It was during Randall's trip to Westfield with Keith Richards that I figured it out all over again — that the Rolling Stones were coming to Long View Farm.
I was true to the promise I made to Patti Hansen, although it took me a day or two longer than expected to deliver.
"What d'ya think, Keith," I began. "We've been in here for days, it seems. I've got to do some things in Worcester. You've got to go to Rome. Why don't I call Bill Mahoney, the pilot, and get you and Patti out of here before the front comes through?"
There really was a lot of bad weather on the way, and it's best not to fool around with that unless you really have to.
"Sounds O.K. to me," Keith said. "Sounds O.K. to me. Either that or you've got to give me a job banging nails with those lads out in the barn."
Wouldn't that be something, I mused. Last remaining superstar guitarist knuckles down with North Brookfield country strong hands — building a Sound Stage for the use of his band, the Rolling Stones.
That didn't happen, of course. Instead, we called Mahoney and set up a departure out of Worcester for Teterboro at 11 AM the next morning. And I set about doing some rough mixes of the two-inch recording tape I'd made the night before. The piano demos I'd done with Keith. As luck would have it, our Chief Engineer, Jesse Henderson, had taken a week to do some engineering chores for Sha Na Na, in California. And so I had to engineer myself, leaving Reed Desplaines, Night Manager, to play assistant engineer — running back and forth to the tape library for more reels of virgin tape. This for studio buffs: we used three Neumann '87 microphones on the Steinway, which Pat Metheny left with us two years ago. The piano, I mean. Mikes in our top-secret positions. Another Neumann '87 on him, close up, with a pop filter; voice highly compressed using an Eleven-seventy-six limiter set at twelve-to-one. Finally, a good measure of live acoustic reverb on either side of his voice, in stereo. Lots of E.Q., on everything. I had only one shot at this, and I wanted it to be right the first time.
The live mix was great all by itself, and the best results of that extraordinary session were in fact recorded directly onto our Studer mastering deck, and not the 24-track. 30 ips; no noise reduction, very hot on AMPEX 456 tape.
"Listen to this one, Keith," I said, just before driving him to the airport.
I selected the live stereo tape of"The Nearness of You,"1 a classic Hoagy Carmichael ballad dating from the late '30's. Keith Richards playing the Steinway, and singing, too.
"It's not the pale moon, that excites me,
that thrills, and delights me;
Oh no, It's just the nearness of you."
"Far out, Gil. Voice sounds great. Sounds great."
"ZIP — BUZZ . . ." There was a loud, familiar noise on the tape.
"What the hell was that?" Keith asked, with a look of anguish on his face.
"Jane Rose taking a picture of you with her Polaroid camera," I replied.
"Bloody well ruins that take, didn't it?"
"No, Keith," I said. "I think I can razor it out later. We've got this tune about six times, anyway. So don't worry."
Recording enthusiasts will be interested to know that the eventual edits on these ten or so tunes — classic Keith Richards piano demos — took nearly two weeks' work. I found the time to do it only a month after the Stones had finally gone, and performed the edits on a 7 1/2 ips dub inadvertently left behind at my house on Cape Cod. Editing at 7 1/2 ips is no fun, as you may know. Several hundred cuts were required, since Keith never really bothered to begin or end any of the tunes. He'd just keep on playing, and singing, with me scrambling to keep tape on the tape machines, late at night in the A-Control Room at Long View Farm.
Studio A at Long View is the one people travel considerable distances to use, and I think you'd hear it said at the Farm that I can make it work pretty much as well as anybody can. Mixing tape is what I like to do. I can make really good, live, super-present mixes. That's what got me into all this, back in '72, when I was still teaching Philosophy at Clark. I figured I needed some time off to build a studio to make some mixes in. And that's how Long View came about.
So when I tell you that the live stereo tape of Keith Richards sounded good, you better believe me that it did.
We drove Keith Richards and Patti Hansen to the airport the next day. 300-foot overcast; visibility a quarter of a mile in rain and fog. Mahoney couldn't make it in, missing two instrument approaches in an attempt to land 75 X-Ray. So Randall Barbera, who works for me, as you may remember, offered to drive Keith and Patti over to Westfield in the Cadillac. Westfield was still operating, and only about 45 minutes away. They had a wonderful trip, I learned later. Cruising along on a light powdering, Stolni's and orange juice, and a fantastic compilation of fifties rock 'n' roll classics played at high volume on those wonderful-sounding Auratones mounted on the rear deck of the car. Pete Wolf of the J. Geils Band had left this particular cassette behind. By mistake, I'm sure, because it was a real beauty. "Earth Angel," "Good Golly, Miss Molly," "Tears on my Pillow," and songs like that.
"Take this and listen to it on the way to Westfield, Keith. Only remember it's not mine but Pete Wolf's, and he's certain to want it back."
"O.K." Keith said laughing. "I'll bring it back with me. See you."
"See you, Keith," I said.
"Bye, Gil," Patti said, and then they roared off.
And you take it from here, Pete, if you want that cassette back. He won't give it to me.
Let's all pause for a second and note that Keith Richards said "O.K. I'll bring it back with me." Meaning the cassette of course. Meaning also that he intended on coming back to Long View. That this gig was going to happen, after all. It was during Randall's trip to Westfield with Keith Richards that I figured it out all over again — that the Rolling Stones werecoming to Long View Farm.
Maybe I'm just a bit slow, sometimes.
1 Famous Music, Inc., 1937. Permission granted.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.