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JBond

Nagra Stories Sound-men won’t ever tell

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Yes, this was my thought about cleaning it too.

I have tried using a small amount of creme cleaner on a rag, it works fine on the top plate, the black pen marks are totally gone now. Just need to do the rest of the top plate now, will take some time... 

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Hello all, I am new to this extremely interesting board, and proud owner of a Nagra IV-S.  There is a lot of discussion earlier in this thread about what might have been the first feature film to be recorded by a Nagra.  But I would lay odds that the first feature film in which a Nagra ITSELF appears is the 1965 British movie "Help!" starring The Beatles. Soundman H.L. Bird is shown recording The Beatles on a Nagra III during the performance of the song "The Night Before".  Actually, what was almost certainly happening here is that the Nagra was being used to play a prerecorded tape of the song into a PA system out in that field, so that The Beatles could lip sync to it at the completely correct speed. And then the album version of the song could be dubbed into the film later in post, with no sync problems.  Cheers.

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I believe that the first film recorded with a Nagra was “Black Orpheus” by Marcel Camus in 1959. (Open to correction on this point.)

 

Scenes with musicians playing are customarily done to playback and have been for a long time - well before “Help!” was filmed. However, the function switch in the photos posted here seem to show the Nagra III in record mode. Perhaps there was a separate playback operator (a standard practice) and the mixer might have been recording a guide track for dailies or to catch ad-libs between verses. But I’m guessing. Nice photos; thanks for the post. 

 

David

And, come to think of it, sync playback with a Nagra III would require the use of an SLO resolver not seen in these photos. Internal resolving circuitry didn’t become available until the Nagra IV-L and the 4.2. 

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I think Nicholas West meant the first movie showing a Nagra III in the movie.
I don’t know if that was the first "help" but it's the one I would associate the Nagra III with.  The first tape recorder I ever had is this pictured GE recorder below; I got it for my birthday.  I remember being home from school sick and looking through the Service Merchandise catalog (I think it was Service Merchandise and I believe it was Dec 1969 or 70).  That night when my father got home - of course, I was feeling better, my mom, dad, younger brother and sister went out to buy it.  Watching the recorder coming down the conveyor belt at the pickup counter … well, it was a pretty good feeling.  Sometime after that, months later, I recorded the sound from Beatles Help with this little microphone next to the television speaker,  making sure the red level light was almost lit, very dim. I recorded both sides of the original GE tape that came with it.  I must have played the tape back a million times back then.  I think I could recite the whole movie. Even today if I hear a line from the movie help I could probably finish the sentence.  In this picture below shows a new one that I bought on eBay quite a few years ago. The original one I still have in the attic, but for some reason, I colored the whole recorder with a black permanent magic marker, it came out horrible I still remember the smell, I guess I thought I was painting it like new at the time.  Back then I had no idea what a Nagra III was, but whenever I think of a Nagra III in a movie, it's Help just as you do.  That was a great period in my life. Thanks for posting Nicolas and bringing up some good memories. 
 
Who did the sound for Help? Anybody know? 
I wonder what he thought of the Beatles at the time, that must be a memory.  I'll bet he has a few stories to tell.
 
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The video does not exist on youtube,  probably for copyright issues. This is all I found, but its just enough that everyone on here will remember. 

 

 

 

This 

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"I think Nicholas West meant the first movie showing a Nagra III in the movie."......yes, that's exactly what I meant !

 

Not the first movie to USE a Nagra, but the first feature film to SHOW a Nagra on the screen, any kind of Nagra.  

 

JBond, the sound in the movie "Help!" was recorded by H.L. Bird, a noted British sound engineer and the man you see in the first picture I posted.  He died in 1968 at the very early age of 58.

 

A pleasure to be part of this group!

 

I extracted the pictures from this clip:

 

http://www.jukebox.fr/the-beatles/clip,the-night-before,uv8p0.html

 

 

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Re Joseph and Nicolas, a quick unexpected late night look at JWS and saw the above. Couldn't manage to quote relevant portions. I think HELP, like A Hard Day's Night, was directed by Dick Lester? His son, Dom, is one of our fine collection of UK sound post folk.

