An Inside Look at 33 1/3 - House of Dreams
This In-Depth Guide was prepared by Surya Iyer, Chris Ikemeier, and Caitlin LaMar, edited by Literary Manager Danielle Ward.
In this edition:
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And the songs, artfully arranged by Steve Gunderson, are sweet and satisfying. Gold Star Recording Studios created more "Songs of the Century” and Grammy Hall of Fame winners than any other independent studio in America between 1950 and 1984. This trailblazing studio changed the course of modern music with songs from Eddie Cochran, Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, Sonny & Cher, Buffalo Springfield, Duane Eddy, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, The Ronettes, Dick Dale, The Righteous Brothers, Iron Butterfly, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Joan Jett and Cheri Currie, Meat Loaf, The Champs, and many others. Gold Star was also one of the first independent studios in the 1950s that was “color blind,” working with artists that included African Americans such as Hugh Masekela and Barry White as well as Latinx musicians like Ritchie Valens and Chris Montez. It is so much fun to hear all of this iconic music live in our theatre!
Plus, we are thrilled to once again work with students from the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts on stage, off stage, and in the orchestra. Their passion and fine-tuned abilities are at the heart of this show (after all, Gold Star Recording Studios itself was the creation of “two brilliant, upstart Los Angeles kids in 1950 who envisioned the future of music,” noted Kent Crowley.) This will be our sixth Xchange Xperience production where we combine professionals and up-and-coming artists into one incredible show. But it is our first world premiere musical co-production. That brings up even more creative challenges as we develop the musical a little more each day.
But that is exactly what this musical is all about: celebrating the creative process. The musical is written for us to see behind the scenes, watching performers in their regular clothes, being their authentic selves instead of performance mode, as well as the otherwise unseen people who are crucial in the act of creation.
It was so exciting to be “in the room” on the first day of rehearsal when director Javier Velasco explained his vision of piecing together the life of a man as he thinks back, actively building memories of his life’s work before our eyes. He likened it to famous filmmaker Fellini’s surrealist quality that takes you right to the emotional center of the experience. The designers all echoed this idea of an abstracted reality that bounces between present day in 1984 and a history that starts in 1946.
The show spans four decades. We are excited to showcase progress on our stage in every way possible. Watch for the way the warm memories of the Gold Star Studio takes over the grey, sparse TV studio stage through Sean Fanning’s set pieces and props, as well as Jennifer Brawn Gitting’s costumes that breathe life into each timeframe, and also Philippe Bergman’s dreamy, poetic lighting. Memories will also be explored through projections from Blake McCarty who is inspired by the color splashes and collage combinations of Robert Rauschenberg art. The work of sound designer Matt Lescault-Wood may not be as readily apparent, but as this show bridges a huge music progression—from “Ghost Riders in the Sky” to “Cherry Bomb”—his job is to help us hear the shifts of time and technology compressed into two short hours. We hope you are excited as we are after seeing the show!
The name of Gold Star Recording Studios is associated with three decades of music that shaped a generation. Yet the name Gold Star would not have an impact without its founders Stan Ross and David Gold. From the studio’s ambitious beginning to the end, the two founders were there to see it through all of its highs and lows. It began in their early years as a demo studio when Stan Ross quit his previous job after being denied a raise. Teaming up with his good friend, they named the studio based off of their own names, Gold from David Gold and Star from Stan Ross. The two proved to be a phenomenal pairing as Stan’s charm attracted the talent and David’s technical ingenuity led him to create a sound system that would be unrivaled in its age.
As Gold Star grew into a record label company, Stan attracted talented artists like Ritchie Valens and Eddie Cochran, as well as Sonny and Cher. He also worked with young producers such as the renowned Phil Spector. His ear for music aided him in collaborations with the artists as he helped create tunes like The Champs’ single hit, “Tequila.” Meanwhile David Gold’s engineering skills brought Stan’s ideas to realization. David personally handcrafted the Gold Star Recording Studios sound system which took advantage of the efficient sound production their space afforded them. For example, his echo chambers helped make the recordings at Gold Star Recording Studios stand out from the rest.
