Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

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Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by desmond » Wed Oct 09, 2019 1:28 am

One of the early and better SAW productions, recorded 1984.
This is pretty heavily DX7 for much of the synths parts, with some Simmons-ey type drums.

Anyone know what they used for the mighty bass line on this track? Seems a bit cold for a Minimoog, I'm wondering if it's one of the Roland SH's, maybe? It *could* also be DX7 or a DX layer, it's difficult to tell, but if it is DX7 it's pretty thickened up.

(A few other tracks on the album are more obviously DX7 bass, but don't sound like Number One. Others are more obviously an analog bass.)

It's tricky finding out what they used in the early days (there are plenty of gear references for the 1987 onwards period). I've found references to them having a PPG + Waveterm and Emulater II and Fairlight II which would be around that period.

Example:

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Re: Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by sandwich » Fri Oct 11, 2019 2:20 pm

I've not done a direct comparison but just from memory, it reminds me of the bass sound that the Thompson Twins used a lot on the albums 'Quick Step & Sidekick' and 'Into The Gap'. I think they used an Oberheim OB-Xa quite a lot on those albums. Maybe the Princess bass was layered with an Obie and DX7? SAW did use the DX7 for most bass parts apparently.

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Re: Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by desmond » Fri Oct 11, 2019 4:51 pm

Thanks for the response:-
sandwich wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 2:20 pm
I've not done a direct comparison but just from memory, it reminds me of the bass sound that the Thompson Twins used a lot on the albums 'Quick Step & Sidekick' and 'Into The Gap'. I think they used an Oberheim OB-Xa quite a lot on those albums.
Yep, the Obie was Tom's favourite synth for basslines.
sandwich wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 2:20 pm
Maybe the Princess bass was layered with an Obie and DX7? SAW did use the DX7 for most bass parts apparently.
If you listen to the album that the single is on, about half of the tracks are very obviously DX7 bass (anyone familiar with the DX7 bass voices will recognise most of them). "Number 1" though really doesn't sound to me DX7ish at all. A few tracks have analog basses, I'm not sure what was used but they don't immediately have a character I can pin down on any one synth.

I haven't found reference to SAW using an Obie back in the day. The only other things referenced in the earlyish days so far include the Minimoog and a Juno 106. I'm wondering if the 106 might be responsible for the few analog synthy sounds in the track. Let's face it, they could as well be samples too...

What I'll probably try to do at some point is replicate the bass using a variety of synths that might get in the ballpark, and see what happens...

I'm also looking for the source of the drum sounds. They're obviously Simmons-ey analog drums, and I've found some close matches. Ironically enough, there are some close-ish matches in the Yamaha DX7 carts, which is where I suspect most of the DX7 patches come from, so they *might* have done that. I also found some close matches in the PPG Waveterm library, which they did have access too, and I'll do some deeper comparisons (I've already assembled a bunch of samples to compare with some more or less isolated drum samples from the various versions of the original track...)

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Re: Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by madtheory » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:45 pm

I have a memory that they had an OB-8 in the rig. And it sounds like two OB patches layered together. But I've no proof!

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Re: Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by desmond » Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:13 pm

madtheory wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:45 pm
I have a memory that they had an OB-8 in the rig.
And it sounds like two OB patches layered together. But I've no proof!
Ok, I'll have a play with some OB stuff and see where that gets me. Thanks...

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Re: Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by madtheory » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:45 pm

Just to add to the confusion, they're doing a version of the West End Girls bass line, and that was a P5. But I don't remember a P5 in their rig... which means nothing lol.

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Re: Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by desmond » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:31 pm

madtheory wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:45 pm
Just to add to the confusion, they're doing a version of the West End Girls bass line
Ya, it's not the same, but there were times while working it out that I kept slipping into WEG, for sure! There are certainly similarities between the two...

I've got close to the bass sound using an Obie emulation, close enough for now while I'm working out the parts. Once they're done I'll go back and try to get closer to the source sounds.

