SOS takes you behind the scenes of the recording and production sessions of some of the most significant 'classic' tunes of the past 50 years. Best-selling author Richard Buskin weaves together technical and musical facts and anecdotes from the sessions to create an engaging series.
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Originally intended for another group, ‘Kiss’ was quickly reclaimed by Prince when he heard David Z’s arrangement. Despite record company scepticism, the track became his third number one single and rejuvenated his career.
Pulp’s infectiously catchy commentary on the joys of class tourism helped propel the group to fame after nearly two decades of obscurity. Engineer David Nicholas tells us how ‘Common People’ was recorded.
Forty years after its original release, Mike Oldfield tells us the story of recording his hugely successful debut album, Tubular Bells.
Wham! went their separate ways in 1986, but the triumph of George Michael’s debut album Faith in 1987 meant that the success of his solo career was never really in doubt.
To say that producer Chris Hughes was closely involved with Recording Adam & The Ants’ biggest records would be a bit of an understatement — he got so involved he joined the band...
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In 1956, Frank Sinatra revived his flagging career with an album that would define the swing sound and go on to become one of the most highly regarded in history. John Palladino, now in his 92nd year, was at the controls...
For many, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? is Oasis’s masterpiece. Producer and engineer Owen Morris tells us the story of its creation.
Although the shock value of its lyrics and ensuing censorship earned it notoriety, ‘Closer’ perfectly exemplifies Trent Reznor’s radical use of sampling and singularly focused musical vision.
The unlikely result of a collaboration between two 4AD bands, the release of ‘Pump Up The Volume’ by MARRS was a great day for house music and copyright lawyers alike.
'Parisienne Walkways' showcased Gary Moore's virtuoso guitar work and quickly became his signature song. Its recording also provided a young engineer at Morgan Studios with his first, unexpected production credit.
Recording the White Album was a major project by any standards, not least for Ken Scott, who, at the age of just 21, found himself engineering the biggest band in the world...
'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' was a huge global hit, but it also represented a tour de force in coaxing the perfect vocal from a singer, as explained by producer Narada Michael Walden.
Soft Cell's cover of 'Tainted Love' not only catapulted the duo to stardom in the UK, but also went on to spend a record-breaking 43 weeks on the American Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The story of Don McLean's 'American Pie' goes from cryptic beginnings to massive chart success, and an eventual position as a perennial US radio favourite.
Sinéad O’Connor ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’
Recording Sinéad O’Connor’s breakthrough hit was easy in some ways, but difficult in others — for example, all compression was forbidden...
The single ‘Downtown’ gave Petula Clark a worldwide hit and rejuvenated her career. Presiding over the session was engineer Ray Prickett, who tells us how it happened...
The Buggles' JG Ballard-inspired 'Video Killed The Radio Star' hit the number one spot in no fewer than 16 different countries, and confirmed Trevor Horn in his career as a producer in the process.
The haunting dub of ‘Ghost Town’ perfectly captured the mood of its time, and spent three weeks at the top of the British charts during the turbulent summer of 1981.
Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road has proved to be one of his most popular and enduring works. The man at the controls, David Hentschel, tells us how it came to be.
But for the timely intervention of Mick Ronson, John Cougar’s celebrated portrait of small-town American life might never have existed at all, let alone topped the Billboard Hot 100.
Dr Alex Paterson tells us how the Orb’s cavalier sampling and devil‑may‑care attitude towards copyright took ambient house from the chill‑out room to the top of the charts.
As the ’60s came to a close, Marvin Gaye was forced to ask some serious questions about the world as he found it; the result was the sublimely soulful piece of social commentary, ‘What’s Going On’.
Jerry Lee Lewis’s raucous piano playing is the stuff of rock & roll legend, but his discovery and signing to Sun Records was the result of a series of lucky chances. Engineer Jack Clement tells us the story...
Producer: Flemming Rasmussen • Engineer: Flemming Rasmussen
...And Justice For All marked a turning point for Metallica — one that would launch the cult band into the mainstream. The man at the controls, Flemming Rasmussen, tells us how it happened.
'Teenage Kicks' was the punk-pop gem that, with a little help from John Peel, kick-started the Undertones' career.
'Take On Me' was a huge hit, but its birth was a difficult one, taking three years, three versions and a pioneering video to finally give A-ha their first chart success.
'Do you have the time to listen to me whine?' asked Green Day in the opening lines of their song 'Basket Case'. For 16 million people, the answer was apparently 'yes'...
A song named for Christmas-cancelling regicide Oliver Cromwell may seem like an unlikely hit, but the infectious ebullience of 'Oliver's Army' provided Elvis Costello with his biggest-selling single...
