bruce swedien


“There’s this story, actually, that Quincy told me years ago. And what said is that Michael had the ability to come in, he could lay down the lead vocal of a track. And then he could sit there, listen, just put the time in and figure out where all the harmonies should go. And then do that, not leave until he had the harmonies right.”~Nelson George


On August 31, 1987, Michael Jackson released his seventh solo album, Bad, the result of one of Jackson’s most prolific periods of his career. Michael spent most of 1984-1987 working on the album and the projects that coincided with it (the short films, Moonwalker, etc)

pre-production began in late 1984 at Michael’s home studio at Hayvenhurst

songs that made the album:
The Way You Make Me Feel
Speed Demon
Liberian Girl
Just Good Friends
Another Part Of Me
Man In The Mirror
I Just Can’t Stop Loving You
Dirty Diana
Smooth Criminal
Leave Me Alone

and songs that did not
Fly Away
Don’t Be Messin’ Around
I’m So Blue
Abortion Papers
The Price Of Fame
Lovin’ You
Apocalypse Now
What You Do To Me
Crack Kills
Saturday Woman
Get Around
Someone Out Your Hand Out (later reworked during the Dangerous sessions)
Michael McKeller
Throwing Your Life Away
Turning Me Off
Make Or Break


other songs recorded this period:
Come Together
We Are Here To Change The World
Scared Of The Moon
Make A Wish
Buffalo Bill

early versions of songs:
Hot Fever (became The Way You Make Me Feel)

Chicago 1945, Al Capone (both evolved into Smooth Criminal)

“Mick (Jagger) didn’t hesitate when Michael told him to warm up his vocal cords before recording their duet “State of Shock” in 1983. It was a classic recording session a year after “Thriller” had cemented Michael’s reputation as the King of Pop. By then, everyone knew how good Michael was. If Michael Jackson says, ‘Warm up’, you warm up - even if you are Mick Jagger. […]

I normally record a singer about a dozen times before getting enough to mix together a perfect vocal track for an album. With Michael, it only took two to four takes. And one of those takes would be perfect on its own. But hours of preparation preceded recording. We would change lyrics, tempo and pitch, working for days and hours on getting the song just right before finalizing the track. Thriller was recorded and completed in six months.

[…] “Off the Wall’ and 'Thriller’ showed Quincy Jones kaleidoscopic approach. […] But it was Michael’s talent and drive for perfection that kept the singer practicing all night before a recording. That’s why a typical recording session started late.] We were up at the crack of noon.] Michael never started singing until after he warmed up his voice thoroughly for a typical 10-hour day.

He was a perfect gentleman and a consummate professional throughout all meetings. He never drank coffee. He never drank alcohol. He was a fussy eater. I guess he was what you would call a health nut. [I will remember him as one of the best prepared artists he ever worked with.] He never came in half-stepping. Michael was always prepared. I never recorded Michael when he had the lyrics in front of him. His dedication to his craft was unique. During album recordings, which would sometimes last more than six months, he rarely rested. He would work on the lyrics all of the time.”

- Bruce Swedien, American audio engineer and music producer, author of 2009 book, “In The Studio With Michael Jackson”


On this day in music history: August 31, 1987 - “Bad”, the seventh solo album by Michael Jackson is released. Produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson, it is recorded at Westlake Audio Recording Studios in West Hollywood, CA from January 5 - July 9, 1987. Issued as the long awaited follow up to the massively successful “Thriller”, the final track listing for album (ten on the original LP, eleven on the CD release) is selected from sixty songs (nearly all written by Jackson himself), with thirty of them being recorded, nine of the eleven songs are written by Jackson. Pre-production on “Bad” begins in November 1986 with the first session taking place on January 5, 1987. The album is also Jackson’s first to be recorded, mixed and mastered entirely on digital recording equipment. Following the enormous sales of “Thriller”, anticipation and expectations for the new album are extremely high. The album spins off seven hit singles including an unprecedented five number one Pop and R&B singles (“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, “Bad”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Man In The Mirror”, “Another Part Of Me” (#1 R&B, #11 Pop) and “Dirty Diana” (#1 Pop, #8 R&B). At the time of its release, American critics are shortsighted in their critique of the album, calling it “a disappointment” when it sells less half of what “Thriller” sold initially in the US. Internationally, it more than surpasses its domestic sales performance. To date, the album has sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, winning two Grammy Awards, including one for Best Short Form Video for the track “Leave Me Alone” and for Best Engineered Recording (non-classical) (awarded to engineer Bruce Swedien). The album is reissued twice. In 2001, a remastered edition with seven bonus tracks, including interview clips with producer Quincy Jones on the making of the album. In 2012, a 25th anniversary edition including the bonus tracks from the 2001 release (w/out the Jones interviews), adding seven more unreleased tracks, and remixes of the title track and “Speed Demon”. It is also released as a deluxe boxed edition with a live concert DVD filmed at Wembley Stadium in London in July of 1988 (also sold separately). “Bad” debuts at number one on the Billboard Top 200 spending six weeks at the top, eighteen weeks at number one on the R&B album chart, and is certified 10x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, earning a Diamond Certification.


