Interview recorded May 9, 2012
A TOM MOULTON MIX - what more can be said? When a record buyer sees this on a 45, an album or a 12” single, it means that the production and mix are indeed top-notch. For decades, Tom Moulton made R&B and dance music so good, thanks to his production work. Harmless/BBR has released a series of CD’s with Tom’s work, the most recent being the must-have boxed set, “PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL CLASSICS - The Tom Moulton Remixes.” “The Soul Ninja” Kevin Goins interviewed Tom.
Kevin: This is Kevin Goins with SoulMusic.com. With me today is indeed a legend; we can say a Philly legend, we can say a New York legend, but I’m going to say a legend. This man, to me and to many others, from this DJ, invented what we call the remix, invented what we call the 12-inch mix. When you see his name on a record, it’s like that Smuckers commercial for jam; you know it’s going to be good. A Tom Moulton Mix; we all know what we’re going to get: great music, great production, great work. Let’s welcome him today. Why? Because the folks at Harmless/BBR-- they’ve got this great collection, “PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL CLASSICS, THE TOM MOULTON REMIXES.” Let’s get right to it. Tom Moulton, welcome to Soulmusic.com.
Tom: It’s great to be here, Kevin.
Kevin: Thanks for having us. Now I want to talk about this great four-CD project here, that came out through Harmless. It has some brand new remixes on here of some great classics, “Backstabbers” from the O’Jays, “Win Place and Show,” “She’s a Winner” by the Intruders, “Slow Motion” from Johnny Williams. Now, when it says brand new remixes, does that mean you had access to the multi-tracks and you just did your thing, correct?
Tom: That’s correct.
Kevin: Wow. And when I look at the list of songs here, “When Will I See You Again” by the Three Degrees, “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” from The Trammps, “Party Time Man” from the Futures, it makes me think, why didn’t you get these back in the day? Why now?
Tom: Well, like I said, I did [PHILADELPHIA CLASSICS] Volume One back in ’77, and we were supposed to do a second one, and sometimes Kenny [Gamble]--he’ll say, “Yeah, that sounds great,” or he’ll say, “Isn’t that something?” He’ll say something like that, to that effect, and then things get on hold, or he gets sidetracked. Then he was negotiating back and forth with Sony about his deal again, and so that kind of had something to do with it.
Then, finally, Damon came up with the idea … Ian Dewhirst and Reid Whitelaw came up with the idea to do a Volume Two, but incorporate Volume One, also, and I really didn’t think it was going to happen. I waited thirty-five years for this to happen. Now, all of a sudden it happens and it really set me back a little bit, because I had to sort of … think of what songs that I missed the first time, and what I would try to present now, as opposed to what I would have done then.
So it was kind of interesting. I was kind of being pulled in all directions with myself and, of course, Ian picked a couple tracks, which I wasn’t familiar with, so that kind of was a learning experience there, as well.
It was a challenge and a thrill at the same time to be able to do this, but like someone jokingly said the other day to me, they said, “You better live to be over 100.” I said, “Why”? They said, “Well, if it takes 35 years for this one, it’s going to take another 35 if you ever do another one.”
Tom: I saw the humor in that. I’m sorry about that.
Kevin: I do, too, but I also want to point out that this collection has what’s called extended re-edits of two great classics from The Trammps, “Love Epidemic” and “Where Do We Go From Here?” which is my personal favorite from The Trammps. Now explain to folks what is the extended re-edit?
Tom: Well, I had parts which I didn’t use before, when I originally mixed it and the reason for that is, when I did the DISCO CHAMPS, we had 19 minutes on a side--was the most I could get on an album, and so a lot of these things weren’t as long as they should have been. It’s like “Trusting Heart.“ I had all the elements for the long version, but it would never fit on the album, so I just used the short version. And of course that’s the one song everybody kept saying, “Well, why didn’t you make “Trusting Heart” long? And I go, “Uh, you can’t win.” So not everybody’s going to be happy with what you do. So I figured this way I corrected everything that I missed on the DISCO CHAMPS album.
Kevin: Absolutely. And another thing I’ve noted is that there are a bunch of songs on here, “Love Train,” O’Jays, “I’ll Always Love My Mama,” which is the official Mother’s Day anthem for soul music lovers, from Little Sonny and the Intruders. “I Love Music,” which is my theme song, from the O’Jays. And the note that I see here is “re-mastered from first generation tapes.” To the layman, what does that mean, Tom?
