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Dancing Queen (Tom Moulton & Shep Pettibone Perspective Mix)

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ABBA Dancing Queen Madonna Vogue Bros I Owe U Nothing Pet Shop Boys West End Girls


Before starting this project I had no idea who invented the 12 inch mix or when the idea was ever conceived. Tom Moulton is one of the big sleeping giants of the music industry. His findings and ideas about the presentation of music led to the development of the now standard 12 inch Single (or remix).He once turned down the opportunity to remix Abba's now famous Dancing Queen, in his later years he has began to regret this decision. On Tom's behalf and using other period related mixers I remixed the piece true to his classic way.Also within this mix (as you can see from the other covers) are the influences of another silent giant of the music industries Shep Pettibone, although neither have worked together, there ideas are very much the same (apart from Tom not using synthesis in his production). The tracks I choose to mix with Abba's Dancing Queen were deliberate, to show the wide scope and level of Professionalism both had reached in their work.

The Story Of Tom Moulton, Inventor Of The 12 Inch Mix

Tom Moulton

The end of the 1960's and the start of the 70's saw great changes in the music that was being listened to, both on radio, and the music played in the ever-popular dance halls/clubs of New York, America. Unintentionally a man by the name of Tom Moulton would mould and develop this area of dance music into something close to its present form. He would also be responsible for developing new styles that were originally embedded within his own mixing concepts. Tom's mixing concept however was very traditional and left the door open for others to develop the art of mixing and re-mixing. Shep Pettibone was an individual who came from the same recording label as Tom, but had very different concepts of how mixing should be done. This did not stop him however basing his career on the inventions Tom had created, while at the same time developing the art himself.

The Twelve-Inch Remix

Having left school to work in a record shop, Tom Moulton's obsession for being around music was evident from a young age. His first desires were to be a DJ; this however was shattered when a local DJ was caught up in a feud over money. His reaction was of shock, finding it hard to believe that someone could be paid for playing music. As his comment shows:

"My idol was caught in a pay-off scandal in the late 50's and that absolutely destroyed me. I mean, that's how anybody could take money to play a record was beyond me"(1)

Moulton had always thought that music was free; an emotional gift that people did out of love, not money. While visiting a club called "Fire Island," he had his first true inspiration on how he thought the music being played should be represented. This all came about after being disappointed by dancing to music, and realising how short the danceable part of the song were. It seemed rather strange, especially as this was what was keeping the people on the dance floor, and removing them just as quick when the song's had finished or changed. This gave him the idea to create a tape that would be a glued together extension of all the musical and danceable parts of the songs he used, at the same time keeping the music non-stop (This created for a more dance friendly version than the DJ could supply). The tape took him eighty hours to complete, but this however didn't impress the club he gave it to, leaving him feeling a little disheartened. Not to be defeated, he made a second tape that was still following the same concept. This time he gave it to a promoter at a club called "Sandpipers" which was based in the heart of New York's night-life, two weeks passed by without hearing any news, then, at 2.30am one morning he received a call from an excitable individual at the club, begging him to create another of his tapes.

"Oh, can you make another tape - the people are getting wild for this tape!"(2)

The club he had made tapes for was regarded as one of the biggest in New York, so for him to play there, gave him the instant status of being successful to other producers and DJ's. Without these tapes he may never have gone on to be the mixer he was, leaving him his second option of a career in modelling. He continued to create his tapes for two seasons, ever increasing in popularity with both the listening public and record companies involved in this area of music. This led him to begin mixing other artists work, not to re-mix but to re-master, putting a polished sound to recordings, only altering the arrangement of the work to benefit its overall sound. During this time he met his future partner José Rodriguez, Their chance meeting was through Moulton needing an engineer for a mixing session, leaving only the second engineer José Rodriguez (or the 'Puerto Rican sweeper' as the studio had described him), to work with. They worked so well together during this session that Moulton insisted on Rodriguez working with him on all his future works. He also insisted that the record company was to put Rodriguez initials on the credits with his, something that had never been asked or done before. Moulton explains:

"So, you know, he did everything I wanted... I told him I wanted this, I wanted more bottom or I wanted more top - whatever! And he did exactly what I wanted to do. And I said; "This guy's amazing!" So, from that day he was the guy who mastered all my records. I took it back to Atlantic and I said; "I want it to say "A Tom Moulton Mix" but I also want it to say mastered by José Rodriguez." They went; "Oh, we don't do that!"(3)

This line of work then led Moulton to accidentally create probably the most important asset to DJ's, at the same time creating a promoter's dream. The asset he created started its life by accident during a recording session. Whilst mastering at media sound, Moulton brought an Al Downing's recording that needed mastering, unlucky it may have seemed at first, but Rodriguez had no seven-inch acetates available, not wanting to just leave the session Moulton suggested that they cut the recording to a ten-inch acetate. When they had finished Moulton commented on how ridiculous the small grooves looked on such a big record. Agreeing, Rodriguez re-cut the recording not to a ten-inch but to a twelve-inch acetate, spreading the grooves out more. This also required José to increase the overall volume by +6db, resulting in a louder final mix. This may have normally been unacceptable, but to both there surprise the overall sound now had more of a punch to it, with a noticeable compliment towards the bass end of the sound. Seven-inch acetates had been aimed towards radio, with the seven-inch acetates having less fidelity and tighter grooves, giving a more middle range sound that is ideal for radio. Moulton went straight to a twelve-inch acetate for his next session, mixing Moment of truth's "So much for love". This decision arguable starts the birth of the twelve-inch format, in his previous recording session he had been dictated by the tapes available, however this session saw him using the twelve-inch format as a starting point, instead of the 7 inch acetate normally used.

