CLASSIC TRACKS: Fleetwood Mac 'Go Your Own Way'

Producers: Richard Dashut, Ken Caillat, Fleetwood Mac

Published in SOS August 2007
Bookmark and Share

Technique : Classic Tracks

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.

Richard Buskin

classic tracks Fleetwood

John Lennon said it: "Genius is pain." And indeed, if an artist's personal misery often lends itself to creative achievement, then the mid-'70s incarnation of Fleetwood Mac was not only a case in point, but actually a multiple helping. You see, by 1976 not only was the marriage of bass player John McVie and keyboardist Christine at an end, but so was that of drummer Mick Fleetwood and spouse Jenny Boyd (sister of George Harrison's former wife, Pattie Boyd), while the long-time relationship between guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks had also reached breaking point. Since all of this just happened to coincide with the mainstream triumph of the eponymous 1975 album that spawned the hit singles 'Over My Head', 'Say You Love Me' and 'Rhiannon', and the record company was telling them that superstar status was now theirs for the taking, the band members had little choice but to stick it out and record a follow-up.

Classic 1
Photo: Richard E Aaron/Redferns
Fleetwood Mac touring Rumours in New York, 1977. From left to right: Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.
Fleetwood Mac touring Rumours in New York, 1977. From left to right: Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.
Fleetwood Mac touring Rumours in New York, 1977. From left to right: Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.

Which is precisely what they did, drawing on internal tensions (fuelled by copious amounts of drugs and alcohol) to produce the band's magnum opus, Rumours. The recipient of a Grammy Award as 1977's Album of the Year, as well as a diamond certification by the RIAA for sales that, by 2003, would top 19 million in the US alone (and more than 30 million worldwide), the record sat at number one on the Billboard charts for over six months and included hit singles such as Buckingham's 'Go Your Own Way', Nicks' 'Dreams' and Christine McVie's 'Don't Stop' and 'You Make Loving Fun', as well as other popular tracks like Nicks' 'Gold Dust Woman' and all five members' 'The Chain'.

Still, it's 'Go Your Own Way', the first single released off the album — and the only Fleetwood Mac number to have made the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame's list of '500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll' — that has proved to be the most enduring. And it's also the one that best encapsulates what Rumours was all about, with Lindsey charmingly informing Stevie that "Loving you isn't the right thing to do," and "Packing up, shacking up is all you wanna do," (a line he refused to take out despite her objections). Little wonder that she joined him enthusiastically to sing "You can go your own way" on the chorus.

"I very much resented him telling the world that 'packing up, shacking up' with different men was all I wanted to do," Nicks later told Rolling Stone. "He knew it wasn't true. It was just an angry thing that he said. Every time those words would come onstage, I wanted to go over and kill him. He knew it, so he really pushed my buttons through that. It was like, 'I'll make you suffer for leaving me.' And I did."

Then again, as Nicks also acknowledged during an episode of VH1's Behind The Music, "Devastation leads to writing good things." And no doubt about it, 'Go Your Own Way' is a really good thing, boasting a beautiful pop melody, exquisite vocal harmonies, a dynamic chorus and Buckingham's scintillating guitar solo.

Pot Luck

Ken Caillat is a native of Northern California who relocated to Los Angeles during the early '70s and landed a job at Wally Heider Recording. There he assisted producer/engineer Bones Howe on numerous sessions, recorded Joni Mitchell's live album and tracked the strings on Paul McCartney & Wings' Venus & Mars, prior to hooking up with Fleetwood Mac.

This came about by way of Richard Dashut, a former housemate of Buckingham and Nicks who'd assistant-engineered their album and then became Mac's live mixer when the duo joined the band in 1975. Popping into Wally Heider's to remix a show for radio broadcast, Dashut sat alongside Caillat behind the console and struck up a fast friendship when the latter asked if he smoked weed and would like to get high.