Tom: Well, if you have either one of the albums that has “I Love Music” or “I’ll Always Love My Mama,” when you hear the first generation tapes, the dynamics and the clarity--it’s all the difference in the world. You can hear it right away. In fact, I was quite taken back by it, because you’re hearing it the way it was originally mixed. And I’m so used to not hearing it that way that it’s like I’ve been used to hearing a third generation, and you lose a lot of the dynamics and the clarity of things and then, all of a sudden, I know people that know the first album backwards, and they go, “Oh, you remixed that.” I say, “No, I didn’t.” “Oh, yes, you did, because now I hear horns in there, which I never heard before.” I said, “No, they were there; it’s just that the clarity wasn’t there because of going three generations away from the master.”
Kevin: So that’s what that means.
Tom: Yes, absolutely. It’s just that, and then, of course, I wanted to do some of the stuff, “Slow Motion,” originally, I was going to use that on Volume One and, because that was one of the first big hits they had on PIR, and instead I put that aside and I used “Love is the Message,” because I felt that I might not get another opportunity to do “Love is the Message.” So that’s why I had reservations about that. In fact, “Slow Motion,” I mixed about seven years ago--never came out, but we were going to use it for this album.
Kevin: And I’m glad you went into a song that is near and dear to many, many people. MFSB’s “Love is the Message” was, to me, a Tom Moulton masterpiece. It is my favorite Tom Moulton mix of all time, and you took it from what we heard on the original album and made it into this incredible 12 minute masterpiece. Tell us about working on that song.
Tom: Well, there was a lot of resistance to doing that particular song, because when the idea was, when Harry Chipetz, the general manager of Sigma Sound Studio, suggested that I come up with a project for PIR, I wasn’t sure what I would do.
I did a mix for them on a record and it turned out to be a very big hit called “Do it Any Way You Want It,” and then, like I said, Harry’s idea was, “Well, now you did so well with the single, maybe you can come up with something for an album.”
Then I thought, what can I do? Then I thought, Philadelphia Classics, and have an old kind of Rolls Royce, or an old antique car. Just something that would mean that it would be classic, and it was talking to me and said, “Well, all the songs were hits except “Love is the Message,” and I really was adamant about that. I said I don’t want to do the project unless I use “Love is the Message” because there was just something about that song that always drove me crazy, and I just wanted to just get in there and try to do something with it, and I’m glad I held to my guns on that one.
My thoughts sometimes linger a little long than most.
Kevin: I want them to linger, because this is why the interview is so great. I wanted to point out that there was a portion of that song in which you had to almost coerce Leon Huff to play an electric piano part.
Tom: No, it’s called being somebody that I’m not really like, and I, first of all, I knew that I needed a piano part on that record, and I said, the only way I’m going to get it, is--I know Huff--if I asked them to come over and play and record a part, I don’t think he would do it, but so what I did was, I was working with an engineer back then, Arthur Stoffey, and I said, “Arthur, tell me were the ladder is.”
He said, “It’s outside in the hall, in the closet.” So I went and grabbed it and brought it in. And he said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m going to unscrew the record lights in the studios.” He said, “You can’t do that.” I said, “Just don’t say anything.”
So Huff came over and I said [to Arthur], “Look, I want the keyboard set up, and I want to be able to record him, but I don’t want him to know we’re recording.” And he goes, “Oh, we can’t do that; it’s Gamble & Huff. “ I said, “Just do it. Just don’t worry. We might not even use this so don’t even worry about it.”
So, anyway, I said, “So let me hear the monitor mix for his earphones.” So, anyway, I listened to it and I went, “No, no, no. We need more bass, more snare, and more kick, and just a little of the hi-hat; that’s all I want him to hear. I don’t want him to hear anything else.”
So I knew what he would do if that’s all he was able to hear, and since the groove is so punchy, I knew he would go with that groove, and that’s what I was hoping he would do. So, anyway, I said [to Leon Huff], “Let’s run it down a little bit.” He said, “Sure, you want to do the whole thing?” I said, “No, let’s just do towards the end here.” So he said okay.
So he’s looking at me, and I’m making the hands signals, like in other words, “Start to play.” And I said, “Wait a minute, let’s run it back a little bit.” So I run it back a little and he started playing. And then he got into that groove and then he kept looking, and I kept going like this, and then, so he played basically ‘til the end.
Then he goes, “Let me hear that back,” and then Arthur said, “Okay,” and I go, “Okay what? How can you play something back that wasn’t recorded?” “Oh, that’s right.“ Well, anyway, I was hoping, he didn’t catch on to that. ‘Oh, that’s right.’ And I thought, Oh, my god. And then of course I’m going down this road where, because I hate to do that, but I didn’t. I wanted to get him to play the piano and I knew he wouldn’t do it if I asked him. Like I want to record it, but if I said just run it down and see how it works. Because I know Huff; usually when Huff does something like that, he usually gets it right on the first take. He’ll wing something and it really … he goes for it.
