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How I Got That Sound: Bob Clearmountain

Crowded House ‘I Feel Possessed’ By Joe Matera
Published February 2023

How I Got That Sound

American record producer, engineer and mixer Bob Clearmountain is a true giant of the music industry. Over the course of his illustrious four‑decade career, he has worked with some of the most iconic artists of our time, from Bryan Adams and the Rolling Stones to Elton John, the Kinks and many, many others. Asked to choose a favourite sound from the many he’s had a hand in creating, he picks Neil Finn’s vocal from the Crowded House track ‘I Feel Possessed’.

Taking Possession

“This is one of my favourite Neil Finn songs, from Crowded House’s Temple Of Low Men album. Needless to say, the song is about a person so in love with someone that he actually feels possessed when she’s near him — a feeling I can relate to when thinking about my wife, Betty.

I wanted to give Neil’s vocal sound a special treatment to convey the sort of feeling the character in the song is experiencing.

How I Got That Sound: Bob Clearmountain | Crowded House“I wanted to give Neil’s vocal sound a special treatment to convey the sort of feeling the character in the song is experiencing, so it starts with a subtle stereo chorus effect in the verse, which I believe I got using the Yamaha SPX90 ‘Symphonic’ preset. To take it a step further I also added, from what I can remember, a quarter‑note delay. To make it creepier I then added a backwards reverb just to the delay, then flanged that 'verb. In the choruses of the song, I removed all those effects and just kept a subtle verb and ambience, which was probably some sort of digital 'verb, like a Yamaha Pro R3 and a bit of an Ursa Major Space Station. Not really sure, but I think that’s what I was using back in those days!

“At the third verse there’s a bit of a breakdown of the instruments, which makes it kind of like a middle eight. The lyric starts with the girl entering the scene, so I wanted the vocal to feel like a transition from normality to gradually increasing this feeling of possession as she gets closer. So, it starts with the vocal pretty much dry for the first four bars, then the SPX90 Symphonic enters. Then, over the next four bars, that weird delay with the flanged backwards verb gradually fades up to a crescendo just before the dry chorus. After Mitchell Froom’s amazing B3 solo, the verse effects fade up again at the very end as Neil sings the title and you can hear the creepy delay trailing off in the fade.”  

Hear The Sound