Protests against Catholicism have taken many forms, Martin Luther nailing his objections to the cathedral door, but the Pet Shop Boys chose to make theirs in disco...
• Producer: Julian Mendelsohn
• Engineers: Julian Mendelsohn, Stephen Hague
As the first issue of SOS hit the shops in October 1985, Talking Heads were already climbing towards their highest UK chart position. The song was 'Road To Nowhere'. Engineer Eric Thorngren tells the story of its recording.
• Producer: Talking Heads
• Engineer: Eric Thorngren
Producer: Bill Szymczyk
1977's Hotel California saw The Eagles abandon their country origins in favour of full-blown rock & roll, and made them one of the biggest-selling groups in the world. Producer Bill Szymczyk tells SOS how it happened.
Producers: David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash • Engineer: Bill Halverson
As the 60s drew to a close, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash came together to form a new group, the unique sound of which was perfectly demonstrated by their first recording, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.
Producer: Martin Rushent • Engineer: Martin Rushent
When producer Martin Rushent took the Human Leagues leaden new song and turned it into pop gold, the band hated it — but that didnt stop it from being a number one hit on both sides of the Atlantic...
Producer: Tommy James • Engineer: Bruce Staple
In 1968, Tommy James made a dramatic stylistic turnaround, swapping bubblegum pop for full-blown psychedelic rock. The result was the superlative single Crimson & Clover.
Producer: Bob Johnston
It took a while for Bob Dylan to hit his stride on his seventh studio album, but once he did there was no stopping him. Producer Bob Johnston recalls the difficult birth of Blonde On Blonde.
Producer: George Avakian • Engineer: Frank Laico
In 1956, Miles Davis was at Columbia Studios to record an album with the musicians who subsequently became known as his First Great Quintet. Engineer Frank Laico was at the controls...
Producers: Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Van Zandt • Engineers: Toby Scott, Bob Clearmountain
Seven top 10 singles isnt bad going for a career, let alone one album, yet thats precisely what Bruce Springsteen achieved with his smash hit 1984 LP, Born In The USA. This is the story of how it was made...
Producers: Ritchie Cordell, Kenny Laguna, Glen Kolotkin • Engineer: Glen Kolotkin
Joan Jetts heartfelt reworking of the Arrows I Love Rock & Roll became an international hit in 1982 and turned her career around. Glen Kolotkin tells us how it happened.
Producers: The Bomb Squad • Engineer: Nick Sansano
Hank Shocklees 1988 collaboration with Public Enemy brought a new aggression to hip-hop — both sonically and politically...
Producer: Todd Rundgren • Engineer: Jack Douglas
The fact that they achieved little commercial success didnt stop the New York Dolls from making one of the most influential albums in the history of pop music.
Producers: REM, Mitch Easter, Don Dixon
REMs first single wasnt just an embryonic form of the style and sound that would later make them so successful, it was also a gem of the American new wave. But it took a long time coming...
Producers: Giorgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte • Engineer: Juergen Koppers
The pioneering electronica of I Feel Love didnt just revolutionise disco, it changed dance music forever. This is the story of how it was made...
Producer & Engineer: Shel Talmy
There are very few records whose influence can be so strongly felt after 45 years as the Kinks You Really Got Me. At the controls was Shel Talmy, who tells us the story of a song that changed pop music.
Producer: Jack Douglas • Engineer: Jay Messina
In 1975, Aerosmith stormed into the mainstream with their Toys In The Attic album, and in doing so set the tone for a decade of West Coast heavy metal.
Producer: Tony Clarke • Engineer: Derek Varnals
Thunderous reverbs, haunting vocals and Mellotron galore: we tell the story of recording the Moody Blues symphonic rock masterpiece, Nights In White Satin.
Producer: John Lennon • Engineers: Roy Cicala, Shelly Yakus
Engineer Roy Cicala worked on all of John Lennons albums from Imagine onwards, and in Whatever Gets You Thru The Night, recorded the only solo number one hit single of Lennons lifetime.
Producer: Van Morrison • Engineers: Shelly Yakus, Elliot Scheiner
On his second solo album, Van Morrison took the production reins for the first time. Manning the desk was engineer Shelly Yakus, who tells the story of recording Moondance.
Producer: Heavy Zebra • Engineer: Kevin Byrne
Blighted by drug abuse and mental illness, Heavy Zebra never fulfilled their early promise. Nevertheless, the deranged majesty of their 1972 single Karla makes it a bona fide classic track.
