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Episode 61

Perfecting the Mix & Music Industry’s Golden Age: featuring Bill Schnee

Episode  61
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Bill Schnee is a Grammy winning music producer, engineer and mix master, who has worked with Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, The Beatles and beyond, devoting his career to conducting orchestras of studio tracks in the creation of the iconic music that we most cherish. Bill joins us to share the backstage stories that accompanied that music. Plus Fritz and Weezy are recommending CODA on Apple+, Yellowstone on Paramount, and The Last Letter From Your Lover, book by Jojo Moyes and movie on Netflix.

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Louise Palanker (00:00:06):

Welcome to Media Path, I am Louise Palanker

Fritz Coleman  (00:00:08):

And I'm Fritz Coleman.

Louise Palanker (00:00:10):

What Fritz and I like to do is usher you through a library filled to the arched and skylight ceiling with books and movies and music. Occasionally, we will grab that sliding ladder and guide you up a few shelves to point out something we have found to be especially interesting, like say the entire career of Bill Schnee, a Grammy winning music producer, engineer, and Mixmaster who has worked with Barbara Streisand, Whitney Houston, the Beatles, and beyond. Devoting his career to conducting the orchestras of studio tracks in the creation of the iconic music that we most cherish. So, Fritz, I'm gonna go with my first pick here. Hi. You ready for it? It's a kind of a musical pick to, uh, compliment Bill. It's a movie called Koda. Koda is not just a musical term defining the concluding passage of a piece or movement. It is also an acronym for Child of Deaf Adults in the Apple Plus film bearing this name 17 year old.


Ruby is a Koda. Her parents and her brother are deaf while she is the only hearing member of their Gloucester, Massachusetts family. Ruby wakes up at 3:00 AM to work before school on her family fishing boat. But her secret passion is singing. No one in her family can hear her. And when she joins the school choir and expresses an interest in music, they resent and fear her pursuing a talent that they will be unable to share and experience with her. Additionally, they have grown accustomed and dependent upon her as a translator. This is a film that explores the richness and isolation of deaf culture through the eyes and ears of a hearing person. The director Sean Hater, insisted upon and fought to hire deaf actress. The Includes Marley Matlin, Troy Kaur, and Daniel Durant. Ruby's choir crush is played by Irish actor Freddie Walsh, Pilo, British actor. Amelia Jones is Ruby. She spent nine months studying American Sign Language and singing and operating a fishing trawler stock up on Kleenex. You will find the tear inducing coda on Apple

Fritz Coleman  (00:02:03):

Plus. What's Marley play? I just, I'm in love with her. I have been since children of lesser God.

Louise Palanker (00:02:08):

She's absolutely adorable. She plays the mom. Oh yeah. She plays the mom and it's beautiful.

Fritz Coleman  (00:02:13):

Wow. Good suggestion. Yeah. Well, I'm, I'm gonna talk about Yellowstone, which is streaming now on,

Louise Palanker (00:02:19):

Uh, yeah. Kevin Costner, right?

Fritz Coleman  (00:02:21):

Yeah. I, I was late to this party, but all of my friends kept telling me about it, and so I said I had to get on. So Paramount did a Labor Day Yellowstone Marathon that ended yesterday, and I dipped my toe in and stayed there until my skin shriveled up. <laugh>. I was there all weekend.

Louise Palanker (00:02:39):

Were you in the Bath <laugh>

Fritz Coleman  (00:02:41):

With, with bubbles to my knee <laugh> nipples. Anyway, uh, they're about to start their fourth season, November 7th. It's the story of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch near Bozeman, Montana. It's the largest contiguous ranch in the United States. Fictionally. It, it's a drama built along the shared borders between a wealthy rancher and Indian reservation and land developers. It's kind of like Jerusalem, where you have all these goals and all these cultures and all these ethnicities colliding in one area. The patriarch of the family is John Dutton, played by Kevin Costner. He's the sixth generation head of the family in the ranch. He fights to defend his land against the modern forces closing in around him. It was created, co-created, written, produced, and directed by Taylor Sheridan. Taylor's an actor, and he had a great part on Sons of Anarchy and other notable things. And I am hooked. The photography is breathtaking.


The writing is wonderful. Sheridan writes most of the episodes and directs most of them. Although I'm not steeped in cowboy culture myself, all the characters and scenarios seem so genuine and human. By the end of the weekend, I just wanted to live in a 10,000 square foot log home, <laugh> Ride to the Horizon on a docile elderly horse that wouldn't throw me <laugh> and order around Cowboy Ranch hands that look like they were carved out of Wood <laugh>. This is just a wonderful present day Western, and, but really great engagement, great storylines and stuff. I'm, I'm hooked. I I'll be, I'll be bing forever with

Louise Palanker (00:04:19):

This. Oh, I just kind of dipped into a little bit of the marathon, and I really had no idea. There are a lot of people, it's like one of those big casts with like, lots of layered storylines and lots of really important themes about how we, how we use the land that we live upon. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, I think it's, it's, it's a great piece. And I, but I need to start at the beginning.

Fritz Coleman  (00:04:37):


Louise Palanker (00:04:38):


Fritz Coleman  (00:04:38):


Louise Palanker (00:04:38):

Cause I'm a little lost

Fritz Coleman  (00:04:39):

To learn who

Louise Palanker (00:04:39):

All the characters are. Everyone's trying. It's Shakespearean. They're all trying to overthrow each

Fritz Coleman  (00:04:42):

Other. Yes. It's everybody <laugh> and they all end up dead at the end, just like Shakespearean.

Louise Palanker (00:04:46):

Okay. All right. Good to know. Okay. So, I love exploring books into movies. If I learn that a film is based on a book, I will often first read the book before enjoying the movie. The trick is to expect the film or the miniseries to be different, because visual storytelling has its own requirements. My latest book in the movie Indulgence, is Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moise. It's your typical tale of a woman who wakes up from a coma and cannot for the life of her, remember with whom she is having a to affair. <laugh>, it's London. In the early sixties, her husband is a rich snoot, and as she struggles to regain her memory, she begins to discover these poetically passionate letters signed. Simply be cut forward to 2003, where a young journalist with her own romantic entanglements finds these letters hidden deep in her newspapers', archives, romance, and mystery En Sue. I just loved it. The book has more depth and layers, so I can highly recommend that you enjoy both. The film starts, Felicity Jones, Shalene Woodley, and Callum Turner. You will find it on Netflix.

Fritz Coleman  (00:05:47):

Two good suggestions today.

Louise Palanker (00:05:49):

You're welcome. Are you ready for our fascinating guest? I am. He's, he's joining us via, he's

Fritz Coleman  (00:05:54):

Had like five careers. I can't believe the amount of work this man has done. This is

Louise Palanker (00:05:57):

Just good at things that he applies himself to <laugh>. He's just like, I think he's one of those guys who just understands where his strengths are and he just goes full steam ahead. Bill Shana is an internationally renowned producer, engineer, and Mixmaster. He has received over 125 Golden Platinum records while creating more than 50 top 20 singles for everyone from Barbara Streisand to the Jacksons, from Rod Stewart to Steely Dan and for Whitney Houston to Dire Straits. Bill is a guy who over the years, has often been told you should write a book. And so he did in chairman at the board, bill lovingly shares in humorous detail, his magical musical journey behind the closed doors of many recording sessions with a host of the greatest musical artists from the last 50 years. I made a list here. I don't know if we're gonna get our, uh, work our way all the way through it, but it, it includes Barbara Streisand, Carly Simon, Ringo Starr, all of the Beatles, actually are Garvan called Poer sisters, Huey Lewis, Fasque, Chicago. The list goes on and on. We're gonna put it all in our show notes. But Bill, welcome to Media Path.

Fritz Coleman  (00:06:52):

So nice to have you. Thank you. You, bill,

Louise Palanker (00:06:54):

I love your backdrop. If you're only listening to this, go home and pull it up on, on YouTube. He's got a lot of like, what would you call this, like archival sheet music?

Bill Schnee (00:07:04):

The, the, yeah, the songbook, the songbook sheet music that was always, you know, in the thirties and forties that were always so beautifully done, the

Louise Palanker (00:07:11):

Artwork. That's when you had to teach one of your kids to play the piano or there was no music. <laugh>.

