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Danny Hutton Comments
(A professional singer, songwriter and producer since the early 1960s, Danny Hutton was a successful solo artist ["Roses And Rainbows" was his biggest hit] when he first got to know Brian Wilson in late 1965. They eventually became best friends, and, in fact, in 1967, Brian signed Danny's new vocal group to Brother Records. He named the trio Redwood and produced several tracks with them, but when family business got in the way, Redwood left the label, renamed themselves Three Dog Night and soon became the most successful American vocal group of their time. Hutton was present for many of the Pet Sounds sessions, and as a writer, vocal arranger and record producer himself, his observations of those recording dates are unique. In 1966, he was probably the only nonperforming musician allowed in the booth on a regular basis.)

DANNY: "David Anderle, who was my manager, took me up to Brian's house on Laurel Way, because Brian was going to start a record company that David was going to be head of, and David wanted Brian's approval to sign me as an artist. I had sort of met him at Gold Star in 1964, but I didn't know him. He was the guy who did the Beach Boys hits, and I was impressed. But that was it.

"At that point, I had been in the business for more than a few years, and as a producer, having spent a lot of time in studios, you know what can be done. So when you hear records, your first instinct is to try and figure out how somebody did the bass or how they put it through an echo chamber or the ambiance of the room and how they put it all together. You could kind of figure out records. That first time, when David introduced me to Brian, and I heard the stuff that he was working on for Pet Sounds, it was overwhelming. There wasn't any way I could figure out what instruments were playing, And I didn't care what was playing. It was like going into sonic heaven. At that moment, my image of Brian turned into a whole different person musically.

"The music was on such a grand scale. It was like a different world; I couldn't figure it out. I was so overwhelmed that I shut off that button. It's like a director going to a movie and you're so busy analyzing everything that you don't get into the movie. Every record I had ever heard, except when I was young and had an innocent ear...I had gone from that stage to thinking I 'knew.' And I would be very professional, and I would analyze it. But when I heard 'Sloop John B' it creamed me. It was like, 'Why are you even trying to understand what he's doing?' It was like being in suspended animation; I was awestruck. That to me, is the first time I met him. Whether it was or not.

"We got to be friends, and as a guy who was making records, it was so great to go to his sessions. I'll never forget the tracking date for 'God Only Knows: It is one of those sessions where I sat there and watched, and he was absolutely, completely in control. Of everything. Totally on top of it. He would hear something wrong, and bam 'One more time.' I just sat there and didn't say a word. I had been in sessions where I thought to myself, they should do this and that. Not this time. I just shut up. What could I add? When you're sitting in the room with Mozart, I think it's a foolish thing to make suggestions or second guess what he's doing. It was so incredibly beautiful; the track was amazing.

"What was even more incredible was that if you're there while it was being created, the concept of where the melody is going to go over the track was always so far removed from where I thought the melody would go. You would be hearing these pieces, and you would think the vocal is probably going to lay over this melodic part. But you would be wrong.

"Then as the track developed, you would hear all of these different parts, these sonic presents going on, and if you didn't know where the melody was, you would think it was one of those because you heard so many beautiful things. That theme there must be the main theme. And that's the hook. But it wasn't. And then he would sing the real hook, and you were amazed.

"Because when he finally started to sing over the track, it was a completely different thing. And it created a third thing. The melody was actually a counter melody to the track. I thought it was already really good, and all I was hearing was just the background part.

"So as I watched in amazement, he did the track, finished the whole thing in a few hours. I sat back and said to myself, 'That's wonderful.' And he said, 'Let's take a break and we'll come back and get it right.' As a producer, I would have stopped fifteen minutes earlier and released it as an instrumental; he came back, and with just a few little touches and adjustments in the mix, it got even better.
"At that point, all I had heard was him kind of humming the melody. And on the end of the track for 'God Only Knows,’ the drums still made no sense. I didn't know what he was doing. I thought, 'What is the two-four?' It was so off the wall. Obviously, he already knew the vocal parts and what he was gonna add there. But just hearing one of his tracks, and especially from scratch, trying to figure it out, was impossible. Every time you would kinda think 'I got it now,’ there would be more.

