Tom Waits: Blue Valentine Production Notes

Production Notes

Blue Valentine was recorded to 2-track tape in Filmways/Heider studios in Hollywood, between July the 24th and August the 26th, 1978. It was made under the watchful eye of Bones Howe, a respected engineer and producer who had worked since the mid '50s with jazz-oriented artists of the calibre of Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé, Ella Fitzgerald and Ornette Coleman. Then, in the '60s, he produced hits for The Turtles, The Association and 5th Dimension.

The pair first collaborated in 1974 on Waits' second album, Heart Of Saturday Night, going on to work together until 1981. Howe, having produced many of the all-time greatest popular singers, knew exactly how to get the best out of any voice – even one as bizarre as Waits'. To capture it, he chose the classic RCA 77 DX ribbon mic.

'The 77s have three cardioid settings,' he explained to Sound On Sound. 'V1 and V2 were different low-end cut-offs, and "M" was for music recording. The V1 setting had a high cut-off, which made it good for radio announcing. The V2 position left a lot more low-end in there and made it a great vocal microphone.'

Another reason why Howe reckoned the 77 DX was ideal, was because Waits, 'popped and spat a lot when he sang', but 'it's very hard to pop that microphone, so you didn't need a pop filter.

'Plus he liked to get right on the mic, so he would sit at the piano and I hung it from a boom so it would hang down in front of him.' On other tracks, Howe set the mic up directly in front of the band with Waits standing in front of the drums to sing. Usually this was done without requiring any overdubbing.