“A Banda” Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
“All I Know” Art Garfunkel
“All I Really Want to Do” Cher
“Along Comes Mary” Baja Marimba Band
“Angel on My Shoulder” Shelby Flint
“Baby Don’t Go” Sonny and Cher
“Baby I Love You” The Ramones
“Baby, I Love You” The Ronettes
“Bang Bang” Cher
“Be My Baby” The Ronettes
“Be True to Your School” Beach Boys
“You’re Mine” Sonny and Cher
“C’mon Everybody” Eddie Cochran
“C’mon, Let’s Go” Ritchie Valens
“Cabaret” Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
“Call Me Lightning” The Who
“Call Me” Chris Montez
“Carmen” Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
“Casino Royale” Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass
“Comin’ in the Back Door” Baja Marimba Band
“Cry of the Wild Goose” Baja Marimba Band
“Da Doo Ron Ron” The Crystals
“Do I Love You” The Ronettes
“Ebb Tide” Righteous Brothers
“Elenore” The Turtles
“Express Yourself” Charles Wright
“Flamingo” Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
“For Once in My Life” Righteous Brothers
“Forty Miles of Bad Road” Duane Eddy
“Georgy Girl” Baja Marimba Band
“Ghost Riders in the Sky” Baja Marimba Band
“Good Vibrations” Beach Boys
“Grazin’ in the Grass” Hugh Masakela
“Halleluiah, I Love Her So” Eddie Cochran
“He Knows I Love Him Too Much” Paris Sisters
“He’s a Rebel” The Crystals
“He’s Sure the Boy I Love” The Crystals
“Heroes and Villains” Beach Boys
“I Can See for Miles” The Who
“I Got You Babe” Sonny and Cher
“I Love How You Love Me” Paris Sisters
“If I Was a Carpenter” Bobby Darin
“Inna Gada Da Vida” Iron Butterfly
“Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie” Eddie Cochran
“Jungle Hop” Don and Dewey
“La Bamba” Ritchie Valens
“Lazy Day” Spanky and Our Gang
“Let’s Dance” Chris Montez
“Like to Get to Know You” Spanky & Our Gang
“Little Bitty Pretty One” Bobby Day
“Little Man” Sonny and Cher
“Lonely” Eddie Cochran
“Mae” Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
“Mame” Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
“Mexican Shuffle” Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass
“Mission Bells” Donnie Brooks
“My Favorite Things” Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass
“My Way” Eddie Cochran
“Not Too Young to Get Married” Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans
“Oh, Donna” Ritchie Valens
“Please Mr. Custer” Larry Verne
“Popsicles and Icicles” The Murmaids
“Primrose Lane” Jerry Wallace
“Pushin’ Too Hard” The Seeds
“Reason to Believe” Bobby Darin
“Rebel Rouser” Duane Eddy
“Rhythm of the Rain” The Cascades
“River Deep, Mountain High” Ike & Tina Turner
“Rockin’ Robin” Bobby Day
“Sittin’ in the Balcony” Eddie Cochran
“So This is Love” The Castells
“Some Kinda Fun” Chris Montez
“Somethin’ Else” Eddie Cochran
“Spanish Flea” Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
“Summertime Blues” Eddie Cochran
“Sunday Will Never be the Same” Spanky and Our Gang
“Sweetie Pie” Eddie Cochran
“Tall Oak Tree” Dorsey Burnette
“Taste of Honey” Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass
“Tell Me” Dick and Dee Dee
“Tequila” The Champs
“The ‘In’ Crowd” Dobie Gray
“The Beat Goes On” Sonny and Cher
“The Big Hurt” Miss Toni Fisher
“The Happening” Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
“The Happy Whistler” Don Robertson
“The More I See You” Chris Montez
“The Morning After” Maureen McGovern
“The Mountain’s High” Dick and Dee Dee
“Then He Kissed Me” The Crystals
“Third Man Theme” Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
“Thou Shalt Not Steal” Dick and Dee Dee
“Three Steps to Heaven” Eddie Cochran
“Tijuana Taxi” Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
“Time after Time” Chris Montez
“To Know Him is to Love Him” The Teddy Bears
“To Wait for Love” Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass
“Today I Met the Boy I’m Going to Marry” Darlene Love
“Tonight You Belong to Me” Patience and Prudence
“Turn Around” Dick and Dee Dee
“Twenty Flight Rock” Eddie Cochran
“Unchained Melody” Righteous Brothers
“Wade in the Water” Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