So that’s exactly what I got on there. In fact, I said, “I don’t think it’s going to work,” and they were … Gamble and Huff were over at the other studio doing the Jacksons, at the time.” So I said, “Well, look, I’m sorry I pulled you over,” and Leon said “Don’t worry about it.” So he went back to the PIR offices.
When the album came out, he asked me about that piano solo, and I was walking up the stairs to go to the second floor of 212 of Sigma, and he was coming down and he says, “What do you mean the solo?” “On “Love is the Message.” I said, “What about it?” He said “I don’t remember doing that?” I said, “Well, it’s on the tape.“
Kevin: I love it.
Tom: So I figured I’m telling the truth, but I’m also telling a fib at the same time, but I didn’t know what to do. I had … if I told him I was going to do that, he would be uptight about it. And I said that’s not what I want. I just want him to go for it, and sure enough, there was a piece I could use and I would do it. Well, I ended up using most of it, because it was all good, but it was total feel, and that was exactly what I wanted him to do.
And he didn’t know until we were on a panel. I think it was about eight years ago now, and I told the story about “Love is the Message,” and I’m sitting next to him and I could sense his, like, “Where is this story going?” I told him how I unscrewed the light to record so he wouldn’t know we were recording and everything, and he was really, I think, a little taken back that I tricked him into doing that, but it was fun. I’m glad I did that.
Kevin: So are we. So are millions of fans. We thank you profusely for that, Tom.
Tom: Everybody loves that breakdown. Let’s face it. It’s something. Every time I hear it now, it just puts you … it’s just dangling off a cliff and you’re not exactly sure--you don’t know if you’re on a bungee cable or hanging on a rope, because you’re just above …you can’t touch anything, you sense something there, but you can’t feel the ground. So it’s kind of an interesting place to be, at least that’s how I feel every time I hear it.
Kevin: I hear ya. Now let’s go back into time here, Tom. I understand that in another life you were a record label executive of different sorts. You worked in sales; you had worked with labels such as King Records, for example. But let’s fast forward from there into the world of mixing. How did you get started in that realm of doing the Tom Moulton Mix?
Tom: Again, all of that was, I guess you would say, being at the right place at the right time. I went out to Fire Island--someone said, “You’ve got to go out there and see it. It’s absolutely spectacular,” which it was. It’s almost like a desert island outside of New York. Unless you’ve ever been there, you can’t picture something like that even existing so close to New York City; it’s breath taking. It’s a breath taking place to see, because of the beaches and the beauty. It really is spectacular.
They have a thing there called--this is in the pines--they have a thing there in the afternoon on the weekends. They call it a tea dance, and they said this is where everybody goes afterwards. A lot of celebrities are there, and people you see: actors, models, things like that.
And I was watching people, they were dancing, and I said, “My God, they’re dancing to black music,” which I favor that over anything. And I always thought I was a little weird because most of my friends … when you’re white you’re listening to white music and so forth, and so on, so I always leaned towar the soul stuff, the R&B stuff.
So I was quite taken back … how a lot of the people were dancing to black music like it was just music, which is how I always felt about it. And the DJ wasn’t that good, and I thought, “Jeez, there’s got to be a way to carry that moment longer, and so, theoretically, I was trying to take mixing two records instead of connecting 2 records, one record to another. I thought well let me see if I can try to make the one record longer. So, at least people would be able to, I call it “get off.”
You can see they’re starting to get excited, and then all of a sudden this other thing comes in and takes away that whole mood that you could see some people were starting to get into, and I think that’s where I got the idea to start to do longer versions and create a mix of sorts. I mean, this is what triggered it. I
had the opportunity to do one record, only because I knew the guy’s father, and his name was Gene Redd, Jr., and that was really the first time I was in the studio to try to do something like that and the record never came out until later, but I guess the first break I got where something was definitely going to be put out, was with “Do it ‘Til You’re Satisfied,” BT Express. So that was the first one, basically, and again nobody was sure about it because in the radio world, shorter is always better, and all of a sudden I come along and I’m going against all the rules and it’s like, well, what do you do? Well, the stations in New York played the long version of “Do it ‘Til You’re Satisfied,” because they wanted to hear that organ break, which wasn’t in the single.
So that kind of got things started, and then I was doing “I’ll Be Holding On” by Al Downing, and then “Dreamworld,” and then “Free Man. So, all of a sudden, all of these things started to connect at one time in such a short period of time. It was amazing. That’s how, basically, it started.
Kevin: Wow, and I want to backtrack. Gene Red was the man who had De-lite Records, I believe, which was. …
Tom: Well, he did, no, no.
Kevin: But he produced Kool and the Gang, right?