"We put the tapes aside for a few minutes, smoked a joint and spent most of the night mixing tapes," Dashut would later recall. "The band liked the job and they liked Ken, I liked Ken, everybody liked Ken."

Classic 2
Ken Caillat positioning mics in Studio 4 at Wally Heider Recording.
Ken Caillat positioning mics in Studio 4 at Wally Heider Recording.

Caillat himself remembers: "It was a Saturday, and Mick said, 'Jeez, Ken, we really like you and we wish we had met you sooner because tomorrow we're gonna work with this guy named Kelly Kotera over at the Record Plant. We've hired him to record our next album up in Sausalito.' Anyway, they took off to remix 'Rhiannon', which was the next single, and then I got a call Monday morning saying it didn't work, everything was off with Kelly, and could I do the mix?"

The mix was done that afternoon, everybody loved it, and the result was that when Dashut was unexpectedly asked to helm the Rumours project, he asked Caillat to collaborate.

"Mick gave me and Ken each an old Chinese I-Ching coin and said, 'Good luck,'" Dashut recalled.

As it turned out, the more technically adept Caillat did most of the engineering, while the production chores were shared.

"At first, I was only going to engineer," Caillat says. "However, the group's attitude was, 'Hey, you can't sit in there and just turn knobs, kid. You've got to tell us what's going on. You need to be our eyes and ears.' After we'd done a couple of takes, I was asked which one I liked best. I was looking at them like, 'Well, why don't you just come in and listen?' The fact was, they didn't want to come in. They wanted input from the control room. So, when they then asked if I liked one bass part more than another bass part, I spoke up, and it was the same with Richard. He and I quickly figured out this wasn't going to be just a 'sit back and turn the knobs' gig. We'd have to pay attention and maybe take notes once in a while, and soon we were telling them, 'Hey, that was a great take. We really like that second take more.' It was kinda like Producing 101.

"Although Richard turned some knobs, he didn't like to do that as much. I remember one time, Lindsey literally screamed at me: 'Goddamn it, Ken! Would you let him do some engineering?' I was like, 'Well, I'm not stopping him!' Richard's a personable guy, and he did more of the talking. He was the one who cracked the jokes. And that was fine. I liked to turn the knobs. You see, the real turmoil on that album only took place at the start of the sessions and it probably lasted two or three weeks. That was down to not only the relationship issues but also the pressure to deliver.

Pressure

"I remember one day they got a call from the record company telling them how important the next album would be. We had been recording songs and getting some nice basic tracks, and suddenly their level of interest changed — 'Let me hear that bass part again. Solo it up for me.' 'Why? We've already been high-fiving one another. It's great.' 'Just solo it up.' They all got very interested in reviewing their parts, so things kinda got a little more serious that way, and this was right about the same time that Mick's wife left him. I remember him walking into the control room as white as a ghost, and of course everyone rallied around him, but then there was John and Christine's break-up. She'd sneak her new boyfriend into the studio just as John was walking out through another door, and we were kinda ducking — 'When are the two chemicals going to mix? When are we going to have the explosion?'

"Whereas Mick didn't have any say in what was happening — his wife wanted out — and John and Christine's relationship had degraded to the point where she was already seeing somebody else, Lindsey and Stevie were still in the fighting stage. I remember them singing background vocals to 'You Make Loving Fun', sitting on two stools in front of a pair of microphones, directly facing me on the other side of the control room glass, and if we had to stop tape for whatever reason, during the few seconds that it was being rewound they'd be shouting and screaming at one another. I'd be thinking, 'Go tape, go tape, hurry, hurry, let's hit play!' It was painful, especially as the guys were all living at this Record Plant house, but thankfully by the time we got back to LA, and everybody was sleeping in his or her own bed, it was just a case of getting together to work every day. In fact, it was pretty harmonious compared to other sessions I'd do later on."

This often revolved around recording new parts once the basic backing tracks had all been completed.

