Walter Rapaport: Music, Audio and the Poetic

Guest post by Walter Rapaport, my husband of 42 years, continuing my posts about the old music business days of the seventies.

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Portrait of Walter at age 74 at home in Hines Oregon.  Photo by Laurie O’Connor.

“I’ve done some wrong things,

While livin’ my life

Made some wrong moves

You could criticize …”

(Barbara Mauritz, Lamb, A Sign of Change)

Sign of change was one of Lamb's finest album, a work of magical originality..

A Sign of Change, a work of magical originality, was Lamb’s first album, produced by David Rubinson for Fillmore Records.

For me, it’s about the emotional sum of words plus music.

Musicals were the start. Classical got to me with or without words. Great NYC DJ’s. Folk music drew me into the club scene in New York. Jazz came along and changed all the relationships in my mind. Then rock ‘n roll codified longings I did not voice until then:  Stones. Beatles, and acid pulled me westward!

I was 25 and a hi-fi nut.  Worked with Ampex tape recorders in language labs. By then I was a complete stoner, and the straight job was too restricting.  Enter Lamb! in San Francisco. My good friend Bob Swanson was a principal in that group and sent me tapes.  Needed a sound guy.  Called me on the night Nixon was elected and said they had a regular gig and would pay me a share. The Ribeltad Vorden bar paid the band $35 a week. Color me gone.

“When hardly a trace of love could I find.

Was a blind hearted woman.

Almost lost my mind.”

(Barbara Mauritz, Lamb, A Sign of Change)

Bill Douglas on bass, Bob Swanson on git., Barbara Mauritz sings, pianos. and gits. Walt finds a calling. And what a life.  No money, but poetry. I entered the universe of poetry and music. Live gig, rehearsal and eventually recording. Producer David Rubinson picked Lamb up for Fillmore Records and got Bill Graham, the godfather of rock ‘n roll, on board at Flllmore Managment. And Walter was still lost in the poetic.

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Singer Barbara Mauritz and guitarist of Lamb. Back cover of their second album, Cross Between. Co-producers: David Rubinson and Walter Rapaport.  Photo by Peter Olwyler.

“And I know, yes I know, praying for the light.

Down on my knees, alone in the night

Cryin’ Oh. look down here on me,

That I may see the way, yeah!”

(Barbara Mauritz, Lamb, A Sign of Change)

Lamb’s first album, A Sign of Change was pure jazz, with a dose of mysticism and another of gospel. I co-produced their second album, Cross Between. The gospel of studio recording was handed to me by the great engineer Fred Catero. 45 years later my mind distills the lessons, and when I am fortunate enough to record, I TRY TO FOLLOW THEM.

  • Be Positive!
  • Listen to each instrument and amp to find the sweet spot—put the mic. there!
  • Listen to the control room chatter and filter for meaning and direction.
  • Evaluate input for useful ideas.
  • When the talk gets to serious band business:  disappear—if not recording.
  • Be positive and, when required, be funny.

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    Recording engineer Fred Catero.

“And it’s in gettin’ down to earth

That we can recognize our worth

We were all put here together

For the worse or for the better

And I believe, and I say I believe

Until my dyin’ day

I just wanna say…yeah

We’re gonna have a party!”

(Barbara Mauritz, Lamb, A Sign of Change)

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Barbara Mauritz. Photo by Peter Olwyler.

Just before Lamb’s fourth album, the new producer fired me. Business reality caught up with me. The music went downhill from there. Ego? Not me!

Getting bumped off the poetic caused a hard landing. A lawyer’s letter informed me that I owed a share of partnership losses. I was depressed and out of money. My lawyer said I was responsible for my share. Oy vey!  Revelation: Wait, I ain’t got shit!  Call Bill Graham in the a.m. to laugh and suggest that I had about $2 and he was welcome to it, to which he replied, “It took you way too long to get it.” Thanks for the lesson, Bill!

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Joined a band called Bittersweet as sound guy, road manager. It did not “go.” Eventually got a job as a sound man at a nightclub called the “Orphanage.”  Good music by and large. A good time of life.  Reconnect with my love Diane, now 42 years married and counting. Have child, what a gas, often being parent at work, often with baby Max.

Became adept at multiple to 2-track mixes (house, stage, sound truck, and for Van Morrison a video feed). Founded White Noise Sound with Barret Bassick.  Did live sound and live broadcast, direct to 2-channel to air.  And this totally shaped my idea of how one recorded and produced sessions. Get the performance!  Go to it if necessary.  Walt and his A77 Revox got a surprising amount of work. NPR producer Tim Owens (“Jazz Alive”) kept us working. Found out I was not a good studio engineer.

Tim was promoted to Washington D.C.  Barret and I had a falling out.  I went to work as production mgr. at FRAP (Flat Response Audio Pickup), the most rewarding job I ever had.  I contracted for a year. Company looked like it might go…

Diane was done with the Bay Area. Took my van, my dog and my son to Jerome AZ. Suddenly I needed a complete life change. Returned to work after winter vacation, and found that FRAP product on the shipping table was still there, and knew that I didn’t want to go through the lack of cash that was sure to follow. Joined family in Jerome AZ and decided that house wiring is just a variation on balanced electronics wiring (it is!) and called myself a house wirer. Did whatever recording-live sound work that I could. Katie Lee and Major Lingo stand out. Still with the old A77!  Perhaps the most fulfilling tracks came from Katie in the form of a folk opera called Billy, Maude and Mr. D.

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Katie Lee’s folk opera. Available at http://www.katydoodit.com

She performed the first act flawlessly (23 min) and beautifully. Second act required one edit!  This was recorded using a Shure 58 mic for vocal, Shure 53 mic for guitar, both through transformers directly into A77 pre-amps.  (The CD is available thru Katydid Books and Music— http://katydoodit.com)

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Photo of Katie Lee by M.L. Lincoln. (Katydodit.com)

Friends like Katie taught us to enjoy hiking, camping and rafting. This  “getting down to earth“ stuff became a solid track of its own, and the poetry continued.

Walter and Richard

Walter Rapaport and Richard Martin on the Colorado River in the eighties. For both, music and the life of the poetic guided their passions. Photo by Diane Rapaport

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