I think my parents have a 1/4 inch Hard Day's Night in their loft still ... 

 

Best, Jez

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Although I am not sure if The Beatles Help! is the first movie featuring Nagra on the screen, I am interested in this topic in general. Besides now-famous 1981 Brian De Palma's Blow out, my all time favourite appearance of Nagra tape recorder is in 1976 Krzysztof Kieślowski's The Scar. Maybe there isn't much action, but dialoge is epic:

 

Journalist plays interview recorded with manager 6 years earlier. Manager of state-owned factory, not interested at all, suddenly breaks:

M: Is this Nagra?

J: Yes...

M: Do you know that these are the best tape recorders in the world?

J: Did you hear the recording, sir?

M: Yes, so what?

J: I'd like to continue this audition...

M: Why don't you make an audition about Kudelski. That's an evident achievement. We don't make any interesting things here.

 

I am sorry if this is OT, but maybe we can make a full list of all movies featuring various Nagra recorders on the screen?

 

 

nagra.jpg

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One of the most prominent appearances of a Nagra in a feature film is the star role given to a Nagra IV-S in the 1981 film "Diva", in which an opera-obsessed fan sneaks one into an opera house to record a bootleg tape of his favorite soprano.

 

diva.png

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8 hours ago, Nicholas West said:

One of the most prominent appearances of a Nagra in a feature film is the star role given to a Nagra IV-S in the 1981 film "Diva", in which an opera-obsessed fan sneaks one into an opera house to record a bootleg tape of his favorite soprano.

 

diva.png

I remember seeing "Diva" in French class back in 2000. It was the only time I'd ever seen it, and that nagra stayed in my memory until now, even though I didn't know what a nagra was back then. Crazy!

 

On a side note, re: beatles and nagras, there is a series of bootlegs floating around known as the "get back" sessions, essentially sessions from what would eventually be the "let it be" album. Anyways, these bootlegs were recorded on a nagra iii that was hard lined to the console in the abbey road studio, and those tapes went missing, later to resurface as black market bootlegs which you can buy CDs of on eBay these days. 

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3 hours ago, JonG said:

On a side note, re: beatles and nagras, there is a series of bootlegs floating around known as the "get back" sessions, essentially sessions from what would eventually be the "let it be" album. Anyways, these bootlegs were recorded on a nagra iii that was hard lined to the console in the abbey road studio, and those tapes went missing, later to resurface as black market bootlegs which you can buy CDs of on eBay these days. 

 

JonG - Your comment got me to thinking about whether I could actually find a picture of The Beatles during the "Let It Be" sessions in which a Nagra machine was visible, and I did.  First of all, not only were the bootlegs of the "Let It Be" album recorded on a Nagra at Abbey Road, most of the original music was recorded live on a Nagra in the first place. Here is a picture of a production meeting at Twickenham Film Studios, at which the first half of the movie/album was shot.  In the center background (red arrow) may be seen the mixer sitting in front of a Nagra,  the open transparent plastic reel cover being clearly visible. 

 

Sitting in the foreground, left to right, is Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Apple Records CEO Neil Aspinall and roadie Mal Evans.  The man in the tan jacket in the background is probably a visiting Dick Lester, director of the Beatles' first two smash hit movies, which were also shot at Twickenham.

nagraletitbe.png

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Here again are The Beatles at Twickenham Studios recording the "Let It Be" album. At the upper right one can see the mixing station (red arrow) with a Nagra with an open reel cover. Next to it may be seen what looks like the classic Nagra accessory mike mixer.

 

nagraletitbe2.png

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@Nicholas West thanks for sharing. I did not know that they recorded the album on the nagra too! You know what else is pretty neat about those photos is that you can see an AKG D20 microphone overhead on a boom arm. This classic multi pattern dynamic mic was a favorate at Abbey Road for kick drums and guitar cabs, however management at Abbey Road was tired of them always in repair due to the high SPL from the kick drums, so the Beatles were actually the only band allowed to continue to use them after 66/67 because well, it's the Beatles! They didn't want anything changed and really believed in their engineer Mr. Emerick, despite being pretty demanding on him. 