"Lindsey might walk in the room and say, 'I've been thinking; I've got a great idea for a guitar solo on 'Go Your Own Way',' and so we'd work on that and put it down," Caillat explains. "Or Stevie might say she had an idea for a background vocal and we'd work on that. It felt nice and fresh because we kept rotating everything. You see, I really think the whole topic of drugs on those sessions has been overplayed. Yeah, that stuff was around, but it wasn't like everybody was crawling all over one another, and I don't think it got in the way of the music-making. It was more a case of 'Hey, we're all getting kind of tired. Maybe we should get some coke.' Someone had introduced them to it, they had liked it, and what with us getting weary as the weeks went on, it was seen as a pick-me up — 'Oh man, I'm beat, I don't know if I can get up and go today.'

"We worked 14- or 15-hour days, and I always tried to start the session at the same time every day but could never do it. Fourteen to 15 hours didn't leave enough time, so every day we pushed back another two or three hours. You know, 'It's two in the morning, but let's try to start at noon tomorrow.' Then, by the time we'd get home and go to sleep, we couldn't make it. We were always trying to push ourselves to get in at a decent time, but eventually we were starting at 10 o'clock at night and finally we said, 'OK, this is crazy.' One Saturday we worked until four in the morning, so we took Sunday off, slept most of the day, and started again first thing Monday morning. However, we felt like we weren't getting enough done and that we couldn't keep taking days off, so the coke seemed like a good solution. Today that wouldn't be the case; I would just say, 'We're taking Saturday and Sunday off, everybody have a good night's sleep, have a good time, and we'll see you bright and early Monday morning.' It seems so simple, but back then it felt like we were all in it together, working 'til we dropped."

Slow Chain Coming
Although Ken Caillat generally didn't edit between takes, there were one or two exceptions, the most notable of which was a track titled 'Keep Me There', recorded during the first few weeks at the Sausalito Record Plant, and described by him as a 'weedy song' with a three-minute bass-and-guitar solo that evolved into 'The Chain'.
"We kept trying to figure out 'Keep Me There' and we were about ready to bump it off because it wasn't going anywhere," he recalls. "Then Lindsey came in one day and said he had an idea. He actually had me take some blank tape and cut it in exactly where the verses were. So we got rid of the verses, and then he had Mick play the kick-drum part — we didn't know what the hell Lindsey was doing. He kept the drums and bass on the chorus, although he changed the key of the song and changed the chords, and he also came up with an all-new kick drum on the verse and new background parts. That's how he came up with 'The Chain'. We cut the hell out of that tape.
"That's what I don't like about Pro Tools recording today — that whole thing of setting up the direction of what we're going to do next is gone. After all, with Pro Tools you can do it so fast, who cares? You can deal with it later, and I think that gets rid of innovation. You're basically running at the pace of Pro Tools — you can cut and paste, take a guitar part from the first verse and put it in the second verse, and you do it so fast that you don't really sit down and say, 'Gee, why don't we build some effects here?' I mean, there were times with Fleetwood Mac where we'd put on effects that would actually change the part and change the song.
"Take 'Silver Springs' [the B-side of 'Go Your Own Way']. I taped this Sony ECM50 lavalier mic onto Lindsey's Fender Strat, which was kind of a crazy idea because no sound would be coming out of there. However, I noticed, when he would sit around and play in the studio, that I liked the sound of the high frequency that comes off the strings — it's hardly a note, but more of a second-octave, third-octave harmonic thing. So I taped the ECM50 on there and he was actually playing the part through his volume pedal, meaning that when he plucked the string and opened up the pedal you'd hear this 'wah' sound', while preceding that there would be the little glassy clink of the ECM50. Then we ran the pedal sound through the Leslie and had a delay on that, slowing his part down — he was actually going to double that part, but then when he heard the delay he started playing along to it and that changed the whole tempo of the song... You wouldn't have had that in the Pro Tools world, where there's no credibility given to putting some space into the songs. Back then, you'd put echo on there and create space, and you were painting a portrait while you were going."
Despite his reservations about the Pro Tools way of working, Caillat recently co-produced the album of his R&B singer/songwriter daughter Colbie for Universal on Pro Tools, while also serving as a Managing Engineer and partner in Xepa Digital, a company that provides archive preservation for recorded tapes.
Troubleshooting In Sausalito

