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Reference Library: Catharsis 101

From: danielj@interport.net (Danny Caccavo)
Newsgroups: rec.music.beatles
Subject: catharsis 101
Date: 14 Oct 1998 03:32:21 GMT

Well, I need some catharsis....

I started at Record Plant Studios in NYC in September of '79 as a "general assistant". It was a great place - a "rock 'n roll recording school" of sorts. Of course, I was quite aware of the fact that John had done several of his solo records there, and that the owner, Roy Cicala, was involved quite a bit in them. But no one really knew when John would come back.....

Roy had told me some choice John stories. There was one from back in '74. John and Roy were in the Mastering room, working on, uh, mastering one of his albums. The master tape was up on the player. Roy went to the bathroom, and when he came back, there was recording tape strewn all over the machine, and John with his head in his hands. Roy's heart was in his mouth, until John started laughing....he had strewn blank tape around to make it look as if the machine "threw a loop" and demolished the master tape...

Roy had told me other little anecdotes....like how when Yoko did her vocals, John, in the control room, would sometimes pretend to drop things. He would bend over to "pick them up", when in truthfulness he was laughing at Yoko, and didn't want her to see....

There were the "toot and a snore" sessions in LA, where according to Roy, everyone was "mostly drunk", and the assistant engineer couldn't get a headphone mix for the musicians. In disgust, John finally was heard to say, "let's get out of here". Roy threw the tapes in the trunk of his car, and they remained at Record Plant NYC, labeled "Jim Keltner Fan Club".....

I remember delivering a Christmas present to John from Roy in December of '79. I didn't get to go inside the Dakota or anything - I just met someone at the door of Lenono, on the ground floor. Might have been Fred Seaman, I can't remember. But it was a bit of a thrill to just *deliver* something for John....

In the late Spring of 1980, Yoko approached Roy to help her do some demos for an upcoming project. There was speculation that John would be going back in the studio as well. Roy used this band, "Visitor", that was sort of the Record Plant House Band, and recorded a bunch of Yoko's stuff to 24 track (yet another version of "Loneliness" among them...). The understanding was that John and Yoko would be coming in before long...

Jack Douglas had grown up at Record Plant, and eventually became a client, having produced most of Aerosmith's releases to date, and some Cheap Trick as well (the first album and the "Live in Budokan" album, plus an EP "Found All The Parts"). He had also engineered some of Yoko's projects. I don't know what happened with Yoko - perhaps she decided that she didn't want to work with Roy, and didn't want to face him after the help he had given her - but suddenly we heard that John and Yoko were recording at The Hit Factory. Now, for we Record Plant Loyalists, that was a huge betrayal - Hit Factory was Record Plant's "enemy" (for reasons I won't go into now). We were shocked (and stunned [g]) that John and Yoko would do this. Then suddenly, they booked 3 weeks of mix time - seems that Jack and Lee (DeCarlo, his engineer) were not happy with the way the mixes were going at The Hit Factory. So all these tapes showed up, I had to log them in, the whole entourage showed up. John bounced in, excited to be back at Record Plant, and accidentally walked into an overdub session. Mortified (but only for a moment), he bounced back down the hall, and we did one of those things where both people are trying to get by each other, you know - both go in the same direction at the same time - we both played it up a bit. John said, "Where's the piss-house?" I pointed in the direction of the door, John tried the handle, but it was locked. "Ahh, Yoko's probably in there - she's ALWAYS in the bathroom". And John bounced off again, much to my amusement.

It seemed very weird to me that he was shorter than I was (I'm 5'10" plus 1/2). And surprised at how thin he was. You always expect your idols to be larger than life...

So they mixed "Starting Over", "Watching the Wheels" and one more song. All the time they worked, Yoko had the engineer tape all conversations in the control room to 2 track tape. Interesting......then suddenly they announced they were going back to the Hit Factory. Boy was Roy pissed off. He made them pay everything they owed before he let the tapes go....so again, we felt betrayed. But Yoko was calling the shots.

