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Tom Dowd and The Language of Music

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by KPJ, Dec 27, 2004.

  1. KPJ


    Oct 2, 2001
    Methuen, MA USA
    Has anyone checked out this movie? I got the DVD for CHristmas, and I must say it is awesome. If you have any interest in the history of how music has been recorded, check out this movie!

    For those who don't know, Tom Dowd was the house engineer at Atlantic Records for years. He worked with everyone from The Coasters, to Ray Charles, Mingus, Coltrane, Otis Redding, Aretha, Cream, Allman Brothers...he's the reason Derek and the Dominoes happened.

    He also invented the modern recording console with linear faders and had the first 8-track recorder back in 1958!

    He was the drum major for the Columbia University marching band while he was still in high school and was working on what became the Manhattan Project (the first nuclear bomb) while he was only 16!

    Oh, yeah, he was also a bass player :bassist: , playing both tuba and string bass.

    I used to think that if there was one person I would have loved to sit down and talk to, it would be Tom Dowd. Unfortunately he died in 2002. Well, this movie is the closest thing to sitting and chatting with him. There are some great stories and great interviews with people like Ray Charles, Jerry Wexler, Ahmet Ertegun, Eric Clapton, Les Paul, the Brothers, etc.

    One of my favorite bits is where he tells of finishing up a Coasters session in the afternoon and then being told that Mingus would be in at midnight. "Talk about culture shock! Imagine going from 'Charlie Brown" to "Pisacanthues (sp?) Erectus' or the 'Haitian Fight Song'. I'd be like 'Help!'".
  2. I know of Tom Dowd from his association with Cream through Atlantic. I know so much of modern recording has to do with Tom Dowd. It really would have been an experience shooting the breeze with him.
  3. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I bought & watched this DVD a couple months back. Very enjoyable & entertaining.
    Didn't realize(or maybe I forgot) Dowd was on The Manhatten Project.

    Dowd was an artist; IMHO, he's up there with George Martin & his 4-track machines. ;)

    I like Dowd's ability to hear & recognize when something was great &/or unique...like Ornette, The Allman Brothers Band, etc.
  4. Nuclear Bomb or Boy From New York City? :D
  5. KPJ


    Oct 2, 2001
    Methuen, MA USA
    I think Tom was the Boy From New York City who worked on the Manhattan Project.

    Then he took the Manhattan Transfer to Miami! ;)
  6. So close, but yet I was so far off...
  7. I saw that movie, and I loved it. I especially loved when he pulled the master tapes for "Layla" and mixed them. It was so awe-inspiring!
  8. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio! Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 3, 2001
    Costa Mesa, Calif.
    Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    Excellent film! I especially enjoyed the part where he was at the board playing back the multitrack of Layla and commenting on what was on each track.

    It was screened at the Audio Engineering Society convention in San Francisco this past October, and a few AES sections, including New York, have had screenings as well.

    Just before Christmas I contacted the Dowd family and Palm Pictures (the distributor of the film) about having a screening for the Los Angeles section, which I am chairman of. They're very interested in doing that, so it looks like we'll be able to show it at one of our section meetings sometime in the next few months. (I'm hoping to have the screening room at Dolby available for it, and I also hope to have some special guests on hand.)

    Beginning when I was about 12 years old and starting to buy record albums in the early 70s, I noticed Tom Dowd's name in the credits of a lot of them, as recording engineer and/or producer. Since I've also always been very interested in how things are made, including records, I was curious about what recording engineers did. So I kind of got into it myself.