Rumours was recorded between February and August 1977, and the first two months were spent at the Record Plant in Sausalito, mainly so that the band members could temporarily escape the attention of attorneys and record company execs while laying the foundations for their new album. For his part, Ken Caillat took a leave of absence from Wally Heider's, promising that he'd attempt to have Fleetwood Mac record there once they felt comfortable about returning to LA. And he succeeded (more of which later).

"It was a Tom Hidley room, a very dead room, and I didn't like the sound in there," Caillat says about the Record Plant's Sausalito facility. "It had very dead speakers and a lot of padding — you'd walk into the control room and it was so still that you'd almost hurt your ears. There was a 3M 24-track machine, great mics, an API console with 550A equalisers, and a medium-sized live room; about 30 by 20 feet."

The fact that Caillat was used to working on API desks at Wally Heider Recording made for a smooth transition up in Sausalito, yet it didn't prevent him and Dashut from initially running into an extended period of big-time sonic trouble.

Classic 3
Ken Caillat (left) in the control room at Wally Heider Recording with a particularly excited Lindsey Buckingham and a rather blurry Richard Dashut. In the background is Chris Morris, an assistant from the Record Plant in Sausalito.
Ken Caillat (left) in the control room at Wally Heider Recording with a particularly excited Lindsey Buckingham and a rather blurry Richard Dashut. In the background is Chris Morris, an assistant from the Record Plant in Sausalito.

"Richard and I nearly got fired," he reveals. "I think it took us about eight or nine days before we could get a sound that was good. Everything sounded like a miniature person was playing these miniature instruments, and we were just pulling our hair out. I'm sure Fleetwood Mac were going, 'What the hell did we do? We only tried out this guy Caillat on one mix. He certainly can't engineer.' Richard and I tried everything to make the sound bigger. We even taped two kick drums together out of frustration, trying to get some size and some beat out of them, but nothing would work, and finally I got pissed off. I said, 'Goddamn it, what the hell's going on here,' and I literally just started turning knobs, and within about five minutes of doing this on a track we were trying to cut, it was sounding great.

"Basically, I remembered that the APIs like the preamp to be opened up more, so I would bring the fader down as low as possible and crank up the input gain, and it seemed like that opened up the sound; that and +12 on every EQ channel. Once I did that, I started twisting knobs, and boom-boom-boom, it worked. The band walked in after we'd recorded this one song and they were like, 'Wow, so what was the last eight days all about? It just took you guys 10 minutes to get a killer sound.'"

Looking through the control-room window at the rectangular-shaped live area that ran lengthwise from left to right, Ken Caillat could see a drum area at the right side, with wood on the floor as well as on the wall that was to the rear of the kit. Baffles were placed around Mick Fleetwood, and also around John McVie, who stood facing his own amp as well as the drummer, while Lindsey Buckingham was positioned behind the bass player — or to the left of him from Caillat's viewpoint — and Christine McVie's keyboards were close to the window, somewhat isolated from the drums.

"We'd put an amp in one room, put another amp in another room, and have another room with a Leslie preamp mic'd up," Caillat explains. "I liked to set the monitor mix and the headphone mix as close as possible to what I thought the record would sound like, including whatever effects would be on there. And because we wanted to have enough flexibility for songs having different effects, I always had two or three mics on a guitar amp — I could put one out of phase, slide the others back and forth to change the sound, and I'd do the same with the bass. With a Leslie on a send, if I needed to send an electric guitar through the Leslie, I'd just bring that fader up."

Frequencies

While the songwriting and performances were obviously central to the album's success, the production and engineering cannot be discounted. And this is particularly true with regard to how the instruments not only blend together but also retain their own space, courtesy of Dashut and Caillat ensuring that each was allotted its own place within the frequency spectrum.