"It was on that date that he had a cello player way in the corner, with baffles around him, cut off from the rest of the band. And he was having a hard time figuring out how his lick would fit in with everything. And he said to Brian, 'Are you sure you want to put me in this corner? I do a lot of string dates, and it would be a lot better if and he described the way a typical session went in those days. And Brian said, 'Please, go in there.' Afterwards, the musician came back out and had a big smile on his face. 'My god that was great, I don't think my axe has ever sounded that good.'

"On a lot of records, more is less. With Brian, more always became more. There was never clutter. I think even if the record was full and didn't need any more, you could have Brian add something. Say 'Just for fun, add something,' and he could add more and more, and it would never get in the way. He could always find a spot, a little space where he could musically fill something. If you saw a graph, he could almost fill it until it turned black, so there were no more waves. And it could still sonically be healthy. I don't know where that kind of ability comes from. It's pretty scary.

"I remember it was also that night that during a break, Brian walked out of the studio and to the upright piano in the hallway and played me a song, saying 'What do you think of this?' And he played 'Wouldn't It Be Nice.' It was a quick thing, and it was great. I didn't know if he had already done the track to it, but it was another one of his amazing songs. He didn't say, 'Here's another hit!' It was just, 'Here's another new one.'

"Sometimes, I think that in the early days, the perception of him was what the lyrics said and not how he said it musically. I liked to fiddle around in harmonies, and I would listen to his early records, plunking on the guitar, trying to figure out these chords, and he was always on a different level. The public perception when they heard "inside, outside, USA," they didn't understand the complexity of a lot of that. They just heard a bunch of chanting … like 'giddyap 409,' He used that kind of vocal signature where the simplicity of the words really covered the complexity of a lot of that.

"I remember it was probably during Pet Sounds when he gave me an acetate of 'Good Vibrations' and it had a big swimmy sound, sounded like a baritone saxophone but knowing him, it was probably a bass harmonica. It wasn't a pocket symphony yet; it was much more of a big song, not clean and into all of these different sections. It had a big slammy Spectorish drum. At the time, I thought it was very good, but it wasn't any better than 'Sloop John B,’ because there wasn't any melodic thing going on. It was just a track. But even at that very early stage, it was stunning. Pet Sounds had a musical place to it, an atmosphere, and that early 'Good Vibrations' sounded like it fit into that place. The final 'Good Vibrations' had a cleaner, more clinical sound."


"His miking technique was interesting, because I've seen very big sessions where everything was miked 'just so,' and I never saw Brian do anything elaborate. Somehow or other, he managed to get a very unique sound without, as I saw it, doing anything unique with the mikes. The drum mikes would be set up casually, and yet there would be this great drum sound. It would be like that with all of the other instruments. It was just a matter of his having that ear, arranging the highs and lows.

"It had nothing to do with the sound of a particular room. He just knew how to get a big sound wherever he was. I remember over at CBS, in that giant room, he was recording with just a cello player doing the triplets on 'Good Vibrations' a completely different room ambiance...different miking technique, and he was still getting that great sound. But you couldn't copy it; it only worked for him.

"There was a session where he was dealing with a percussive thing, like a shaker. It was out of one of the 'goody' boxes that those percussion guys always have. Brian would have the notes written out, and the guy was doing it in rhythm, keeping perfect time. But Brian, knowing the lyrics, knew that he wanted it to sound like somebody who was wearing a bracelet and shaking their wrist. But instead of saying to the player, 'Shake it randomly,' Brian would say, 'I want it to sound like jewelry.' In 1966, a lot of the lyrics were so counter to the track, and he knew what lyrically was gonna be said there. Or the mood he wanted, so he would talk, using symbols like that.

It was great, very cool. It's almost like when you go to get a haircut, and you're trying to explain how you want it – it’s better to bring in a picture.

"As a producer, he was intimidating to musicians. Being in the business, for people who don't know, a producer covers a lot of different things and different types of people. It can be somebody who has very little to do with the actual sound of a record. They might just get the vibe right.

"With Brian, there was no tact. Not that he was rude. He was so involved with the music, if you were a musician, when you came to do your job, there was never even the thought that you weren't incredible and that you could play every note he requested. He wanted you for the evening to get the emotion he had in his heart onto the record.