Tom: Well, earlier yes, you’re right. He did. Gene did early. Gene Redd, who’s no longer with us, it was Sharon Redd’s brother.
Tom: And when I was at King, Gene Redd Sr worked for King. So, that’s how I knew his father, but Gene did a lot. And that record that first record in the studio, it’s funny the BBC came over here one time and they wanted to do a television interview, and I went, “Okay, sure.” So they came in and all of sudden they were saying, “Oh, we’re at the home of Tom Moulton who did “It Really Hurts Me Girl.” and I went, “What the hell is he talking about?” And I’m saying “’It Really Hurts Me Girl’”? I mean, and I go, “Um.” I said, “Are you sure you’ve got the right guy, because I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Well, yeah, I said, “I still don’t know what you’re talking about.” And he said, “Oh, yeah, wait a minute; I have it on a cassette.
So he had his little cassette player, and I went, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I said, “That was a big record?” And he said, “Yeah.” And I never knew it came out until later. I never knew it came out, but the only reason it came out was because I was having success with these other records.
Kevin: Absolutely, and the Carstairs‘ “It Really Hurts Me Girl”--was that the one on Redd Coach?
Tom: That’s it.
Kevin: There you go.
Tom: It was such a big cult record in the UK, I mean a big cult record, and I just, they were all excited about interviewing me because of that record and I was trying to forget it, because I really didn’t know that much about it. I wanted to do certain things that were sort of crazy. Well, I still do those, but I still … I didn’t have any guidelines or rules, and I said, “Well, I want to do this, and if I wanted to do something, I wanted to do it, and I never took no for an answer. But they said, “Well, you can’t do that.” And I said, “Well, how can we give the appearance of that?” I would never let up on an idea. I always figured out a way to do something.
And I do like that side of me, because I don’t like to hear, “Well, this is what you do and you can only do this much.” Well, I don’t like that. I say, “No, no, no. If you want me to do that, then I’d rather pass on it. I don’t want to do it.” It’s like someone said to me … I said “Oh, yeah, there’s this great organ solo.” “Oh, man, organ is out.” And when I first heard that, I went, “Good, I have it all to myself then.” I thought of it as, good, no one else will have the organ right now. I will. Then my record will be better than everybody else’s, because I’ll have something that everybody else isn’t copying.
Kevin: Absolutely. I want to talk about the creation of the 12 inch, or the 10 inch, which was by accident, from what I understand, and it was the result of the efforts between yourself and a gentleman named Jose Rodriguez. Could you tell us how that all came about, Tom?
Tom: Yes, I’ve always, forty-something years now, lived in New York, and I would go down to Philly, four nights; I would go down there on Monday and come back early Friday morning. What I would do then, Friday afternoon I would go by Media Sound, which was a studio here on 57th St. and 8th Ave.
I would go to the mastering lab and I would use the guy’s--Douglas Dominic was there and he had to go away--and I really needed some things cut. So I got to work with Jose, and he said, “Well, we don’t have any 7-inch blanks.” And I go, “Um, well, I got to cut ref disc,” because the first impression is always the lasting impression and I don’t like to present something unless I can present it in it’s highest possible form. So,I’d rather have if mastered. So this is what it’s going to sound like when you put it out, and that’s what I wanted.
They didn’t have any, so I said, “Okay, can we use a bigger one or something?” He said, “Sure.” So he put it on a 12-inch, and it looked so funny, because he cut it in spec, and to see this tiny little narrow band towards the middle of this small hole. I said, “This looks ridiculous, how can you … I can’t do that. Can you start at the beginning and spread the groove so it looks like there’s more more there?” and he said, “The only way to do that is to raise the level.”
So he cut it at plus 8, and, of course, when I heard that, I couldn’t believe the way it sounded. And, again, it was even a fight trying to get companies to do that, because they thought, first of all, it was a waste of money and it was a waste of time. And besides, who is going to spend almost the price of an album for one song on vinyl?
And that’s where Ken Kerry came into the picture and said, “Oh I’d like to do that with ‘Ten Percent.’ Make a commercial copy out of it and sell it.” Of course, he sold thousands of it, and that’s when everybody else started jumping on the band wagon.
Kevin: “Ten Percent” by the group Double Exposure, and that was the first 12-inch I bought when I was, I’ll tell you, I was 10 years old at that time, and that really was--it impressed the precocious record buyer that I was, because I’d never seen a 12-inch album with just one song on it, and it was amazing and the sound quality, like you said, was fantastic.
Tom: I was always, like I said, I was always impressed with the sound, the dynamics, everything about a 12-inch. It really, and especially in a club and they’re playing it loud, it was just … compared to a 45. it sounded so much better.
Kevin: Absolutely. Now I want to talk about your work with Gamble and Huff. How and when did that begin?