Classic 4
A tracksheet from the Rumours sessions; 'Go Your Own Way' is second from the top.
A tracksheet from the Rumours sessions; 'Go Your Own Way' is second from the top.

"We had a lot of time to dial everything in, and the band members were incredibly tolerant," Caillat says. "But then again, if you think about how we started, with them asking us to be their ears, that was just a natural progression. When we were recording Rumours, Christine would ask, 'How does everything sound, Ken? Did you like this take better than that take?' and sometimes I'd say, 'Y'know, Chris, I'm having trouble hearing the keyboard and the guitar.' The first time I said that, I didn't really know what I meant, but she said, 'Oh... Yeah, you're right, Ken. We're playing in the same register. Why don't I invert the keyboard down a third and get out of Lindsey's way?' Which is what she did and it worked brilliantly. After that I'd go, 'Hey, you know, you two guys are playing in the same spot. One of you should go up or down, so let's figure out who's going to take which frequency.'"

The prime example of Rumours' excellence in terms of composition, arrangement, performance and sonic clarity was 'Go Your Own Way', whose complex drums originated in a discussion between Richard Dashut and Lindsey Buckingham that Ken Caillat overheard while driving them to the Sausalito studio one morning. In short, the two men agreed that they loved Charlie Watts' drum pattern on The Rolling Stones' 'Street Fighting Man', and Buckingham asserted that he'd love to hear Mick Fleetwood play something similar.

"We knew we were going to record 'Go Your Own Way', and so when we got to the studio Lindsey cut the track with an acoustic guitar," Caillat recalls. "Then he asked Mick to play these drums that had the big tom fills, and although Mick couldn't quite get it, he 'Fleetwoodized' it, doing the best that he could to duplicate the Stones track. John played along on bass, and after that we built the song with Lindsey's guitar and Christine's organ. In fact, before we left Sausalito I did rough mixes of every song, and that tape was very similar to the final version of Rumours, just without all the little frosting and bells and whistles, including the solos."

Fleetwood Mics
In terms of the miking, Mick Fleetwood's kit was recorded with two AKG 451s overhead, an AKG C414 with a 20dB pad on the snare, dynamic mics for the toms and a Sennheiser 441 on the kick.
"Mick was always a fanatic for headphones," Caillat remarks. "He had to hear everything perfectly through them, so I'd have an assistant dedicated to just taking care of them. He had to be able to hear the part to play the part, and he was a really heavy hitter of everything except the kick drum. We used to call him 'Feather Foot', because there'd be these tremendous snare and tom hits while the kick was going 'pfff-pfff, pfff-pfff.' In fact, if you solo'd the kick you could hear him going, 'Ag, ag, ag, ag,' all the time he was playing. It was loud enough to come through the kick drum, and you couldn't hear anything else with the gates on the snare and so on."
The bass, meanwhile, went through a Fat Box DI. "I used to love that sound," says Caillat. "I didn't think you could get any better than that. The amp got in the way most of the time, but still, we'd record the bass on two tracks — direct and amp, probably mic'd with something like a 414 — and many times we then erased the amp when we needed another track.
"For Lindsey I always used an SM57 and a 451. I found that those two mics complemented each other, and if I put the 57 about an inch from the cloth and the 451 about two inches from the speaker, a little off to the side, and then moved the two faders up and down both together and independently, I could change the sound radically. And you'd get a really interesting sound if you also put phase on one of them. Added to that there was always a direct, although I didn't use that so much with Lindsey unless we were feeding a Leslie with it. We had everything mic'd up for whatever effects we wanted.
"The same applied to the keyboards — a grand piano, Rhodes, Wurlitzer and [Hammond] B3. Pretty much all of the electronic stuff was recorded direct, but again we'd have an amp in another room in case we wanted that sound on a keyboard. It all depended. We had plenty of time, so when they started playing we'd dial up everything. You know, 'Let's put a little amp on that. It'll fill out the sound better.' Basically, it was like we were mixing while we were recording."
In the meantime, guide vocals were tracked with whatever mics were least susceptible to leakage — SM57s, SM58s, 441s.
"Sometimes we'd use weird mics, like the RCA 77, and I remember doing a lot of backgrounds around one mic, whereas sometimes we'd do three-part harmonies with three mics and then blend them later. Everything got bounced down, because we were filling up tracks. We'd have the equivalent of 50 or 60 tracks on the 24-track, combining and combining, going down a generation, and it's amazing because when I did a 5.1 mix of Rumours a couple of years ago everything sounded great. To retain as much transients as possible without saturating the tape, I'd recorded it at 15ips, Dolby, zero level. I could have pushed the tape harder, because back then the standard was +3, but I wanted to keep a lot of headroom for transients. It was a different time."
Tape Decay

