Classic Tracks: The Go-Go's "Our Lips Are Sealed"

Aug 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Barbara Schultz

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Three decades later, Freeman says he doesn’t remember all the exact mics that were used throughout the sessions, but he can picture Carlisle singing into a vintage Neumann U47. “Pennylane had a good assortment of very useful mics, including a wealth of U87s,” he says. “For drums, they had an AKG D-12 dynamic mic that I put inside the bass drum. I used closely placed dynamic mics as top mics on snare, hi-hat and each of the toms—Sennheiser 421s and 441s. Overhead, I used a couple of nice pencil mics—most likely Neumann KM56s. I believe the ambient drum mics were AKG 414s. The drum setup was recorded on seven tracks, plus two more for the ambient tracks, which I had fun compressing and doing other things with [during the mix].”

During tracking, Freeman says he employed only a touch of compression—via Teletronix LA-2As and/or UREI 1176s—as he preferred to keep things as dynamic as possible, and very little or no EQ, saving both for the final mix.

Though Freeman would have been happy to take the project from start to finish at Pennylane, studio scheduling conflicts forced the group to move to the multiroom Soundmixers Studios after a couple of weeks.

At Soundmixers, Freeman recorded overdubs on an MCI machine via an MCI 500 Series board. “The studio they put us in had sort of a ’70s attitude with carpeting and acoustic deadening,” he says. “But there was a large bathroom down the hall with tiles and mirrors, which made it quite reverberant. So I ran about 50 feet of mic and headphone cables and recorded overdubs in there: vocal lines—including the ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ chorus “oos,” which I sang together with Charlotte—handclaps, percussion, even guitar overdubs.”

After several days at Soundmixers, they decamped again, this time moving to Record Plant Studio B, where a full day was devoted to final overdubs for “Our Lips Are Sealed”: shakers, tambourines, handclaps, keyboard touches.

At the end of that day, Freeman worked up a quick mix of the song on the API console. “It was around 2 in the morning, and we were just ending the session and the mix was feeling really good,” he says. “So I decided to knock off a rough mix. I liked the pass, but felt something was a little off toward the end of it, so I said, ‘Let’s roll back and try one more.’ I did a second pass, then cut the front half of the first mix together with the second half of the second mix, making a razor blade edit at the bridge, the ‘Hush my darling’ part. That ‘rough’ mix became the hit single! It was done in 10 minutes—two mixes and the edit.

“From there, we went back to Soundmixers to begin final mixes for the album,” Freeman continues. “Although I tried mixing ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ there, it just didn’t come close to that Record Plant late-night mix. Where was the magic? Maybe it was in Record Plant’s perfectly tuned EMT reverb plates or their Fairchild tube limiter; maybe it was just in the moment. In fact, we left Soundmixers after a day or two, went back to Record Plant [Studio C] and mixed the rest of the album there in 30 hours, using the ‘rough’ as our benchmark.”

“Our Lips Are Sealed” became a Top 10 single on a double-Platinum album—a great success for Freeman, whose career also included working with Twisted Sister, KISS and ABBA, as well as The Ramones, Blondie and many more. He eventually shifted his focus toward sound-for-picture work, becoming a production sound mixer for films, documentaries, commercials and TV shows. At press time, he was busy mixing on A&E’s series The Glades.

The Go-Go’s, of course, became pop-punk superstars; they’ve disbanded and re-formed a few times over the years, but are now on tour, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Beauty and the Beat.






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