Fritz Coleman  (00:07:15):

Okay. Well, bill, you're in Nashville now, cuz most of the recording industry is in Nashville. But you spent your house in years in the seventies and eighties out here when the LA session music scene was at its peak, and you have such great stories about those times. Yeah,

Bill Schnee (00:07:31):

Sorry. That's actually the reason I wrote a book. Uh, people had been telling me that, you know, you should write a book. You got such great stories, and I love telling stories. And, uh, but it always seemed too self-serving. It would be, I did this, then I did that, then I did this, then I did that. And it wasn't until a, uh, producer of a, a Brazilian artist that, uh, I was working with took me to dinner and the usual question, after a 20 minutes of me telling stories, why don't you write a book? And I said, yeah, I've thought about it. And he said, you know, the, the music business, as we know it was born in the fifties. It grew up in the sixties, and it really peaked in the seventies going into the eighties. It was a very short time, a very iconic time, and it'll never be repeated again. And you were there and it was the, you were there that took it away from me, from, uh, doing I did this, then I did that. I realized I could tell stories that happened to other people, fun stories or whatever that I had heard while I, you know, in my travels. No,

Fritz Coleman  (00:08:25):

It's an artist. It's almost your obligation to do an oral history if you have great moments to share. Plus the whole, and we're gonna talk about this, I'm sure the whole recording industry has changed so much and singular and, you know, band based and not studio based. So you're reflecting back on a time that may be gone forever, and they may be the best of times that you're remembering in your book.

Bill Schnee (00:08:50):

Many people think that it was, that's for sure.

Louise Palanker (00:08:53):

And one of the things that you, you talk about is that, you know, this just a difference in feel to analog from analog to digital. That some people romanticize analog. And then you point out that, you know, it wasn't, it's just that we got used to it. There were, there were definitely problems. There's problems in all forms of recording what we think we're hearing live with our ears. But initially the idea was to just record whatever you were hearing, put a band in a room and get them, get them recorded, and then it became, oh wow. We could make them sound even better than they sound. So, so talk about the arc of, of recorded music history. Okay. I find it fascinating.

Bill Schnee (00:09:29):

Yeah. Uh, first of all, with regard to the analog digital thing, um, the, the, the truth of the matter is analog tape has a sound, it adds something to what, what what you're recording. It was never a mirror. Uh, it was the only thing we had, and that was, ever since we got it from the Germans in the late forties, that was the sound of music, because that's all you ever heard was something that had gone on analog tape initially one time on tape and after multi-track two times on tape. So it always had that sound. Digital came through, which is much more of a mirror. But the early digital with lower sampling rates and bit rates, uh, we went to it a little too early, uh, and that was full of problems in itself. But today, what we have with the high sampling and bit rates, we have the ability to, for the first time, actually really capture exactly what you hear in the control room when a band is playing on the other side of the glass.

Louise Palanker (00:10:23):

You strike me as someone who never really resisted all these technological advancements. You sort of embraced them and said, all right, let's, let me see where we're going and what I can do with it.

Bill Schnee (00:10:31):

Well, yeah, I realized early on a couple of things. One, that if I was gonna have a long career, and I guess it's safe now after 52 years to say I've had a long career and still going, that I was gonna have to protect my hearing, uh, because, uh, that's important. Of course, at the time, I didn't realize that that computers would come in and eyesight would be almost more important than ears <laugh>. But,

Fritz Coleman  (00:10:55):

Uh, that's really interesting. What an interesting comment.

Bill Schnee (00:10:58):

Yeah, it is. And, and it's really interesting also because when it was, when it wasn't on a computer, you were all, you, when you were in the control room, all you did was look out at the musicians and think about the music. And now, you know, we find ourselves staring at the computer screen, you know, during the whole thing and manipulating and so on. Uh, but the other thing you mentioned though, uh, uh, has to do with multitrack because when the, uh, when that came in, that was a big change. You,

Fritz Coleman  (00:11:27):

You mentioned in your book that you had favorite boards, whether they be digital or analog. What was your favorite studio to work in? What was your favorite board over time? Did you have one?

Bill Schnee (00:11:39):

Well, what I, I, what I found out very early on in my career was that the, the consoles that I had, the boards, consoles that I liked the best were all homemade. They weren't made by a manufacturer. And in large part, I figured out that the main reason for that is that they're usually very, very simple. And, uh, I had learned fairly early on that in analog electronics, less is more, the less you go through the pure the sound. So that's why what I attributed that to. And then as a result, when I built my studio in 1980, uh, we built the console ourselves also. And it was, uh, again, very, very simple. I never understood why there would be these, some, a lot of these big English consoles, they have features that you use 5% of the time, but you're going through their electronics a hundred percent of the time, that kind of thing. So our console wasn't quite as versatile as those, meaning you might have to patch a few things as opposed to touch a button. But the, uh, the idea of having the best, uh, simplest electronic path was very important to me.

Fritz Coleman  (00:12:45):

Did you, I don't know if you saw the documentary that Dave Grohl sort of spearheaded about Sun City Sound and the whole thing, the whole arc of it is about his love for this board. And they did, you know, the Fleetwood Mac albums in there and Paul McCartney needed a solo album there, and he just said that this board had a soul and he ended up buying that board and putting it in his home. It was really, it was very touching. It was interesting, the relationship between he and his mix mixing console.

Bill Schnee (00:13:11):

Yeah. And those old needs are, are, are very good console full of character. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Uh, so he was right about that. You know, I, I don't think he paid quite enough attention to the room itself, cuz the acoustics in the, in the room. Uh, the room itself was a very, very good room. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which, you know, it adds a lot to the sound as well.

Fritz Coleman  (00:13:33):


Louise Palanker (00:13:34):

How did you find the process of creating a book as compared to the process of creating a a song? Was it as rewarding?

Bill Schnee (00:13:42):

Well, uh, good question. You know, over the years, I, I got very <laugh>. Creating a song is kind of easy in a way, you know, after a while, uh, the book was, uh, just a different thing. Uh, totally. Um, I don't know that I'm, I'm not a writer per se. Uh, I just started the book, you know, by telling the stories, and that's really all I did. So it really is my personality and my voice. And funny enough, the audio book just came out, which is really my voice. That was the hard thing. If you wanna know the truth, writing the book was kind of fun, recounting all the stories and thinking about, you know, uh, going back in time and reliving some of the stuff in my mind. But the trying to read the book, ugh, I didn't enjoy that at all.

Louise Palanker (00:14:27):

Well, you must have kept really good calendars because you seem to really remember everything that you had done in, in a specific order.

Bill Schnee (00:14:35):

No, I, uh, as I've said, I couldn't have written the book without the internet. Uh, the internet was really helpful to me for looking up things, and then it would spark my memory and it would all come back, uh, kind of thing. Uh, however, there <laugh>, as you may have never known this, but actually everything on the internet isn't true.

Fritz Coleman  (00:14:55):

<laugh>. What? Oh my God. You're gonna bring this podcast of a screech call. They

Louise Palanker (00:15:01):

Have to cancel the show, <laugh>

Bill Schnee (00:15:03):

<laugh>. But, uh, for instance, my, one of my, there were several that, you know, like where the credits are, this is cracks me up where there's a couple of websites that have credits for people in, uh, in the music industry. And when I started writing the album, uh, the first album I did with Barbara Streisand was on there, which I actually worked on. And today, about two years ago, it, it left. So evidently now I didn't work on it. I don't know how that happens. Wow. But the funniest, the funniest one with the credits to me was the Jacksons. I did a, uh, I, I was on the road and did a live album with the Jacksons, uh, I actually traveled on the bus. I'll bet you wanna read that book now, <laugh>. And, um, I

Louise Palanker (00:15:44):

Read this story so <laugh>, it's fascinating what

Bill Schnee (00:15:47):

Was up with Tito


<laugh>. And so, uh, when I was checking dates and stuff, I, uh, I looked, they have, somebody had posted the tour schedule. And I know for a fact because I, I've, after we finished the recording in the Northeast, I flew to Nashville to go in a, into a studio with the boys to start picking the takes. We had recorded like six, uh, different shows and to, to pick the take of each song to get the very best take of each song. And I, my friend that lives in Nashville, uh, got me a studio and we went and did that. And on this list of the tour, it doesn't show that they ever played Nashville. So,

Louise Palanker (00:16:26):

Oh, mystery.

Bill Schnee (00:16:28):


Fritz Coleman  (00:16:29):

<laugh>, you know, I don't wanna get too far ahead. I wanna lay the base coat for your amazing career. And in the preface of your book, you've got a really gorgeous description of the spiritual aspect of art. And, and it, it could be beyond music, it could be any type of art that art and music are God-inspired gifts. And a blank tape is like a blank canvas, and you treat both with so much dignity. Talk about that a little bit.

