS, and maybe even migrated to commercial for a spell?

    That said, I think some of the late-90s R&M stuff, eg Bang Bang, might have run on pay telly.

    So, like one or two others here, one was able to assess it without any baggage attached (I don’t think a lot of Stuff was played either). It was OK.

    The Stuff definitely had a decent profile here, though I couldn’t speak to how much their records were played outside of Sydney-based radio. But JJJ – by this stage networked interstate – played them plenty, including a bought-in concert on Live At The Wireless and then recording another on their 1991 tour – which played to improbable numbers by today’s standards: they arrived in the country with something like five shows around Sydney, went around and played the rest of the country, and added another three in Sydney before leaving, including an all-ages at a 2500-capacity theatre. As noted above, their records were released here and widely available, and the final album even had an exclusive-to-Australia cover and bonus disc.

    it’s certainly the case that (like most of the chapter 22/grebo bands) a lot of their records were produced by an actual woman, which still seems to be a very, very rare thing.

    Pat Collier, who produced the Wonder Stuff records, is a bloke (as is Mick Glossop who did the third album).

    [PWEI’s were variously self-produced, done by John Rivers (who seems to have been something of a Chap22 house producer?), or in most cases handled by (Warp Records founder, fact fans!) Rob Gordon, expanding on his work with the Age Of Chance (whose sleeve designers the Poppies nicked when they dropped their producer). Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’s second Chap22 single was produced by “Jessica,” though, and I’m not familiar with the rest of the roster.)

    the two live an opulent life as gentleman farmers in Kent

    Love the possible inference here that they share a farmhouse, ambling out together daily to plow pound notes into a field! Doesn’t Mortimer have crippling arthritis, though? Imagine that would impede his farming activities.

    This was possibly the second-worst Wonder Stuff single ever, and discovering Hunt’s rhyming slanginess in recent years makes me uninterested in listening to the old records again. But they really were joyfully teenage-friendly at the time.

  28. 88
    pink champale on 23 May 2011 #

    jessica corcoran is who i was thinking of. from a quick google it looks like she engineered rather than produced 8LGM (not that i have any real idea of the difference between engineering and producing) but did produce most of the early neds stuff plus various records by senseless things, mega city four etc. but possibly this isn’t directly relevant to what miles said to shampoo.

  29. 89
    Kit on 23 May 2011 #

    she engineered 8LGM

    ah, good spot. my WS records have been stashed away for too long to know where they are, let alone be able to look up anything, but I’m ashamed of my young self for not remembering hard enough to carry that through to the present day, especially with the Neds cross-reference

  30. 90
    Wheedly on 23 May 2011 #

    Re: #88 – engineers place microphones, align tape machines, and so on. Essentially they take care of all the nuts and bolts of sound transduction, and are responsible to the producer. In certain cases (esp. further down the music industry ladder) the engineer may assume the role of producer, which may or may not be to the artist’s liking. At the unsigned level, the band is hiring the engineer directly and he/she would be overstepping their bounds if they started producing the session without prior agreement with the band.
    Producers (hired at the behest of labels, paid for out of the artist’s own advance money) focus more on performance and end result than actual sound engineering. In a nutshell, their job is to make the most commercially viable record they can. They do such things as pick the studio to work in, decide what sort of instruments and sounds will be employed, whether to half the length of the bridge going into the first chorus, and so on.
    A producer is kind of like a film director, with an engineer being somewhat more analogous to a camera operator.
    Some producers like to engineer their own recordings. Some are reliant on technically minded people to do that for them, depending on whether their background is in engineering (someone like Ken Scott), arranging (eg, George Martin) or performing.

  31. 91
    Wheedly on 23 May 2011 #

    As an addendum, that explanation applies primarily to rock and pop.
    In certain styles and musical cultures (hip hop, say, or reggae) a producer would signify someone less of an executive and more of a creative, programming beats and basslines and so on. Particularly in Jamaican music, the lines between artist, producer and mix engineer can seem very blurred to those not familiar with the culture and has lead to some interesting lawsuits (the Scientist vs Greensleeves records case, for example).
    It’s not really my field, I’m afraid, so perhaps someone else could elaborate for us.

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