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Author Topic: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?  (Read 16456 times)

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Bobber

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #60 on: September 13, 2010, 10:54:13 AM »

In the Paris photo, what is the box on the floor, to the left of John's acoustic guitar?


It looks like a pedal to switch channels on the amplifier.
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Xose

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #61 on: November 30, 2010, 04:37:12 PM »

I have got some info about PA system used here in Spain at their gigs in Madrid & Barcelona in July 1965, as well as the company which provided the backline. I will let you know...


Casa Alberdi, from Barcelona and distributors of Vox gear in Spain, provided the PA system as well as the amps for the other acts (=I mean, non-Beatles one) both in Madrid and Barcelona:



For Alberdi this was a very good chance to display that they were selling same gear as the one used by The Beatles:



According to the agreement, signed by NEMS and Francisco Bermúdez (=ruler of the Spanish Management Agency who brought The Beatles to Spain) and dated 5 February 1965: "...It is agreed that you provide first class dressing room accomodation and a first class public address system with at least 3 microphones..."

You can see the Vox amps privided by Alberdi to the other groups, behind McCartney at this photo (=from Barcelona's gig):



The agreement also specifies accomodation and transport inside Spain for at least 9 people.

Who??

John, Paul, George, Ringo, Brian, Mal, Neil??, Alf Bicknell and Wendy Hanson...

Xosé
« Last Edit: November 30, 2010, 05:15:22 PM by Xose »
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REDD51

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #62 on: July 23, 2011, 01:27:44 AM »

Although I've continued my research, and been to a couple of AES conferences where I took the opportunity to ask a few questions of those whose given task and specialty it is to document and research the history of live and recorded audio..........the one thing that's still completely missing in this minor puzzle is a single guy making a statement along the lines of "I mixed the Beatles".
Because the Beatles were quite young, and audio technicians at the time were probably a decade or more older, it may not be something we'll ever really be able to hear somebody say.

Although we have some anecdotal evidence where it does appear that specific technicians were involved in both setting up, and "mixing" the Beatles live shows, what's still missing is any evidence that any one person mixed more than one Beatles live show..........that person whom you could legitimately call the Beatles live sound engineer.

Currently, and without any solid evidence (just a gut feeling, and some further anecdotal information that passed my way in the last year) I have come to believe that the Beatles live sound engineer.........for all intents and purposes.......was Mal.

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Casbah

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #63 on: August 05, 2011, 01:42:34 AM »

Quite honestly, in most cases, I dont think there was an engineer. These systems were primitive. Not much mixing was needed. I imagine that it went something like, turn power on, put volume up, stand by in case of feedback. Not even sure about that last part. Im imagining some janitor guy turning the amps on in a closet somewhere in the stadium.  ;D

But for musicians out there, think about when you did your early gigs, you usually rented a PA, set it and left it for the night, which is equivalent to a lot of these gigs.

Still, it would be nice to hear from SOMEONE who twiddled a few knobs for the boys. And maybe Mal DID handle some of that..

Can't we just send an email to Paul McCartney? I think Im going to. Who knows what will happen.


 

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In My Life

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #64 on: August 05, 2011, 01:52:20 AM »

Quote from: Casbah
Can't we just send an email to Paul McCartney? I think Im going to. Who knows what will happen.

If you do get through to him tell him I said hi and that I think he's cute.  ;D


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Kelley

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Bobber

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #65 on: August 05, 2011, 07:27:38 AM »

If you do get through to him tell him I said hi and that I think he's cute.  ;D

Oh, and ask him who sings the aaaah's in A Day In The Life. ;D
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Bobber

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #66 on: August 05, 2011, 07:28:51 AM »

"...It is agreed that you provide first class dressing room accomodation and a first class public address system with at least 3 microphones..."

That was never going to be a well mixed show, was it?
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REDD51

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #67 on: August 15, 2011, 02:30:31 PM »

The primary reasoning behind my thoughts that Mal was their "live sound engineer" revolve around the fact that there is written and anecdotal reference to Mal handling all the instruments.

Moving the instruments around, tuning and re-stringing guitars, making sure guitar cables were in the right place prior to the shaw, setting up Ringo's drums and packing spare drum heads, etc.

Mal did all of that.
The nascent field that was "live mixing" would (perhaps) just be viewed as an extension of Mal's general roadie duties.

And yeah, wouldn't it be great if you could just sit down (or write) Paul to chat, and get a few old technical questions answered  ;)

(of course there's always the possibility that Paul might reply along the lines of "dunno, I just showed up and played".)