With everything in good shape, about four months were spent at Wally Heider Recording, adding most of Buckingham's guitar colours and harmonics, with Fleetwood and John McVie in attendance, while the women took a break, before returning toward the end for some vocal work.

"Doing the backing vocals was always great," Caillat remarks. "Lindsey, Stevie and Christine would sit around a piano, and Lindsey would really orchestrate what was going on — 'You're going to sing these notes. Here's how they sound on the piano...' All of the parts were just genius, I think. Still, it was also at Heider's that we almost lost the album, due to the tape wearing out. We listened to everything loud, and I started saying, 'Are my ears going or does this sound duller than usual? It seems like I'm adding more top end all the time.' Eventually I turned to the second engineer and asked him to clean the heads, and when he did this I noticed there was a lot of shedding going on. Every pass we had to stop and clean the heads, but still we pushed on, trying to get the work done, until finally I said, 'Maybe there's a bigger problem here. Maybe we're doing damage.'

Classic 5
Concentrate! Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut doing the final mix at Wally Heider Recording.
Concentrate! Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut doing the final mix at Wally Heider Recording.

"At one point I even brought up the kick drum and the snare, solo'd them, went back and forth between the two, and asked anybody if they could pick out which was which, and without any other timing information or instrumentation you couldn't tell the difference between them. So much character was gone from the kick and the snare that they just sounded like 'pah, pah'. That's when the fog cleared from our brains and we knew we had a problem. The fact was, the tapes were just worn out. They had been played so much, and that Ampex tape also had a problem that we wouldn't find out about until later, but coincidentally we had a backup.

"Back at the Sausalito Record Plant, when Richard and I had been trying to get our act together and get the sound to come out of the console, the guys there told us that, with two 24-track machines in each room, their usual procedure was to run both on the backing tracks. Well, I didn't care, so I said, 'Sure'. I've never done that at any other time, but in this case we ran two 24-track recorders for all the basic tracks, so when we now couldn't tell the difference between the kick drum and the snare I remembered that we had these simultaneous first-generation masters. I said, 'There is a solution, guys. We could possibly transfer all of the overdubs back to the other tape and use the new drums.' They said, 'You can do that?' and I said, 'I think so.' They said, 'Well, let's do it!' Of course, back then we didn't have any time code, so we didn't have any way to sync the tapes up, and I therefore called around and found a real technical guy at ABC Dunhill who thought he could do it. We went there and put the tapes up, and we manually transferred them side by side.

"Tape machines will never run at the same speed twice, so this guy put a pair of headphones on, and he put the hi-hat and snare from the original tape in his left ear, and the hi-hat and snare from the safety master in his right ear, and we kept marking the tape and hitting 'start' on both machines at the same time until it was close enough at the beginning, and then he would use the VSO [vari-speed oscillator] on one of the machines, carefully adjusting the speed slightly and basically playing it like an instrument, keeping the two kick drums and snare drums in the centre of his head. If he put his headphones in the right direction, as one machine moved faster than the other, the image in his head would move to the right. So he would turn the VSO to the left, and basically it was like steering it. I tried that a couple of times and it nearly scrambled my brain, but he did that all night long and saved our butts. Rumours would have been dead, just about. What a coincidence that we'd just happened to record double basic tracks."

