Hammersmith Odeon – March 5th 1986

hamsqFollowing the return from the Italian tour, the last rites of the European Steve McQueen promotional activities took place at the Hammersmith Odeon in March 1986. There were to be two more concerts following this one, both in Japan, including the Tokyo one previously posted, before the band disappeared off to work on “From Langley Park to Memphis”

The Hammersmith Odeon is a cavernous, echoing, venue, and acoustically difficult for tapers. All the same, one “Big Al” cassette bootleg found its way on to the streets, rather optimistically rated at “A+” quality. It wasn’t: it’s horrifically toppy with lots of high frequency distortion and overload.

Fortunately another tape emerged a couple of years ago, an audience master, which the owner threw in as part of an Ebay sale of something else. But life is never straightforward, and although the recording is decently done, it’s very bottomy and muddy.

So the obvious solution was to combine the two recordings to get a reasonable listening copy, and this is what I did. Of course this meant dealing with two different analogue sources with variability in the tape speed throughout, so I had to chop the recordings into hundreds of 3 second segments and individually match the speeds via resampling, and then line up the segments, mix them together and equalise the result. It took weeks of curiously absorbing work. I’ve mentioned before that when I started this whole Prefab Sprout exercise, the intention was to apply the same sort of care the supergroup collectors, Floyd or Led Zep, put in to getting the best possible versions of concert recordings: in this case I think I surpassed what even the most obsessional of these people has ever considered reasonable.

The result is fairly acceptable, given the ropey sources. It’s better through speakers than headphones probably, as that way some of the residual high frequency harshness gets filtered away on the way to your ears. A little thumpy at the bottom end, a little scratchy at the top, but not too bad all in all.

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