« Last Edit: August 15, 2011, 02:32:10 PM by REDD51 »
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Casbah

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #68 on: August 27, 2011, 06:19:44 AM »


(of course there's always the possibility that Paul might reply along the lines of "dunno, I just showed up and played".)

I have to agree there. Depending on his mood :)
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REDD51

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #69 on: July 06, 2014, 09:31:04 PM »

It's been a while  :)

Another couple of Audio Engineering Society conferences, and some conversation over a pitcher or two of beer resulted in no amazing new information as to who might have been The Beatles live sound engineer, but did result in quite a lot of "conceptual" ideas about sound engineers and sound engineering within the time frame that The Beatles were touring and playing live.

In effect, my initial post in this thread attempted to overlay the modern concept of sound engineers who tour with a specific band, either working for the band directly, or working for the PA company - but with the band for their entire tour.

It would seem, by all the information gathered to date on the subject of "who mixed The Beatles live", that the actual title of Live Sound Engineer just didn't exist in a standalone manner during the time the lads toured and played live.
Rather, as confirmed somewhat in earlier posts in this thread, all such technical "extras" like sound and lights were primarily handled by the venue themselves, operated by venue employees, mostly with equipment they owned in-house ... the venue being asked to hire in extra equipment locally to augment the house PA if Mal deemed the existing venue PA too small.

A very telling aspect of this entire discussion is simply that The Beatles flew from gig to gig on commercial airlines, carrying everything they needed with them on the flight. There is no record I've found which would indicate that there was any trucking involved in their later (and much larger) tours. No record of any transport vehicle moving about North America hauling PA and/or lights and staging, or band equipment (as was extremely common with tours beginning in the early to mid-seventies onwards).
It would seem that everything the lads needed onstage (guitars, amps, drums, etc) was able to be moved within the luggage compartment of a commercial aircraft.

The original club tours of Europe would have involved a Commer Van hauling equipment, and driven by Mal, but certainly the later Beatlemania tours don't seem to note any trucking information.
If there was trucking information which remains undiscovered, that would certainly be a critical bit of information, and what they were hauling would answer a lot of (currently unanswered) questions.

So still, these few years after my original post - it would appear that the answer to my question in the first post of this thread is simply that Mal directed local venue personal both in advance, and on-site as to how the stage was to be set, how the live sound system was to be operated, what lighting was required, and then went on to direct the concert itself in terms of getting the band to and from the stage, getting the concert started, and on to how the concert proceeded to its eventual conclusion ... getting the guys out of the venue and back to the hotel.

The short answer would be that the lads literally just missed the era of a dedicated Live Sound Engineer traveling with the band.
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Casbah

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #70 on: July 08, 2014, 02:39:34 AM »

I've read some things since we last posted here... and I think as you've stated, the Beatles just missed the era of the managed live sound by a few years. But I also think the Beatles helped to usher in that era. No band had played a stadium before. Bill Hanley who had been doing live sound since the 50's, was completely overwhelmed.

Actually, here is an interesting snippet about Bill's involvement with the Beatles...

Quote
But a gig for local Boston band The Remains, playing in Chicago, lead to something very big. The Remains member Barry Tashian has written about the experience:

"Our sound company from Boston, Hanley Sound, drove to Chicago to do the show [opening for the Beatles] with us. They pulled their truck right into the Amphitheater and set up their state-of-the-art sound equipment right beside the in-house P.A. system. What a joke! The in-house stuff was so archaic next to the powerful amps, good mics, and Altec speakers. Right before the show, Brian Epstein looked at the two sound systems and decided that the Beatles should go with our system. So the Beatles hired Bill Hanley to do the sound for the [eastern part] of the tour!"

And thus Hanley next found himself behind the board at the historic Beatles concert at Shea Stadium. He distributed Altec- Lansing speakers all around the stadium, doubled the sound typically used, doubled the power with an impressive (for the time) 600-watt amplifier system… and then when an armored car drove onto the field and John, Paul, George and Ringo stepped out, his sound system was pulverized by the power of 42,000 screaming teenage girls.

"I didn't have a snowball's chance in hell," he laughs. "It was sheer pandemonium. I had the band on the pitcher's mound, the speakers on the first and third base line, and I made this big circle of sound, all facing up, so the speakers didn't cross… but it was going against 135 dB of screaming. I couldn't approach that."