“Wait ‘til My Bobby Comes Home” Darlene Love
“Walking in the Rain” The Ronettes
“Weekend” Eddie Cochran
“What Now My Love” Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass
“What Now My Love” Sonny and Cher
“Whipped Cream” Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass
“Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts” Bob B Soxx and the Blue Jeans
“Wonderful Summer” Robin Ward
“Wouldn’t it be Nice” Beach Boys
“You Better Sit Down Kids” Sonny and Cher
“You’re Sixteen” Johnny Burnette
“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” Righteous Brothers
“Young and in Love” Dick and Dee Dee
“Zip a Dee Do Dah” Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans
“Zorba the Greek” Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Bra
Bill Lamb is a music and arts writer with two decades of experience covering the world
of entertainment and culture.
Before 1950, radio programming was different from what it is today. Most radio stations broadcast chunks of programming—possibly a 30-minute soap opera, then an hour of music, then 30 minutes of news, etc. Much of the content was produced elsewhere and sold to the local radio station. Local pop music hits were rarely played if at all.
In the early 1950s, a new approach to programming music on the radio began. Nebraska radio broadcaster Todd Storz is credited with inventing the top 40 radio format. He purchased the Omaha radio station KOWH in Omaha with his father Robert in 1949. He noticed how certain songs were played over and over on local jukeboxes and received a strong positive response from patrons. He created a music-focused top 40 format that played the most popular songs frequently.Todd Storz pioneered the practice of surveying record stores to determine which singles were the most popular. He bought additional stations to spread his new format idea. By the mid-1950s, Todd Storz coined the term "top 40" to describe his radio format.
As rock and roll took over as the most popular genre of American music in the late 1950s, top 40 radio blossomed. Local radio stations would play top 40 countdowns of the most popular records, and radio stations began to use commercial jingles to aggressively promote their top 40 format. The legendary PAMS company from Dallas created jingles for radio stations across the country. Among the legendary top 40 radio stations of the late 50s and early 60s were WTIK in New Orleans, WHB in Kansas City, KLIF in Dallas, and WABC in New York.
On July 4, 1970, a syndicated radio show began called American Top 40. It featured host Casey Kasem counting down the top 40 hits each week from the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The creators of the show were unsure about its chances for success initially. However, the show soon became very popular and by the early 1980s, it was featured on over 500 radio stations across the U.S. and many more around the world. Through the weekly countdown show, millions of radio listeners became familiar with weekly record charts focusing on the 40 most popular hits in the country, not just their local area. The countdown helped spread knowledge of hit records quickly from coast to coast encouraging listeners to request that their local radio stations play new songs on the countdown.
Once national radio formats were established and played similar songs across the country, radio airplay became a major factor impacting sales of manufactured vinyl records. As a result, record labels began looking for ways to influence what songs were played in top 40 radio formats. They began to pay DJs and radio stations to play new records, particularly rock and roll records. The practice became known as payola.
Ultimately, the practice of payola came to a head in the late 1950s when the United States Senate began to investigate. Famed radio DJ Alan Freed lost his job, and Dick Clark nearly was implicated as well. Concern about payola returned in the 1980s through the use of independent promoters. In 2005 major label Sony BMG was forced to pay a $10 million fine for improperly making deals with chains of radio stations.