The hihat parts are really nice(it's just a two bar loop, but it's accented with feel and a couple of nice 32nds - better than your average drum machine hihats) and I suspect this was done, like a lot of their backing tracks, on the Lin9000. The muted guitar parts are also repeated and identical each time, and so are likely sampled and triggered.
madtheory wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:45 pm
,and that was a P5.
Hmm, do you have a source for that? From what I remember, that bass sound on WEG was quite hotly debated as to where it came from. It has a weight and squelch that I found quite difficult to emulate. Of course, a big part of the problem of these things is how much is done to the part in the mix, and whether it was sampled into something else which changed it's flavour (My memory is it was a Minimoog sample, played out of an EmuII, but not sure...)

I think there was an issue of IM&RW that broke down WEG - I'll see if I still have it...

Edit: haven't found that, but there was a Stephen Hague interview in MT:

"As well as the Emulator II, Hague favours the Akai S900 and is particularly interested in stereo sampling. Multi-layered sounds, like the bass on 'West End Girls' tend, however, to come direct from various synthesisers and be concentrated in one channel of the mixing desk rather than being sampled and used as a single sound."

You can find people discussing it on forums with all kinds of theories, based on things they've seen, heard, or "98% recreated" that sound using their pet favourite synths. I've never seen anything definitive though to clear it up...

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Re: Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by synthroom » Mon Oct 14, 2019 8:37 pm

I have a PSB West End disk for the Fairlight where they resampled the master tracks into the Fairlight. I have some info in the disk here: https://synthroom.com/fairlight-cmi/psb ... ta-disk-2/
I've some screen shots of the other disk that goes with the one I mentioned above here. Lots of photos showing how they set the song up in the Page R software. https://synthroom.com/fairlight-cmi/psb ... ight-data/
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Re: Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by desmond » Mon Oct 14, 2019 9:17 pm

Thanks - yep, I knew about your page (thanks for that, it's really interesting, I love this kind of stuff!) - and I actually played it again before making the above post.

Obviously the dry bass replayed from the Fairlight doesn't sound the same as the produced record - it's much drier, and the bass part is less interesting and certainly less processed. I wasn't sure whether this was a regular bass they'd made for the live playback sequences, or the demo Fairlight sequence used when writing, which was redone in the studio.

How certain are you that these parts were resampled from the masters, versus parts that were used for pre-production/live use?

The reports I've seen suggest the bass on the record *wasn't* sequenced, but instead played by hand. Also, Stephen Hague suggests the bass was a combination of synths, whereas the one in these sequences doesn't sound to me like two synths - it sounds more like a simple Minimoog part.

So I'm not sure the bass sample here is the same as used on the record. It's also a bit late due to the rather late attack of the bass part, and the envelope release sounds rather too long. Now, as I alluded to above, it may be that some mix magic was done to it (eq, compression, desk etc) and it is the part, but I'm not sure. And certainly, they could have sampled a few select bass notes from the masters and then sequenced it for the purposes of the live backing. Listening to it, for sure that sequenced version isn't the version on the record - the notes/parts are different in places.

Maybe if the parts were pulled up on their own tracks/channels, rather than a mix, and the bass could be tweaked/compressed etc it might offer some further insights.

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Re: Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by sandwich » Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:08 am

Yes I saw an interview with Stephen Hague were he said he convinced a 'reluctant' Chris Lowe to play the whole bass part by hand.

desmond wrote:
Mon Oct 14, 2019 9:17 pm
The reports I've seen suggest the bass on the record *wasn't* sequenced, but instead played by hand. Also, Stephen Hague suggests the bass was a combination of synths, whereas the one in these sequences doesn't sound to me like two synths - it sounds more like a simple Minimoog part.

