Tuesday, March 12, 2019

RIP Hal Blaine

You may not know the name, but you've sure heard his work.  Hal Blaine was a studio drummer.  He was part of the "Wrecking Crew" -- a collection of the finest studio musicians in Los Angeles.  They backed up most of the hits you heard in the '60s and '70s.   Even groups that played their own instruments bowed to the artistry of these ladies and gentlemen when they got in the recording studio.  Dennis Wilson didn't play drums on Beach Boy records; Hal Blaine did.   Michael Clark didn't play drums on Byrds records; Hal Blaine did.

Hal played on 150 top ten hits.  40 number one songs, 8 Grammy records of the year.  And countless other hits.   Thanks to reader Arlen Peters I found this great YouTube video that features a montage of just some of the hit songs Hal played on.

He passed away this weekend.  Hal Blaine was 90.  The beat goes on... at least on records.  Quite simply, Hal Blaine was the best.  See for yourself.

35 comments :

John in NE Ohio said...

Don't know if it's still on Netflix, but there was a great documentary about the wrecking crew on there.

Roger Owen Green said...

I LOVED the Wrecking Crew movie.

Anonymous said...

The best.
No one is even a close second

Rock Golf said...

Here's Art Garfunkel explaining Hal Blaine's contribution to Bridge Over Troubled Water

It ends up with the strings creeping in, and doing a long string pad, and there’s the first addition. Then we had Hal Blaine play his explosion drum … You’ll love this one: way in the background on every other bar, on beat No. 2, you hear a cushy kind of an atom bomb, soft and kind of hushed but explosive, way in the back. It’s our backbeat, on the two beat of every other bar.

We took our tape, [and] we sped it up twice as fast so the whole “Bridge over Troubled Water” was running at twice the speed. We asked Hal Blaine to play his drums on every other bar, and on bar No. 2, [he] gives us his nice, fattest, mallet sound on his skins. And then we slowed the record back down to proper speed.

Everything fell back into place, except Hal Blaine’s impact of his drum hits. Now the cushiness of the fat mallet on the skins has a wider spread to it; it’s been slowed down. The rest of the record fell back into place! So you get a very interesting soft impact, almost atom bomb percussive, and you place that way in the background on every other beat. And it becomes a record beginning to take off: The bass slides right into the pocket, and the boys sing, “Sail on, silver girl.”

- From https://www.goldminemag.com/articles/the-making-of-%E2%80%98bridge-over-troubled-water%E2%80%99

Cowboy Surfer said...

Distinct sound, amazing talent.

estiv said...

In the mid-sixties he was the mentor of the young Jim Gordon, who developed the same versatility and rock-steady beat, then ended up playing with many famous people himself. But his is another (much sadder) story.

TodBrowning said...

"Bruce Gary of The Knack once said his biggest disappointment was finding out Hal Blaine was a dozen of his favorite drummers."

Gary said...

It's funny how the Monkees were mocked and destroyed in music circles for not playing their instruments on the records, when virtually every other rock group was doing the exact same thing.

The guys (and gal) in the Wrecking Crew were simply too good not to use in the studio.

The actual members of the rock groups could play very well, and most did so at live gigs with screaming crowds. But playing perfectly in the studio and nailing something in just a few takes is a whole different skill set.

Hal Blaine's body of work is truly unbelievable.

Peter said...

I thought I'd seen it all when it comes to celebrity scandals, but I've just read that Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin have been arrested and charged with involvement in a college exam cheating scheme.

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/lori-loughlin-felicity-huffman-arrested-college-cheating-scheme-807025/

Along with Jussie Smollett and Allison Mack, 2019 seems to be the year of ultra dumb celebrity scandals.

Wayne C. said...

I just finished Jimmy Webb's excellent memoir, The Cake and the Rain, and he shares few great Hal Blaine stories. The man was everywhere and his creativity on percussion unmatched.

Jeff Boice said...

Thank you Ken, and thank you Arlen. And thank you, Hal.

Wayne C said...

The Guardian has a great tribute piece that includes YouTube examples from several Hal-touched classics, including "Be My Baby," "Kicks," "Good Vibrations," and the aforementioned "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/mar/12/hal-blaine-be-my-baby-bridge-over-troubled-water-performances

tb said...

That's a great video. Hal was the man. RIP to the King

YEKIMI said...

Now it says "Video unavailable." BOOOOOO!

Mike Doran said...

Since Peter brought this subject up …

Consider this a premature Friday Question.

Would someone on your end look up on YouTube (imbed if possible) the Edge Of Night episode from July 16, 1980 - in particular the final scene of the episode.

My Question:
Can someone explain to me why Lori Loughlin looks exactly the same today as she did 39 years ago?
(Any possible connection to the current kerfuffle might prove interesting …)

Mister Charlie said...

Two people taught me how to play drums as a kid (through their records): Ringo and Hal Blaine. Hal not only played on the hits but the deep album cuts as well. Just about anyone you ever heard of in music in the 60s and 70s used Hal for recording drums. Massive talent, such a varied repertoire from Sinatra to Elvis, Sonny & Cher to Fifth Dimension...just a full palette
of styles and effects and implements used (brushes, mallets, gongs, etc.).

RIP Hal, and thank you for showing me how to approach playing drums in rock and roll.

Anonymous said...

Possibly the only person to back up Frank Sinatra, Elvis and John Lennon

Mike Bloodworth said...

