What happens when you don't get a credit on a recording you have worked on?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Record-Producer.com.

Monday March 15, 2010

One of the thorny issues of record production is that of credits. To a casual purchaser, 'Produced by...' means little or nothing. But to the people involved, credits are everything.

If you are credited on a successful project, even if it's just 'Castanets by...' then you have something you can trade with. You can ring people in the business and say, "I played castanets on...". If your credit was on a significant hit record, then you'll be listened to.

The problem is, as exemplified by a situation recounted in 'Tony Visconti: the Autobiography', that people don't decide beforehand who is going to be credited for what.

And then when the record or CD comes out, some people are going to be disappointed. Often bitterly.

The example from Tony Visconti's book is of Paul McCartney's 'Band on the Run', which is probably the best album from his post-Beatle years.

Visconti and McCartney apparently sat at a piano and worked out some rough ideas for string arrangements (Visconti is a skilled arranger and orchestrator). McCartney wanted some of his ideas reproduced verbatim, others were left extremely vague.

So Visconti went off and wrote the arrangements, which is a complex and detailed task. Humming a melody takes no time at all. Sitting down and writing a score is an altogether weightier process.

The arrangements were overdubbed onto the tracks already recorded by McCartney and the band. One evening, McCartney came round to Visconti's house with a copy of the tapes.

Visconti commented that he was eager to hear his arrangements. McCartney curtly responded that they were not Visconti's arrangements, they were McCartney's arrangements. Thus reducing Visconti's role to that of a mere mechanical.

There was no credit for Visconti on the record.

Some time later, Visconti met John Lennon for the first time and, deep into the conversation, remarked how disappointed he had been not to get a credit for Band on the Run.

Lennon responded, "Even if I whistled a part to an arranger, and it was my idea, I would still give the arranger a credit as orchestrator." And on Band on the Run, Visconti had done much more than that.

Lennon continued, "I was about to call Paul tomorrow and get together with him, but you just reminded me of what a f****** c*** he is."!

All's well that ends well, as Shakespeare said, and Visconti finally did get a credit on the 25th anniversary edition of Band on the Run.

But twenty-five years is an awful long time to wait...

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