The album came out, and of course everybody at RP felt it was wimpy....(which is was, but hey, later for flames).

Then John and Yoko came back to Record Plant to overdub and mix "Walking on Thin Ice". They occupied the mix room for a week or so. Yoko was heard to say to the receptionist, "We really do love it at Record Plant. We're here to stay". Roy had this very large guy ("Big Bob") who did cleaning for us serve as informal bodyguard to John while he was in the mix room. Basically, he sat outside the door - the mix room was easily accessible from the elevators, thus the guard idea. I remember hearing them overdub the whammy bar guitar part...John played the guitar, Jack wiggled the whammy bar....it was a red Strat, from what I remember...or I wonder, was it that candy colored Hamer short scale that Rick Nielson had custom made for John.....I don't know.

During these sessions, I was assisting for Roy in Studio C, which was also on the 10th floor. One day, John peeked into the control room. Roy invited him in, introduced him to me, and I shook his hand. Of COURSE I couldn't think of anything to say. We were recording the guitarist from the "house band". John squinted and said,"who's that - Jeff Beck?" Roy said, "sure", pushed the talkback and said, "say hi, Jeff"....John said goodbye and went back to the mix room.

I pulled an all nighter on December 7th, and worked until about 8pm on December 8th, at which point I decided to get some sleep. I said goodbye to Rabiah, the receptionist, and went home. After 10pm or so, my roommate woke me up and told me Lennon had been shot. I couldn't believe it - "but he was just at Record Plant, that's impossible". I called Record Plant, and Rabiah, sounding very harried, said, "Danny, I can't talk, the phones are ringing off the hook, turn on the TV". We all know what happened.

I stayed up until about 3am. I started getting "condolence" calls from friends who knew what John meant to me. I was so distraught that at 3am I called my parents, who were very sympathetic, despite being woken up.

The next day was like a funeral parlor at Record Plant. I went into the Mix room to straighten up. I felt like a cop at a crime scene. There was a doodle that John had done there. I was so distraught I crumpled it up and threw it away. It would have seemed dirty to keep it. Later that week, Roy was nervous about possible break ins into the "Lennon Vault", which was a tape vault in the basement containing most of John's tapes - stuff back to the multitrack of the Lyceum '69 concert. So I was given the job of photocopying every take sheet and catalogging the tapes. It was at the same time an honor - and also a sentence. I spent days down there. When Yoko called for the 10 minutes of silence, I sat down in the vault and cried.

I sometimes wonder if I would have had an easier time dealing with John's death if I had never met him, if I had never worked at Record Plant. I don't know. I hated that whenever I took a cab to work, I'd pass the Emergency Room at Roosevelt Hospital, where John died. And if I took a cab home, I'd pass by the Dakota, where John lived. And just being at Record Plant was a constant reminder. The whole episode with John and Yoko going back and forth to the Hit Factory left such anger behind. And sure enough, Yoko never came back to Record Plant. Although I had one strange experience - Roy and I took one of Yoko's tapes to The Hit Factory because she wanted to hear it - and the producer there was Phil Spector. The owner of The Hit Factory, Ed Germano, was there (Roy's "mortal enemy"). You can imagine the vibe in that room.....

Years later, Record Plant closed its doors. They had an auction. At one point, I was in the tape library, and there was an opened door - and inside was the Hollywood Bowl '65 3 track tape (a tape copy actually). I hesitated - I could have walked with it. But somehow, it was the same thing that made me throw out John's doodle. I only have *some* regret for not taking those tapes....after all, someone else eventually bootlegged them. AND the "Jim Keltner Fan Club" tapes.

There's so much anger in me. I'm furious with John for dying. I know it's irrational. But it's real. I'm furious for letting Yoko control his professional life, make his decisions for him. Perhaps I'm holding onto my anger because I'm afraid to cry.

Well, I hope this helps me. I think I periodically need to spill my feelings about this.

DC
Danny Caccavo (danielj@interport.net)


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