Tom: Well, that actually began with, again, Harry Chipetz [at Sigma Sound Studios], because I had Studio A booked a year at a time. So every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, from 7 o’clock at night to 10 o’clock in the morning, Studio A was mine. I had to wait a while to get it, but I finally was able to block it out a year at a time.
And I was really doing a lot of records, and finally Harry said to me, “You know, have you ever thought of doing something with Gamble and Huff?“ And I go, “Not really. They’re doing their thing and I’m doing mine.” We were both being successful at what we did, but I never thought of doing something like that. It just never crossed my mind.” And then Harry said, “We’d like to keep it in the family.”
That’s when I realized that they really thought of the musicians, the clients, as a family. So I said, “Okay, well, let me see what I can do.“ He said, “Well, here’s a couple acetates of things they have in the can. See if there’s something on there that you’d like to try, and then I’ll go over and talk to them.” I said, “Okay.”
Then I started hearing things, especially from blacks, that kind of annoyed me about the Philadelphia sound, how they were “whiting up” black music, and I really never heard that before from anyone. I started hearing it, especially in the city, and I go, “Why would you want to … I don’t understand why you would want to say that.” “Well, black music is not strings and horns,” and I said, “Well, not all the time, but there are some exceptions.”
But I knew what they were getting at, because there was the full orchestration on all these songs. So they were kind of like upgrading soul music to make it more sophisticated or classy, and I said, “Okay, that’s fine.”
So, anyway, I heard this on one of the acetates of an album. I heard this song and I said, “Okay, I’ll do that one.” And the only reason I picked it was, first of all, I liked the groove, and second of all, it didn’t have any strings and horns on it. And it was “Do it Any Way You Want it” by People’s Choice, and I wanted to prove a point with that record. And it was just a tad slow, so I sped it up a little bit, and I also wanted it to start with that whap, that slap come across the face, and the reason I said … and
[Kenny] Gamble, when he heard, he says, “I want you to do it again, but I want you to do it over at Sigma.”
And I did that over in his studio, only because I always liked the low-end sound, you get the grounder, low-end sound, and that record I knew was going to be a big black record. I didn’t think of it as a white record, but more of a black soul record. And, like I said, I was out to try to prove a point with that one, and so that [mouths rhythm] ,… it was like slapping somebody across the face and then you’re back, and in those days, boom boxes were very popular, at least in the city here. People would be strutting down the street in tempo.
So, I wanted to make sure it was a little faster than walking, but a little slower than running. I wanted that aggressive, like if you’re walking down the street blasting that song in your ear, and all I could see is, “Get out of my way, baby, I’m coming through.” That’s all I thought about, “Get out of my way! Clear the highway!” I know that’s so funny, but it’s true. That’s exactly what I was thinking of. I wanted it so aggressive and so nasty. I said, they want a black record, they’re going to get a black record. And boy, was it ever.
And after that record, I have more black people calling me. They go, “Is this Tom Moulton?” I said, “Yes.” “Can you mix my record?” And I said, “Well, what is it like?” “Can you get that bass sound like you got on ‘Do it Any Way You Want’?” It’s amazing, I swear. I think I met every black person in the world after that record. I think it was so great because they all wanted that bass. They wanted that bass sound where it just kills you.
Kevin: Right. I remember roller skating to that when I was a kid.
Tom: I’ll pretend you didn’t say that.
Kevin: But with my boom box on my shoulders. When I had that, as well.
Tom: On that same subject, a friend of mine, who’s a DJ always said, “I remember when I had to play at the roller rink, I used to play that all the time.” I go, “So what else is new?” I didn’t want to hear that. It was funny when I heard that though.
Kevin: I want to talk about a record label that you had called Tom and Jerry, which was through Casablanca, and a single called “I Don’t Need No Music,” which featured a great singer named Ron Tyson. Now how did that come about? The label and the record.
Tom: How that came about was Casablanca … my attorney got me this great deal to sign an exclusive contract with Casablanca and I could do three acts a year, but I couldn’t do anything else, and one of the acts had to be me.
Tom: But, I mean, I was getting a lot of money for it. Again, it’s not the money that motivates me, it’s the music. So, to me, that was like putting earmuffs on and not being able to hear anything. That’s what it was doing to me. But, anyway, that’s another story. So, anyway, I said okay. And they go, “We want an album that you do,” and I said, “I do? I’m not a Vince Montana, I don’t play anything. I don’t want to lead an orchestra.” They go, “No, no, you’ve got to come up with something.”
So my brother, who’s named Jerry, he said, “Look, there’s a guy in Boston. He has some basic tracks that aren’t finished, and maybe you can buy those and use those and finish them,” because we really had to come up with something, and I didn’t know, I just didn’t know any concept, what to come up with.
