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How did you first meet Phil?

The first record I did with him was “He’s A Rebel,” and the only reason I did that was because [Goldstar owner] Stan [Ross] was on vacation. The truth of the matter is that I was Phil’s second choice; he’d already done a bunch of records with Stan by that time, including “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” which had been a huge hit. I guess what was instrumental in my becoming Phil’s regular engineer was the fact that I was able to mix all the many instruments together into what became the Wall of Sound. In fact, I’m quite sure that had I not put the sound together that he wanted to hear, he would have gone back to Stan.

Phil was actually pretty scary to work with. I wasn’t a novice, but I was still generally a bit nervous with anyone I worked with, especially during mixing. I could never understand guys who could eat lunch and do a session—any session—because there was no way I could hold any food down if I were going to record or mix something! Maybe that’s because my attitude was, if it’s not right, it’s all my fault. 

So to be with someone like Phil particularly was pretty tough for me. On the second record we made [Bob B. Soxx And The Blue Jeans’ “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”], things were starting to get out of hand and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to successfully record the sounds on tape at the levels he was instructing me to set. It still took me five or six minutes before I could gather the nerve to turn everything off and say, “You know, this is not going to work.” That was because I knew he was going to scream at me, and he did—after all, he was a big-shot producer, and I was nothing at the time. [laughs]

I guess there was another turning point in Phil’s decision to use me regularly, and that occurred a couple of months later. We were in the studio one night, overdubbing background voices on a song. It was around two o’clock in the morning and we had done the first eight bars and were listening back. Of course, with Phil, I could never just lean back in my chair and listen in a relaxed way—he had me working all the time, constantly mixing what was there. We’d probably heard this track a dozen times when all of a sudden he shouted out, “Okay, this is where they come in!” I was so surprised I instinctively reached for the Record button and pushed it—and, of course, there was no Record Safe mode on the Ampex three-track machines we were using in those days. I immediately realized that I had erased something, and Phil knew it too. We had a little folding card table set up at the front of the control room, and he just crawled right under it, sitting there with his knees pulled up to his chin. [laughs

Fortunately, I managed to stop the tape almost immediately, just two beats before a chord change that is never repeated anywhere else in the song, so I was able to fix it by editing in a copy of the same section from later in the song. Phil was sure the edit wouldn’t work, but it did. He’d never let me edit before, either, because he’d had some bad experiences before with cutting tape. Before then, whenever we did a track and something was wrong, even if it was near the very end, he insisted that the musicians play the whole thing all over again rather than allow me to cut tape. But because I had made this repair work, from that point on, we would edit tracks if necessary. So it became a question of trust.

You must have thought your job was on the line at that moment.

No, because I knew it wasn’t my fault. It was just a reaction, and the worst that was going to happen was that we’d have to go back and re-record the song. I still felt as bad as you can feel, especially since we had the backing track done and were working on the vocals by that point. But I kind of felt that I could save it—otherwise I never would have even tried to make that edit. I had confidence in my abilities, and I guess I’ve always been a lucky person too. 

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