Revolution Sacrilege! Examining the Technological Divide among Record Producers in the late 1980s


Sound effects which had taken the previous generation of artists many weeks, even months, to perfect through antiquated methods were ‘stolen’, fed into samplers and applied to mostly unrelated new records. ‘Revolutionary!’ was the cry from one side of the industry. ‘Sacrilege!’ countered the opponents. Mark Cunningham (1998, p. 282)

What Mark Cunningham is referring to here, is technology in the 1980s and in particular, samplers. This quote encapsulates polarized attitudes of the audio industry towards the acceleration in predominantly digital technology. It might be argued that those crying ‘revolutionary’ were somewhat deterministic in their viewpoint; that these new technologies would transform the recording and production landscape, signifying great progress and development for the better of the industry. Perhaps those crying ‘sacrilege’ to a degree exhibited technological pessimism; that notions of creativity, talent and skill were at risk of being flattened under what appeared to be technology’s interminable snowball.


Equipment manufacturers geared their marketing and advertising strategies around notions of progress, betterment, futurism, leadership and new languages that had to be learned. For example, ‘In Every Race, Someone Must Lead The Way’, was an advertising slogan used by Roland to market their synthesizers in the late 1980s. ‘MIDI spoken here’, was a headline Fostex adopted – a company more associated with analogue equipment.

The equipment manufacturers also knew of the skepticism some in the industry showed towards their products, perhaps none more so than Sony, upon release of their DAT format. Their advert: ‘Fact/ Fiction’ from 1988 depicted multiple newspaper clippings with pessimistic headlines against the word ‘fiction’ and a full-sized image of their DAT recorder with technical specification against the word ‘fact’.

The audio industry and music technology press played an active role in the translation and interpretation of this new language, often expressing idealistic or even techno-utopian standpoints in their commentary and reviews. For example, Gilby (1990) in the first issue of Audio Media magazine stated, “Any magazine dealing with leading edge recording technology must play an active part in the pro-audio industry – with so many changes going on, who can afford to be passive?” (1990, p.2)

Indeed, Paul Théberge has described the simultaneous growth of digital technologies and periodicals as a ‘double-production industry’. (1998, p.130), that whilst equipment manufacturers were producing digital technologies, the press were producing the consumers. But by the end of the 1980s, skepticism crept in to the journalism, with some referring to once ‘revolutionary’ systems as merely ‘toys’, as Foister pointed out in Studio Sound, “As the roles of musician and engineer disappear down 5-pin DIN leads, products are appearing whose benefits can be exploited by both: studio toys designed to interface directly with musical instruments.” (1987, p.67)

Also evident were polarizing responses in the wider audio and music industries. The AES embraced the technological changes in the 1980s; enthusiastically reporting on each and every incremental technological development whilst promoting these to the industry through their journal and conferences, ‘Advanced audio technology for better sound’ was the title of their 1987 regional conference in Japan. The antithesis was perhaps the reaction of the musicians union, who saw the prefabricated banks of sounds within digital synthesizers as a threat to ‘real’ musicianship, ‘Keeping music live!’ was the slogan they used throughout the 1980s as they tirelessly campaigned for musicians rights.

In 2001, Timothy Taylor wrote in Strange Sounds, “The advent of digital technology in the early 1980s marks the beginning of what may be the most fundamental change in the history of western music since the invention of music notation in the ninth century.” (2001, p3.)

One of the biggest technological developments in the 1980s was the advent of digital formatting in the guise of DAT and CD. The MIDI protocol, along with the AES/EBU and Sony Phillips S-P/DIF were introduced as systems that enabled the connection of and communication between digital devices. Computer platforms such as the Atari and Apple Macintosh were commonplace towards the end of the 1980s running early versions of C-Lab’s Creator, Steinberg’s Cubase and MOTU’s Digital Performer. The increased multi-tracking capabilities of analogue tape machines, development of the SSL4000 mixing console and the widespread availability of compact four-track tape machines are examples of developments in the analogue domain during the decade.

The technological acceleration that began in the early 1980s had, by the decade’s end, culminated in a wealth of time-saving, space-saving, not to mention money-saving systems, bringing with them new working practices and redefining the roles of the producer and engineer.

