Nevertheless, while bigger things ensued at the start of the Eighties courtesy of projects with the Stones, Roxy Music, Bowie and Huey Lewis, was arguably Bob Clearmountain's halcyon year. Bryan Adams performing live around the the same period as Reckless. I've fired every one. Smith album that I'd produced, and another guy named Brian Stanley who was the bass player, and then I also knew Tommy Mandel, a keyboard player who had worked with Ian Hunter, whom I'd previously engineered.
For the next album, Bryan brought in a different bass player, Dave Taylor from Vancouver, and these were the guys who also formed the rhythm section for the Reckless album. Reckless captured Bryan Adams at the top of his game, even if it would subsequently be eclipsed in terms of sales by 's Waking Up The Neighbors.
Boasting an idiosyncratic mid-Eighties sound and spirit, it spawned no less than six American Top 30 singles, and the first of these was 'Run To You', that paean to illicit love co-written by Adams and Jim Vallance, and largely built around a chorus that melds melodic hard rock with the singer's trademark raw-throated vocals. Still, while one of the track's distinguishing features is the obligatory heavy drum sound, this was crafted by Clearmountain in unconventional fashion amid fairly adverse conditions.
While most of the Reckless overdubs would take place at New York's Power Station, where the album was also mixed, the basic tracks were recorded at Little Mountain in Vancouver, owned by Bruce Fairbairn and Bob Rock, where the setup included a Neve console, a Studer A80 and, according to Clearmountain, little else. Indeed, one of his fondest memories there is of assistant engineer Michael Fraser sitting cross-legged on the producer's desk in front of the patchbay and re-patching whenever there was a need for playback.
The recording layout at Little Mountain. He was amazing, and I'm not surprised that he went on to become a brilliant engineer. That studio was basically just a console and a tape recorder, which was also a problem because, while the A80s were great-sounding machines, their motors were kind of under-powered for two-inch tape. I remember one song, maybe 'Summer of '69', where we had a bunch of edits — it came right at the end of the reel, and as it would hit the edits the tape would start to slow down a little bit.
I can't remember what they were — I just listened to them one time and turned them off. The main room, meanwhile, was enormous — they recorded orchestras in there — but it was very dead.
CLASSIC TRACKS: Bryan Adams 'Run To You'
It was also used for jingles, and the walls were all thick with insulation and padding. If you had your eyes closed, you'd swear you were in a bedroom or a closet, but then you'd open your eyes and see this enormous high-ceilinged room. They just used it for storage, they never really opened the garage door, but it had this incredible sound. I went in there and clapped my hands and said, 'Wow, can't we record the drums in here? I put a couple of room mics in there, and that's how we got our big rock drum sound.
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So, if you listen to some of those Aerosmith records, the drums sound almost identical to the ones on the Cuts Like a Knife and Reckless albums. To the best of Clearmountain's recollection, for the latter album Mickey Curry's kit was miked with an AKG D12 on the bass drum, Sennheiser s on the top and bottom of each tom-tom, AKG s on the hi-hat and cymbals, and a Shure SM57 on top of the snare with an AKG on the rim in order to capture a little more attack. Room mics were Neumann U87s. It was, in essence, a straightforward setup that achieved an amazing sound, not least considering the environment in which the recording took place.
I don't know what they were there for, but we put them up on the walls around where the drums were set up just to try to get some ambience. The drums were set up at a sort of right-angle to the door, and with the gobos in front of the kit the sound was bounced at a degree angle into the loading bay. It was interesting, to say the least, and was further proof that you can pretty much achieve anything anywhere.
I mean, I record drums now in my tiny little lounge, which is certainly not a studio, and that works really well, so you can work just about anyplace. As with all the Bryan Adams albums that Bob Clearmountain worked on, the MO was to rehearse for a couple of weeks before the start of recording. The material was all written beforehand and demo'd at the home of Jim Vallance, and while these demos often served as blueprints for what ended up on the finished record, Clearmountain used the rehearsal period to offer his own suggestions in terms of the musical arrangements.
He was writing songs for other bands at the time, and there was some other band that he was going to give that to. I remember riding around town in his car when I first arrived and he was playing me the demos, and when we got to 'Run to You' he said, 'I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this one,' and I said, 'You're gonna put it on this album! It's a great song. In truth, it was a song of simple and somewhat incomplete structure, looping around a hook without ever developing in the manner that might have been achieved by way of greater application during the compositional process.
But it had such a great guitar hook, which was there right from the start, and everything was kind of based around that hook. Sure, it was real simple, with a nice and simple melody, but it just sounded like a hit song to me, as did a couple of others. It was 'Summer of '69' that I wasn't too sure about.
He would let it rip and then we'd go back and fix bits. Both of us were pretty meticulous, and that's one of the reasons why we got along so well. Alongside the drums, the other musicians played together as a live rhythm section, scattered around the room. It really wasn't a terrific studio. But the room was big and a lot of people liked it. And it was also one of the only games in town at that time. The control room in Studio C as it is today. The Power Station was renamed Avatar Studios in and continues to enjoy a reputation as one of the world's best recording studios.
Then I'd mix that with the main mic, maybe put it out of phase, just trying to get a bit more. Sometimes we'd also combine amps — a Marshall with a Fender Twin, or something like that — just to get different sounds. Tommy [Mandel] also had this cheap little Casio keyboard which sounded really good. You can hear it on 'Run to You' — these little tinkling sounds, especially coming out of the solo section.
Keith Scott was off to the right and facing the control room, standing in front of the drums that were at the back and to the right. An average of two backing tracks per day was the norm during the recording sessions — all of the pre-production evidently paid off — yet the Little Mountain session ended up lasting about three weeks due to some overdubbing of guitars, as well as the non-Pro Tools editing of each number.
The decision to relocate to Power Station was borne largely out of Clearmountain's desire to return to his home base.
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They didn't really have the facilities for mixing, and Power Station was great. I'd mixed tons of records there, so I was very comfortable, and Bryan also liked being in New York. Plus the fact that the keyboard player Tommy [Mandel] was from New York. The live room in the Power Station's Studio C as it is today. Among the assignments this time around was to capture the lead vocals, with a number of different microphones being used. That studio didn't have good vintage mics, and neither Bryan or I could afford expensive mics back then, whereas now I've got a few good microphones and he's got an amazing mic collection.
So, back then we just used what was in the studio, and I remember at one point lining up one of every mic there and just getting him to try a verse and a chorus with each of them, before picking the one that we liked best. Usually it was a U He's got an amazing ear. We'd be doing vocals and he'd go, 'Oh, I sang out of tune.
Let's do that again'.
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