IN BLACK AND WHITE – 1967The music revolution was well underway in the greater Kansas City area and the genres better defined by 1967. There were a few ‘band guys’ around the KC area that would cluster around the Place in Westport, the Castaways or wherever we could scare up a gig. The competition for gigs wasn’t that fierce, and the rivalry between bands was still friendly. We could always get gigs.
Those of us that managed to get out of the draft were doing it by going to college, trade school or junior college, and the work was steady and plentiful. You could make a living by being a musician and that was cool. Most of my exposure to bands was due to the connections developed during my years at Shawnee Mission East high school. The Apollos, the Shadows, the Chessmen, and the Monkeymen were all created in the mid-60s and still working at this point, most hadn’t been drafted.
In Black and White is the first psychedelic band I had ever encountered first hand, and I know I was eager to get them into my studio somehow.
The band consisted of Jon Coffin, Hal Pierce on guitar, Tim Hamilton on bass, and Bob the drumma. Jon lived just up the street from my studio at 7701 Mission Road in Prairie Village, KS. I don’t know how it got arranged, we ended up in my basement one day near Christmas 1967 and recorded three “sides”.
My studio, AUDIO LAB, was a construction that my wonderful dad, R. G. Barncard, put many hours designing and building the structure in our basement. My contribution was designing and building many audio devices for the room that I had no way of buying myself, the rest were scraped together from the used market over the years. I realize today that my dad got as much a kick out of the studio as I did, and an incredible amount of encouragement and enthusiasm from him made it possible. I will cover the full story of the AUDIO LAB studio in another post.
In 1967, the holy grail of recording for me would be a tape machine with more than two tracks and capable of sel-sync ( the ability to play tracks while recording on others). One technique was to thicken the vocal by ‘doubling’ – singing ‘exactly’ the same words and Melody the same way twice. The minor variations in pitch seem to obfuscate each other en masse, and the overall effect is sonorous and pleasing – similar to ‘phasing’.
Since I didn’t have a multi-track machine, the ‘next best thing’ was to do transfers back and forth between two tape machines, adding a fresh track on each pass, while mixing in the older ones. This is known as the ‘Les Paul’ method, and every record pass you make will have to be a ‘keeper’. Also because there is a little (or a lot) of loss and noise every pass, the earlier passes start to lose clarity. The amount of loss is directly proportional to the accuracy of the machines, and the whole thing gains some kind of odd ‘aura’ often heard in other low budget projects (and some high budget ones of the time, too ).
Today I don’t remember much about the session, except it was fun, and at the end we smoked a bowl, which was great except my parents were in the house upstairs, and I learned firsthand about how smoke travels. I must have cut a disc for Jon, that was the best way to get the music to people – most folks didn’t have tape recorders.
and now, below, are the original recordings, made on December 23, 1967.