After we mixed a song, we would go back and play it through a small speaker, to make sure it sounded like [it was being played through] a car radio. That was the most important thing, because at the time, people were always in cars. If [a mix] sounded good through a small speaker, it would be more like a radio sound.
Motown songwriter Brian Holland, as quoted in the liner notes for The Holland/Dozier/Holland story: Heaven Must Have Sent You. The compendium of tracks written by the h/d/h team was released by Hip-o, a label that was brought to my attention by he-of-the-daily-haiku (could it be true?).
The collection is accompanied by substantial and substantive liner notes (always a plus), which struck me, as I was reading them on the flight home from Motown last night, that Holland spoke about mixing music in the same way that we merchandise goods online -- with situational context in mind -- and the same way that Flickr images succeed in their online context. It was curious to come home and then read the Flickr piece from last Sunday's Magazine.
The liner notes continue, this time in the voice of the author, Adam White:
The goal was to grab the attention of listeners on crowded, competitive airwaves, so songs were mixed "hot" and loud. Often, specific instruments were EQ'ed to provide intensity and clarity, typified by the high-voltage snare-drum intro of Martha and the Vanedllas' "Nowhere to Run," or the explosive bass line which pumps open the Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love."
The best part about scoring the collection in Detroit? The gal who rang me out at the register went to school with the Holland brothers and their sister, and shared stories about how the brothers skipped school to hang out at the recording studio. When Mom found out they had hell to pay -- until they told her how much money they were making. Then she encouraged them to keep it up.
Glad she did. Here's just a few of their titles:
(Love is like a) Heat Wave
Can I Get a Witness
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
Stop! In the Name of Love
I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)
My World is Empty Without You