Producers: George Goldner, Terry Johnson • Engineer: Allen Weintraub
This is the story of how an inspired rearrangement of an old song created a track that, 50 years on, remains a genuine and enduring classic.
Producers: Stock, Aitken and Waterman
Producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman developed a massively successful formula for making pop records — and the story of Rick Astleys 1987 smash hit, Never Gonna Give You Up, is a perfect guide to the SAW assembly line...
In 1977 Status Quo brought in producer Pip Williams to help them clean up their act. The result was a hit album and a best-selling single — 'Rockin' All Over The World'.
Producer: Steve Lillywhite • Engineers: Chris Dickie, Steve Lillywhite
A Christmas song was an unexpected move from a group like the Pogues, but the story of heartbreak and pain that is 'Fairytale Of New York' eventually became the band's biggest commercial success.
Classic Tracks | Producer: Arthur Baker
For mixing Kraftwerk's synthetic beats and simple melodies with New York rap, 'Planet Rock' and producer Arthur Baker can arguably be credited with creating an entirely new genre: hip-hop. This is how it happened...
Producer: Paul Simon • Engineer: Roy Halee
Paul Simon's Graceland album combined a huge mixture of musical styles and was recorded in studios all over the world. The man responsible for putting it all together, both sonically and physically, was Simon's long-time engineer Roy Halee. This is how he did it...
Producers: Devo, Robert Margouleff • Engineers: Robert Margouleff, Howard Siegel
Armed with a subversive view of society and a command of catchy synth-pop, Devo burst into the charts in 1980 with weird classic 'Whip It'. Producer Robert Margouleff talks de-evolution...
Producer: Mike Chapman • Engineer: Peter Coleman
The partnership between Blondie and producer Mike Chapman created a perfect pop record - and catapulted the group from the underground to mainstream chart success.
Producers: Ray Minshull, Michael Woolcock • Engineers: James Lock, Kenneth Wilkinson
Recording opera requires a completely different approach, environment and technique to pop or rock music — a fact that has seldom been better demonstrated than in Pavarotti's 1972 recording of 'Nessun Dorma'.
Producer: Trevor Horn • Engineers: Steve Lipson, Julian Mendelsohn
The debut single from Liverpool's Frankie Goes To Hollywood was the result of adventurous production and enjoyed massive chart success - as well as creating a great deal of controversy.
Producer: Jean Beauvoir • Engineer: Fernando Kral
Undisputed kings of the three-chord thrash and arguably responsible for punk rock, it took over 10 years and the theme song to a Stephen King film to secure serious US chart success for the Ramones...
Producers: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland
One of the most famous record labels of all time, Motown fostered a group of uniquely talented writers, engineers and musicians who often had to invent the equipment and techniques they used to keep their music at the cutting edge. Lamont Dozier explains how it was done...
Producer: Al Kooper • Engineers: Al Kooper, Rodney Mills
In 1973, a band from Florida and California went to a studio in Georgia to record a song, provoked by a Canadian, about Alabama - and managed to define the sound of Southern rock while they were at it.
Producers: Chip Young, Billy Swan; Engineer: Chip Young
In 1974 Billy Swan walked into Chip Young's Young'un Sound studio and, in two takes, recorded a million-selling single that had taken him 20 minutes to write. This is how it was done...
Track: 'Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick'
The story of how a characteristically chaotic and unorthodox 1978 recording session took Ian Dury & The Blockheads to the top of the UK charts.
Producers: Nile Rodgers, Madonna, Stephen Bray • Engineer: Jason Corsaro
In mid-1984 Madonna arrived at New York City's Power Station studios with Nile Rodgers to record the album that would make her an international superstar - using cutting-edge 12-bit technology.
Producers: Richard Dashut, Ken Caillat, Fleetwood Mac
In 1976, in the face of deteriorating personal relationships and massive record company pressure, Fleetwood Mac managed to create a record that would go on to sell 30 million copies.
Producer: Billy Sherrill • Engineer: Lou Bradley
1973's 'The Most Beautiful Girl In The World' was one of the defining moments of the Nashville sound, and was the product of a finely-honed studio recording process.
Producers: Depeche Mode, Daniel Miller, Gareth Jones • Engineer: Gareth Jones
Released in 1984, 'People Are People' perfectly combined Depeche Mode's love of pop music and experimentalism, and gave them their first US hit single.
Producers: Paul & Phil Hartnoll • Engineers: Tim Hunt, Orbital
Orbital were renowned for their amazing live shows, and the story of 'Chime', the track that launched their career, shows how they brought their 'live' approach to electronic music to the studio and into the charts.
