LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT CLICK
tracks—they ruined my hearing. They are
the reason why I have tinnitus so bad.
Back in the heyday of the session musician,
you’d get one mix in the phones.
One. Today, everyone has their own headphone
mixer they can control and get a
mix that’s perfect for them. But in the
’70s and ’80s, you’d have six guys vying
for what they wanted out of that one
headphone mix, and the click track would
be sent to everyone, and it was loud. Also,
the click we’re talking about was not a
nice, rhythmic shaker or something like
that. It was that classic BANG, BANG,
BANG, BANG that felt like someone was
pounding a f**king nail right between your
eyes. And, of course, you’d sometimes
get that singer who had never been in the
studio before who decides to take the
headphones off, and put them around the
microphone—which is the equivalent of
sticking a mic right inside a speaker. So
you’d get a 10kHz tone at 200dB ripping
your eardrums apart. That was a drag.
We actually didn’t play too loud at sessions.
In the beginning, your average amp
was maybe a blackface Fender Deluxe.
Then, when they started putting the
stereo thing together with the Boss chorus,
you’d try to get a couple of Fender
Princetons. Pretty soon, though, I started
playing louder. But, still, if it was a live
tracking date—and your amps were in
the same room as the other musicians—
they didn’t want you slamming it. If you
messed up, you’d ruin a take
because the guitar sound
would bleed through everything
else in the room.
Now, back when guitar
solos were considered to be
hip, they’d hire you to do a
solo on a record, but they’d
also hire a couple of other
guys to come in and try it. You
never really knew what was
going on. Things were a lot
more covert back then. But
you’d run into people, and say,
“Hey, did you have a go at that
Joni Mitchell tune? Yeah.
Me too. I wonder which solo
they’re going to keep?” So
you’d kind of know which
three or four guys you were
up against, and it was like earning your
stripes when they picked your solo. Of
course, you didn’t know that until the
record came out.
It’s kind of, well, interesting that most
sessions are done piecemeal these days.
Now, guys have home studios with all
their stuff miked up, and you just come
over and plug into their Pro Tools rig, or
you send digital files back and forth from
your home studio to their home studio.
You give them a couple of takes, and they
mess with it later. All the interaction
between musicians is via computer
screens. Nothing is in real time. But
there’s something about sitting in a room
with a bunch of guys and playing together.
Interplay will happen. A cool fill will happen
that the other guys will play off. And
accidents will happen that are really cool.
It was really improvisation, but within a
strict song structure. We were constantly