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
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
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
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.
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