I don't know if it's the same film referenced by +John in NE Ohio, but there is a Wrecking Crew documentary that runs from time to time on public television. (KCET here in L.A.) It probably is, but either way it's amazing.
M.B.

Phil said...

Mannnnn..... Peter here really is the BOSS when it comes to Hollywood news.

Here Peter you might be in interested in this
https://twitter.com/FelicityHuffman/status/1105143848597098498

Felicity is being trolled mercilessly.

https://pagesix.com/2019/03/12/felicity-huffman-lori-loughlin-become-twitter-joke-amid-college-admissions-scandal/


But I feel sad about Aunt Becky.


Mike Doran said...

The Wrecking Crew documentary is available on DVD (Magnolia Home Entertainment).
It's a two-disc set: the doc itself, plus a whole extra disc-full of special features.
I think it's still available from Amazon - anyway, that's where I got it.
Anyway, that means that I'm not dependent on PBS affiliates scheduling caprices (and if the PBS stations in your area are as capricious as the ones here in Chicago, you should consider the investment).

Anonymous said...

Who was the drummer on Phil Spector's "wall of sound" recordings? Doesn't sound like Hal Blaine's style.

Peter said...

Haha! Thanks, Phil. I was actually going to post about the hilarious comments people are tweeting to Felicity Huffman too.

I hope Ken gives us his humorous take on the scandal.

YEKIMI said...

The trouble with PBS is that they break into the programming for their beg-a-thon to "give us money" and very often the damn breaks, when totaled up, are sometimes longer than the program they're interrupting! I get it that they need to beg for their supper, so to speak, but can't they keep the damn breaks to around 5 minutes? I was watching the Wrecking Crew documentary on PBS but turned it off in disgust when their break went on and on and on and on........

Todd Everett said...

He was also a geat storyteller.

Anonymous said...

Rolling Stone has a great "lost interview" with Hal.
He relates the story about Buddy Rich hiring him to play Buddy's daughter wedding. When he asked Buddy why he wasn't going to play at the wedding, Buddy said "I only wanted the best for my daughter".

Wow!


(MAN. u gotta DO SOMETHING about Verify/No Robot......5 minutes, innumerable challenges, and THE most indistinct challenge pics on the net.....Happy 30th Net Birthday.....SHHHEEEESSSHHHH!!!)

VP81955 said...

"Be My Baby" is unquestionably Hal Blaine's crowning achievement with the Ronettes, but this is right up there, too: https://youtu.be/_zSPsbXeYqc

And both Alison and Judi Martino noted today that Blaine worked on many records by Al Martino (Alison's dad and Judi's husband).

Mark Moretti said...

Once again Ken, thanks for introducing me to an amazing talent. Who else always thought the drum solo at the beginning of Three's Company was the highlight of that show?

Mike Doran said...

Correcting an error above:
That Edge Of Night episode I want you to check out is from June 16, 1980.
With special reference to the final minutes of the show.
Thanx and apologies.

sueK2001 said...

Thank you for remembering Hal. I was afraid that most of the media would overlook this giant's passing..and yes, to some extent they have. I first got to know the work of Hal when I was reading the liner notes on my John Denver LP's. I never saw Hal play live but loved hearing him play on record. I wrote my own blog in tribute to him...You can find it here..

https://suek2001.wordpress.com/2019/03/12/all-of-the-magic-the-music-is-you/

I had heard today that he played on some TV themes and was wondering if the musicians that play on those songs get residuals every time their show airs? Also, does the showrunner choose the music too?

davidly said...

Hal Blaine was a highly respected musician who laid drums and percussion down on several Beach Boys' tracks, but Dennis Wilson did in fact play drums on most of them.

Pidge said...

As the daughter of a very talented and busy studio musician, I can attest to the contributions made by these relatively ‘unsung heroes’ of the industry. From ‘jingles’ to radio, tv and recording sessions, my dad was often called upon to play compositions deemed impossible by Julliard grads. “I didn’t know it couldn’t be done, so I just did it!” he’d often tell us, returning from a gig where he’d been booked, last minute, to fill in for some famous musician who needed more time to rehearse. Ask your buddy, Earlo, about this man, with whom he rode the range in the olden days.
Credit where it’s due. Thanks for posting this wonderful tribute.

JT said...

Except for four or five tracks, Dennis played the drums on the Beach Boys' first six studio albums...it wasn't until the "Today!" album (recorded in the second half of '64) that Hal and the Wrecking Crew musicians came aboard when Brian's songs became more complex.

Norm said...

WIKIPEDIA has a page devoted to a long list of every hit Hal Blaine played on of major significance. You will be blown away.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_recordings_of_songs_Hal_Blaine_played_on

czeskleba said...

Another correction: Hal Blaine played on the first Byrds single (Mr. Tambourine Man b/w I Knew I'd Want You). But after that, Michael Clarke took over and played drums on all the Byrds' recordings throughout the rest of 1965-66, including their other two big hits Turn Turn Turn and Eight Miles High. Hal Blaine did not always get the credit he deserved over his lifteime, but we should not over-compensate by giving him too much credit or credit for things he did not do.

Janet Ybarra said...

Hal Blaine's profession and celebrity connections will forever tie him as a California personality.

Actually, he grew up in my native western New England, between Holyoke, Mass., and Hartford, CT.

We're happy to claim him. And it just goes that often the most talented and most accomplished are the least recognized or famous individuals.

Definitely a sad day.