Bill Schnee (00:16:57):

Yeah, that's, that's something that, uh, uh, that a, a second engineer first told me when, uh, you know, he was, uh, one of the guys that I trained and we were putting, it was analog back then. This was early eighties. And put a, he was putting a tape on the machine to get blank tape to get started. And he said, you know, this is like a blank canvas, isn't it? And that got me thinking. And then, uh, so to, to the thought that I came up with there where, yep, it's a blank canvas, where in a little while a bunch of creative people are gonna pool their individual talents, uh, going for one common goal, and we're gonna come up with something that's going to live on, uh, virtually forever. It's quite, quite an interesting and wonderful thought to me.

Fritz Coleman  (00:17:42):

No, it's, it was beautiful. It was a great way to start your book. Uh, go ahead. We,

Louise Palanker (00:17:47):

I thought maybe you could tell the story of the, the Ringo album. I think it's Ringo's first solo album, right? Because kind of one after another. You en you encounter sequentially all Beatles. Yeah. And you're a young, like 23 year old kid.

Bill Schnee (00:18:00):

Yeah. Uh, and you thought

Fritz Coleman  (00:18:02):

That was gonna be a big Beatle reunion. You were gonna be there

Louise Palanker (00:18:04):

<laugh>. It almost was. I

Bill Schnee (00:18:05):

Know it was, it almost was. Yeah, that's the thing. So I had, uh, um, I did a brief stint recording and producing, uh, at C B S Columbia Records. And, uh, that's where I met Richard Perry, who was producing Barbara Streisand at the time. And he, uh, he had gone to England to do, uh, an album with Harry Nielsen. And Harry is very good friends with Ringo, was very good friends with Ringo. And, uh, that's how Richard met Ringo. And so a couple years later, uh, we did a Carly Simon album, the No Secrets album with your So vain on it together. I mixed that. And then he called me and said that he was gonna do an album with Ringo. And, uh, it should be very exciting. And indeed it was. So, I mean, I remember in the Sunday night before we started Monday morning, going in to do the setup place, the microphones and whatnot.


And I walked in and here's a flight case that for the drums that says Ringo Star, the Beatles <laugh>. And then I go into the control into the studio, and there's, uh, the drum set. And it may not have been the drum set that he used on the Beatle records, but it was still Ringo's drum set <laugh>. And, uh, as you point out, I was quite young. And so it was quite something. So we got started, uh, on the Monday and Tuesday, and I think on, uh, Wednesday, uh, the Quiet Beetle George popped over from England, who actually may have been known as the Quiet Beetle, but that was probably cuz he was always around Lennon of McCartney, who could get a word or a melody in edgewise. Uh, but he, uh, he was anything but quiet. And, uh, he heard what we had. We'd cut a couple of tracks and he liked what we had done, and he played on them.


And then he brought a song, uh, to the table that he had actually produced in England called Photograph. And, uh, the song is about the, the singer is singing about, uh, his Lost Love. And all he has is this photograph to remember her by. And he had cut it in a very forlorn kind of way, going with the, with the lyrics. Uh, and it was decided that we should redo it. So we redid that with the kind of the Phil Spector Wall of Sound, uh, treatment. And, uh, I think that was the first and biggest single from that album. Uh, that wasn't Ringo's first album. He had done, uh, he had done an album in England b uh, prior to that, but it's really the big, the first big, big one. Anyway, then at the end of the week, Richard said, uh, uh, oh, by the way, um, on, on Monday, John Lennon's coming, he has a song for Ringo also.


And I, I took account and said, that means we're gonna have three Beatles playing together in a room. And he said, you got it. And that was the first and last time that three Beatles would ever play in the room together, since they had broken up three years earlier. And the, the most amazing thing is, uh, see, I look at it that all of the Beatles basically said, you know, they knew their solo careers were gonna do okay, uh, but Ringo not being the songwriter that the three of them were, they all kind of decided to give him a leg up. And so Paul had written a song, Paul and Linda McCartney at the time had written, written a song for Ringo as well. Unfortunately, he had had a drug bust here in the United States, and he couldn't come into the, to, to the States. But who knows that if that wasn't the case, that he might have come over and come into the, into the room, we might have had a real Beetle reunion.

Fritz Coleman  (00:21:28):

And I think, uh, really the, the, one of the interesting aspects of that story, the Ringo story, was how the ions changed in the room when John Lennon went in there, <laugh> and how Ringo and George got quiet. They were vivacious and funny and joking around. But the minute John came in, and it must have been, I, I, all I can think of is that must have been the vibe and all Beatles recording albums, because he was like one of the primary creators of all this stuff. When they walked in there, suddenly everybody deferred to John John's opinion is what mattered. Uh, and it was Ringo's album, but he still deferred to John. I just thought that was so fascinating. Yeah. It was the power, the power structure of the Beatles.

Bill Schnee (00:22:09):

Yeah. I I'm sure that when they started, it was, uh, a lot more of all for one and one for all. But as the success came and so on, this is my guess on the situation, Lennon and McCartney, who obviously were the main writers, in fact, it's quite interesting that George didn't really come into his own as a, as a songwriter until the Beatles broke up. But, um, the, the, that them being the main songwriters, and especially John, probably because he was a very forceful object, I can tell you that, uh, he was, uh, it was amazing because as you said, uh, Ringo had been Ringo just jovial and, you know, the life of the party and, uh, the not so quiet Beatle had been right there talking and very articulate and everything. But when John came in, and of course think about it, this was the first time the three of 'em had been together, let alone in the recording situation back to where they had done all those incredible records for the first time. So, uh, you know, I think, you know, there was nothing to do but to just freeze and let John take the show, and which he was very happy to do, it was obvious very, very quickly that, that he was gonna run the show and that when we, when he was happy we were done, that kind of thing. What

Fritz Coleman  (00:23:20):

A moment to be there.

Louise Palanker (00:23:21):

Yeah. I think, I think it speaks to the affection that they all had for Ringo, even after things broke up. And I also wanna talk about maybe a dynamic that has to do with, um, age when people are under the age of 21, say, you know, George was a few years younger, so there's a deference. And then you find the same thing with the Bee Gees, you know, with Barry and, and the twins. And now, now when they're all over 25, there's either a respect or a history or a pattern or a resentment, you know? Yeah. That you were never the one that was calling the shots. And that tho and once you've given birth to hits, you're the co-parents of those records forever. And you have to figure out how to negotiate those relationships

Bill Schnee (00:24:04):

And Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I know, speaking of that, I, I know that Barry, uh, had, I can't remember which one it was, uh, which brother it was, but, uh, one of them kind of took him on as time went on. They had a little bit of a tumultuous relationship in the studio.

Louise Palanker (00:24:19):

Yeah. It was Robin. Yeah. And more. And, and then, you know, Morris was always the peacemaker. And when Morris died, I think it was just gonna be difficult for Barry and Robin to give. Well,

Bill Schnee (00:24:29):

Yeah, I don't think they agree. I, I actually, I, I, I mixed a Robin album that Morris produced. Ah, and i, I also mixed a Barry Gibbs solo album that unfortunately never came out. He recycled the songs and put 'em in a movie. But

Louise Palanker (00:24:42):

Those guys are just fountains of

Bill Schnee (00:24:44):

Oh yeah. Just incredible songwriters.

Fritz Coleman  (00:24:46):

Yeah. You, you have, um, a great comparison with what the difference is between a good song and a good record.

Bill Schnee (00:24:56):

<laugh>. I, I, I can't help but chuckle because my wife, who loves music but is not in the profession in any way, uh, would always say, this is a great record. And it was really a s it, I mean, a great, uh, this is a great song, I'm sorry. And I would tell her, you know, actually it's not a great song. Uh, to me a great song is you play it on a guitar, you play it on the piano, and it sits for itself. That's to, to me, what a, what a shows what a great song is. W as production became more prominent has become more prominent with the beginning, uh, with, uh, multitrack and everything that we can now do. You know, the beginning of Multitrack, by the way, when we went from recording everything live in the studio, uh, in the forties and fif early fifties and whatnot, to the ability to put down a basic piece of the, of the finished product and then add to it and add to it, and then do vocals and vocals. And this made the control room become a part of the, the studio, uh, a part of the record making process much more than just capturing the performance.