But Bill Hanley went on to build the massive sound system for Woodstock, a mere 4 years later.  He was already constructing cabinets and amps when he did the sound for the Beatles, he just didn't have enough of both, or a more powerful amp/speaker combination. But I am sure he learned something that day and went on to build beefier rigs.
Or, perhaps the resources just weren't there in 1965. Maybe the technology was slowly maturing. For example, Vox continued to build louder amps for the Beatles to keep up with the loudness of their concerts.

I guess I am getting away from my point, but what I am driving at, is , I think there were people available. I don't think the situation was handled properly by Brian Epstein. Was it a financial decision? No doubt sound companies were charging a premium..Or was live venue sound so new that no one really knew how to handle it correctly?  Should Eppy have had someone build a system to tour with in the US? Would it have been adequate?   ??? ??? ??? Who knows. I guess the live sound answer is it depended on the situation. I wonder if maybe some of these other bands that toured with the Beatles could shed some light. Bands like the Remains or the Cyrkle..


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Casbah

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #71 on: July 08, 2014, 05:56:41 AM »

Im sorry I have my dates mixed up and some of this doesn't match up. The "historic" Shea stadium concert was 1965 but clearly the quote is talking about 1966, since the Remains were on the 66 tour. 
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blmeanie

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #72 on: July 08, 2014, 11:54:12 AM »

all part of the lore.  Had they had sound equipment that "beat" the frenzied crowd noise that would be one less amazing thing about them, one less unique facet of their legacy.
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Davenicks

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #73 on: July 21, 2014, 10:12:10 PM »

It appears this thread has had quite a life, but I just stumbled upon it.

First, thanks to the OP for asking the question and to all who have contributed info to a very interesting read.

A couple of things:

I do think the correct answer to your original question was "nobody"; that is, the Beatles didn't have a "sound engineer", per se, and, given the state of equipment for their early performing years, wouldn't really have needed one because they weren't really doing a "mix" as we think of it today. In the UK, with a few exceptions, they mostly played theaters which would have generally had installed PA systems for vocals; Mal and Neil would have been responsible for transporting and setting up their amps for the guitars. That would likely have been the standard for music performance in those days: an instrumentalist would be responsible for providing his own instrument (which would have included the amplifier) and a PA system would have been present for the the use of announcers, singers, and anyone who needed to be heard. It certainly also makes sense that if a venue didn't have an adequate installed system, it would have been necessary to bring one in, especially as the Beatles continually faced the challenge of being heard over the audience and would have become attuned to the need for more amplification to supplement house systems. The postings in this thread about the evolution of stage monitors are especially interesting.

I think your conclusion that Mal was likely responsible for setting up the mics and making sure there was some sort of balance to their levels is a solid one; of the people known to be in their traveling party, he is the logical candidate, but it certainly wasn't "mixing" as we know it today.

Until they started playing coliseum/stadium-sized venues (beginning, I guess with Wembley Pool, the Palais in Paris, etc.), they mostly would not have had a sound system as we currently know them. These days, everything (vocals, guitars, drums, etc.) pretty much goes into a sound system and is balanced into a cohesive mix and an engineer (sometimes with helpers) sets, monitors and adjusts the levels throughout the performance. Traveling with your own system and the crew to load it in and out is the norm. That was certainly not the case before the Beatles blazed the coliseum/stadium trail. In those smaller venues, it is very reasonable that they would have used their guitar amps (AC-15s and then AC-30 Vox gear, the most powerful amps Vox made until 1963) and a PA system for vocals without further reinforcement. As the venues got larger (and the crowd noise got ever louder), Vox stepped up with larger amps, AC-50s & AC-100s (a good web reference with lots of history is here: http://www.voxshowroom.com).  Also note that by 1964, it was certainly to the Beatles' advantage to travel as "light" as possible, both economically and logistically. At least from Shea '65 forward, it seems clear that miking the guitars into the "system" became more and more the standard. Certainly someone would have had to "mix" that, it seems clear that those "someones" were pretty much local in some sense (allowing for sound in Chicago being handled by someone from Boston).

As contributors to this thread have noted, it was the Beatles who spurred the development of larger sound systems for Rock acts, with Shea  '65 and Woodstock being sort of watershed events for concert sound. It should also be remembered that Paul's 1976 Wings USA tour is generally considered to be one of the milestones in concert sound (and lighting) that truly ushered in the "modern" age.

Thanks to all!

Dave in Nashville
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In My Life

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Re: Who was the Beatles live sound engineer?
« Reply #74 on: July 21, 2014, 10:55:15 PM »

Welcome to the Forums Dave! I look forward to reading more informative posts like this one.
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Kelley

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