On this day in music history: November 17, 1962 - “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by The Four Seasons hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 5 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 3 weeks on the same date. Written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio, it is the second consecutive chart topping single for the New Jersey based quartet fronted by singer Frankie Valli. The songs’ title is inspired by a line in the 1955 western “Tennessee’s Partner” in which the actor John Payne slaps actress Rhonda Fleming in the face, and she replies with “big girls don’t cry”. The track is recorded at Universal Recording Studios in Chicago, IL in September of 1962, and is recorded by a young engineer named Bruce Swedien (Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson). Like its predecessor “Sherry”, it storms the charts quickly, when Vee Jay Records issues it as a single in early October of 1962. Entering the Hot 100 at #66 on October 20, 1962, it races to the top of the chart just four weeks later. Twenty five years after its original release, the song is also heard in the film and featured on the soundtrack to “Dirty Dancing”. “Big Girls Don’t Cry” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 6, 1987 - “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by Kim Wilde hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, it is the biggest hit for the British pop/new wave singer. Born Kim Smith in the West London suburb of Chiswick in 1960, she is the eldest daughter of 50’s teen pop idol Marty Wilde. With both of her parents coming from a musical background, Kim becomes involved in music herself in her teens along with her younger brother Ricky. Adapting her famous father’s stage surname in 1980, Kim is signed to RAK Records by label founder Mickie Most (The Animals, Donovan, Herman’s Hermits, Hot Chocolate). Her debut single “Kids In America” written by her father and brother and released in early 1981, is a huge worldwide smash, even cracking the Top 30 (#25 Pop) on the Billboard Hot 100 in August of 1982. While Kim has major success in Europe and throughout the rest of the world, further American chart success proves elusive even after switching to MCA Records in 1984. For her fifth album “Another Step”, Kim again works with her brother as well as songwriter Rod Temperton and engineer Bruce Swedien also producing tracks for the project. While working with Ricky, they come up with the idea of recording a cover of The Supremes’ 1966 classic “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”. For their remake, it is made over with Hi-NRG synth pop arrangement. Released in the UK first in October of 1986, it peaks at #2 on the UK singles chart. Off of the back of its European chart success, MCA Records in the US releases it in March of 1987. Entering the Hot 100 at #96 on March 28, 1987, it climbs to the top of the chart ten weeks later, replacing U2’s “With Or Without You at the top. Wilde’s version of "You Keep Me Hangin’ On” becomes the sixth song of the rock era to top the US singles charts by two different artists. It is also the third time the song has reached the top ten by different artists, with versions The Supremes and Vanilla Fudge having proceeded it. While Wilde continues to be successful throughout the world for the rest of the 80’s and into the early 90’s, she only charts two more times on the Hot 100 with the singles “Say You Really Want Me” (#41 Pop) and “You Came” (#44 Pop), both stopping outside the Top 40. Still recording and performing today, Wilde is a currently a presenter on radio with programs on the air in London and in Germany.