The Story Of 'Dreams'
"Most of the material for the album was composed in the studio," Ken Caillat recalls, "but Stevie used to get bored, sitting around while all the technical stuff was going on, so she asked if there was a room with a piano to noodle around on. Well, the Record Plant told her she could use Sly Stone's studio — a little sunken room that they'd built for him to work in — and one day while we were working on some track, she came in and said, 'I've just written the most amazing song.' 'Really? Let's hear it.' So, she walked over to the Rhodes — which, like everything else, was always mic'd up and ready to go — and she played 'Dreams'. Everyone else joined in, she did a guide vocal, and that was the keeper. It's the only time that ever happened. She tried to redo the vocal again and again, but she could never beat the original. I actually wanted her to beat it, because it had the drums leaking into her vocal mic and, in a couple of spots where she sang softly, I had to ride it up and you could hear even more of the snare. Still, it was a one-off.
"I always had the second engineer line up every available mic that I thought might be a contender for the vocal, and I'd have Stevie, for example, sing through each of them to see which one sounded best. The only thing was, to her the best-sounding mic was always a dynamic. 'Dreams' was recorded with a Sennheiser 441 — that sounded great for her, and that happened to be what we were using. I liked the dynamics because they had that proximity effect, and I used to put a rubber band around a wind-screen and place that on the microphone, making sure the wind-screen was about a half-inch from the front of the mic. I'd say, 'Keep your lips up against that wind-screen,' and that way I got a lot of bottom, to which I could then add top if I wanted to."
Playing The Guitar Player

Drama, drama, drama. Fortunately, the tapes were now in sparkling condition, yet things didn't exactly calm down following the completion of work at Wally Heider's. Thereafter, more vocals were recorded at both Sound City and the Record Plant in LA, the band performed several live gigs, and during a week off in Florida there were sessions at Miami's Criteria Studios, prior to the main mix taking place on a custom-built, transformerless board at Producers Workshop on Hollywood Boulevard. And still tensions were running high.

"We were at Criteria, Lindsey was working on guitar parts for 'Go Your Own Way', and at one point, having previously been warned that we only had one track left, he filled that with another part and then wanted to redo something," recalls Caillat. "I told him, 'We've just used the last track, so which one of the four takes that we've just done do you want to go over? Otherwise, we'll have to stop and comp it.' 'No, no, get rid of the last one,' he said. So, I went ahead and recorded again, and then he said, 'Play the last one.' I said, 'You told me to erase it.' Well, he put his guitar down, ran into the control room where I was sitting in a chair, and put both hands around my neck, shaking me like he was trying to strangle me. I said, 'Uh, excuse me?' and stood up, and he said, 'Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.' Everybody said, 'What are you doing? You told him to get rid of that track!' But that's how wound-up he was."

Classic 6
Photo: GAB Archives/Redferns
Fleetwood Mac, 1977.
Fleetwood Mac, 1977.

Sanity prevailed, and a good job, too, for it was at Criteria that Buckingham's stellar 'Go Your Own Way' guitar solo was ingeniously assembled from numerous takes by none other than Ken Caillat.

"By being able to stay in the moment and recall what was on tape, I knew every little lick that I liked on every track," he explains. "I'd have different lead-guitar takes on five or six faders, and I knew that this fader had this really good lick, so I'd bring it up and everybody would go, 'Hey, I love that lick, so don't forget it.' Then I'd bring up another one and they'd go, 'Oh, that's good too.' There were about six takes of lead guitar throughout the end section, and I basically started bringing up one fader and keeping it as long as I could, until it wasn't good any more, and then I'd bring up another fader and use that until I switched to another one, and so on.