So Jerry--we bought these tracks from the guy; in fact, his name is Arthur Baker. We bought the tracks from him and then I ended up finishing them, and putting Ron Tyson on there was a thrill, because I loved Ron. I loved Ron in Love Committee and the Ethics. I kind of go back with him and, of course, he worked with Norman [Harris] all the time writing songs, also. So that was kind of a thrill to do that, but that’s what happened. That’s how that album came to be.
Kevin: Wow. Also, you mentioned the Ethics. You mentioned Ron Tyson. Something you’ve done a few years ago, Tom, is overseeing the catalogue of Jamie/Guyden, among other great catalogues, Bethlehem, as well. What’s it like to bring these classic recordings, from that time period, into the modern day by way of using the multi-tracks, creating stereo mixes, finding alternate tracks? You’re like the Indiana Jones of that genre. How did that all come about, and what is it like to bring a lot of those classics back?
Tom: Well, again, we’re going back to Philadelphia with a lot of these things, and especially, when you’re talking about--Jamie’s been around since the ‘50s. So some of the earliest stereo recordings were in the late ‘50s, and Jamie Guyden has most of the multi-tracks, including things that Kenny Gamble, when he was just a singer, are on the Jamie Guyden label.
It was quite a thrill to go back to those days and work on the stuff, only because you realize how that music developed and how the Philadelphia sound … actually, that was more like where the birth of the Philadelphia sound came from. Like “Yes, I’m Ready” and “Dry Your Eyes,” which both happen to be on Jamie/ Guyden labels, but I was just fascinated to see that whole thing with the strings and the horns. In fact, Kenny Gamble--he’s doing the background vocals on “Are You Ready?” with Weldon McDougal.
Kevin: Yep. I spoke with Barbara Mason about that in another interview. That was Kenny and that was Weldon. Bobby Eli was on guitar, so she had the architects with her on that record.
Tom: Well, Norman Baker was on there; Baker/Harris/Young, they all were on that. They were all on that record.
Kevin: But, to get back to what we were saying about bringing these great songs back to life, there was a collection that came out and I’m remiss in remembering the title, but you had done a stereo mix of “Girl I Love You” by Daryl Hall and the Temptones, stereo mix. You let the song run out to the end as opposed to doing the 45 fade. What a great masterpiece, and I wish I could find the stereo mix on YouTube to post it on the site, but that was one of my most favorite mixes that you had done.
Tom: Yeah, in fact it was later that I found all the tapes on the Temptones, and one of these days we’re going to put that album out in stereo, and the same thing with the Volcanoes, because I found all the tapes on the Volcanoes, too. And the Volcanoes are what the Trammps--they eventually became the Trammps.
Kevin: As well as doing a stereo mix, I remember, you emailed this to me many years ago, the stereo mix of “Express Way To Your Heart” by the Soul Survivors, which, for years, folks had said, “Oh, the tape is lost. The tape is destroyed,” and lo and behold, Tom Moulton comes up with, I believe, the 4-track tape, or was it a 3-track from the session.
Tom: Basically, a 4-track.
Kevin: Right, and get this, it was longer than the single that came out.
Kevin: I was … go ahead, please; talk to us about that.
Tom: I really was, like I said, in those days, even up to the late ‘60s, producers still thought of songs, like anything over three and a half minutes is not useable. They still thought “single.” I don’t think it was ego, but when you’d go in to cut a record, you weren’t cutting an album cut; you were cutting a single. And I think that mentality meant that … and you didn’t want to waste tape either, so a lot of places … like for instance, like Motown. Every Holland Dozier Holland song, when it gets close to 2:50 [trilling]--next tune! So I mixed it [singing], “If you feel that you can’t go on … reach out … c’mon girl” next tune! Thanks! I go, “Whoa, how can you do that? It’s ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There.’ How can you do that?”
Well, they did it. I said, “My God, don’t they realize how great that song is?” But that’s all they cared about. They wanted to make singles. They wanted to make hits. They didn’t care about an album. They just wanted to make hits.
And at Sigma, for some reason, if the guys were grooving, they’d always jam at the end of stuff, because they knew after three and a half, four minutes, okay, now we can get loose. Well, if that’s what you call loose, I’d hate to see what tight is, you know? But I’m serious, those things were so unbelievable, and you could tell when the first volume of “Philadelphia Classics” came out, because you’d hear, “Oh, man, listen to all that stuff on there. Listen to the way Teddy [Pendergrass] was jamming! “Of course, Teddy was jamming, because the song was long over with. So they were just going for it ,and that’s the thing that makes those things so amazing, and I’m sure that it would have happened in a lot of other places, too, if they’d let the damn tape go. Let it run.
