Jack Good!
The Sound of Sound

b y   J a c k   G o o d

Jack Good, writing in Disc, 1960,
discusses Rock'n'Roll Surrealism.

A lost gem of music journalism
unearthed from the Britton archives.


The current number one recording in the States is a disc that would never have got past the selection committee in any British recording company. Of that I am sure.

Not that it could possibly have been made over here. No self-respecting British recording engineer would have made a record like this. He would rather resign his job. Nor would any British A and R man conceive a record in terms of the one that tops the American charts.

It just breaks all the technical rules, and runs counter to every idea of progress in recording techniques.

This record is fuzzy, muzzy and distorted. According to present day technical standards it is appalling. If this record is good, then for the last ten or so years the pop industry has been wearing blinkers.

However, for my money, the disc is not just good, it's sensational and revolutionary. It is now released by Top Rank and is called "Quarter To Three," by Ulysses Samuel Bonds.

A few weeks back, I commented on the difficulty for a first-time winner to achieve a hit follow-up, and I quoted U. S. Bonds as an example of one of the artists who bit the dust on his second attempt. "New Orleans" was a knock-out, but what a disappointment when "But Not Me" followed. It didn't mean a light.

Bonds was marked down as a flash in the pan. "Quarter To Three" changes all that. The pan is sizzling up to flash-point again. This disc is so exciting that for your health's sake, you should restrict the number of plays you give it to three times a day—and never during or after meals!


For some years now, the technical side of recording has been concerned exclusively with realism. The tremendous progress in recording techniques and equipment has made this trend inevitable.

Records have been made of ping-pong matches, railway trains and even road drills. And they sold in thousands. People who would write fierce letters to the council to complain about road drills in the street outside their homes, flooded to pay two pounds for the privilege of hearing them reproduced to the last thud and splutter in their front rooms.

Exactly the same thing happened when painters discovered perspective. They became so engrossed in the fun of cheating the eye into believing it was not looking at a painting, but through a window, that they forgot all about making pictures.

After realism—exact reproduction of nature—follows surrealism, where the techniques of realism are transferred to a world of fantasy. The eye of the old man in the painting is still painted with eye-cheating accuracy. But it just happens to be painted in the middle of his forehead. Surrealism came to recording with Rock'n'Roll.

Echo-machines, limiters, equalisers, tape delay, were all employed to transform the sounds being made in the studio into noises that were even more real, more compelling. more immediate and exciting than reality itself.

Echo-chambers gave small voices the sound of rich reverberating ones. A tap on a drum was converted by the engineer's magic, to the sound of a ten-foot giant hitting a six-foot tom-tom. A new sound-world of fantasy was built up. But the style was only realism, carried to a higher plane of imagination.

Now Ulysses Samuel Bonds introduces a new era of pop-recording. Realism and Surrealism is old hat. Impressionism is the thing.

"Quarter To Three" is clearly not interested in reproducing the sounds of a band and a voice, of a group chanting and clapping in the background. These things are only useful as a canvas upon which an impression can be painted of the changing textures of sound itself . . . the thickness of it, the muffled reverberations, the vibrant roughness of it.

This is a whole new sound world. Not perhaps the sound of music, but the sound of sound. And the possibilities for development are endless and fascinating.

And after that? Abstract and Formalist recording must inevitably follow. And then ? Action Recording, of course.

In British music history only one person can claim to have played a similar role to that played by Alan Freed in America when spreading the word about Rock'n'Roll—that person is Jack Good. Journalist, record and musical producer (Catch My Soul), the first man to put Rock'n'Roll on British TV with the legendary Oh Boy—and who gave Howlin' Wolf his only TV appearance on Shindig with The Rolling Stones. Good produced Around The Beatles, a showcase for the band when they asked Brian Epstein to secure Good's services. It was for this show that Good brought PJ Proby over from America—the exposure made Proby a star overnight.

The above column and others he wrote at the time were the only ones of their kind worth reading; no one else in this country was as sure in their judgment or understood so well the inate appeal of the extraordinary sounds emerging from America. His equating of Rock'n'Roll with Surrealism and his remarks about 'the sound of sound' go with remarkable presience to the heart of what makes, and continues to make, the best popular music so unique and compelling (if you think this misses the mark check out Rubber Biscuit by The Chips). This piece was written years before the de rigeur sound manipulation of Psychedelia, before the conscious musical Surrealism of Zappa and Beefheart and before the innovations of countless electronic and dub pioneers had brought us to the point today where sound itself is an essential ingredient in the sampladelic kitchen.

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