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Old 28th May 2003
Lives for gear

OK, I know I've always got some kind of story, but........I think this one is pretty good. First hand, exactly the way it happened.

Back in the late '80s, I lived in LA and ended up working for Berry Gordy on a few projects. That, in itself, was a complete trip, being the white guy chillin' at Berry Gordy's house. But I digress.

One of the things I did was a 12" remix of the song "Do You Love Me?" that was a hit in the movie "Dirty Dancin'" and the LP of the same name. That 12" sold very well, IIRC, so Berry (with some encouragement from moi') decided to undertake a systematic approach to remixing other big songs from the Motown catalog. The concept was to keep all the vocals and important melodic and other trademark elements while "modernizing" the groove elements.

The very first one up was Marvin Gaye's "Heard It Through the Grapevine". IMO, one of the greatest records ever made. I was ecstatic to be able to work on it. We dug out the original 1" 8 track master and xfered it to 2" so I could take it back to my studio. Pulling up that vocal at my place, with Marvin having passed away not so terribly long before, was cosmic.

I lovingly laid out a nailed tempo map by hand, locked up the trusty old Atari Mega 4/Notator and started going to town, having a great time. I started doing my "thing" and after about 4 hours, I thought I would get a reality check on how it was going. I muted my own drum and rythym tracks, pulled up all the original tracks, and listened through the intro, verse and first chorus. I nearly cried.

I then stopped the tape deck, picked up the phone and dialed Mr. Gordy. When I got him on the phone, I said, and I quote "I'm sorry Mr. Gordy, but I cannot do this. Anything I can do will only make this record worse, not better, and I will not be the white man that ruined this awesome record."

He was a little surprised, but in his heart I think he knew to leave it alone as well, because there was very little argument about shelving the idea.

And so, that is what I think of remixing a classic. Whatever made it a classic to begin with should be left alone. Mastering, yes, if it's done really well to transfer to a new medium. Remixing.........well, those boys need a gig worse than I did, unless they worked on the original and truly have both the perspective and skill to contribute something further, that remains in the sprirt of the original recording.

Then, and only then, maybe it's OK.

Brian T