Producers: Garry Cobain, Brian Dougans • Engineers: Yage
In 1991 The Future Sound of London brought their unique brand of experimentalism to the dancefloor with the seminal track, 'Papua New Guinea' — and launched their career in the process.
Producers: The Band, John Simon • Engineers: John Simon, Robbie Robertson, Tony May
The origins of The Band as Bob Dylan's backing group are well known, but with songs like 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' they forged their own unique American sound.
Producers: Tom Dowd • Derek & The Dominos
Inspired by a Persian classical poet and a certain Mrs Harrison, 'Layla' went on to become Eric Clapton's most enduring hit.
Producer: Mike Chapman • Engineers: David Tickle, Pete Coleman
In 1979, at the end of a 13-way bidding war, The Knack went into the studio to record their debut single — a debut single that would go gold in seven days and sell six million copies worldwide. This is the story of how it came to be...
Producers: Bryan Adams • Bob Clearmountain
The Reckless album was a huge success for Bryan Adams, giving rise to six hit singles - but the first one, 'Run To You', was almost never even recorded.
Producers: Clive Langer, Alan Winstanley
Producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley helped to make Madness one of the most successful British bands of the '80s. Find out how they worked their magic on this 1982 classic pop track...
Producers: Mark Knopfler, Neil Dorfsman
The Brothers In Arms album turned Dire Straits into one of the biggest-selling bands of all time, thanks to some technical innovation, tough decision-making, and that guitar sound — which was created by accident. Find out how they did it...
Producer: Big Star • Engineer: John Fry
Three decades after they disappeared into obscurity, the cult of Big Star continues to grow. John Fry was the engineer and studio owner at Ardent, who oversaw the recording of their now-classic albums #1 Record and Radio City.
Producers: Chris Blackwell, The Wailers; Engineers: Phill Brown, Tony Platt
Bob Marley & The Wailers were the first Jamaican musicians to achieve world stardom. Tracked in Kingston and finished in London by Island engineers Phill Brown and Tony Platt, their breakthrough album was a truly international recording and a true reggae classic. Find out how it was recorded...
Producer/Engineer: Bones Howe
The art of the record producer blossomed in the 1960s, with the likes of Phil Spector crafting miniature symphonies in the studio. As that decade drew to a close, Bones Howe masterminded one of its biggest and most innovative hits.
Producer: Al Bell; Engineers: Terry Manning, Jerry Masters
For the Staple Singers' landmark 1972 Stax album, Terry Manning and producer Al Bell employed the talents of Memphis's finest musicians and two of the South's most famous studios.
Producer/Engineer: Gil Norton
With their oblique, short and often brutally noisy songs, The Pixies reinvented rock music at the turn of the '90s, and influenced almost everyone who picked up a guitar in the following decade. Producer and engineer Gil Norton helped them to shape their breakthrough single.
With his searing version of 'All Along The Watchtower', Jimi Hendrix set a standard for Dylan covers that has rarely been equalled. Eddie Kramer was behind the glass as the sessions moved from London to New York.
Producer: Ron Richards, The Hollies; Engineer: Alan Parsons
The Hollies were the third artist in as many years to cut Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood's pop ballad, yet it was their version that became a worldwide top 10 hit. In 1974, Alan Parsons was behind the mixing desk at Abbey Road for their recording of 'The Air That I Breathe'.
Producer: Chris Thomas; Engineer: Steve Churchyard
In 1982, the Pretenders responded to desperate circumstances with some of the strongest material they would ever produce. Engineer Steve Churchyard was there to record it.
Producers: The Bee Gees, Albhy Galuten, Karl Richardson
Disco was an American phenomenon, but its greatest hits were recorded in France by an English band who were trying to play R&B...
Producers: Supertramp, Peter Henderson
Producer and engineer Peter Henderson spent nine months recording an album that neither he nor the A&M label could afford to fail. Yet when he handed in the masters, Henderson was convinced that Supertramps Breakfast In America would finish his career...\n
Producers: 10cc; Engineeer: Eric Stewart
Disagreement can be destructive, but it can also drive a band on to new heights. So it was when 10cc's Kevin Godley turned up his nose at a love song penned by Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, insisting that it would have to be completely reinvented in the studio...
Producers: Jon Astley, Glyn Johns
The Who's final album with Keith Moon took almost a year to record and pushed the band to the limit. Engineer and producer Jon Astley tells the remarkable story behind Who Are You?'s title track.
Producers: Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards. Engineer: Bob Clearmountain
They might have been the greatest production team of the disco era, but even Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards could fall victim to the elitism of New York's club scene - and their response was the most memorable of all Chic's hits.