Western popular music of the mid-late 1980s was an age of synthesizer-dominant recordings. In the UK, the synth-pop of Pet Shop Boys, Erasure and others dominated the charts, as did the records of various artists produced by Mike Stock, Matt Aitken & Pete Waterman. Chart positions interchanged early mainstream house records by M/A/R/R/S and Bomb the Bass with hits from ‘pop idols’ such as Michael Jackson and Madonna. It would be misleading to suggest this synthesizer-led pop overpowered rock music of the time; Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake among others all enjoyed a surge in popularity, accompanied by stadium-sized performances and platinum record sales. Hip-hop debuted the mainstream with Run DMC, Public Enemy and others releasing albums to critical acclaim. Yet interestingly, this era saw a surge in reissues; Jackie Wilson, Nina Simone and Percy Sledge were just a few that juxtaposed the highly modern-sounding pop. All the while, an underground storm was brewing in the US, with artists such as Sonic Youth, Pixies and Jane’s Addiction releasing albums that would not only stand the test of time but also pre-empt a major musical movement of the early 1990s.

Mark Cunningham refers to the reaction of ‘the industry’ in his ‘revolutionary/ sacrilege’ quote, but what I will examine further is the response of the record producer. Whilst the manufacturers and audio industry press cried ‘revolution’ and some artists, record companies and industry governing bodies countered ‘sacrilege’, ultimately it would be the producers and engineers with these technologies at their fingertips; how did technologies in the late 1980s impact on the music?

Having outlined the technological and musical climate in the 1980s, it is in this context that I will now examine polarizing production methods from the time, concentrating on the correlation between actual practice and the resulting production.


When discussing technologies in the late 1980s, I am primarily making reference to the advances in digital audio, digital tape recording and digital effects processing as well as the introduction of MIDI, samplers and sequencers.

This paper is in no way a discussion on the analogue/ digital debate, it is more a study into how technological change impacted on the recording techniques of producers and engineers in the late 1980s. Having conducted these analyses, correlations between the producer’s intention and the equipment used become evident. What these recordings illustrate are links between the intention to capture a performance and the use of vintage, predominantly analogue equipment; and the intention to make a record and the use of then-modern, digital equipment in the main part. However, the complexities surrounding equipment choice and usage, especially in the height of the 1980s technological acceleration are such that I will not draw any broader conclusions until further research has been undertaken.

At this stage, I must also clarify the use of terminology. In the case of ‘performance capture’, this refers to the recording of an authentic live performance, complete and recorded in its entirety, as opposed to the use of multiple overdubs. The song is invariably complete before recording begins and in most cases a ‘demo’ exists or there has been some pre-production. When discussing ‘record making’ in reference to both of the following examples, the recording has been ‘built’ using extensive multi-tracking. Effects processors have been used creatively in both instances, not just to enhance or ‘polish’, but to exaggerate and act as a ‘feature’. Effects processing ‘tricks’ (such as reverse reverbs) are clearly audible in both instances.

The first example is ‘Animal’ by Def Leppard, taken from the album Hysteria and released in 1987. The record was produced by Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange and engineered by Nigel Green at multiple locations including Windmill Lane studios, Dublin. Produced with ‘cutting edge technology’ (Elliott, 2001), including the use of the very recent SSL 4000 series mixing console, ‘Animal’ was one of seven singles taken from Hysteria. The intention of the producer – as well as the band – was to make a record. This is highlighted throughout Classic Albums, where the band and producer repeatedly refer to the album as a record and are rather candid about what their intentions were, as Joe Elliot (vocals) explained, “He (Mutt) doesn’t want to make cult records. If it doesn’t sell, what’s the point in making it? “It’s a product”- that’s what a producer will say to you. Luckily, he (Mutt) was working with a band who felt the same way. We wanted it to be a radio friendly unit shifter.” (2002)

Whilst the song follows a straightforward arrangement, the production on the record is far from simple. It is a series of complex production decisions that would have required an immense amount of time and work in order to meet the eventual outcome. The result is a vast spectacle of multiple overdubs, edits and multi-tracking, placed with precision in the stereo field. The band consisted – and still consists – of five members: a vocalist, two guitarists, a bassist and drummer. However, from the outset more than two guitars are clearly audible and there are multiple layers of vocals and backing vocals, suggesting large amounts of overdubbing and multi-tracking was used in the production process.

There is a clear use of high-end digital effects processing throughout the record with highly compressed and de-essed vocal tracks. The use of editing, overdubs and panning becomes highly apparent in the second verse. Multiple guitars including lead guitar lines, e-bowed guitars, semi-acoustic strummed chords and single ‘dive-bomb’ notes have been panned around the stereo field in a highly produced showcase of spatialization.