Louise Palanker (00:25:58):

Is it the guys like you who did really well, were the guys that actually were musicians. So you knew how to play all those tracks like they were an instrument.

Bill Schnee (00:26:08):

Yeah. And, and, uh, that, that, that's a, that was a learning process for everybody.

Louise Palanker (00:26:13):

That's, so I wanna ask you about, uh, Boz gags and, and Breakdown and that when, cuz you talk about the, like the doubled Tom role and do people come up to you and ask you how you got certain sounds like that they're just confounded by and they've tried to recreate

Bill Schnee (00:26:29):

Yeah. Engineering types will do that. Yeah. That, that's kind of the unfortunate thing, by the way, about the book that, maybe I should say this for your, your audience, cuz you probably don't have as many music professionals. Uh, a lot of the interviews I've done have been it for those types of people. And I, I knew when I wrote the book, I'm gonna be disappointing those people because they expected me to, to give tricks and, you know, secrets or whatever, whatever like you're talking about. And as I said in the intro of the book, I wrote this book for anyone like me that loves music and records, but hasn't been as fortunate to go behind the curtain. So that's that. But, um, yes, the, you know, in engineering types will say, oh, I love that. Uh, how did you do that? And yeah, I I I don't believe in secrets really. You know, I, it's, I just whate whatever works, works.

Fritz Coleman  (00:27:19):

You, you, um, have had such an expansive career and you were at the beginning and the end, uh, beginning and end albums, two iconic bands that were, I think America's first introduction to a Jazz Rock Fusion. You did one of the Early Blood Sweat and Tears albums. I don't know if you did the one with David Clayton Thomas, or the one previous to that, or just after. But it didn't matter because the musicians were all spectacular. But it was America's first exposure to that the first time it got airplay. Then Flash Forward you did Asia, which is one of the great albums of all Time by Steely Dan. And it was the same thing. It was a great fusion of jazz and rocking. Do you have any comment about those two connections in your life?

Bill Schnee (00:28:07):

Mostly the, you know, the funny one, steely Dan, uh, what I wrote in the book is that I remember distinctly every day taking a cassette of what we had done, popping it in the car on my way home. And I would think, what in the world is this? It's not exactly pop, it's not exactly jazz, it's jazzy. Sometimes it's poppy, sometimes it's even bluesy sometimes. But, uh, what is it? And I'll, I don't, I to this day don't know what it is except it's incredible what what they came up with and, you know, was just incredible music. But obviously with the heavy jazz, uh, influence in it. But, uh, enough to keep all the pop pop people very happy as well.

Fritz Coleman  (00:28:49):

A couple of weeks ago. Yeah. Uh, on this show, one of my, um, recommendations to view was the cla, I don't know if you saw, this, was the classic album series on PBS where they did that, where they had Don and Walter together and they parsed this album and they mixed the tracks in and out. I don't know if you saw that, but what was really interesting about it is that was a complicated, uh, session, wasn't it? Cuz they had all kinds of session players coming in and out and they would trade in somebody and they wouldn't like him and they traded out like the drummer, that whole thing. And you helped to hire the, the drummer, Steve. And, uh, and it turns out I, I mean they were very picky about what they liked. So it was not a simple process putting that album on tape.

Bill Schnee (00:29:30):

Right. Well, when Gary Katz, their, their producer called me and asked if I would like to do the next Steely Dan album. And I said, let me think about it. Okay, <laugh>, uh, yeah, because I'd already been a fan and was very happy to do it. Uh, and, uh, he said, now I'm gonna warn you it's gonna be a revolving door of drummers, meaning we're gonna, you, you're gonna be getting a new drum sound every two or three days. And I said, that's fine, whatever. And so indeed we did have the aforementioned revolving door of, of drummers. And, uh, you know, it's quite interesting because that album was the first and, uh, was the first and only in one way where they used all studio musicians. I mean, that, uh, they had used some studio musicians in the past. In fact, my good friends, uh, Michael Omar, uh, would, he and Jeff Paca would told me about the maniacal ways that they, they went through and coming up with the records they played on the previous records.


And so I was a little concerned about that cuz I don't really love that kind of microscopic work in the studio. I'm much more of a, you know, shoot from the hip. Creative creativity for me comes when things are moving quick and just jump from one thing to the next. Um, but it, it, excuse me, it wasn't like that at all. They came in every day with a piano bass demo that they had done at home, I assume. And sometimes it had a lala kind of voice, uh, you know, uh, vocal on it showing where the melody was gonna go. Sometimes it didn't. And, uh, the great guitarist, Larry Colton had been given those demos and he had made the chord charts that went with them so that we knew where to start. Uh, and it, they were very unlike what I had heard in the past.


Uh, yes, we did change musicians, but the, the sessions were all very, uh, dignified. In other words, we started at two o'clock. We never went late into the night. Um, and, and, and it was very relaxed. It was a no drug zone, at least the basic tracks were. And, uh, it, it, it was just, it, it was, you know, what can I say, the album lives on and it's one of the most magical times mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, that I've ever been in a studio with musicians. It just day after day, it was just hard to believe.

Louise Palanker (00:31:49):

Wow. Well, I have a question that you may not know the answer to, but I've never asked anyone this question cuz I do not know either Mark Effler, uh, nor Eric Clapton. But in the Princess Bride theme, it seems to me that is the same melody as a song on an Eric Clapton album called Mother Mary. Has anyone else noticed this? It happened before the internet, so I wasn't able to Google

Bill Schnee (00:32:14):

It. I know not of what you speak, I'm afraid.

Louise Palanker (00:32:17):

<laugh> Well listen to both and then we'll talk because Okay. It's, they're friends and so it's more than whatever is he's, he's so fine. And my sweet Lord, it's more than that Bill. I mean, it's really a duplicate

Bill Schnee (00:32:31):


Louise Palanker (00:32:31):

Oh really? Yeah. So, well let's move on because you didn't know the answer to that. Um, talk about the day you recorded Whitney Houston live singing, uh, I will Always Love You cuz I did not know that that was live. I mean, we've seen the movie and it just knocks you outta your seat, but talk about that day.

Bill Schnee (00:32:49):

Okay. Well, in that movie, obviously she plays a, uh, a music star and all the concert scenes are really records, most of which David Foster produced that she would lip sync in the movie. Well, knowing what the last scene was gonna be, she had gone to the producers and said, I don't want to lip sync that. It's the mi the camera's gonna be right in my face, uh, you know, and whatnot. And y you'll know that I'm lip syncing, so I want to, I wanna record it while we do the scene. So David Foster called me and said, one, get a recording truck and meet me at the Fountain Blue Hotel in Miami, and that's where we're gonna shoot the last scene. And yes, in the hotel in a multipurpose room that had a small, relatively small stage, doesn't come off that way with mu movie magic in the movie of course.


But, um, uh, the, the band was well-rehearsed on the song. David had done a demo of it and the band, her road band had learned it. And, uh, the most interesting part to me was that, uh, when we started doing it, uh, she was actually nervous. Now, at that point in her career, she had sung in front of, you know, tons of 20,000 seaters and a couple of hundred thousand seaters, uh, concerts. And yet she was, it was obvious she was nervous in this little dark room with a, a, you know, a film crew of about 30, 40 people. But, uh, she, you know, after about the third take, uh, they, they took a break and actually, uh, the star Kevin Costner came in the recording truck with me. And I remember he, he turned to me and he said, she's gonna get it. And I said, I, I'm sure she will. And, uh, and when that, that next take happened when she hit that and die at the end, uh, I'm sure mine was not the only hair on the back of the neck and arms, it went straight

Louise Palanker (00:34:40):

Up. Yeah. It's a, it's a modulation too, right?

Bill Schnee (00:34:42):

Yeah. It was just, yeah, it was just a moment to behold the

Fritz Coleman  (00:34:46):

First time you guys, you guys know when you have hits or have an instinct, but, but that must have been one where you said, oh my God, just get out of the way cuz this, this song is going to be the end right here.

Bill Schnee (00:34:55):

Oh, a a, absolutely. And then just as, as would happen, as you can imagine, I mean, it was absolute magic. And as would happened, the director said, that was incredible. Let's just do one more for protection,

Fritz Coleman  (00:35:07):

<laugh>, that sounds fairly typical.

Louise Palanker (00:35:10):

Yeah, exactly. Uh, we, we touched upon the Beatles, but I thought maybe you could go back and talk about George Harrison's castle, cuz you had some interesting adventures there.

