Surprise - Master Tape Storage
Jethro Tull has produced a lot of songs over the years and the great majority of those came in the era of tape, the brown, non-sticky kind for those of you too young to remember. Such tapes are rather fragile, and many artists have lost precious recordings to the harshness of years. The tapes not only store the multitracks for the various released songs, but also tests, demos, and just assorted bits and pieces (and absolutely no recording of "Sailor" so don't ask).
The remastering process depends on these tapes. Ian spends a lot of time reviewing these before shipment to the famed Abbey Road Studio for production and preservation to digital form. Many tapes have to be "baked" which is a special process to remove oxide build-up. Such techniques can be very destructive. Very old blues recordings, for example, being remastered by Tull's USA label, Fuel 2000, are immediately destroyed by the very preservation technique. One slip up and no more Delta blues classic. Forever.
Older tapes tend to be worse but not always. The last years of tape in the early 1980's were particularly bad due to poor production quality. Ian tells how the tape was so horrid on "Black Sunday" (on "A" album) that it was unusable within a few days after recording. Remember "A Passion Play" ? Well, amazingly that tape required no preservation work at all in the remastering, a finding that even shocked Ian (and concerned him a bit too for if the production engineer was wrong...).
brings us to our "surprise." You might expect Jethro Tull tapes
are locked behind five doors with fifty locks in a bar-no-expense
environmentally controlled vault. Nope. The pictures here represent
Ian's personal, master storage at his estate in west-central England.
The room is an attic of a converted barn across from his recording studio
(a "surprise" feature on that later).
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