Multiple production processes can also be heard throughout the middle-8, beginning at 2.23. Here, the song seems to ‘open up’ into a more improvised section, yet it still remains exceptionally tight. The resulting improvisations sound entirely deliberate and precisely placed, creating a cohesive mix, as opposed to an impromptu musical section. This suggests that many guitar and vocal parts could have been recorded and at mix stage, many could have been tested before being selected for their appropriateness in this section. The effects processing on the vocals is at its most obvious here, with the use of time stretching on ‘like an – animal’. This suggests a deliberate attempt to turn a human voice into something non-human with creative effects processing, in keeping with the song’s overall concept.

The editing is extremely precise with no audible noise, hiss or mistakes kept in. Whilst a particularly large amount of multi-tracking has taken place, the overall emphasis is on spatial positioning; clarity between all instruments has been achieved. The result is a pristine-sounding, clean and tightly edited ‘radio friendly unit shifter’, just as the artist and producer intended.

The second example is ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ by Rick Astley, taken from the album Whenever You Need Somebody and released in 1987. The record was produced by Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman (referred to from here on as SAW). Recorded at The Borough studios, London – also referred to as PWL and The Hit Factory – the intention from the outset was to make a number one, hit record. As Stock explains in The Hit Factory,

It was the era when producers moved rapidly from using acoustic pianos, acoustic guitars and drums to synthesizers, drum machines and samples. It wasn’t always an easy transition, although the new technology gave us the means to create perfect sounds and instant hits. (2004, p.82)

Recording and production technology was a key influence on SAW and they made continual references to their use of the then ‘cutting edge’ equipment of the late 1980s, as Stock explained in The Hit Factory, ‘It was essential to keep up to date, though, because if you let technology beat you, you might as well stay in bed. Today, the technical revolution in the studio is virtually complete and the man with the mouse is king’. (2004, p83) What this illustrates is that in the case of SAW, new and emerging technologies were central to their working practices.

The song, like many SAW wrote and produced is simplistically arranged and is exactly 3 minutes and 30 seconds long. This length, considered perfect for a pop song by writers and music industry personnel, primarily due to the demands of radio and television play slots that have strict timing requirements. The vocals and electric guitar are the only recorded instruments that seem to have been used in this track, with all the drums and synthesizers having been programmed. Interestingly, certain drums and cymbals have been panned according to how they would be set up in a live situation, even though they have been programmed – a rare allusion to a traditional recording method.

Apparent throughout this production is the use of programming and effects processing. Audible from the outset is the ‘bottom end roll-off’: the attenuation of bass frequencies from the bass drum and ‘guitar’ tracks, leaving a ‘clicky’ effect and subsequently ‘bringing out’ the top end. This ‘trick’ Waterman has referred to as being part of the Stock, Aitken & Waterman ‘signature’ sound.

Precision timed MIDI drum patterns have been programmed and the ‘toms’ have been panned aggressively around the stereo field creating ‘ping pong’ effects. This is especially audible in the introduction.

The editing is tight throughout and there are multiple overdubs, for example, in the first verse at 0.23, where the tail of ‘love’ continues, as ‘you know the rules’ comes in. Overdubbing is audible on many lines, suggesting that Astley sang this song a line at a time. Producers are more likely to use this technique if the intention was to concentrate on the vocal as part of the overall record, rather than capture a natural performance. The nuances and inflections in the lead vocal performance, identical in all choruses, suggest that the chorus was sung once and then ‘flown in’ to the rest of the song. The vocal has been compressed, but little de-essing has been used. The ‘s’ and ‘t’ in the song sound very sharp, and this is consistent with bass roll-off in the overall song, leaving any sibilant vocal rather prominent and ‘airy’ in the mix. Where effects processing has been applied to the vocal, it has been done so in a very deliberate way, to be recognized as an effect, as opposed to a natural sounding vocal. That said; there is a small room reverb across Astley’s voice.

Delays have been added to the tails of alternate vocal lines and the backing vocals have been ‘flown in’ from a Publison – a high-end sampler that could record longer samples in stereo. The result is a highly distinctive, ‘shiny’, uber-produced record; a number one hit was ultimately achieved.