In 1992 Billboard debuted its Mainstream Top 40 radio chart. It has also been called the Pop Songs chart. It is the chart intended to reflect the mainstream of pop music on the radio. The chart is compiled by detecting the songs played on a select panel of top 40 radio stations. The songs are then ranked according to popularity. Songs that rank below #15 on the chart and have spent more than 20 weeks on the chart overall are removed and placed on a recurrent chart. That rule keeps the list of songs more current.
The founder of the Electro-Vox recording studio hired Stan Ross while he was in high school. Bert started as a movie sound man who recorded early talkies' soundtracks on discs that were synchronized with film reels. Intrigued by the discs' capability of immediate playback, he decided in 1931 to start a recording service for another emerging field: radio. He designed and built his own record-cutting lathes. The National Broadcasting Co. asked him to set up shop across the street from NBC studios so he could make transcriptions of the East Coast shows through a special phone line. After a short time, he was hired to record CBS radio network shows and commissioned to make recordings of programs on other local radio stations that routinely aired such events, lectures, and the early Academy Awards ceremonies. Fascinated by the history unfolding before his ears, Gottschalk often recorded Depression-era news events for himself, such as the Hindenburg dirigible disaster, the "fireside chats" of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and speeches by England's Winston Churchill.
Born in Los Angeles, Kim was the son of character actor Douglas Fowley and actress Shelby Payne. This American record producer, singer, songwriter, and musician is best known for his role behind a string of novelty and cult pop rock singles in the 1960s, and for helping to form and manage the Runaways in the 1970s. “Charge” by the Renegades was his first record as a producer. He scouted groups in the U.K. and Australia as well. He also co-wrote songs for KISS, Helen Reddy, Alice Cooper, Leon Russell, and Kris Kristofferson, among others. He has been described as "one of the most colorful characters in the annals of rock & roll.
Born in the Bronx, Phil began his career as a co-founder, guitarist, and vocalist of The Teddy Bears, best known for the 1958 hit single “To Know Him is to Love Him.” In 1960 he co-founded Phillies Records and—at the age of 21—became the youngest U.S. label owner at the time. He is considered the first auteur among musical artists for the extraordinary freedom and control he had over every phase of the recording process. As well as winning a Grammy for Best Album of the Year, his name is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
BY CHRIS IKEMEIER
Phil Spector was a well known producer whose techniques made him a pioneer in the music industry. One such technique is his “Wall of Sound” that was complimented by the echo chamber of Gold Star Recording Studios. The name of this method is more literal than it sounds, as it refers to lines of musicians that formed a wall of instruments. The musicians were equipped with a large array of instruments such as guitars, drums, keyboards, percussions, string, brass, and woodwinds. The intention was to exploit the possibilities of studio recording to create an unusually dense orchestral aesthetic that came across well through radios and jukeboxes of the era. Spector explained in 1964: "I was looking for a sound, a sound so strong that if the material was not the greatest, the sound would carry the record. It was a case of augmenting, augmenting. It all fitted together like a jigsaw."
Other sound engineers of his time attempted to reproduce the method for themselves. However, many of them thought that it was simply about making the instruments louder. As a result, they twisted the melody to a form that was working against itself. These failed reproductions showed the intricacies that lay within the Wall of Sound, not the least of which was the unique factor of the small recording space Gold Star Recording Studios had.
At the height of this unique method, hit songs like The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”, Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High”, and The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” were recorded.
Larry Levine, engineer of Gold Star Recording Studios, reflects on his time at one of these recordings: “the musicians were all grouped closely together and that resulted in a lot of leakage, which was a big part of the ‘Wall of Sound’ effect, because you didn't really want to pick out any particular instrument from the others. They were all supposed to be part of ‘the wall.”
