Bill Halverson

Legendary Producer, Engineer, Arranger

Bill Halverson interview with Tony Bittick - remembering his role as the recording engineer for the song "Ohio", by CSN&Y. (from David Crosby's site)

      BH: Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young probably got there 6:00, something like that, and we set up. Live vocal mics, they had a little drum booth and it wasn't live enough for the guys so we opened the doors to the drum booth so the drums were just sort of in an alcove. And set up their...pretty much their stage amps, and with vocal mics and they fiddled around for a while and I don't recall us doing more than two or three takes of it with live vocal and live harmonies and everybody chiming in. And I was used to recording them all in the room together. We'd done "Almost Cut My Hair" that way... we'd done a number of songs...with everybody playing and singing together and they were used to me doing it and I was used to doing it that way. The mood was just very intense. I mean when they come into a room... I've been around those personalities for a long time, and the four of them take over a room. They are four distinct personalities and any one of the four is quite overpowering and together they're just a joy to be with. It's just a hoot to see them interact. And they were bent on getting it right and were on a mission. ["Ohio" was recorded at The Record Plant] ... on an old Quad-Eight console, an eight-track console that was modified where you could probably do 16 at one time without using... with just direct patches. We had a rented 3M machine from Heiders, probably a 79, 24-track. [Using some of Wally Heiders equipment] ... yeah just because I really liked his machines and rented them all the time to bring over there. And he had enough extras where he did have a good rental business. Amp mics...I've always used Shure 57s... it was back in the days when I still used SM-57s on the snare and on toms and on snare and on high hats. I had a couple of Noymans on the overheads... it was after I discovered the D12 for kicks so probably the D12 on kicks... and vocal mics... I probably had some Shures just because the amps were in the room and I needed more separation. So I probably wasn't using Neumans on the vocals just because it was loud and everybody was in the room together.

      TB: And all four musicians stayed in the room and helped mix?

      BH: Oh yeah we all got in there and pretty much just mixed it together. Everybody has their input and there's no referees and it's just... you get on with it.

      TB: The story that David has written and that I've heard is that he saw the picture in Life magazine and pretty much gave it to Neil Young as something kind of a challenge or a spur to write something and he did. Is that the story that you're familiar with?

      BH: I've heard that story and I've read that story and all I know is he came in with the song and they had rehearsed it. I love the way the B-side got to be. And the B-side is "Find the Cost of Freedom". While they were listening to the mix and finishing up the mix they said "we don't have a B-side, we need a B-side for this." So they had been rehearsing also "Find the Cost of Freedom" because they did that at the close of the show. So I went out and set up four chairs so they'd be knee to knee sitting facing each other and set up four vocal mics and a guitar mic for Stephen because he was gonna play guitar. Once I was set up they went out there and sat knee to knee with the four vocal mics and Stephen started playing guitar and then they started singing and sang it through. And before they could come in I rewound the tape, put it on another five tracks, and rolled it again, and they heard the guitar so they knew what was going on and waited for the vocal to come in and Stephen played along with himself, a little on guitar, played the little fills and stuff... In fifteen minutes we had "Find the Cost of Freedom". We air freighted tapes to New York and I also know, well I don't know, as I recall we had some acetates cut in LA and Atlantic in LA got it on the radio there and as fast as they could they got it mastered and pressed in New York.

      TB: Do you recall hearing it on the radio for the first time.

      BH: No. I do recall that AM wouldn't play it and it was very controversial that AM wouldn't play it and FM, the underground, all the FM stations started playing it... and it got up in the 30s or so just with FM play and at that point FM was pretty underground and AM was the deal. But they tried to ban it."