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"In my opinion, it will never sound as good on digital as analog because analog doesn't
have 'perfect' reproduction and so contributes to the satisfaction of listening to a whole range of sounds that aren't possible to get using digital."
——Shel Talmy, producer, The Who Sings My Generation
SHEL TALMY HEARS THE WHO
An Exclusive HITS E-Mail Exchange With the Legendary Producer of My Generation
Chicago-born Shel Talmy began his career at L.A.’s Conway Studios, where he served as an engineer on records by Little Richard and Billy Eckstine, among others. After arriving in London in 1962, he talked his way into an A&R job with Decca Records, where he unsuccessfully tried to get the label to sign Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames and Manfred Mann before recording The Kinks for Pye Records. It was his work with Ray Davies and company that attracted the attention of The Who’s management team of Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, who asked him to produce their group. "I just tried to get down to translating their live sound to record," says Talmy, who took one listen to the 90-second demo of "I Can’t Explain" and realized he was onto something special. With engineer Glyn Jones, a singer with a London vocal group who later went on to produce the Stones, Talmy augmented The Who’s power instrumental trio of Townshend, Entwistle and Moon with 20-year-old pianist Nicky Hopkins and session guitarist Jimmy Page. The result was the band’s groundbreaking 1965 debut, The Who Sings My Generation, which included not only the title track and "The Kids Are Alright," but versions of James Brown’s "Please, Please Please" and Bo Diddley’s "I’m a Man." The album has now been re-released by MCA through Universal Music Enterprises in a special Deluxe Edition, remixed from the original three-track master tapes by Talmy himself (along with UME Sr. VP Andy McKaie, who co-produced) in true stereo for the first time. The digitally remastered two-CD set now includes 17 new bonus recordings and six previously unreleased tracks, including the never-before-heard Townshend-penned "Instant Party Mixture." Talmy, still active these days, responded to HITS' e-mail inquiries about the reissue before blocking us from his IM list.

In terms of remastering the album, what is possible today with advances like Super Audio CD and the like?
Today "all" is possible. I did an SACD "Super Audio CD" version that is being released in November. As the original tapes were only three-track, 5.1 sound would be a waste, but who knows what will be invented and what the next level of audio will be?

Did you get a chance to see The Who on this tour?
Saw them at the Hollywood Bowl and was very impressed.

What’s your reaction to the death of John Entwistle re his role in the band, how you mixed and produced him? Did you respect the band's decision to go on the tour?
Obviously, it was a tragedy; he was far too young. John was, of course, an integral part of the band, his sound so unique that he's had thousands of mimickers who have never come close to the original. He was very easy to produce—just told him what I needed and he gave it to me. As for the tour, I think they made the right decision.

What do you think about the current garage-band revival?
I'm hoping this latest "revival" will have more legs than previous ones. Also, it would be nice if songwriting and musicianship came back somewhere near the level of excellence as the ’60s and ’70s. I think it's a little early to try and evaluate this current phase, but I have to say I'm hopeful after hearing what's out there; it's better than the last couple of revivals.

Is it true you brought in Jimmy Page during the original Kinks sessions to play guitar?
I thought everybody knew by now that I brought Page in to play rhythm as Ray [Davies] didn't want to play at that time, so the answer is yes. But never lead guitar, no.

How did you develop that original fuzz-toned guitar sound on stuff like "You Really Got Me"? And how do you update that for a digital age?
Well, as you've phrased your question, I can hardly take credit for developing the "fuzz-tone" sound. Several guitarists were producing the sound. Where I came in was to work out techniques to record it as the equipment at that time had a lot of limitations compared to today, so that was the challenge and fun to solve. In my opinion, it will never sound as good on digital as analog because analog doesn't have "perfect" reproduction and so contributes to the satisfaction of listening to a whole range of sounds that aren't possible to get using digital.

Any bands you would have liked to produced that you didn't get a chance to?
Creedence, the Beach Boys, the Stones, James Brown, CSNY, etc., etc.

Who were your mentors as a producer?
Only had one: Nick Venet at Capitol. As I don't think "producing" can be taught, what I learned from Nick was attitudes toward the musicians, techs and artists. He was one of the best, and just watching him operate helped me throughout. Also, I should comment that Nick was a "hands-on" producer, meaning that he was there from start to finish with choosing material, doing arrangements, on through mastering, to which I fully subscribe. Most of us were doing that then; not so in the last 20 years or so.

How do you feel about file-sharing and the whole concept of digital music?
By any other name, stealing is stealing. I have no problem with digital music or anything else that will come after, as evolution and progress are exciting, but we should get paid for what we do.

How do you feel about the increasing use of computers in production, and such innovations as Pro Tools?
I will use anything that will help in what I'm aiming for in the master mix. I love all the tools available and use them when appropriate. What is a shame is that an individual gets "hooked"
on a certain innovation and uses it exclusively, usually to the detriment of the final product.

Daltrey's stuttering in "My Generation"—that was on purpose, right?
Right.

Was Townshend the greatest rock guitarist in your estimation for pure explosiveness?
Well, I guess he was up there, but he has a lot of competition.

What made Keith Moon so great? How did you manage to capture him always right at the edge of total chaos?
Moonie was the greatest rock drummer of all time in my opinion, and it would take volumes to philosophize about what makes somebody "great," so I won't even attempt it. Keith was great to record. I used a dozen mikes on him and he never let me down, as I don't think he was capable of a mediocre performance.

What do you think of Zak Starkey on drums?
He is, by far, the best replacement they’ve ever had for Keith.

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