In both examples, Lange and SAW have rejected a traditional, ‘performance capture’ approach. In Lange’s instance, the explicit use of multiple guitar overdubs has resulted in a record that could not be performed by the band in its entirety unless further musicians – in this case guitarists – were performing the aforementioned additional parts. Also, rather than ‘perform’ the track from start to finish, parts have been played once, then ‘flown in’ to other sections, creating a consistent, uniform overall sound that has rejected the nuances and subtle differences in playing, commonly associated with a ‘live’ performance. The band also acknowledged these techniques as Rick Savage points out in Classic Albums, “We’d take what we recorded in the first verse (guitars) and fly it in to the second verse. There’s nobody playing the song all the way through”. (2002)

In SAW’s case, they specifically reject ‘performance capture’ through the use of programming, as well as the prolific use of overdubs. The use of vocal overdubs is perhaps even more obvious than in the previous example, with lead vocal lines ‘overlapping’ in many places throughout the track. There is also the clear intention to ‘build’ the record from scratch, as opposed to having any form of demo or pre-production, as Stock points out in The Hit Factory, “We never made demos. Why bother? Why not just make the record?” (2004, p82) Stock also cites the technology as being the key factor in this type of ‘record making’, “It was the era when producers moved rapidly from using acoustic pianos, acoustic guitars and drums to synthesizers, drum machines and samples. It wasn’t always an easy transition, although the new technology gave us the means to create perfect sounds and instant hits.” (2004, p83)

The third example is ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ by U2, taken from the album The Joshua Tree and released in 1987. This record was produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, mixed by Steve Lillywhite and engineered by Flood. It was produced in multiple locations including Windmill Lane studios, Dublin.

Mainstream, technology-driven popular music peaked towards the late 1980s in the UK, and it was in this context that U2 made The Joshua Tree, a predominantly live recording with little use of modern recording and production technology, as Eno suggests in Classic Albums, ‘It’s not coming from a 1980s mentality. It’s coming from somewhere completely different. (The Joshua Tree) was self consciously spiritual to the point of being un-cool. I thought being un-cool was a very good idea then, because people were being very, very cool’ (2001). There is no doubting the bond between the members of the band and their producers. Lanois played guitar on some of The Joshua Tree, and Eno contributed to lyrics and played some synthesiser in places. Both band and producers felt the same way about the musical climate in which they were recording, as bassist Adam Clayton went on to say, “We felt very disconnected with what was happening musically (in the 1980s). It was the time of synthesizer pop.” (2001)

The intention was to record a performance ‘live off the studio floor’, as Lanois explained in Sound on Sound,

We had it in mind right from the beginning to record as much performance live off the floor as possible. That was pretty much a unanimous decision ‘cos, as you know, studios can be a pitfall if you live in the land of promise and rely on overdubs to pull a track together. If you get the feeling off the studio floor and it’s complete in itself, minus a few components, then you don’t have to live with a promise that it might come together further on down the line. (1987, p44)

However, their non-reliance on overdubs soon presented the producers with problems, some of which are clearly audible in the track. Lanois identifies the main source of the problems being overspill from the instrument microphones,  as he goes on to say,

Having the monitoring on the floor gave the place a certain kind of power that you just don’t get with cans (headphones). The problem is, is that there is a certain kind of regeneration that happens when you’re recording like this, you have to deal with sound spillage. I mean, if you get a lot of the guitar sound leaking onto your drum microphones, you can’t change your mind about using the guitar if you want to use the drums. So, the price you pay is that you have to make a commitment to what you put down and either use it or throw it all away. (1987, p. 44)

It seems unfathomable, that in a recording situation in 1987, with all the advances in digital recording that a song could either be ‘kept’ or ‘thrown away’, rather than spliced or edited until it was right, but this quote by Lanois illustrates the problematic realities of using traditionalist recording methods.

What is interesting about this production is that the reality of capturing the live performance was a particularly difficult, long and arduous process as Brian Eno recalls in Classic Albums,

That song was recorded, so there was a version of it on tape. That version had quite a lot of problems. What we kept doing was spending hours and days – and weeks actually – probably half the time that the whole album took was spent on that song, trying to fix up that version on tape. It was a nightmare of screwdriver work and my feeling was it would be much better to start again. I was sure we would get there quicker if we started again. It’s more frightening to start again because there’s nothing then. So my idea was to stage an accident to erase the tape so we’d just have to start again. But I never did. (2001)

The production involved the use of a vintage 1972 Neve mixing console, as well as a variety of vintage microphones and instruments. Timing issues are apparent, especially between the drums and bass guitar, which is particularly audible in the introduction and suggests absence of a click track. This is a live band recording with overdubbed vocals. Plenty of noise and hiss is audible throughout, again, especially noticeable in the introduction. The stereo field has been used in subtle, sporadic ways, with a few guitar overdubs panned hard left. What is particularly noticeable about the record is the mix; the bass guitar and drum tracks appear particularly high in the mix and ‘push and pull’. This certainly suggests overspill from the microphones during the live recording, the problems previously acknowledged by Eno and Lanois themselves.

