Sunday, September 3, 2017

Ago (Sgt. Pepper) | Lefsetz Letter


Jack Douglas holds these dinners at Ago every month, it’s like a Mafia movie, there’s a private room and the maitre d’ picks appetizers and you choose your main and you b.s., like it was still the fifties, like you were a member of the Rat Pack.

I went last night.

Actually, I thought it was just gonna be the three of us, Jack, me and Geoff Emerick, but that was back before I found out this was a regular affair, I’d been invited previously, but was out of town, last night I was there.

Along with my frenemy Richard Lewis.

You see we had this altercation at McCabe’s, when we went to see Terry Reid. I was saving seats for us all, me, Jack and Richard and their wives, I got in early, knowing Lincoln, the majordomo at the joint. And then Richard took the seat I was sitting in when I stood up to find Jack in the crowd and therein ensued a moment. I’ll tell you when I see you, but it was straight out of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” And Richard apologized in the green room after the show, he said at the time he didn’t realize who I was, but I was not looking forward to my next encounter, but I’m not gonna hold a grudge and when Jack e-mailed me yesterday to say Richard was coming too and he hoped that was okay, I said fine, all I could think of was BYGONES, from “Ally McBeal,” and when I arrived at the restaurant Richard bent over backwards to accept blame and make peace, which was cool with me. Then we talked music. You see Lewis knows all the rockers, he quizzed me on the band Robin Trower was in before Procol Harum, I had no idea, but that’s how deep Richard’s knowledge goes. Also, he told me not to be afraid to ask Geoff Beatles questions. Because you know, the first rule of famous people is not to acknowledge they’re famous, so that was good to know.

As for the others in attendance, there was movie producer extraordinaire David Permut as well as playwright/filmmaker Mick Davis and actor Steven Bauer, it was a motley crew, but all had a pedigree.

And then DeNiro’s buddy came in to give everybody a personal hello and I wondered if I could live up to this room. Richard started cracking jokes and everybody was doubled-over in laughter and I was afraid to say a single word. But then we all engaged in private conversation and…

The hit of the night was Steven Bauer. He entranced Jack and me with the story of his emigration from Cuba to Miami. TWICE! Yup, his father took the family to Florida and then went back to get a gig as a pilot and I’ll leave the rest for Bauer’s book, which he says he’s gonna write.

Although I did quiz him on his three marriages. I forgot he was married to Melanie Griffith. That was back when she was in “Night Moves” and looked completely different. Everybody in Hollywood has a path. And although we hear chapter and verse about the superstars, we’re in the dark on so many others. And Bauer did not assume I knew everything about him and after admitting I did not watch “Ray Donovan” he proceeded to break into character, to do Avi, the Israeli, and the funny thing is Steven has a Jewish grandparent and he got the role in “Scarface” because he spoke Spanish and we just about closed the restaurant but much earlier, I asked Geoff Emerick what he thought about the “Sgt. Pepper” remix…

He didn’t want to talk about it. He scowled. I could tell he had negative feelings, which are inexpressible, since the hoi polloi uttered hosannas, but this was the guy who recorded and mixed the original!

And after telling him that this was the way I felt, that it was sacrilegious to remix the album, Geoff lit up and uttered the words at the top of this post.

He said the stereo mix was not an afterthought. That it took four days, three days a song. After all, it was all on four track. They discussed it with the band and then were left to do the work, this was not uncommon. And the mono mix did not take much longer.

And then Geoff got specific. He asked me if I knew “A Day In The Life.” He said in the remaster the maracas were as loud as the vocal. He started going deeper. You could tell he was really offended. As he should be! As Geoff told me, they spent a lot of time getting it just right and then people who weren’t even born yet were changing it?

Then Geoff told me he got a call from Paul saying the master tapes for “Tug Of War” were lost and they were gonna remix it. And Geoff said on the original they had three consoles when they mixed, the complete opposite of the “Sgt. Pepper” experience, he said there was a backward echo at the end of…and how in the hell could it be reproduced?

Hell, it pisses me off every time I hear “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” on Sirius, they always use the alternative take from the boxed set, that’s the one they played today, and if you don’t think the original can get lost in the shuffle, you don’t know the history of rock and roll. It would be a crime if this dash for cash remix of “Sgt. Pepper” became the standard.

And Geoff told me he likes to use the equipment he originally worked on. API board, tape when he can, and he talked about this Neumann cutting head for vinyl…

You see Geoff is still working, and still cares.

As does Richard Lewis. He’s going on the road imminently for five gigs. I asked Richard if “Curb” made a difference. ABSOLUTELY! Everywhere he goes people notice him now, business went up, and…

What I love about Richard is it’s all improvised. He told me he goes out with nothing these days. If the audience is hot, so is he, just like when he started riffing when we all sat down last night.

And Steven Bauer just did a cameo on “Queen of the South” during his “Ray Donovan” break.

And Jack has a cornucopia of projects. He’s the connector, he’s the straw that stirs the drink.

And I was gulping it all up last night.


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