Classic Tracks: Grateful Dead, "Touch of Grey"

Sep 1, 2012 9:00 AM, Mix, By Blair Jackson

Polls


Mix Regional

The Mix Regional section for Mix's September 2014 issue focuses on Miami. Send us your studio news: updates, sessions, new rooms, plus club performances and installations. Let the Mix audience know what is going on! Send photos and descriptions to mixeditorial@nbmedia.com.

The group’s 1987 promo photo (L to R): Bob Weir, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Brent Mydland.

The group’s 1987 promo photo (L to R): Bob Weir, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Brent Mydland.

Having cheated death, Garcia now enthusiastically poured himself into a variety of projects, including, finally, recording a new album. Though the ’85 Marin video sessions had produced only intermittently strong performances, the band liked the experience enough that in January ’87, they went back there—with Le Mobile once again in tow, but no video truck—to begin recording the album that would soon be named In the Dark.

“We did basics in two weeks,” Cutler, who engineered and also co-produced the record with Garcia, told me in 1987. “There’s no reason why they can’t be successful as a recording band, but I think it’s apropos that they do their basic tracks as if they were playing live, because that’s where their expertise lies… But it’s definitely a studio recording.”

Charbonneau noted recently, “When we came back and did the album, it was like a different Grateful Dead. They worked really hard, and Jerry was much more into it than he was earlier.”

Le Mobile was (and still is) equipped with a classic Neve 8058 console, with its coveted 1073 mic pre’s. In those days, the Dead were staunch advocates of 16-track recording, but Cutler noted that he’d heard raves about Dolby’s just-released SR noise reduction system, did an A-B test with and without it on some Mickey Hart drum tracks, and ultimately opted to record the album basics using SR in conjunction with Le Mobile’s Studer A800 24-track recorder. “The nature of the [SR] system is that crosstalk between channels is reduced, and its dynamic range increased,” Cutler said. “So I don’t have to pull two [16-track] tape machines all the time, which means you use half as much tape, which is nice economically. From a hassle point of view, you don’t have to wait to lock things up. And it is transparent.” Cutler and the Dead liked SR enough that they bought cards from Dolby for Club Front, where all the keeper vocals and most of the other overdubs for In the Dark were done to a Studer A80 16-track through the studio’s own 24-channel/16-bus Neve 8068, which Garcia had purchased in 1977. “We also had a smaller sidecar Neve BCM-10 tied into the stereo bus for more inputs/returns,” Cutler recalls.

Club Front was in a large tin-roofed warehouse building in a seedy part of the Canal District of San Rafael. There was no separate control room—the console and tape machines were out in the main room—so headphones were usually required to monitor recordings, and isolation came from curtains and goboes. More than just a studio, though, Club Front was the Grateful Dead’s rehearsal space, the place where equipment repairs were made and gear was stored, and also their “clubhouse” hangout.

The songs on In the Dark were a mixed bag of tunes that had been introduced in the early ’80s but never recorded, and a couple that Garcia wrote after he recovered from the ’86 meltdown. This month’s “Classic Track” was written initially by Robert Hunter alone in the kitchen of a 16th century house in rural England during a visit in 1980. As he noted in a 1988 interview, “I had been up all night and I was looking blearily through the window the next morning wondering, ‘How do you survive?’ And I thought, ‘You just do.’ And I sat down and wrote from the world-weary point of view I was experiencing right then. I started detailing the things that were happening to me.” Indeed, the song serves up a poetic litany of complaints—“I see you got your list out/Say your piece and get out,” “Cow is giving kerosene/Kid can’t read at 17,” etc.—but then concedes “it’s all right” and, ultimately, “We will get by/We will survive.”






Acceptable Use Policy
blog comments powered by Disqus

Mix Books

Modern Recording and Mixing

This 2-DVD set will show you how the best in the music industry set up a studio to make world-class records. Regardless of what gear you are using, the information you'll find here will allow you to take advantage of decades of expert knowledge. Order now $39.95

Mastering Cubase 4

Electronic Musician magazine and Thomson Course Technology PTR have joined forces again to create the second volume in their Personal Studio Series, Mastering Steinberg's Cubase(tm). Edited and produced by the staff of Electronic Musician, this special issue is not only a must-read for users of Cubase(tm) software, but it also delivers essential information for anyone recording/producing music in a personal-studio. Order now $12.95

Newsletters

MixLine

Delivered straight to your inbox every other week, MixLine takes you straight into the studio, with new product announcements, industry news, upcoming events, recent recording/post projects and much more. Click here to read the latest edition; sign up here.

MixLine Live

Delivered straight to your inbox every other week, MixLine Live takes you on the road with today's hottest tours, new sound reinforcement professional products, recent installs, industry news and much more. Click here to read the latest edition; sign up here.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

The Wire, a virtual press conference offering postings of the latest gear and music news, direct from the source. Visit the The Wire for the latest press postings.