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8 hours ago, JonG said:

@Nicholas West thanks for sharing. I did not know that they recorded the album on the nagra too! 

 

JonG - Basic tracks for the "Let It Be" album were at first recorded at Twickenham Film Studios as illustrated above. Then they moved to the Apple Records basement studio at 3 Savile Row (because they hated working in the film studio) where they did more writing and recording of basics.  Then they shelved the whole album because John Lennon thought it was crap.   

 

Then Lennon decided to give the album to Phil Spector to re-arrange and produce. He took the tapes to Abbey Road and added all sorts of stuff like strings and vocal choirs.  However, now Paul McCartney hated what Spector did to it and tried to block the album's release, but it went out anyway as what we know today as the original "Let It Be" album.  But McCartney's intense dislike of how Spector produced that album, along with many other factors, contributed to the breakup of The Beatles.  Geoff Emerick actually had very little to do with the "Let It Be" album, if anything; most of it was recorded by Glyn Johns.

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They didn't record the album on a mono Nagra.  The film crew making the "Let It Be" movie used the Nagra, with whatever feeds they got

from the music engineers.  They were able to capture some great between song dialog moments (my fave is George telling Paul that he'll play or not play on the song, like whatever) as well as the music.  No mean feat with the prod sound technology of the day (Nagra III, BMII or III).

 

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48 minutes ago, Philip Perkins said:

They didn't record the album on a mono Nagra.  The film crew making the "Let It Be" movie used the Nagra, with whatever feeds they got

from the music engineers.  They were able to capture some great between song dialog moments (my fave is George telling Paul that he'll play or not play on the song, like whatever) as well as the music.  No mean feat with the prod sound technology of the day (Nagra III, BMII or III).

 

Correct ! I should have been more clear.....they recorded basic tracks at Twickenham and Apple, but not literally on the Nagra.  The Nagra was used by the film crew for the movie soundtrack (the movie as yet still unreleased in a remastered commercially available DVD package. Millions of bootlegs available however.)  Multitrack recording was going on concurrently with the film.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/13/arts/critic-s-notebook-let-it-be-said-beatles-tapes-are-a-trove-if-familiar.html

 
"In a nutshell, Paul wanted to make - it was time for another Beatle movie or something, and Paul wanted us to go on the road or do something. As usual, George and I were going, 'Oh, we don't want to do it, fuck,' and all that. He set it up and there was all discussions about where to go and all that. I would just tag along and I had Yoko by then. I didn't even give a shit about anything. I was stoned all the time, too, on H etc. And I just didn't give a shit. And nobody did, you know…
Paul had this idea that we were going to rehearse or... see it all was more like Simon and Garfunkel, like looking for perfection all the time. And so he has these ideas that we'll rehearse and then make the album. And of course we're lazy fuckers and we've been playing for twenty years, for fuck's sake, we're grown men, we're not going to sit around rehearsing. I'm not, anyway. And we couldn't get into it. And we put down a few tracks and nobody was in it at all. It was a dreadful, dreadful feeling in Twickenham Studio, and being filmed all the time. I just wanted them to go away, and we'd be there, eight in the morning. You couldn't make music at eight in the morning or ten or whatever it was, in a strange place with people filming you and colored lights."  
  John Lennon, 1970

Those Nagra III tapes were made 49 years ago this month.  
A year later John Lennon's quote,  clearly showing at that time was the beginning of the demise of the Beatles.
If only things could have been different, either way,  after Dec. 8, 1980, it would have ended anyway… Or maybe not.
The Nagra recorder has been such a part of so much history.
 I would love to hear those tapes playing back on my Nagra III

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3 hours ago, JBond said:


 I would love to hear those tapes playing back on my Nagra III

Easily simulated !  There are tons of clips from those tapes on YouTube.....a simple transfer to a roll of old tape, throw it on the Nagra and you've got a pretty good idea what it originally sounded like.

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