Classic Tracks: The Runaways "Cherry Bomb"

Jan 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Barbara Schultz


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Producer/arist Kim Fowley (left) with Fidelity Recording Studios owner Artie Ripp circa '76

Producer/arist Kim Fowley (left) with Fidelity Recording Studios owner Artie Ripp circa '76

“Studio B was like I had rooms and I converted them into a studio when need be, as opposed to Studio A, which was a studio all the time,” clarifies Ripp, who founded Fidelity in 1971. “Studio B was a control room and a reasonable-sized office — kind of a large conference room. The other side of the back wall was the front office so you could easily blow away anything that was going on in the front office. But there was an intimacy in the room and there was a sound that was tight and alive, despite its lack of, shall we say, visual amenities.”

Behind a 16-channel Quantam console for The Runaways' first sessions was the studio's chief engineer, Andy Morris, whom we were unable to locate for this article. Fowley recalls that Morris was “a genius engineer. He understood every accident that makes a hit record. It's the accidents and the things you leave out that make a record.”

What else does Fowley remember about working in Fidelity? “Chaos, madness, fighting, drama. Seizing the moment. Changing the world. Boredom,” he says. “And no guests. No visitors. No parents, no record company, nothing. We were at war. We didn't have time to entertain in the foxhole. No drugs or alcohol either. Fast food. You always play obnoxious rock 'n' roll when you eat bad fast food.”

When asked if he recalls what equipment was used on these sessions, Fowley says, “How should I know? I don't engineer anything; I can't even drive a car. I sit there and dream and do conceptual supervision, and all the guys who are technical interpret it. I've never bothered to learn anything other than if it sounds good or bad.

“Anyway, it was all awful. It was sub-par. It was old. It was like Ingmar Bergman says: ‘I always use bad equipment so my actors perform better.’ Here's the trick: Hey morons, don't worry about the equipment, worry about the song and the players and the singers and make sure that some person in the public will want to own the recording when it's finished.'”

Stand back, Fowley's just getting warmed up: “Nirvana didn't show up with a list of equipment, and say, ‘We demand this equipment.’ They said, ‘Let's go make a record like we've always wanted to; now we can. Here we are, let's rock.’ I don't care about the egghead aspect of your readership. Eggheads, I am a moron, and I sold 102 million records not knowing anything about equipment, but I knew the song, I knew the tone of the voice and what tone and tempo and timbre was, and I understood there had to be some tuning, and I understood somebody had to buy it, and I always left holes in the arrangement so people could smoke dope, get drunk, fall in love, have fights, have sex, go for a ride, or if they're lonely, keep from killing themselves. You're making records for the listener, not for yourselves, so get off of that, ‘Oh, we must have an Aphex Aural Exciter,’ or the modern equivalent of that demand. Go get your own studio. Get your mom to buy you a Fostex and a manual, and you can start your own Failure Sound Studios upstairs in your baby brother's nursery.”

Clearly, no one's going to get anything more from Fowley on the subject of equipment, but at Mix, we have our ways.

Joey Latimer, an engineer, composer, musician and label owner who currently lives and works in Idyllwild, Calif., apprenticed at Fidelity Recording in the late '70s, and though he wasn't present for The Runaways sessions, he remembers what equipment would have been used in Studio B. He says they would have recorded to a 3M M79 16-track machine with Dolby B NR. The speakers were 12-inch three-way JBLs. Ironically, Fowley does admit to using an Aural Exciter on this project, and Latimer says there was also a BX10 spring reverb in that room that engineers would patch into the EMT 150 plates in Studio A. Also on hand were LA-2A and 1176 limiters, Pultec EQs, Roger Meyer noise gates and outboard API EQs. Fidelity also offered a host of Neumann and AKG tube mics, as well as models such as the Shure SM57, Electro-Voice RE20 or 666, and Sennheiser 421 and 441s.

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