The Who & The "Rael" Incident
Okay, here's what happened. It was 1967, at talentmasters recording Studio, in New York. Part of the story below is eaxactly the same as on the Who website and I have added an update - Lunch with Al Kooper:
It was around 1:00 - !:15am and we had been working hard on songs for the "Sellout album. By the end of this particular session, we were all pretty tired as singing and recording multiple tracks of vocals can take a lot of work to perfect. As was customary, if my session would be continuing the next day, I put the tapes that I was working with on top of a small side shelf in the Control Room. This evening, for some reason, I neglected to put the tape in its box, instead leaving it on top of the box. Back then, to save money, many studios bought tape on 'flanges'. That is, the tape was on a metal hub, but didn't have the metal side flanges that serve to protect the tape. Talentmasters was one of those studios.
When I came in the next morning, around 11:00am, an hour or so before the session, I could not find the 'Rael' 4 Track Master. I searched every nook and cranny, including the obvious places like the tape library. It was gone! It was only then that I thought to contact the young guy, from Harlem, who did our cleanup. That was a nightmare. He didn't have a phone. I was eventually able to get in touch with him through a relative, his Grandmother. After a lot of questioning, I found out that he had taken upon himself to declare this tape 'garbage', and had taken it down to 41st Street (the back of the building) and put it in the dumpster. But not before breaking it off the hub. Panic ensued. I ran around to 42st Street and jumped in the dumpster, searching frantically through the and was able, bit by bit, to retrieve all the pieces, and there was a lot of them. The actual "Rael" take itself was in four or five sections that I was able to splice together. However, the intro section of tape was stretched beyond redemption.
Fortunately, The night before I had taken home a 7 1/2 ips mono mix - Back then there were no cassettes, but I had a Revox at my apartment. We ended up copying the mono intro onto the master. Pete was pissed-off and rightly so! But he did not throw a chair through the Control Room window as Al would have the legend go. Further, Al said that the window and related damage was around $12,000 made me laugh. The truth is, the whole Control Room didn't cost that much to build, and there was only one pane of 3/8" glass in the window.
For this reason, all stereo versions of the song have the opening and first line in mono only (except for two vocal overdubs obviously added after the tape was recovered spaced center and right. Thanks to Luke Pacholski for catching that). The song's second line was not in the original version and was restored for the boxset. This track was known simply as "Rael" and, with the exception of the "Track Records" cut, concluded the original album.
While in New York, several years ago, I had lunch with Al Kooper and we talked about the Rael incident. When I told him that he was wrong, that the Control Room window at Talentmasters had not been broken, he admitted that his recollection of what happened was a little clouded, but, never-the-less, it was a great story, wasn't it?"
Incidentally, at the end of the Sell Out sessions, Peter gave me a red leather jacket, styled like a denim jacket, as a gift. It was a great jacket that, unfortunately, was stolen shortly after I moved out to Hollywood, California.
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