Classic Tracks: Creedence Clearwater Revival "Fortunate Son"
Mar 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Matt Hurwitz
The desk was 24-in, 8-out. “Sixteen-channel machines had not arrived when that console was built, but it was just around the corner, and Frank knew it,” Gary says. With the arrival of 16-track in 1969, additional inputs were simply multed into buses 1 through 8.
For Gary's first Creedence album, tracks 1 through 8 comprised the rhythm tracks, which were recorded onto a 3M 8-track machine. That was then transferred to 2-inch tape on a 16-track machine to allow for the addition of overdubs. By the time of Willy and the Poor Boys and “Fortunate Son,” however, the studio had switched to recording the rhythm track directly to one of the early MCI 16-tracks, either on Ampex 401 tape or — Gary's preference — Scotch 201, which “seemed to have a sweeter, brighter top end.”
After the rhythm tracks were completed by the full band, Fogerty would return to furnish his lead vocal and all overdubs — everything from background vocals to piano, tambourines, keyboards and percussion. “Most of the time, he had it in his mind,” Gary says. “A few times, I could tell he was winging it, but he would hear something that he liked and adapt to it.” The band would not be involved in background vocals overdubs, in fact, until Cosmo's Factory's “Who'll Stop the Rain.”
Gary says that Fogerty was also adept at punch-ins. “He knew how to do it, and you could never tell they were punch-ins. But he didn't do that many with his vocals. When he sang a keeper track, he really sang it.” Mixing was handled by both Gary and Fogerty together. “He was always to my left — I took things on the right, and he took things on the left. But it really wasn't too hard to mix those pieces, I must tell you. They were recorded well, and it just laid in there real nice.”
As noted, Gary used very little EQ on Creedence recordings — or any other trickery for that matter. “The only EQ I used on the drums was to put a little bit of 10k, maybe 3 dB or of 10k on the ride cymbal, and that was it. It helped brighten it up ever so slightly and still kept the feel.” Background vocals during recording would be recorded with the machine running just slightly slow. “It made them come back a little crisper. Not too much; otherwise, it would sound like The Chipmunks!”
But there was one signature effect that appeared on nearly every Creedence recording. “When we first worked together, John asked, ‘Can you give me some slap-back?’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’” Gary had grown up on Elvis and Sun Records recordings, as had Fogerty. Gary achieved the CCR slap using a pair of Ampex 440 2-track machines and the studio's echo chambers. “During most mixing sessions, both 2-track machines would be running and I would delay the signal going to the chamber to get it slapping and bouncing around, and then there would be one to mix on.”
Once Gary and Creedence started working together, they kept the same working method through five studio albums, with very little change required. “Once the pattern started,” Gary says, “and once I realized the way John wanted to do it, I had it all there and ready to go.”
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