Let me give you a little personal background. My older brother Ken Lehnig and I started playing music together in 1963 In Imperial Beach CA. Before then we would stroll down the streets In Great Lakes Naval Training Center, with our Cousin Carlo and sing Everly Brothers tunes. We got the Beatles album and fell in love with the Fab 4. Mom and Dad bought Ken and I a couple of $16 Tijuana guitars with action so high you had to have a vice grip for the F chord. Then we bought the Beatles Song book after tiring of La Bamba. We started garage bands and jam sessions (they were not called that then) with the young men in hopes of being rock and roll stars. Ken had a flair for writing. Our group of 15 and 16 yr olds were called the ‘Something-Nu’. Ken wrote a couple of surf songs that were strictly instrumentals. We practiced them and were able to perform them flawlessly.
Charlie Bottoms was one of the Guitar players and he had a sister (Nina…man she was gorgeous) whose boyfriend owned a studio in Long Beach Ca. A wonderfully sisterly support call went out to this man about studio time. ‘Yeah come on up and for fifty bucks we will get you on tape.’ Well in ’64 that was a fair chunk of money. There were five of us and we mustered up $10 apiece plus gas and food money, loaded up Charlie’s 55 Chevy station wagon with guitars, amps and drums at 0-dark- thirty and headed up the old Highway 101 to Long Beach. After a few eye opening events, like the ‘woman in the Ford whose 5 o’clock shadow was plowing it way through the pancake make up, and a 3 hour drive – we pulled into the studio. Strange isolation booths, a two track recorder, and three takes-a-song later we had our ’45’. In those days the final cut was really on vinyl. It was interesting to watch the needle on this machine cut and leave long streams of plastic on the floor. These were stamp quality master metal core discs. I had no idea what that meant not knowing the process.
Well we were sitting at the beach – radio blaring – a few weeks later and there was one of our tunes playing on the KGB Home Grown program. Wow, unbelievable. Boy, did we sound good.
That began the addiction to record. Ken got better at song writing and little brother (me) was pretty unique with the acoustic rhythms. Folks began giving Ken free studio time. Eventually we crossed roads with John Hildebrand who owned a studio at Fairmont and El Cajon and I began to really learn about recording and producing from the tech side of the glass. As time went on and we became more skilled, had better equipment, and were armed with good quality songs.
Something happened, which is the point I have been leading up to, the better we got the less happy we were with the product at hand. There was always something we could do better or add to make it bigger or get another guitar sound. It was never good enough! We would become ensnared in this problem – which would drive up the cost and time of doing the project. Eventually one learns to temper ones drive to perceived perfection and learns to ‘let go’ of that thought process. This quagmire can drive you nuts. I don’t have a solution other than get outside opinions from those whose taste you really trust. Their ear is outside your process and they don’t hear all those bothersome nuances you struggle in accepting. Take care of the obvious blunders and let the rest take care of itself, so you can move forward to the next project.