Kevin: Well, speaking of which, you mentioned Motown. You worked on a project like that in which you had access to the multi-tracks, and you let the songs run out. Do you remember the name of that collection?
Tom: THE MOTOWN BOX.
Kevin: There you go. THE MOTOWN BOX. And I remember reading about this, reading the notes, and I’m going, “Oh, Tom Moulton’s involved? Oh, this should be good,” and sure enough, you took those same songs and you just let the tapes roll, and it was just amazing to hear.
Tom: Yeah, and now there’s going to be a second one, so I’m happy about that.
Kevin: Great. That’s great to hear. Now let’s talk about these collections that you did with Harmless. There’s these Philly Re-Grooved CDs. Tell our listeners about the Philly Re-Grooved Series.
Tom: Well, that was Reid Whitelaw, represented the label called Philly Groove. That’s where it basically started, and he approached me with the idea of doing Tom Moulton, Philly Re-Grooved. And I thought okay, it sounds interesting, and then I said, “Can I pick any tracks that I want on Philly Groove?” He said, “Sure.”
So Stan [Watson] had a lot of different songs which he owned and controlled, so that’s why I did what I did with it. It was a thrill; it really was, because some of the songs I had mixed before, and now I’m getting a chance to do them again, and it was kind of interesting revisiting some of the things after you’ve mixed them so long ago. I mean it was really, and you know, now I feel I’ve gone much more R&B-ish than I was before. I was more concerned with going too R&B with something, and now that I don’t have that restriction anymore, I just go for it.
Kevin: And finally, let’s go, lead us back to this great collection, PHILLY INTERNATIONAL CLASSICS, the Tom Mouton Remixes. Your idea? Philly International’s idea? Harmless’ idea? How did that come about?
Tom: Well, first of all, it was Reid Whitelaw’s and Ian Dewhirst. It was his idea to try to do something like this, and over in the UK, Harmless, or Demon controls PIR after 1975. They control the tracks in Europe and anything pre-1975 or pre-1976, I should say, Sony controls. So, getting the approval of Sony in New York, it was a long process. It was on, it was off, it was on, it was off. It drove me crazy after a while.
And I still was trying to work on these things, and then they’d say, “Well, it’s off now.” And then, so all of a sudden, you’re working on one song and then you say, “Well, the project isn’t going to come out.” So you’d be off; then the next day, “No, no, no, it’s on.” I go, “Oh, my god.” I felt like I was going to have a mental breakdown here. But, to do these things, like I said, I picked out all the songs that I wanted and then the wrench in the gear happened.
So Kenny--I was talking to Kenny Gamble and he goes, “Are you going to use ‘Party Time Man’?” I go “’Party Time Man’? What’s that?” He said, “Well, you mixed it.” I go, “No I didn’t. I don’t know what song you’re talking about.” And I said, “Who put it out?” He said, “We did.” I said, “Kenny! I don’t know that song! I’m telling you right now!” “Well, it sounds like you did it.” When I heard it I said, “Oh, no, no way did I do that one, but I’m going to request it now because I want to do it the way I think it should be.”
So, anyway, I got that, and Ian was pushing me on “The Whole Town’s Talking.”. I said, “What’s that?” He goes, “Billy Paul.” I said, “I don’t know the song.” And then he was pushing me on the Lou Rawls. I wanted to do “You’ll Never Find” and I wanted to do “Lady Love.” Well, so “Lady Love” doesn’t mean that much over here.” I go, “Ian, what are you trying to say?” “See You When You Get There.” I said, “I hate that song.“ I said, “First of all—‘Excuse me lady, you got change for a quarter?’” I said, “First of all,” I wanted to say, “Where have you been? A phone call is a dollar now!”
I wanted to say some smart ass remark like that, because I kept saying, “Why do you want to use these songs that have these talking intros,” because I really didn’t like them. And anyway, so he pushed and pushed about “See You When I Get There,” and I said okay. And then “The Whole Town’s Talking,” and then the “Where Do You Go When The Party’s Over?” I said, “You go home! You go home! That’s where you go when the party’s over!”
And, I said “Well, I want to do ‘Soul City Walk’ by Archie Bell & the Drells and ‘Let’s Groove.’” Harmless said, “Oh, no, ‘Let’s Groove’ is fine, but the other one …” But then, of course, I wanted to do The Intruders “She’s a Winner.” The UK folks said, “It doesn’t mean that much over here, Matey!“ I go, “What the hell’s that mean?” And “Slow Motion,” “No, no, no, that’s doesn’t mean that much.” Then it’s, “Have you heard what I did to it?” Then I sent it over and he goes, “Oh, yeah, we’ll definitely use that.”
