Everybody's A Dreamer
© Mike Konopka


I remember being in my office in Deerfield, Illinois after The Storyteller 1997 Fall Tour when one day I received a call from Sarah Lockwood at Konk Studios in London. It seemed that Raymond Douglas Davies had struck a deal with Vel Vel Records to license the Kinks' back catalog of fifteen albums from the band's RCA and Arista years.

While previously in London I had already completed remixes from the Kinks' earliest work on the Castle label. But the RCA and Arista records were the real "meat and potatoes" of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's catalog. And I was excited at the chance to have a small part of this chapter of rock's history.

However, I realized that this "little chore" would be the most significant audio challenge thusfar in my career. And without bogging down in the morass of technical details, I'll need to present an overview of what these challenges entailed and how they relate to this story itself.

First, there were over 250 master reels that, according to the terms of the agreement, were to be delivered to Vel Vel. And these masters were scattered all over the world. The Arista masters were stored in the company's tape vaults in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York City. The earlier RCA reels were in London, mired away somewhere in the dungeons of Konk, the Kinks' own recording studio.

Next, I knew that I would have to sift through these many reels to find the actual masters that the Kinks themselves had mixed for each album, not the outtakes, radio production copies, duplication or vinyl masters, or even safety copies. I would be at the mercy of RCA's and Arista's library staff as to the labeling accuracy of these master reels. Vel Vel wanted to re-release CD's and I knew that an engineer a few years back had done similar work for Steely Dan. But he had errantly used the wrong reels, which were mushy sounding copies. Nobody had caught it until these CD's were released and sadly, it stymied his engineering career. Ouch!

I also knew that these old masters would be in deteriorating condition and that many would need restoration baking to stabilize tape oxide shedding. I also knew that Ray's mixing style involved splicing verse by chorus by verse, much like editing film. That meant all those old splices could break apart due to the aged splicing tape drying out. Just rewinding a reel carelessly could ruin a platinum selling album's master that represented millions of dollars of sales! Ouch again!

Yet another issue I faced was that the master reel formats spanned over twenty years of recording technology. No single recording studio would have all these different tape machines and noise reduction schemes. And when RCA and Arista released these tapes to me they were legally "in limbo" until they were delivered to Vel Vel. Security of these million dollar masters was of the utmost concern. And on my head!

The next day a Fed-ex box arrived from Miriam Gonzalez at Arista Records. It was filled with some 200 pages of information. Each page represented a Kinks master reel in Arista's tape libraries. Some info was quite complete, while some pages were a bit sketchy, but it was a good starting point. I called Miriam and asked her to put out the APB on all Kinks masters nationwide. She agreed to gather the masters to their NYC office promptly. I also rang up my trusty "teaboys" (the Brit term for second engineer) Ryan and Albert at Konk and gave them the skinny on tracking down
the RCA masters in the studio's musty basement in Hornsey. Things were inching along. (continued)

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