Bill Schnee (00:35:22):

Yeah. Um, when we went to England to record Paul and Linda's song, and we, uh, had to, we had the, the, the weekend off we, or or Sunday, at least off, and George had come back to England with us as well, and he, he said, you know, why don't you, you and Richard come to the house, <laugh> the house for, uh, for dinner on Sunday. So we, uh, drove there and pulled up. Uh, we got, he got a car for us to go, and we pulled up to the gatehouse, the gatehouse, which, you know, it <laugh> anyone in the right mind would love to live in the gatehouse <laugh>. And then we drove up further, and here was this absolute castle with a, funny enough, a skull and crossbones flag flying over the castle <laugh>. And, uh, the, the house is just, you know, unbelievable. And, uh, I, I went into the living room and George was very gracious and Patty and, uh, he, he pointed down at the lake and said, you know, why don't you maybe you want to take a walk down to the lake before dinner, which I did.


And, uh, you know, which, you know, was a 10 minute walk to the lake. Uh, the grounds were just huge and spec spectacular. And he, he pointed, he told me how he had, uh, the place had gone into terrible disrepair, fallen into terrible disrepair. And so he had to, had spent a lot of time re restoring it, and wasn't, it still wasn't done. In fact, he took me to the what would become the recording studio. It was the bones of it, and it was, I think it was actually working, but it wasn't finished, uh, where he would go on to record a lot of music in the following, uh, in the years to come. But, uh, Patty, uh, he and Patty were vegetarians and, uh, uh, at the time I was eating meat. I haven't eaten red meat since 1979, but at the time I couldn't believe that.


Um, you know, that just sounded weird to me that we're not gonna have any meat. But I'm telling you, uh, that the meal that she prepared, I remember very distinctly thinking, wow, I I would never care about meat again if I could eat li a meal like this every time she was a great cook. And after dinner went into the living room, which was the size of a ballroom. They had done a very smart thing and just taken a, a one big section of it and put in a couple of couches and several chairs, a big, you know, oriental rug and whatnot. And this was only in about a, a fourth, maybe fourth to a third of this huge room. Wow. Uh, but to make it feel cozy as opposed to feeling like you were in a ballroom. And, uh, and several, uh, rock luminaries started showing up and at 1.1 of them, uh, said to George, George, you want to go in the, in the, uh, u underground?


And, uh, he said, sure. And I'm going, what in the world is he talking about? And so we went and he gave each of us a, uh, torch <laugh>, and we went into the catacombs. Oh my God. Evidently the guy that built the house was some kind of a nut and had built this huge, and I mean, huge labyrinth of tunnels underneath the lawn that, uh, I don't know how big it was. I do know that when we went in, when we came out, we were, we were so far from where we'd gone in, I couldn't believe it. <laugh>, that's how you what it was.

Louise Palanker (00:38:34):

Escape from mooting hunts. You go

Bill Schnee (00:38:36):

That's right. I'm sorry. Yep.

Louise Palanker (00:38:37):

That's how you escape from Mooting Tribes. I guess

Fritz Coleman  (00:38:40):

That's where you went for the London Blitz or something. You went down there. Yeah. Well,

Louise Palanker (00:38:43):

No, this what, what, what year was this Castle Built Bill?

Bill Schnee (00:38:46):

Early 18 hundreds, I think. Wow.

Louise Palanker (00:38:48):


Bill Schnee (00:38:50):


Louise Palanker (00:38:50):

Go ahead.

Bill Schnee (00:38:51):

And, uh, so it's just, you know, it's this labyrinth. And of course, what the, what the guys all found quite fun was to scare each other <laugh>. So they would, you know, you'd hide and, and then you'd, you'd come around the corner and one of them would jump out at you and whatnot. And it was very effective. Although the most effective was when I was, I, most of them had gone away. And I'm not really, really claustrophobic, but I was that night. I mean, I couldn't wait to get out of there. And, and I remember making one turn and there was a full life, full size skeleton that George had put there, just Oh my god. For that purpose. And, uh, uh, I think that's when my gray hair started. <laugh> proceeded quite nicely over the years, hasn't it?

Fritz Coleman  (00:39:35):


Bill Schnee (00:39:36):

Anyway, it was a very fun night.

Fritz Coleman  (00:39:39):

Wow. You, you, back to the No Secrets album. Um, Mick Jagger did some background vocals on that album. Was that an accident? Was it like a drop by kind of a thing? Or how did that happen?

Bill Schnee (00:39:50):

Yeah, yeah. It was actually that, uh, now I only mixed it. The whole album was recorded in England, and, uh, Richard just brought it back for me to mix. But, um, what I was told was that Harry Nielsen was there, uh, and starting to do the, they were thinking about doing the backgrounds on your so vain and Mick happened to call the studio, and, uh, I don't know who answered Richard, I guess, and said, you know, why don't you come around? We're just, you know, doing backgrounds. And he came around and Harry, it was Harry's idea. He said he should do the backgrounds. And, uh, it's, it's kind of funny because a lot of people don't realize that until, you know,

Fritz Coleman  (00:40:28):

I, I never knew that until I read your book. I never knew that was the case. There's so much folklore about that song. I didn't know that was him.

Bill Schnee (00:40:35):

Yeah. But now, when you listen to it, you're gonna know. That's what I'm saying. And now that you listen to it, you're gonna know instantly. Oh, of course. That's Mick Jagger

Louise Palanker (00:40:42):


Bill Schnee (00:40:42):

Oh, that's so, he's got such an identifiable voice. It, of course, it's him.

Louise Palanker (00:40:46):

Now you reminded me that the, uh, you don't Bring Me Flowers Duet began when Disc jockey's started putting together edits of Barbara Streis and Neil Diamond. Were they in the same key?

Bill Schnee (00:41:00):

Uh, I, I don't really remember. I I almost think they'd have to be, but I, I, because I don't know if the technology was out to, to change the key and keep the tempo back then in the seventies, but yeah, it started with the, uh, Barbara had recorded the song and, uh, I recorded an album with Neil and he recorded the song, and then a, a disc jockey in the Midwest, uh, took the two versions and kind of cut them together. So it, it was a form of a duet. They didn't sing over each other with each other, I should say, but they traded off lines, so on. And Columbia Records, uh, said, Hey, that's a good idea. So they got, uh, Bob Gadio, who had, uh, produced Neil's record to go in, uh, with Neil and Barbara and make the duet. And, uh, the thing <laugh>, the thing I love ab ab telling about that is that on the recording console where all of the faders are, uh, for the different instruments, we put a piece of tape at the bottom, which basically is to remind us, this is the violins, this is the violas, this is the, you know, whatever this.


And so, uh, when it, when it came to the two of them, there was Neil and I wrote Babs, uh, and, um, when she came to, when she came to hear the, uh, mix, I put her in my chair and before I started it, she looked down and she went, Babs <laugh>. And I went, that's you <laugh>.

Fritz Coleman  (00:42:25):

And she was cool with it,

Bill Schnee (00:42:26):

And that Oh yeah, she's, she's great. She's got a great sense of humor and whatnot and, and a big foodie. I couldn't, you know, just, uh, wonderful. That's from, uh, Fritz may know that, uh, Gary Owens, that that's what, when he was on the radio, that's what he used to say. He'd play a Streisand record. Uh, and he'd say that was Babs as she is selling.

Fritz Coleman  (00:42:45):

Well, Weezie and I were both close friends and Weezie even more, uh, with Gary. He was a dear friend and one of the loveliest people in the business ever. We'd love Gary.

Bill Schnee (00:42:53):


Louise Palanker (00:42:54):

Gary Calder Babs,

Bill Schnee (00:42:55):

Yeah. On the radio, that's what, how he would, uh, announce her

Fritz Coleman  (00:42:59):

<laugh>. Hello. Babs <laugh>. So Richard Pot Lore, who was, uh, pivotal in your experience, was the guy that threw you some mixes for Three Dog Night, which is one of my favorite bands of all time. And I think one of the great unsung, uh, harmony groups. And you said, and I never thought of it this way, but it's true, it's the only band you ever worked with that had three lead singers. Yeah. Talk about Three Dog Night.