Then, I really had to push for the Three Degrees and he said, “You know, that’s pop. It’s pop.” And I said, “Look,” I said, “That would be one of the thrills of my life to get ‘When Will I See You Again?’ and ‘Year of Decision.’” Of course, I could think of “Take Good Care of Yourself” and about 10 other songs I’d like to get by the Three Degrees.
But anyway, I just love the Three Degrees and I think he had a problem with that, that they were so overplayed, especially “When Will I See You Again?” was so overplayed and such a big record that people might be turned off on it. And I said, “Well, let me see what I can find in there and I’ll try to make it work.” And boy, I found it, but Jesus, it took a while to really get them to understand what I was trying to do with that.
Everybody won because everybody kind of got what they wanted. I wanted like “My Love Don’t Come Easy” by Jean Carne, and they kept saying, “Don’t you want ‘Free Love’ or don’t you want ‘Was That All it Was?’” and I went, “No.” I wanted “My Love Don’t Come Easy,” because I knew I was going to do “The Devil Made Me Do It,” and all I knew is, when I heard that tape, that middle section ,,, and it slowed down where you couldn’t use it that way--and thank God for technology and everything-- and I don’t think it was meant to be like that. I just think that they cut it and they kept going with the groove and they just kept it recording.
Then, when Robert Upchurch did the vocal, I think he sort of got in it to, like “don’t kiss me like that, girl” and see, now that kind of talking, I like, because the groove was very sensual and he was going into it and that’s one of my favorite songs on the whole album, and that took me several weeks to mix, because I was so determined to make that thing work. And Vince wasn’t even playing on that take; he was playing on another take of it, and I flew it in to make it work for this song, because I just loved it so much.
Kevin: Well, one last question for you, Tom, because I know you’re a very busy man. What’s next for Tom Moulton?
Tom: Oh, my God. Philly Re-Grooved Three. I’m working on Darryl Grant’s album. There’s something else I can’t say.
Kevin: That’s fine.
Tom: I know I can’t say it, because it’s not--if I say something I could jinx it and I don’t want to do that.
Kevin: That’s okay.
Tom: And they were talking about, they’re already talking about beginning next year, doing a volume two of this, and I said, “Oh, my God, I don’t know if emotionally I could handle something like that.” So, no but I mean it’s like the first song. Well, excluding “Slow Motion,” because I did that a few years back, but the first song I did for this album, the one that I got the tape on, was “Nights Over Egypt,” and to me, that song just put me in another place. I always imagine a guy sitting there with a turban and a basket playing a flute and a snake coming out of the basket.
That song always reminded me of being in India. It just had that sort of mysterious poison snakes and pyramids. You know what I’m saying? It’s just had that mystery about it, and I think Dexter [Wansel] really hit it right when he did that record. He really did an unbelievable job on that. And that’s the only song they ever did like that. That’s what always amazes me.
Kevin: Great song right there from the Jones Girls. I remember it very well during my high school years, Tom. Tom Moulton--the man who, for years has brought us what we call a Tom Moulton Mix. PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL CLASSICS: THE TOM,, available on Harmless/BBR. You can go on their website through the folks at Cherry Red. You can also find it in the Soulmusic.com shop and on Amazon.com.
Tom: Can I say one other thing?
Kevin: Go right ahead.
Tom: And after I finished it, they said, “Well what did you think of it?” And the first thing that came to mind, I said, “There’s nothing harmless about it.”
Kevin: Sure enough.
Tom: That’s exactly how I felt. I said, “When you hear that believe me, you’ll feel harmless alright. Like you’ve just been beat up by a groove.” And I thought, “That’s an odd label for this record. Harmless.” Because it’s very aggressive. You know what I’m saying? It’s like being, like opposite sides of a magnet, like the poles, the north and the south pole. The name and what it is, so different from each other.
Kevin: Right, well Tom, thank you for joining us on Soulmusic.com. I know you’re a very busy man; you’ve got things to do and everything back in New York, and thank you so much for being with us today.
Tom: Kevin, I thank you. It was great doing it and I enjoy talking about the music.
Kevin: I know you do ,and we’ll catch up on Facebook later on. Tom Moulton, PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL CLASSICS: THE TOM MOULTON REMIXES. Tom Moulton, thank you for joining us here on Soulmusic.com.
Tom: Thank you again, Kevin.
Kevin: Take care and have a great day.
Tom: You, too.
About the Writer
Kevin Goins aka “The Soul Ninja” is a veteran of the radio and recording industries, has authored liner notes for CD collections by Earth Wind & Fire, Melba Moore and Stacy Lattisaw. He's also the producer/host of the Internet radio interview series "Soulful Conversations" as well as a classic R&B show "The Kevin Goins Soul Experience".