On this day in music history: April 30, 1983 - “Beat It” by Michael Jackson hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 1 week on May 21, 1983. Written by Michael Jackson, it is the fifth pop and R&B chart topper for “The King Of Pop”. While working on the follow to the multi-platinum selling “Off The Wall”, producer Quincy Jones suggests that Michael write “a rock song” in the vein of The Knack’s “My Sharona” for the new album. Taking the suggestion to heart, Jackson goes away and comes back with “Beat It”. After the basic track has been cut, Quincy Jones invites guitarist Eddie Van Halen to contribute, playing the songs blistering solo. When Jones calls Van Halen to do the session, problems with the phone connection makes the guitarist believe he is receiving a crank call and hangs up. Eventually Jones gets through to the guitarist, and Van Halen offers to do the session without accepting payment for his work. While mixing the track at Westlake Audio, engineer Bruce Swedien plays it so loud through the studio monitors that they overload and literally burst into flames! Released as the third single from “Thriller”, it is issued on February 3, 1983, even before the previous single “Billie Jean” has hit number one on either the pop or R&B charts. The suggestion to release the record early comes from Frank DiLeo, Epic Records’ then VP of Promotion. CBS initially balks at DiLeo’s suggestion, feeling that it will kill the other records chart momentum. DiLeo reassures them that not only will both songs reach number one, but both will reside in the top ten at the same time. Both end up holding positions in the top ten and top five simultaneously for four consecutive weeks. “Beat It” nearly replaces “Billie Jean” at the top of the chart, missing that mark (“Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners bumps “Billie Jean from the top on April 23, 1983) by only one week. The songs instantly iconic music video directed by Bob Giraldi, is instrumental in breaking MTV’s color barrier, becoming one of the most popular and heavily rotated clips in the channels history. "Beat It” wins Michael Jackson two Grammy Awards including Record Of The Year and Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male in 1984. Jackson becomes only the second African American artist (Donna Summer is the first in 1980) to win a Grammy in the rock category. “Beat It” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.


On this day in music history: November 30, 1982 - “Thriller”, the sixth studio album by Michael Jackson is released. Produced by Quincy Jones & Michael Jackson, it is recorded at Westlake Audio and Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles, CA from April 14- 15, August - November 8, 1982. Issued as the long awaited follow up to the hugely successful “Off The Wall”, Jackson is highly ambitious in his quest to surpass the success of the previous album. Writing four of the nine tracks himself, producer Quincy Jones finds other songs for the project from other songwriters including Rod Temperton, Steve Porcaro, John Bettis, Michael Sembello and James Ingram. After reviewing dozens of potential songs, the final nine tracks are chosen for the album. However, the tight deadline in recording and mixing the album (as well as recording “The E.T. Storybook Album” at the same time) takes its toll initially. The final overdubs for “Thriller” are recorded on the morning the album is due to be mastered. When the team listens to the original cut of the album, they realize the running time is too long (for the time limits of vinyl) and that several songs require remixing before it can be handed in. In spite of CBS being angered by the delay (with the first single “The GirI Is Mine” (#1 R&B, #2 Pop) already released and climbing the charts), Jones, Jackson and engineer Bruce Swedien push ahead, remixing and editing the tracks. With the final masters handed over at last, CBS Records puts the album on a crash production schedule, halting the pressing of other records at their three US pressing plants to quickly manufacture the two million plus copies initially shipped to record stores. “Thriller” achieves unprecedented success, spinning off seven Top 10 singles, winning eight Grammy Awards (including Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year), becoming the largest selling album of all time. “Thriller” spends thirty seven weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Top 200 and R&B album charts, ninety one weeks within the Top 10, and is certified 32x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, earning a Triple Diamond Certification. “Thriller” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2008, and is named to the National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress also in 2008.


On this day in music history: January 5, 1980 - “Rock With You” by Michael Jackson hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 6 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 4 weeks on January 19, 1980. Written by Rod Temperton, it is the third solo chart topper for the R&B and pop music superstar. While working Michael Jackson’s fifth solo album “Off The Wall”, songwriter Rod Temperton is asked by producer Quincy Jones in late 1978 to contribute songs to the project. Temperton had initially written “Rock With You” for his own band Heatwave, who are recording their third album “Hot Property”. When the bands’ lead singer Johnnie Wilder, Jr. tells Temperton he doesn’t like the song, the songwriter gives the song to Jackson and Jones as well as writing “Burn This Disco Out” and “Off The Wall” specifically for MJ. While Jones is back in Los Angeles cutting the basic tracks for the album, Jackson is on the road with his brothers, touring in support of their then current album “Destiny”. Jackson flies back to L.A. on weekends or on other days off from the tour to record his vocals and monitor the sessions in progress. Michael records his lead and background vocals on “Rock With You” in one six hour long session in early 1979. Before the song is released as a single on October 3, 1979, engineer Bruce Swedien remixes the track noticeably from the version that appears on the first pressing of the “Off The Wall” LP. The remixed version features a punchier mix with more prominent guitars, orchestration, and accented with hand claps in the chorus sections. The record takes off immediately at radio and on club dance floors around the world. An alternate remix of the track surfaces in Japan as a very rare promotional only 12", which to date has not been released to the public, but has circulated as a bootleg among fans. “Rock With You” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.