Monday, October 23, 2017

re: what tom petty meant to me & a generation

Mitch Dorf:

So, I'd thought I'd share a personal story about Tom Petty some might enjoy. After moving to Los Angeles in 1991, my very FIRST post gig was mixing his "Into The Great Wide Open" music video. Tom, lead guitarist Mike Campbell and, I believe, their manager Tony Dimitriades were in attendance. To be honest, I was nervous as hell but did a good job not revealing the butterflies going on inside. Here I was in front of an analog Neve 5150 console with Necam 96 automation and these guys sitting behind me. I had to fly in sound FX from CARTS by hand, yes remember those, using a CMX 340 video editor for machine control of a 3/4" and analog 24 track, adding foly and reverb to Tom's narration in Studio A at The Post Group in Hollywood. All the motorcycle bys, jangly chains, metal crunches, crowd noise and boos.

But the most incredible moment for me came when Mike Campbell said he wanted to put on a new guitar solo towards the end. Now this was well before we had splits so all I had was the stereo track with the keyboard solo sitting right in that place. Didn't matter to Mike. He said he'd play right over it. So we set up his small amp in the VO booth, I put an SM-57 at 45 degrees right on the cone and ran his guitar cable out the door so he was in the control room. He plays a little, stops and screams at me, "THAT’S THE BEST GUITAR SOUND I’VE EVER HEARD!!! HOW’D YOU DO THAT?!" Mike Campbell just told ME he’d never heard as good a guitar sound as that? Are you freaking kidding!?!? I smiled back, raised my eyebrows and gave him a little chuckle and head nod. It was at that moment, I thought just maybe I might have a career in this town. Mike does maybe two takes and there it was, right on top of the keyboard. You can hear it at 4:01 over the second half of the middle keyboard solo and then at 5:03 during the outro solo. You'll hear its mixed a little louder than the rest of the song as to try and not fight with the keyboard. I have had many incredible moments and experiences in my career but to this day that still was one of the best. You won't find any other recordings of that song with those two insanely ridiculously perfect solos.

Tom couldn't have been nicer throughout the day. He was mostly quiet but was really focused on and especially liked the "Beefy" Harley sounds we put in. Besides that, he pretty much let me do my thing. As my assistant Michael Marinelli shared in his comments below:

"...while Mitch was setting up to record the guitar overdubs, I was behind the console setting up the ultimate motorcycle sound design, programming those lovely flying faders to coincide with the gpi settings for the 3 cart machines that were to play the SFX. Oh technology! Tom was sitting at the other end of the console reading a newspaper or magazine. It was going to be so great. The only things is, my part was probably taking a little too long. As I'm working away, trying to make everything just right, Tom looks over his glasses and says to me, and I quote . . . 'You know, when we make records, we just set those babies at zero and play.'"

After it was mixed, printed and the good byes and thank you's were exchanged, I looked at my then assistant, Michael Marinelli, and said "WTF! Did that really just happen?" We laughed our heads off.

BTW, check out all the star power in this video. It's amazing what happened to almost everyone in it after it's 1991 release.
It's been 26 years and it seems like it was yesterday. I was never the biggest Tom Petty fan but I always enjoyed his music. One of the great American song writers of our generation and a really nice guy. Like so many, I am very sad but this memory of you is a blessing I will always cherish and comforts my sorrow in your way-to-soon-to-be-gone passing.

No comments: