Did anybody hear that?: Funny Noises Part II: Readers wrote in offering studio gaffes. Giles Smith couldn't believe his ears

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The Independent Culture
TWO weeks ago, we ran a list of studio cock-ups - the bits of chat, stray noises and moments of incompetence lurking at the heart of some of the world's top-selling records. Readers were asked to submit examples from their own listening: below, we reproduce a selection of the responses.

As before, many of these studio goofs made it on to the final versions because the recording technology at the time didn't allow for their excision. Others remained under cover until cleaned up for CD versions in the 1980s. And doubtless, some are completely fictitious. As Mark Lewisohn, the Beatle archivist, points out, people are rather too inclined to trust the evidence of their own ears.

'There was that story about how John Lennon says 'I buried Paul' at the end of 'Strawberry Fields'. And I went back to the original tapes and discovered that what Lennon actually says is 'cranberry sauce'. But even after I had pointed this out, people continued to claim it was 'I buried Paul'. People will believe they hear what they want to hear.'

Offered with this warning in mind, here are 10 more prized gaffes:

P J Harvey

This is something of a scoop: Brendan Ashe was a member of the string section hauled in on sessions for the forthcoming P J Harvey album. Ashe (who, incidentally, can be heard falling backwards off a chair during a page-turn in a recording of Nicolai's The Merry Wives of Windsor, made at Bournemouth Winter Gardens in 1973) claims that additional percussion on this track is provided by the musical director's baton, slapping repeatedly against an overhead microphone. The new P J Harvey album will be released in May. You heard it here first.

The Beatles

In 'Ob-la-di Ob-la-da', are the lines 'Molly lets the children lend a hand / Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face' a pre-meditated commentary on sexual role-play? Or just a plain accident on the part of a knackered Paul McCartney? Respondents claim the latter.

Fairport Convention

The drummer Martin Lamble chooses to accompany the track 'Si tu dois partir' (from The History of Fairport Convention album) by playing on a column of stack-together chairs. These rather inconveniently de-stack right at the start of the drum break, causing a few bottles on the studio floor to go over in their wake. Lamble bravely sees out the rest of the track on what remains of the chairs.

Mamas and the Papas

Frank Little from Swansea says he was told by someone who was going out with the sister of a member of the Moody Blues that the last line of the refrain of the Mamas and the Papas 'Dedicated to the One I Love' comes twice in succession in the song not for artistic effect, but actually because of sloppy tape-editing.

The Beach Boys

Several people wrote to applaud the obtrusive cough that leads into the instrumental break on the track 'Wendy'. Several more expressed a fondly forgiving commitment to the song 'Here Today' from the Pet Sounds album. During the instrumental bridge, members of the band can be heard discussing photographic equipment.

Also popular with goof-spotters is the track 'Transcendental Meditation' (final song on Friends, possibly the Beach Boys' nadir, at least until last year's execrable Mike Love Showband album), which concludes with pop music's most inept fade-out. As the track nears its end, the volume halves in one desperate lurch; then the whole thing simply halts. The song also boasts some of the most embarrassing lyrics ever heard. Come to think of it, the music is terrible too. All in all, well worth a listen.

The Byrds

On the flip side of the Byrds' classic 'Ladyfriend', composed by and recorded with David Crosby shortly before he left the group amid considerable acrimony, is the less-than-classic 'Don't Make Waves', a banal ditty knocked out in five minutes by Jim McGuinn and Chris Hillman for the soundtrack of the Tony Curtis / Sharon Tate movie of the same name. This was just the kind of song that made Crosby hate McGuinn. At the end, Crosby can be heard to remark sarcastically (over the dying chord, so that it couldn't easily be edited out): 'A masterpiece]'

On one mix, these words have been clumsily edited out, with the result that the song finishes a couple of seconds too soon. The best place to hear the 'masterpiece' line, sharp and clear, is on the 4-CD boxed set, released two years ago.

Pink Floyd

We received two verdicts on some mumbling heard at the end of 'Outside the Wall', the last track on The Wall. One school of thought suggests that a voice is heard saying, 'someone spoke'. Ironically, the someone who spoke cannot be heard, unlike the someone complaining about the someone who spoke.

In the alternative reading, the voice says 'isn't this where . . ?' and cuts off. This is warmly interpreted as a resounding crash to earth for Waters' pompous concept album.

Hoagy Carmichael

The date: 21 May 1930. The scene: a recording studio in New York. A batch of top ranking jazz musicians (Bix Beiderbecke, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa among them) are commissioned to record a batch of jazz standards and also, apparently in response to record company demand, lay down a version of the contemporary popular song 'Barnacle Bill the Sailor'. Though clearly beneath the group's dignity, the song comes out fairly well. At the end of the record, though, the vocalist Hoagy Carmichael brings his mouth down close to the microphone and breathes what always sounded like 'Barnacle Bill the sailor', but which digital remastering of the acetate only recently revealed to be 'Barnacle Bill the shithead'.

It is not known, says Francis Blake, whether Carmichael's motive was sabotage, or whether he knew enough about contemporary recording technology to realise that the line would be inaudible (at least until cleaned up in the 1980s). But Mr Blake claims the event is alluded to in a biography of Beiderbecke and that the offending words can be heard clearly on the BBC cassette Jazz Classics in Digital Stereo - Bix Beiderbecke, ZCF 601 MCPS, BBC Enterprises Ltd, 1986.


'Rockaria', a track on the New World Record album, features a guest female opera singer who comes in several bars too early, breaks off with a stagey 'oooh' and then gets it right. The group sportingly left this rubbish in on the original version of the album but, strangely, it appears to have been excised from the version of the track on compilations. Heartbreaking.

Sex Pistols

Towards the end of 'Satellite', over the general clatter, a weary voice calls out, 'let's stop'. It is Johnny Rotten, initiating a musical device known classically as rallentando, but known in punk rock as getting bored.

Shakin' Stevens

Several people wrote in claiming to be able to detect a continuous, subliminal and mildly nauseating noise beginning right after the instrumental introduction on 'Green Door' and then occurring intermittently throughout the track. But this turns out, on closer inspection, to be merely the sound of Shakin' Stevens.

Contributors: Stephen King, St Andrews; Brendan Ashe, Glastonbury; Harry Fox, Edgbaston; Jeremy Simon, Abingdon; S E Claridge, Rotherhithe; Francis Blake, Tottenham; Peter Dick, Hampshire; A Murray, Kent; M Sayers, Dursley; Ron Searle, Bristol; Frank Little, Swansea.

(Photograph omitted)