The result is a captured performance, authentic, with all the problems, noise and hiss left in.

The final example is ‘Gigantic’ by Pixies, taken from the album Surfa Rosa and released in 1988. The album version was produced by Steve Albini  (a later single version was produced by Gil Norton, but in this analysis, Albini’s album version will be discussed). The entire album was recorded and produced at Q Division studios, Boston in around 2 weeks. Whilst Albini is credited as producer, he has explicit views on how he defines this role, as he states in Sound on Sound,

I don’t really do anything that a producer does. A producer is someone who is completely responsible for a session, but in my case, those decisions are made by the band so I don’t qualify as a producer in that sense. Ultimately what I’m trying to do is satisfy the band. Most of the time what they want is for me to record their organic sound, so that’s what I’m trying to provide. If I’m asked to do something fantastic, then I will try to do something fantastic, but I don’t start from a position that everything needs to be changed from what it was. (2005, p.61)

The intention here was to record a new band’s songs for their debut album and this is supported by Albini’s production style, implying that he had no intention of changing the band’s ‘organic’ sound and that his task was to record them as naturally as possible.

This record was recorded in a live room, as well as the bathroom at Q Division, Boston using predominantly analogue equipment; a vintage mixing console has used and the song has been recorded to analogue tape. Very little effects processing has been applied and this is reflected in the somewhat coarse overall sound. The rhythm section has been recorded together, with guitar overdubs. The vocals were recorded in the bathroom, along with overdubs that have been double tracked at points throughout the record. There is a distinct lack of compression and all reverb is a result of the room acoustics as opposed to an effects processor. As Albini states in Music Producers, “I hate compression. Pounding everything with compression is so standard a trick now that records made without it sound distinctive. That’s what keeps me in business.” (1994, p.71)

Yet Albini has also expressed strong views about working in the analogue domain as recently as 2005 as he states,

Working in the computer paradigm is much slower, because no-one knows their computer software well enough to be aware of every single thing it does. In the analogue domain you know what you’re supposed to do, you plug something in, and it’s done. Problems are solved instantly. In the digital domain you have to try lots of options and see if any of them work, and then you pray that your computer will follow your instructions and won’t crash and that you don’t need to restart or reinstall something. (2005, p.61)

Part of what Albini expresses here is that the limitations of analogue technologies are a benefit to his recording practices. This is a far more complex viewpoint than the simple notion of technological pessimism, as he notes the perceived time-saving attributes commonly associated with the digital domain as being highly problematic in his experience.

The drums are particularly high in the mix and there is also noise and hiss audible, particularly in the introduction. Perhaps the most notable aspect is the overall dynamic range; the lack of compression has resulted in an almost inaudible introduction with the tape hiss is just as loud as the bass guitar contrasting the considerably louder choruses. Minimal spatial positioning has occurred, with the majority of instruments centered in the stereo field, except for the vocals, which are unusually panned hard right.

The result is a demo-quality, rough, live sounding recording, with the emphasis on the song as opposed to production technique.

Whilst the Albini and Eno examples are similar from the point of view they have used predominantly analogue technologies as well as minimal overdubs, they too have resulted in entirely different sounding recordings.


Whilst it could be rightly argued; and indeed it has been, by scholars such as Timothy Taylor and Mark Katz and writers such as Mark Cunningham and Jeremy Beadle, that the technology of the 1980s impacted dramatically on the music of the era, I do not support a wholly deterministic viewpoint; that the music of the 1980s was a direct result of the impact of the aforementioned technological acceleration. The situation was far more complex; and nowhere is this complexity more evident, than in the recording and production methods employed by the record producers of the time; the technological advance a backdrop to their working practices.  So why did some record producers not only embrace the technological change but also employ the technologies almost as immediately as they were manufactured? And why did others reject these technologies, in favour of tried and tested equipment and method? Whilst these differing attitudes were by no means exclusive to the late 1980s, the division in equipment usage, employed technique and method was made all the more clear in the resulting music.