Bill Schnee (00:43:26):

Yeah, it was a great, uh, they were a fabulous group. Really. Yeah. Okay. So a little bit of backstory of, uh, it's how I got in the business. My parents moved to Los Angeles my senior year of high school. I met some guys that were starting a band. Uh, I, I'm a jack of all and really a master of None, but keyboard was my main instrument. And I ha so I said, guys, do you think, how do you think an organ would fit in? And they said, let's try it. It worked great. So we started a little band and we played around and did things that high school bands do. And we, uh, at school we were about to graduate. We went into a re a demo kind of studio and put down, we wrote songs. So we put down three of our best songs.


And one of the guys in the band, his mother knew someone who knew someone who maybe even knew someone that was in the record business. And, uh, that was Gary Usher. Gary was, uh, a friend with the Wilson family, the beach boy, Wilson family. He actually wanted to be a beach boy, but it didn't happen, although he did write 4 0 9. And in my room with Brian Wilson Oh, wow. Two of the Big Beach Boy hits. Anyway, so he, he signed us. He had just made a production deal with Deca, and he signed us to Deca Records, and we went in the studio and he brought in Richie LER as a guitarist to play, uh, add to our group. And we, we saw right away, you know, we're, we're, we just graduated high school, we're, you know, uh, but this guy was an incredible musician. And, uh, as it turns out, also an incredible engineer and a credible producer, but which he hadn't quite shown all of that yet.


Uh, but, uh, so we did four songs and, uh, the way it worked back then, you were signed for four songs. If you had a hit, you ran in and did six more if you didn't, bye baby. And so bye baby came. And I went to Poder studio and told him the sad news, and he said, oh, well, here, go see this guy, Mike Kerb. He's gonna go places. I can get you a record deal with him, <laugh>. So off I went to 9,000 building on Sunset to Sidewalk Productions to meet Mike Kerb. And, uh, which his office consisted of he and his sister Carol. And indeed he did sign us to another record deal with Richie Poder to produce us. So when we went in the studio with Richie, we put down the first track. When I came in the control room to hear it back and looked up at the speakers, it was a real aha moment.


I, we had recorded a capitol in Western for Deca, two of the best studios to this day in Hollywood. But, uh, and with obviously the top of the line engineers, but however, and whatever Richie did, uh, the sound had so much more impact to me, emotional impact. That's right. When I realized that the sound could have a big difference in how you perceived the music, and it was literally so, such an instantaneous thing that I pointed at all the equipment and said, can you teach me how to do this? And he said, no, I'm teaching Cooper here. Go out and do another take. But that was the moment. So I went off on my own, found a, you know, a cheap studio to, to sweep the floors and learn how to do d d you know, get the basics down. And, uh, came across a guy named Toby Foster, who was great, uh, engineer and great design engineer.


And, uh, was working at a, another studio, a good studio in, uh, in town. And, uh, I would go to him every day after school. I, by now I'm back. I wasted two and a half years, quit college at right away, uh, when we got signed to Deca, uh, and spent two and a half years chasing the band. Uh, and then, so now I was back in college, and every day after school, I would drive to the studio and he would just answer questions as, as long as he could take it. And so, and because of, uh, my, all of my aptitude was in math and science. In fact, when I started Cal Poly, it was in aerospace. Um, and, uh, what, where that, where the left brain met the right brain, um, re the whole engineering thing came extremely quickly to me so quickly that less than three years after that aha moment at pods, uh, I spent two months doing my best and finally did talking, talking him into letting me, uh, try something, you know, in his studio.


And, uh, I, he finally said, all right, there's a demo tomorrow. Go and do, come and do that. So I went, I did the demo. I said, how did, what did the producer say? He said, you did great. He said, okay, what now? He said, come tomorrow, do another one. There's a demo in the morning. Okay, I did that one. How did they say? They said, you did great. Also, what's next? He said, come tomorrow night and record three Dog Night. I went, okay. What? Now, at that point in time, uh, he wasn't producing them. A guy named Gabriel Meckler was producing them. Uh, he was, Gabriel was Richie's biggest client. He had recorded the first three dog night album for Gabriel and the first Steppen Wolf album. And why in the world he would throw a kid in with his biggest client. I mean, if I had fallen on my face, he could have lost his biggest client.


I, it just seems ludicrous to me. But I went in that night with the guys and, uh, nervous is all get out and, uh, cut a track with him and everything seemed to go fine. I called Richie the next morning and said, what did Gabriel say? He said, everything went great, so come back tonight. Okay. So I went a second night, I cut a second track, and the third night, same thing, except a couple hours into the session, they asked for something, uh, an effect on the guitar that Richie had undoubtedly gotten for them being the, he's a phenomenal guitarist, as I mentioned, uh, had obviously done for them in the previous recorded previous album in the previous recordings of this album. And so I had to call Richie and he and Bill came down and, and took over recording, uh, the tracks. But, uh, I did do more overdubs with them, but yeah, I, it was literally thrown into the deep end of the pool and I managed to swim.

Fritz Coleman  (00:49:25):

Wow. I listen to their music now and I'm, I just, I love them more now than I did when they had hits. Well,

Louise Palanker (00:49:30):

It's three lead vocalists. Yeah. Singing, not their songs, but the best songs that were written time. So they used Paul Williams and

Fritz Coleman  (00:49:38):

I was in the Navy driving back in my brand new Volkswagen 72 Super Beatle. And when the Randy Newman song Mama Told Me Not To Come, came on, oh yeah, three Dog Night. I pulled off to the side of the road to listen to it. I was so blown away cuz I was a big Randy Newman fan. I said, I can't believe this pop band is covering Randy Newman. And it was, it changed my opinion about them. Their, their, their vocals were pristine, really

Bill Schnee (00:50:01):

Amazing. And that, and those songs, by the way, are in almost every case, is due to the great ears of Richie Poder, who of course it was known that, that they didn't do much writing the group, so all the publishers would bring their songs so that he went through hundreds of songs, maybe thousands, who knows, but hundreds and hundreds of songs to pick all the ones and especially the big hits. It's all Richie.

Louise Palanker (00:50:25):

That's a secret. Could you tell your Gladys Knight story? I think it was neither one of us

Bill Schnee (00:50:30):

The first hit. No, it wasn't the first hit. Well, one of my earliest, earliest hits that I mixed was a group called The Free Movement. And the song was called, I Found Someone on my Own, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> by the Free Movement and

Louise Palanker (00:50:41):

That was a one hit wonder group. Right.

Bill Schnee (00:50:43):

It was a one hit wonder and, uh, very frustrating for me. I mean, I recorded and mixed it, and the, the recording wasn't fun because let's just say they weren't the best singers, let's just put it that way. But the producer was a guy named Joe Porter, and it was a big hit. Uh, and so, uh, you know, the record business, like the film business rewards you for, for your successes. So, uh, he was doing some new acts and stuff, and I had done a couple of things with him. He did a rare Earth album that I mixed and, uh, and so he said, I've done some songs with Gladys Knight. And so I, uh, oh, great. He asked me to mix him. So when the studio, and I'm mixing it, and the first thing was I noticed that here was, here was a track called On the Legend.


We always have a legend that has whatever, what's on individual tracks. And, uh, the, uh, the legend said Pips, but then there was another one that said Girls. And indeed what, when he, when he came to the studio to hear the mix, I asked him about that and he said he had so much trouble getting the pips to sing in tune, that he had doubled the, uh, the pips with these background. And he used girls instead of guys. And that's another one that if you listen, if you listen now closely to that, uh, you, you, you'll hear it, you can hear it.

Louise Palanker (00:52:05):

Well, didn't they put that song on a, they put that song on a shelf and they didn't release it. They also didn't credit you at Motown, right?

Bill Schnee (00:52:11):

Yeah, that was, yeah, a couple of times. Rare Earth either. And, uh, Diane Carroll, I did an album with Diane Carroll, I didn't get credit for, but yeah, I, I, I mixed the song and, you know, I, with, I just knew it was a smash, and she had not had a record out in a while. And so I thought, well, this is gonna bring her back. And instead they shelved it. And I couldn't believe it that they shelved it. And, uh, and I don't know if that's, I've still, to this day, sadly, never met Gladys. And I sure hope I get to, cuz I've gotta ask her if the fact that they, uh, that they had not wanted to put that out. It was part of the reason she went to Buddha, because she went to Buddha right after that. And, and now the thing is, that song is actually a country song, uh, neither one of us. And, um, written by a guy that just passed away here in Nashville, Jim Weatherly, an excellent songwriter,

Fritz Coleman  (00:53:05):

He also wrote Midnight Train to Georgia. Right. That was, yeah,

Bill Schnee (00:53:08):

That was the, and she went on a couple

Fritz Coleman  (00:53:10):

More. That was just the magic of those, those two songs were country songs, and she made 'em the most soulful r and b releases of all time.