"It was a completely comp'd solo, and on the 24-track it's still in its original form, with all the separate guitars, and you still have to mix that way. I remember, I'd gone away for Christmas vacation and got snowed in at Lake Tahoe, and when I finally returned I got a midnight call telling me to come to the studio because they'd been trying to mix that song and couldn't build the guitar solo. So I drove there and did the solo, using mutes and faders while also having two solos play simultaneously for certain parts, such as one toward the end where he does this slide.

"Obviously, I couldn't have done it without Lindsey, who played the parts in the first place and then had to learn that solo in order to play it live. And I also couldn't have done it that way in Pro Tools. I was literally playing the console like a musical instrument. With Pro Tools there's no instrument to play. It's all about faders on the screen, whereas I want faders on the board that I can touch and move. Pro Tools is intellectual — 'Let's bring that up by one-and-a-half dB,' — instead of being able to push the thing up and feel it. I mean, it may have been kind of cheesy that I was performing with this other guy's performance, but it was fun." 


Classic Tracks: Billy Swan 'I Can Help'

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...

CLASSIC TRACKS: Ian Dury & The Blockheads

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.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Madonna 'Like A Virgin'

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.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Fleetwood Mac 'Go Your Own Way'

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.

CLASSIC TRACKS: The Only Ones: 'Another Girl, Another Planet'

Producer: Alan Mair • Engineers: John Burns, Robert Ash

Although never a commercial success, the Only One's 'Another Girl, Another Planet' has proved to be massively influential; and nearly 30 years after its original release, it's finally getting the recognition it deserves.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Tricky 'Black Steel'

Producers: Tricky • Mark Saunders

Thumbnail for article: CLASSIC TRACKS: Tricky 'Black Steel'Tricky's highly unorthodox approach to recording and making music led to the creation of one of the most unique and critically lauded records of the '90s.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Charlie Rich 'The Most Beautiful Girl In The World'

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.

CLASSIC TRACKS: The Ronettes 'Be My Baby'

Producer: Phil Spector • Engineer: Larry Levine

Phil Spector was one of the first producers to realise that a recording studio could be an instrument in itself - and the sound he created over 40 years ago has influenced popular music ever since.

CLASSIC TRACKS: The Jam 'The Eton Rifles'

Producers: The Jam, Vic Coppersmith-Heaven • Engineers: Alan Douglas, Vic Coppersmith-Heaven

'The Eton Rifles' captured both Paul Weller's growing talent as a songwriter and the raw power of his band the Jam, and gave the group their first top 10 hit.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Depeche Mode's 'People Are People'

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.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Les Paul & Mary Ford 'How High The Moon'

Producer & Engineer: Les Paul

Les Paul made some of the most innovative records of the 20th Century, but he had to invent multitrack tape recording first...

CLASSIC TRACKS: The Cure 'A Forest'

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.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Sade's 'The Sweetest Taboo'

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.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Heroes

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.

CLASSIC TRACKS: 'Anarchy In The UK'

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.

MICHAEL JACKSON 'Black Or White' | Classic Tracks

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!

CLASSIC TRACKS: 'The Reflex'

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...

CLASSIC TRACKS: 'Wuthering Heights'

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.

CLASSIC TRACKS: 'What's Love Got To Do With It?'

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...

CLASSIC TRACKS: 'Start Me Up'

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...

Classic Tracks: The Police's 'Every Breath You Take'

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...

CLASSIC TRACKS: 'Unforgettable'

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...

DAW Tips from SOS

 

Home | Search | News | Current Issue | Tablet Mag | Articles | Forum | Subscribe | Shop | Readers Ads

Advertise | Information | Digital Editions | Privacy Policy | Support | Login Help

 

Email: Contact SOS

Telephone: +44 (0)1954 789888

Fax: +44 (0)1954 789895

Registered Office: Media House, Trafalgar Way, Bar Hill, Cambridge, CB23 8SQ, United Kingdom.

Sound On Sound Ltd is registered in England and Wales.

Company number: 3015516 VAT number: GB 638 5307 26

         

All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents. The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.

Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media