Moulton released test pressings of this new format to local DJ's, this was to see the response they got not only from the DJ's themselves, but the public dancing to the music. After a period of acceptance he released what is now seen as the first Commercial twelve-inch single 'Ten Percent' by Double exposure (cd1) this was marketed by his record company Salsoul Records, opting for a giant single rather than an extended remix. Moulton also marked this mix with a trademark that he would use on all his works. Previously he had insisted that Rodriguez had got credit for his mastering, His record company now realising the impact his name could have on a recording, agreed to market his mix's with the name of the track being followed by 'A Tom Moulton Mix', also giving into his desires to see Rodriguez credited for his work. Unsurprisingly Moulton also created his other great musical discovery by accident. He is responsible for creating the Disco Break (cd2) or break-beat, as it is better known today. While mixing Don Downing's track 'Dream World' Moulton came across a problem. When wishing to return to the beginning of the song, he was confronted with this mixing issue. Due to the previous section of the song having Immaculated, the rising of the key made returning to the start of the track seemingly impossible. To get round this issue, he decided to strip the track into its barest nature of just a bass kick. He followed this by adding the other percussion and instruments, until he had reintroduced all the remaining sounds. Rather than add extra instruments or actually change a song his approach gave way for a new dimension to the art of mixing. Had he used the same ideas as another mixer Shep Pettibone, we may not have seen the break beat until later on in the dance movement, or something more radically different. Shep Pettibone on the other hand was a mixer intent on adding his own aspect to a production. Although Moulton and Pettibone have never worked together Shep Pettibone's involvement with Salsoul records saw him remixing Dr Love by First Choice, and later 'Love Sensation' by Loleatta Holloway, two tracks that Moulton had himself already mixed. His contract with Casablanca Records prevented Salsoul from releasing his version of 'Doctor love', when compiling their Salsoul tribute album.

Pettibone has modelled his career on the invention Moulton had accidentally created; this saw him becoming one of the industries most credited re-mixers. His first known works were with Afrika Bambaata & The Jazzy Five working on there highly acclaimed album 'Jazzy Sensation', Ironical This would have put Pettibone in New York During the same time that the Pet Shop Boys had embarked on their music career, meeting such people as Bobby Orlando, another writer who was following the path of remixing for dance halls. All would have been associated with Pettibone through Kiss FM. Both Orlando and Pettibone would end up working with the Pet Shop Boys in 1984 on a twelve-inch remix album titled 'DISCO'. As with all Pettibone works, he did not hesitate to add his own mark on all the remix's that appear on the 'Disco' album. The nature of the group also allowed him to use a completely synthesized environment, rather than Moulton's traditional approach of real musician.

"I knew that they were gonna try to add things - they wanted to be able to have synther code on there and things like that. In the days I was mixing we were just starting to do that, but I still didn't - I still used the real musicians"(4)

Such was his influence when in the studio it enabled him to rearrange the music, even adding extra lyrics that had not appeared in previous radio version. Diverting fully away from the inventors aspirations of mixing, making the remix his property, to do with as he saw musically fit. Something else that is clear with all of Pettibone's mixes, are his use of the percussion, extending the original invention of Moulton's Break-Beat into a drive or grounding structure to a song/remix (cd4). Pettibone's most successful work saw him earn an 'International Songwriters Grammy award' for his work with Madonna. Just as with the Pet Shop Boys, his influence allowed him to direct the songs as a co-writer/producer, allowing him to add his distinctive trademark, of using the beat as the drive (cd5). Madonna had released and written dance music prior to working with Pettibone, although her work had always been more melody based. Pettibone was also very fortunate to have made his impact at a time when the Twelve-inch Single had moved forward tremendously. No longer was it merely a DJ's tool, it had now become a marketing tool that increased chart positions, and generated extra band revenue. So much was the difference from Moulton's day of making a single extended version and then creating a single from this. That Orlando and Pettibone mixed no less than twenty-one versions of the Pet Shop Boys most successful release 'West End Girls' (5). From a commercial point of view this began to create a collectors market that hunted for rare low Quantity releases, suggesting that remix's were now being created, with individual areas of the music buying market in mind. And no longer just for the Dance floors that the inventor had originally aimed for.


Tom Moulton may have stumbled upon the twelve-inch format by accident but his initiative with his sandpiper tapes opened the doors for a whole new approach to recording. No longer was there the need for just a radio version, now a new structural approach was at hand, and in demand. Moulton's original ideas were to extend the feeling that had already been laid down by the artist, using his skills to improve a track. As the Art of mixing has developed these ideas have faded slightly. Modern mixers have taken the twelve-inch format as a way to perform or experiment with their own artistic way of thinking. This is where Pettibone developed his art, being hired not just for his remixing skills but also for his musical tastes, and compositions skills. Although never the intention of the inventor, re-mixers such as Pettibone have generated a culture of re-mixers who know have the ability to reach a higher status of recognition than the artist they mix. These changes may also begin to lead us to a day when the structure of a single is no longer defined by traditional approaches, leaving structural decision completely in the hands of the re-mixer.


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