Producers: Stephen Hague & New Order; Engineer: David Jacob
Producer Stephen Hague took New Order into the studio with an ambitious brief: to write and record a single that would break the band in America.
Producer: John Leckie. Engineers: John Leckie, John Cornfield, Paul Schroeder
As the '80s drew to a close, The Stone Roses made rock music cool again, melding '60s psychedelia and acid house under the production guidance of John Leckie.
Producers: Morrissey, Johnny Marr • Engineer: Stephen Street
Stephen Street made his name as an engineer working with one of the most influential indie bands ever. He describes the sessions that created the title track of The Smiths' most celebrated album.
Producers: Robert Smith, Mike Hedges
Mike Hedges made his 1980 debut as a producer with one of The Cure's most enduring singles. 'A Forest' and the accompanying Seventeen Seconds album used his and the band's creativity in the studio to the full.
Producers: Robin Millar, Sade Adu, Mike Pela, Ben Rogan
Sade's ice-cool vocals and sophisticated, jazz-tinged instrumentation defined a new kind of soul music for the '80s. Engineer and producer Mike Pela describes the organic recording process that produced one of the singer's most memorable hits from 1985.
Artist: David Bowie; Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti; Studio: Hansa Ton, Berlin
With 'Heroes', David Bowie pulled off the rare feat of having a major hit with a highly experimental piece of art-rock, which featured among other highlights live synth treatments from Brian Eno, pitched feedback from guitarist Robert Fripp, and a lead vocal with level-triggered ambience.
Artist: The Sex Pistols; Producer: Chris Thomas; Engineer: Bill Price
When punk rock broke in 1976, the Sex Pistols caused panic in establishment Britain — and more than a few raised eyebrows in Wessex Studios, where Chris Thomas and Bill Price recorded the band's milestone EMI debut album.
Producers: Michael Jackson, Bill Bottrell • Engineer: Bill Bottrell
The 18-month gestation period behind Michael Jackson's Dangerous album and its lead single 'Black Or White' saw '80s studio perfectionism taken to extremes — and despite their success, the experience helped to convince co-writer, engineer and co-producer Bill Bottrell that there had to be another way to make records!
Producers: Duran Duran, Alex Sadkin, Ian Little; Engineers: Phil Thornalley, Pete Schwier
When Duran Duran began work on their third album in 1983, they were already one of the biggest bands in the world — and with eight months of studio time and half a million pounds spent, huge expectations surrounded Seven And The Ragged Tiger...
Artist: Kate Bush; Producer: Andrew Powell; Engineer: Jon Kelly
Kate Bush's 1978 smash hit debut single was also the first major project Jon Kelly had recorded. It proved to be a dream start for both artist and engineer, and a perfect illustration of the benefits of working with talented session musicians.
Artist: Tina Turner; Producer: Terry Britten; Engineer: John Hudson
In 1984, a dose of British soul resurrected Tina Turner's flagging career in spectacular style. For engineer John Hudson, the recording of 'What's Love Got To Do With It?' also provided a memorable example of the 'less is more' principle in action...
Artist: The Rolling Stones; Engineer: Chris Kimsey
In 1981, 'Start Me Up' became one of the Rolling Stones' biggest hit singles. Yet it was actually a reject from a previous session, and only saw the light of day because its infamous co-writers had fallen out...
Producers: The Police, Hugh Padgham • Engineer: Hugh Padgham.
The Police's final studio album was both a technical and artistic tour de force, and yielded one of their most memorable hit singles. Yet the three members were unable to play in the same room without a fight breaking out, so the recording sessions proved tough going for engineer and co-producer Hugh Padgham...
Artists: Natalie Cole & Nat 'King' Cole; Producer: David Foster; Engineer: Al Schmitt
Half a century in the business has seen recording engineer Al Schmitt reach the very top of his profession, but even a man of his experience can find himself faced with new challenges. So it was in 1991, when he was called upon to turn a classic Nat 'King' Cole recording into a duet with Cole's daughter Natalie...
Artist: THE DOORS; Producer: Paul Rothchild; Engineeer: Bruce Botnick
Engineer and producer Bruce Botnick recorded some of the greatest artifacts of West Coast psychedelia, among them the first five albums by The Doors. Here he describes the making of their influential second album and its title track, which saw them develop their live sound through radical experimentation in the studio.
Artist: Cliff Richard; Producer: Norrie Paramor; Engineer: Malcolm Addey
This month, Sound On Sound begins a major new series, looking back in detail at the engineering and production behind some of the most historically significant recordings ever made, with the story of the first and greatest British rock & roll record.