As Théberge’s ‘double production industry’ suggests, the music technology press played a key role in the dissemination of new music technologies in the 1980s and arguably still do today. However, it is important to acknowledge the differences in audio and music technology periodicals. Pro Sound News and Studio Sound were aimed at the professional recording industry, whereas titles such as Sound on Sound were perhaps aimed at semi-professional recording engineers and producers, as well as an emerging consumer – the recording & production enthusiast or hobbyist. However, as periodicals rely heavily on income from equipment manufacturer advertising revenue, their views were almost always in favor of new and emerging technologies. Therefore, it is difficult to ascertain just how much of an influence these periodicals would have had on producers of the late 1980s. However, what can be established is that Lange and SAW would have had to keep so up to date with emerging and new technologies, that it is highly likely they established relationships with manufacturers direct.

Perhaps there was a link between technology-driven record production and the intention of ‘record making’, as opposed to production that employed traditional method with older or vintage technologies with the intention of capturing songs or a performance. There was a clear intention in the cases of Lange and Stock, Aitken & Waterman, to make big-selling records that would chart at high positions and have high radio rotation. I would argue that in the late 1980s, technology-driven record production suited just that: record making, as opposed to performance capturing or song recording. As Pete Waterman said,

We were very technology minded and even today we probably have more equipment at PWL than any other studio in the UK. If there’s something new, I want to hear it. In 1984, we were at the forefront of a new wave of technical producers and we were throwing away all the shackles, which had been put on producers in the past. We didn’t want drummers and would never entertain the thought of having a real, live drummer in our studio. (1998, p.312)

Lange and Stock, Aitken & Waterman were not alone, as Steve Levine stated in Sound on Sound, “People make such a big deal about working with digital tape machines. People who slag off this technology have nowhere near the experience of it that I have. Probably, they haven’t even seen a digital tape machine!” (1987, p.44)

Yet in the cases of Eno, Lanois and Albini, they were employed to make records, yet had entirely different intentions. From the start, they intended to capture a live performance and employed practice that differed dramatically to the highly modern, technology-driven methodologies of their peers. Was this a sign of technological pessimism on their part? To an extent: In 2004, Albini gave a lecture to the AES students of the MTSU in which he ‘lamented the age of over-production’ in the 1980s. Also, in the sleeve notes to the 1987 album, Songs About Fucking, by his band Big Black, Albini wrote, “The future belongs to analogue loyalists. Fuck digital”. (1987)

This suggests a somewhat rebellious standpoint, but the conflation of a predominantly analogue recording method and the intention of a more traditional capture of an authentic performance goes some way to suggest nostalgia could have influenced Albini’s working practice in this example. In Strange Sounds, Timothy Taylor suggests, “There are periodic moments of nostalgia in any literate culture with access to cultural forms of the past.” (2001, p.111) Perhaps a moment of nostalgia did occur in Albini’s production, even in an age Taylor earlier described as being as important as the development of notation. Whether due to pessimism, rebellion or nostalgia, Albini and Eno/ Lanois almost certainly showed disinclination towards the use of modern technologies. They weren’t alone, as Rick Rubin stated in Music Producers, “I hate technically slick records that have no sense of emotion” (1992, p.96)

Whilst I have pointed out similarities in the Lange/ SAW recordings, they are wholly different when considered as ‘digital’ recordings. This only highlights the problematic nature of the analogue/ digital debate. The same could be said for the Eno/ Albini recordings. Whilst the former is a performance captured with the emphasis on authenticity, considerable time has been spent ‘polishing’ the recordings, as Eno pointed out, yet the latter – produced in a similar way using similar vintage instruments and equipment – has resulted in a far more dynamic, rough and demo-like recording. Therefore, it is important to highlight that the exclusive use of technologies from within the analogue or digital domains does not necessarily result in a specific, identifiable overall ‘sound’ and that these ‘sounds’ can vary dramatically from recording to recording. Ultimately, the overall sonic differences in these recordings only highlight the problematic nature of a simplistic analogue/ digital debate.

Mark Cunningham may have been right in that the wider audio industry voiced their ‘revolutionary/ sacrilege’ standpoints loud and clear, and these views may well have been representative of majority opinion, but the stance of the record producer in the late 1980s was far more complex. Notions of rebellion, nostalgia and intention were arguably greater influences on their working practices than simply pessimism, so this leaves the ‘revolutionary/ sacrilege’ dichotomy problematic in the case of the 1980s record producer.


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