"He wanted to use you that night. It wasn't about notes. He had no patience for somebody that wasn't gonna get the part right. He didn't think that way. He would tell his assistant who he wanted at the session that night, and when they walked into the room it was 'Okay. Tonight, I want this.' And the look of shock on their faces, because he was doing so many new things. They would say, 'On the notes it says you want.' He wasn't interested in the notes. It was about the feeling he could get them to put into the notes. He would go onto the floor and get it out of them.

"As for writing music, he absolutely wrote it out. I remember one session when he decided on the day of the date to get horns and got his assistant to call 'em at the last minute. And before they got there, I watched him write the charts.

"Once in a while, when it wasn't the usual unit of guys, you could see how intimidating he could be, because they would realize he knows the notes, but that they were being called on to do something they'd never done before.

And they might think, 'I'm with all my peers', and I would see a guy kind of get rattled because maybe he had always hidden with these other four violins, and if he made a mistake, nobody knew it was him.

"And Brian, he nails the one out of the four string players not getting it right. He could be listening to a playback and talking to you, and he would hear something and turn to a musician and tell somebody to tune up. It was on this same string date where he was having the violins doing this weird slide. This one guy, from the L.A. Philharmonic--all dressed up in a tuxedo, had just come from a performance--and he was playing all the right notes. And Brian said, 'No. You've got to go up on that' And the guy would say, 'I did go up.' And then Brian would go out there and say 'I want it to sound like it was crying.' And you could see the light bulb go off in this guy's head. I'm sure the LA. Philharmonic conductor never talked to him like that. When he was doing the musical part of it, it was amazing.

"On the social level, when they came in to listen to playbacks, you better not say anything to Brian unless you wanted to hear the truth. He was innocent. He wasn't mean. And if somebody was visiting the session, like another producer, and said something, and they might expect a polite Hollywood answer, he didn't care what you were supposed to say. They would expect that pleasant reply. But if you asked him what he thought of your record, he could say 'Never listened to it,' or 'Don't like it,' or 'I'm not interested in that' and that would make people uncomfortable.

"I was with him at a session, and afterwards, a very famous songwriter sat at the piano and played him a song. And he asked Brian what he thought. He didn't say, 'What did you think of the song?' And Brian, being literal, said 'You kinda rush when you play piano.' The guy was crushed. But Brian didn't say it to be mean. He thought he was just giving the guy an honest answer.

"That can be so intimidating when you're hot and on top of the charts and you're in the middle of that, you're not gonna be dismissed 'cause somebody thinks you're acting like a nut. They can't ignore you when you're the guy that is right in the center of God's ear.

"It seems like every ten years, somebody comes along who just has it. Like when the Beatles were at Abbey Road or the Bee Gees were making those great hit records at Criteria. And when somebody gets hot, people in the business will say, 'It's the board and the room.' So that would become the 'hot' room to record in. It was so stupid. There was no black box. There was no secret switch. It has nothing to do with the equipment. The magic that Brian has is in his head.

"You see, I knew how the room sounded when I was the producer and how it sounded when he worked in the same place. For him, the sonic spectrum was much wider and bigger. I would go and try to get it big and rock 'n' roll, and it didn't happen. He would sometimes get an immense drum sound and then drop it way back in the mix. Never even dawned on him that he couldn't get it. But he didn't want it. He wanted it back there, and he would swim it in echo, because he just wanted to get a little percussive blossom in the background. And I would have killed to get that drum sound and get it up front on a record.

"I think Brian's musicality came from the particular way his mind is wired, which was a tremendous blessing for all of us and musically, to him, but it probably caused a lot of pain in other areas of his life. I was lucky enough to be around Brian when he had this burst where everything culminated in this fantastic period of time. When it was happening...Pet Sounds, 'Good Vibrations' and Smile...it was all one seamless time in which he caught in his music and captured on tape the emotion that was coming through that pipeline, that spirit. That's the problem when you're talking about music. It's not words; it’s not verbal. It’s that spirit beyond words. I don’t usually talk about spiritual things, but I think his inspiration came from that place that people call God.”

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