Bill Schnee (00:53:17):

Right. And that, that, that just goes to show you. But, you know, I, is that what Hung Motown up, why they didn't wanna release it. We'll never know. But soon as she made the, as soon as she left and was making the deal with Buddha, they released it, uh, as a single. So, uh, and it brought her back in a big way.

Louise Palanker (00:53:35):

Now you have a, a characteristic that, that I find in, in successful people that well just call Pluck. And, but I want you to put it in your own words, in terms of advice for young people pursuing something that seems almost unattainable and it then a really tricky, you know, industry to navigate. You know, because you, you just kept asking for opportunities and you weren't shy about it. You knew that if somebody would give you those opportunities that you'd be able to succeed. But how would you frame that in terms of advice for young people?

Bill Schnee (00:54:08):

Yeah, it's funny, you know, now when I, I I'll speak to, uh, you know, schools, uh, kids in school that are learning music, recording, whatever, and, and I sit there and, uh, when I first started doing it quite a few years ago, as the record business was leaving us, the way it has left us, you know, where the opportunities are just so much fewer than they ever were. Uh, I looked at it when I was starting out that it was like, uh, it was like a pyramid with slippery sides, and how am I going to, you know, get inch my way up these things if I want to try to get to the top? And it, it now had <laugh> about 15 years ago, 20 years ago, it became, it's a pyramid, but it goes up about halfway, then it's a flat top with a flagpole <laugh>.


And you know, what, what can you say? You know, the opportunities are just not there the the way they were. So when I talk to the kids, I, I, I tell 'em basically that story, and I say, you know, if you've got it, if you, if you've got it in your blood, you gotta go after it. The good news is you're young. If it doesn't work out, you know, you can back up and do something else. But if you really believe that you've, you've that you've got it, uh, go for it. And you, you just, you don't pass up any opportunity and realize that you're gonna have to work really hard to, to get a, to get a a, you know, be a cut above the fray. And so that, that, that's all I know, know to tell them.

Fritz Coleman  (00:55:32):

There's no greater example of the competitive nature of the recording industry than the one you describe about the recording of Rock and Roll Heaven that ended up being a comeback hit for the Righteous Brothers. But it almost wasn't a Righteous Brothers song. It was Al Talk about that whole scenario and how close that came to not being a Righteous Brothers song.

Louise Palanker (00:55:54):

<laugh> Minutes. Yeah. Yeah.

Bill Schnee (00:55:56):

How close that came to being my hit. Yeah. Which is what it should have been. Darn it. Yeah. So, um, uh, I was working, uh, uh, one of the acts that had been presented to me when I was at, uh, to produce at CBSs, uh, the lead singer was a guy named, uh, Denny Corll. And I, uh, I passed on producing the act. Well, several years later, he got ahold of me and said, you know, I I I, I really liked you when we met you a few years ago. Would you, could I meet with you? I said, sure. So he came and he played me several of his songs, and there was one or two that were pretty good. But then he said, you know, a publisher gave me a song. And all he did was he sang what he could remember of the chorus.


And it was, if you believe in forever, then life is just a one night stand. If there's a rock and roll heaven, you know, they've got a hell of a band. And a couple of luminaries had just died. And, uh, so I found out who this songwriter was, and I went to him and, and I said, you know, this song could be a hit. It had been released a couple of years earlier by the co-writer, uh, and it, it, it, and, uh, it wasn't a hit, it wasn't a big hit. I said, but you know, if you rewrite the lyrics, uh, for the, to take into account the two that had just died, I think it could be a smash. And he said, that's a great idea. So he wrote the lyrics, rewrote the lyrics. I worked with him on it, kind of honed it down.


Got it. And then I went in the studio and, and with Denny and some musicians, and cut the song and, and put it together. And I was, I was very happy with it. And, uh, I, I, I had done, I had done work for, uh, a couple of different people. So I went, there was a new a and m uh, imprint by two guys, two promotion guys. Barry drove Barry Gross and Marty Cups. And I went to them and, uh, played them the song. And they said, oh, this is a smash. We'll make a deal on this. And then I called. I said, well, hold on now, guys. Uh, then I called my friend Richard Perry, who said, you know, why don't you go see the Head of Capital after Ringo's album? You know, he, he'll take a meeting with you cuz I'm still pretty young at, at all this.


And so I went in with, with him and, um, I played him the song and he also said, oh my gosh, this is a smash. Can I play it again? I said, sure. I, he played it again. And he said, um, I want to keep it overnight, but I think we can make a deal. And I said, okay, great. And as I walked out of the office, I met a guy outside that I had met bef a publisher who I'd met before who said, boy, that sounded great through the Wall, bill <laugh>. And I went, thank you. Yeah, I'm pretty happy with it. And, uh, so that was that. So then, uh, um, two days later, uh, the, the Alan O'Day, the songwriter, called me and said, bill, hurry up and make a deal for Denny's record, because Lambert and Potter just called for the new lyrics on the song.


And I went, oh, really? Okay. Okay. So I, I called, uh, I, I started to call, and I'll never forget it was that we still had dial phones. And I dialed the number, I dialed a number for capital to make a deal on the song. And I, I got to the last number and I, my finger froze in the dial because I went, wait a minute, how did anybody know? There was new lyrics on this song? Only Alan O'Day and I and Denny Corres, there were the only three people that knew except for that publisher that was in the outer office. And I let go of the, I let go of the dial and it went back and I got Al on the phone and I said, you know, what do you think you wanna make a deal? And he said, uh, I, I'm going out of town for the weekend, but you know, we can do it on Monday.


And I went, oh, oh, okay. And I called the other two guys and said, make it, let's do the deal fast now. And I told him, I told him about it. I told him what had happened, and I said, so there, you know, he's gonna, they're gonna cut it with somebody quickly. And then I found out what it was because, uh, uh, one of the guys, Marty Cups was good friends with Lambert and Cups. They had promoted all their records at a B c Lambert and Potter's records that they wrote and produced Grossen cups were the promotion people years earlier. So he said, we're good friends. Called him up and he said, listen, let's not get in a bidding war on this. We're gonna release this, you know, Denny's record. Let's not, let's not get into a record war. And instead, they sped everything up.


They, they signed the contracts immediately. They, they happened to call the studio that I worked in all the time. So I learned about that. They went in the studio on, uh, I don't remember the exact dates, but it was a, oh, it was, it was, it was a Thursday. Thursday, they cut the track. Friday, they put their vocals and horns and strings on it. They mixed it on over the weekend, and they had records at radio on Thursday. I mean, they, they weren't about to not win. And as fast as we moved at a and m Gross and Cups, you know, we, we, we didn't get there at that time. But it, what difference would it have made anyway, because this was a Righteous Brothers revival. I mean, it was gonna bring them back and as opposed to Denny Corll that nobody had ever heard of. Um, but your

Louise Palanker (01:01:16):

Thought was that it wasn't even the right pick for a Righteous Brothers reunion. It was more of a

Bill Schnee (01:01:20):

Yeah. You know, I mean, specialty record to me, my, you know, there's a thing in the business, we've, we, we've heard that that's a record, that's a career making record a single that is such a big thing that it's, you know, uh, I I I, I suppose Sultan's of Swing could be one. I mean, everybody, when they heard that between that guitar playing and his voice and everything was like, whoa, what's happening here? There's also a thing called a career breaking record and what, you know, and I think, you know, when you consider the body of work of singles that those guys had, um, that this, which is basically a, a pop song, uh, you know, kind of almost a, you know, it, it's, it's just a, a playful kind of song, uh, that, that it's not anywhere near in the league of those other songs. And funny enough, I read a review, I mean, not Review, but an interview with Bill Medley, uh, you know, years later that where he basically said, you know, um, nobody was ever gonna, I think the quote was something like, nobody is ever gonna come to hear us sing, rock and Roll Heaven, uh, kind thing. Wow. So, whatever.

Louise Palanker (01:02:30):

Wow. So who do you feel like was the person that really betrayed you? Was it the guy in the outer office who overheard it?

