This tweet sent me down an unexpected audio production rabbit hole:

R. Derek Black – 6 May 2021:
I think I love every one of the like 15 different versions of the song Valerie I’ve ever heard

I went to listen to the Amy Winehouse version first, and look for some of the others, but I saw on Wikipedia that Steve Winwood co-wrote it originally, and listened to the ’87 version that was a hit, but also…

…someone had posted the original 1982 release, from his third album according to Wikipedia, and listening to it, I’m like…

…how the fuck did this get released as a single by a major label in 1982?

It’s not the song! It is a good song. But the production is garbage.

And I’m not talking, like, artistic garbage. I’m talking about “basic mistakes in recording by first-time artists working in a bedroom” garbage. “Oops, hit the mic stand there and it’s really loud, oh well we’ll just compress it out” levels of “let’s record a demo” bullshit.

(There are also questionable artistic decisions, particularly the synth someone set on “saxophone” – but it’s ’82, I’ll cut them that slack.)

But… jeez. Even the vocal track is recorded badly. Plosives, hand noise, all sorts of crap, all clearly audible in the single.

And if there was a thing called dynamic range in ’82, that engineer hadn’t heard of it. It’s like the loudness wars, but kinda weirdly… quiet.

They smoothed over most of the recording fuckery in the ’87 remix. There’s a nasty plosive on a B that they couldn’t completely fix despite their best efforts. But it’s a nice salvage job. Plus, a real sax, unburying the guitar, restoring dynamic range – good work.

Shame about all the heavy gate reverb on the drums, though.

But, well, it was still the 80s. What do you expect? xD