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Re: Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by blueknob » Tue Oct 15, 2019 9:13 am

This is one of my all time fav tracks, I was shocked to discover it was SAW, some of their tunes were.. a bit grim, BD on evey beat, way too loud drums, they got worse. I have a greatest hits cd and it obvious they seemed to get lazy, just have the drum machine up loud. Anyway this track is magic, I also like Barry Bramble who did similar magic.

Synthroom: thanks for taking the time to show us your Fairlight WEG stuff, it was illuminating. The instant I heard that Hi-Hat I knew something was going on, then when reading your text, boom.. Dare LM-1 yeh. Also the Emu choir, good info.

What I find particulary amazing is these guys have the skill, talent and ability to make such great hits/songs. I think we all have much better kit in our home studios, but I for one just don't have their talent.

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Re: Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by desmond » Tue Oct 15, 2019 10:43 am

blueknob wrote:
Tue Oct 15, 2019 9:13 am
This is one of my all time fav tracks, I was shocked to discover it was SAW, some of their tunes were.. a bit grim, BD on evey beat, way too loud drums, they got worse. I have a greatest hits cd and it obvious they seemed to get lazy, just have the drum machine up loud.
Some of their early stuff is great, laden with hooks, and well-produced. (I always loved Brilliant's "Love Is War" too...)

Their later "Hit Factory" stuff is more formulaic and repetitive, when they were just churning stuff out. The SodaJ... podcast with Mike Stock (https://bit.ly/31flyfQ) is really interesting to get a feel for what those times were like.

For instance, one day, he had Donna Summer flying over from the states at around lunchtime to listen to and put vocals down on the hit SAW were doing for her. So Mike's driving into the studio that morning, thinking "Right, I've got a couple of hours to write a hit for her, music and lyrics, and to create and record a backing track ready for her vocal before she turns up..."

And yes, that one was a hit too...

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Re: Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by desmond » Tue Oct 15, 2019 1:37 pm

synthroom wrote:
Mon Oct 14, 2019 8:37 pm
I have a PSB West End disk for the Fairlight where they resampled the master tracks into the Fairlight.
Interestingly, on Disk1, the bass part seems to have a kick playing at the same time as the bass notes, at a lower volume than the main kick. I don't know whether the kick is part of the bass sample, or whether the actual kick part has lower velocity notes whenever the bass notes hit, but it does help solidify the bass part.

You'd be in a better position to examine the sequence and samples to tell which of those things is going on.

(Actually, this doesn't seem to be happening on disk 2, the one with two bass parts, and as one of those is (by name) the same sample WESTBASS as on disk 1, I guess the kick is not embedded in this sample, it's just part of the kick part..)

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Re: Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by sandwich » Tue Oct 15, 2019 1:56 pm

Stephen Hague answered some questions a Pet Shop Boys forum apparently, he was asked about the bass:

"Exactly how was that famous West End girls bass sound created?"

"If I recall, it was a combination of an Oberheim OBX, and a kick drum sound from a drum machine over midi. It was hand played… Everything was on that track, except the basic drum machine pattern."

desmond wrote:
Tue Oct 15, 2019 1:37 pm
Interestingly, on Disk1, the bass part seems to have a kick playing at the same time as the bass notes, at a lower volume than the main kick. I don't know whether the kick is part of the bass sample, or whether the actual kick part has lower velocity notes whenever the bass notes hit, but it does help solidify the bass part.

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Re: Say I'm Your Number One (Princess, Stock/Aitken/Waterman) - Synths

Post by desmond » Tue Oct 15, 2019 2:25 pm

Interesting.. well that brings us back to the thread topic nicely - those Obie's for bass certainly do seem to be getting around!

Thanks for that...

Edit: So, I had a look around my available libraries and I found a pretty close match for the WEG bass sound.

Listening to the record though, there is clearly some stuff going on in the mix - firstly, it's certainly compressed/EQ'd, but more than that, it's actually got a stereo spread going on, so they've done something so it to stereo-ise it some - whether than was some chorus or other pitch thing, or whether it was layered with another synth and spread left and right, I don't know.

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