Bill Schnee (01:02:38):

It was in tandem, to be honest, because they, his, I didn't tell you that his brother was one of the two guys <laugh> that, that did the producing, the, the guy in the o in the outer office was a publisher, but his brother was the pr the famous producer, Grossen Cup, I mean, uh, Lambert and Potter. And, and funny enough, their deal was swear at Capital <laugh>. Yeah. So the, the Righteous Brothers were basically signed to Capital.

Fritz Coleman  (01:03:03):

Wow. So you're in Nashville now, where I, I'm, I'm, I I think the majority of the recording industry seems to have migrated to, are you working on anything right now?

Bill Schnee (01:03:13):

Um, yeah, I'm working on a couple of things right now. I got, uh, when and what's funny, yeah. When I'm, when I moved here. Um, and that was the big impetus for it, because, you know, they're, by golly, they're still recording in studios as bands and whatnot. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, and, uh, and, uh, you know, I love, I, you know, my dream is to fall over dead on the console. I, you know, that's, it's gonna be a group of musicians and I'm gonna go, guys, I'm pretty sure the Beef flat and the second, second ver

Fritz Coleman  (01:03:44):


Bill Schnee (01:03:45):

<laugh>, I don't know, gone. Uh, so

Fritz Coleman  (01:03:47):

That was a good rehearsal. You were pretty convincing

Bill Schnee (01:03:49):

<laugh>. Yeah, I don't wanna do that at home. I wanna do that in the studio. So I, yeah, I've been, and so I've been thrilled. I've been, since I've been here, I've, I've done two great albums. Two of the best albums I've worked on in 15 years. One of them just came out. It's on a small label, and I'm afraid it's not gonna get the attention that it deserves. It's masterful. And the other one is with a guy named Michael Feinstein, and it's a Oh, of course, phenomenal album. Uh, very different album. It's, it's, uh, you know, I, if you're not familiar with, with Michael, he's like, uh, he's a piano player singer, but he is like the foremost authority on the Great American song book. Oh, yeah. Not only from a knowledge standpoint, which is just ridiculous, stupid what he knows. But he's the,

Fritz Coleman  (01:04:31):

He's the arch archivist for the George Gershman's

Bill Schnee (01:04:33):

Family. Exactly. It's the, his, his house, uh, he showed me, and that's not all of it, but I mean, it's, he's got the, this insane collection of everything to do with the music of that era. And his album, the album he wanted to do is Gershwin songs done with country artists as Partners duet album. Oh, wow. And that's, it was like, you know, the old RCA dog Nipper. Yeah. <laugh>. You know, that's what people do when I tell him what that, what that album is. Oh, I see. And it's, yeah. And, but what happened is, uh, the producer guy named Kyle Lenning here, uh, he called Michael and said, I got a crazy idea. What do you think if we don't have any piano on it? And of course, Michael plays piano. And lo and behold, all of those songs were written on piano, and Michael loved the idea. So, uh, they, we put a great group of acoustical instruments with accordion and fiddle and kinda like, uh, uh, uh, a union station, if you're familiar with that group. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, Alison Krauss's old group. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, that kind of mu musicians and upright based, all these acoustical instruments with those gorgeous chord changes on the songs. And it's, it's quite an album. Very. So

Louise Palanker (01:05:43):

Who are some of the artists that we'll enjoy on that, on this album?

Bill Schnee (01:05:46):

Allison Kraus, because we had to wait a year to get her ah, uh, Dolly Parton. Wow. Oh my, um, uh, Mandy Barnett, who, uh, you probably don't know, and I think it's in the book, I, I said, uh, under Superlatives, uh, one of the best artists, not enough people know about one of the best singers I've ever put a microphone in front of. And she indeed is the only country album I ever produced was 25 years ago when she was a kid. And the other album, the great album that, that I've done since I've been here that just came out is, um, the songs from Billy Holidays, uh, in Satin album, these torch songs, and done with an old school arranger. How old school? Sammy Neko was 95 when he did the arrangements two years ago. He has since departed the Earth. Okay. But those songs with a, I did cut it here in Nashville with a live 60 piece orchestra, and this songbird singing, and it is, it is just an absolutely gorgeous album. It's called Every Star Above. And I can't recommend it highly enough for anyone that loves that. Has it

Fritz Coleman  (01:06:50):

Been released yet?

Bill Schnee (01:06:51):

Just came out.

Louise Palanker (01:06:53):

All right. Well, we will look for those and, uh, we'll include them in our show notes so that you can find them at home. Is there anything else that you wanted to mention, bill? Where could people find you online and what else would you love for them to be able to find and

Bill Schnee (01:07:06):

Enjoy? Yeah, just, just that, like, I, I think I already said it well enough. The book is just for anyone that, uh, uh, that loves music and wants to know some of the behind the scenes stuff from, uh, the, the, uh, incredible number of artists that I've worked with.

Fritz Coleman  (01:07:20):

It's a great title. Chairman at the board is one of the great titles of all time. It really

Bill Schnee (01:07:24):

Is good. Yeah. And, uh, a friend of mine, friend of mine came up with that. And, uh, then the subtitle recording the soundtrack of A Generation was one of the alternate titles. And the publisher just put 'em together. And, uh, the, the, the fun thing to know is that, uh, over a third of the book was cut out in the editing process, and someone was, uh, I was bemoaning that fact to a friend of mine, and he said, why don't you just get a website and put, uh, put in the book to go to the website and put in this key and you'll get, go back and read all the deleted scenes, as it were. So that's what we've

Louise Palanker (01:07:59):

Yeah, it's really fun because you get to the end of the book and then, then there's a secret password that gets you into the, the catacombs of the book.

Bill Schnee (01:08:05):

<laugh>. Yeah. And, uh, so that's, yeah. So that's it. And, uh, that's also how anyone that wants to get ahold of me, there's a contact, uh, on there where you just, if you wanna write to me and anything,

Louise Palanker (01:08:17):

Submit your question to Bill.

Fritz Coleman  (01:08:18):

Well, I'll, I'll tell you, bill, we just enjoyed this. We could have made this go for another hour. You had such an amazing, uh, arc of life and career and really wonderful, really fun talking to you.

Louise Palanker (01:08:29):

Thank you, bill. And here come our closing credits. But first Fritz, tell people where they can, uh, give us a review and then help others find out.

Fritz Coleman  (01:08:36):

Well, if you enjoyed this episode of Media Path, it would help us to be more discoverable by potential new listeners. If you leave us a quick review on Apple Podcast, and if you're new here and this is your first time with us, please check out our back catalog. You may even find us binge worthy. Recent episodes include Gary Puckett, the Cowels, Henry Winkler, Keith Morrison, bill Mumey, Tony Dow, uh, Diane Warren, uh, Richard Sturman of the Oak Ridge Boys. Mark Summers the Livingston Brothers from my three.

Louise Palanker (01:09:05):

Can I, can I just interject Fritz to say we have two of the people from Bill's story, Dennis Lambert and Bill Medley <laugh>. Bill

Fritz Coleman  (01:09:11):

Medley. And I didn't, I wanted to say that for the end, cuz Bill has some really nasty things to say about you, and he got a great deal of satisfaction swiping that song right outta your pause, <laugh>, that's not true. We found him to very, very comfortable. He's going back on the road. He's got like a, he's got a, a residency right in Las Vegas with his new partner that took, uh Oh really? Bobby Hatfield's place. New

Louise Palanker (01:09:31):

United Righteous Brother.

Fritz Coleman  (01:09:33):

Yeah, right. Anyway, I wonder

Bill Schnee (01:09:35):

If they'll do rock and roll, heaven,

Louise Palanker (01:09:37):


Fritz Coleman  (01:09:37):

I think they'll, well, nobody will show up just for that song. <laugh>, thank you for spending an hour with us and we would be overjoyed if you took a moment to share your thoughts with us or to recommend us to a friend. Thank you so much.

Louise Palanker (01:09:47):

We would love for you to join us online on Instagram and Twitter, where we are at Media Path Pod and on Facebook where we are. Media Path Podcast. You can find full episodes with all kinds of bonus visual content on our YouTube channel Media Path podcast where you can subscribe. We would love to know what media you've been enjoying. You can contact us at our social media or email us at media path podcast We wanna thank our wonderful guest, bill Schnee. Our team includes Dean Friedman, Francesco Demond, John Madox, Sharon Beo, bill Filip, Thomas Hubble, and you. Our theme music is by me and John Maddox. I am Louise Lanker here with Fritz Coleman and we will see you along the media path.

Fritz Coleman  (01:10:28):

That was spectacular, bill. Really wonderful.

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