We’re going to drop deep into the history of pop music for this one and feature a song from the Golden Age of Top 40 – I Saw Her Again by the Mamas and the Papas from 1966.

 

Mamas & Papas I Saw her AgainBy 1966, American record producers were frantically trying to catch the magic of the massive musical explosion of the Beatles and other British acts that hit American radio starting in 1964. The cookie-cutter pop music of the early 60s was now a thing of the past. Famed producer Lou Adler and main songwriter John Phillips took a song with a somewhat dark meaning – an affair between bandmates – and made it into a Top 40 radio staple that still gets steady airplay a half century later.

 

Before we get started, lest you think music from the 1960 (or earlier) can’t sonically compete with music made today because of all the technology advances we have today, listen to the airiness of the bass – you should hear it and feel it at a decent volume. Although no notes were found to verify this, in Los Angeles during the time producers would lay down an electric bass (you can hear the string pluck) and then overdub an acoustic double-bass playing the same lines. This resulted in a huge, sweet bass sound, and it sounds like this might have been the case for this song. That bass is extraordinary!

 

The sweetness of the strings is also an engineering feat that shouldn’t be missed. Although the strings appear throughout the song, focus in starting at 1:54 to hear a supreme example of ‘big room’ recording and how an ensemble playing together produces a power that can’t be achieved otherwise.

 

And that’s where the subject of this week’s Did You Hear That? comes in.

 

At the 2:44 mark, an orchestral interlude was arranged to bridge between the opening of the song and the coda. This was back in the days of limited tracks, so the recording engineer would ‘punch in’ vocals or overdubs to the already-recorded tracks. The term ‘punch-in’ literally comes from the action of the tape operator who would quickly hit the play/record button at the precise moment to begin the overdub.

 

In this case, lead vocalist Denny Doherty came in two measures early. One can imagine the engineer desperately trying to scrub the incorrect take, but it was there to stay. The only option was re-recording the entire section – orchestra and all.

 

When Adler heard the mistake, he loved it and insisted it be kept in. In today’s world, that mistake would have been scrubbed immediately, but luckily, a little bit of humanness made an already great track even more memorable.

 

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