"Since its inception in 1950, Gold Star Recording Studios was located at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Vine Street in Los Angeles. The location produced some of the greatest hits of pop and rock and roll. Due to its reputation, many people expected the building size to match its popularity. In reality, the studio space was a modest six meters by seven meters (19 feet x 24 feet) with a ceiling height of four meters (13 feet). While innovations like the echo chambers and the Wall of Sound made the studio stand out, its decline came from various technology advancements as well as the ability for bands to eventually record their own albums. The studio eventually closed its doors in 1984 and, not long after, the building burned down. In its place, a mini mall was built and still remains today.
In 1931, RCA Victor launched a commercially available vinyl long-playing record, designed for 33 1/3 revolutions per minute. They had the capacity of holding 10 minutes of music per side. However, these disks ended up being a failure commercially in the market because of their lack of affordability, reliable consumer playback equipment, and consumer wariness during the Great Depression. Because of which, Victor’s disk was dismissed from the market.
In 1939, Columbia Records and the CBS laboratories undertook efforts to address the problems with Victor’s 33 1/3 record disks. After eight years of study, they released a 12-inch Long Play (LP) 33 1/3 rpm microgroove record album at a New York press conference on June 18, 1948.
The introduction of Long Playing record, a.k.a 33 1/3 changed the market and left a lasting impact until the 90s. An LP could hold up to 60 minutes of music in total, but most of them didn’t have more than 40 minutes of music. They are made of Vinyl plastic, which is more sustainable than the Shellac. They were also more flexible and less likely to break than the earlier 78s.
Vinyl records should not be exposed to heat, carelessly handled or broken, they can get scratched or warped. If they are stored prudently, they can last for centuries. The covers of the vinyl records carry visual art that is highly valued by music enthusiasts and artists.
As a competition to the Columbia Records, 33 1/3, RCA Victor released the 45-rpm single, seven inches in diameter with a large center hole. 45s are also made of vinyl which makes them sustainable and can hold up to five minutes of music per side. The 45s became an alternative to the LP when one wanted to record a single pop song rather than an entire album. They became popular in jukeboxes and replaced the 78s since they took up less space and could fit more songs in the box. Because of which, jukeboxes started carrying 100 to 200 songs on 45s instead of 24 to 40 songs on 78s. 45s are still being made in limited quantities for jukebox operators who have not upgraded to CD or even digital jukeboxes.
"Vinyl sounds better than MP3s ever could. I’m not just talking about that warm, mahogany-rich sound that vinyl is famous for, but in general. It’s just better.
Most of the music you listen to is stored and broadcast in a lossy format, where details are lost and quality is reduced. This is because audio is compressed in order to make it small enough to shove on a phone, or to broadcast over the airwaves.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re listening to a streaming service like Spotify (but not Tidal, which streams in lossless), or an MP3, or even to the radio, you’re still not getting the full picture of that track.
Vinyl is what’s called a lossless format. Nothing has been lost when pressing a record. It sounds as good as the producer or band intended.
Another important reason is that vinyl, for the most part, escaped the ‘loudness war’. You see, with the rise of digital music (CDs included), it has became possible to artificially engineer a track louder than it naturally should be. The problem here is that it has a massively detrimental result on audio quality.
It causes songs to sound distorted and become unpleasant to listen to, and strips them of their depth and texture. Because vinyl is an analog format, it doesn’t really suffer from the same problems."
-- Matthew Hughes, makeuseof.com
"Vinyl is great, but the idea that its sound quality is superior to that of uncompressed digital recordings is preposterous. They sound different, and that's exactly the point.
CDs work by taking a bunch of samples from a source audio wave and stringing them together. But vinyl pressing is not error-free either, and the analog groove of a given record is not a precise replication of the audio wave recorded in the master, not least due to extreme high and low frequency limitations. It's true that CDs can't exactly replicate the whole audio wave in a master, in every case, but neither can vinyl records.
More importantly, the volume of sampling that CDs do should be enough to get a replica of the original recording that sounds identical to the human ear. The sampling rate for CDs is 44.1 kHz, (CD recordings sample the master recording 44,100 times a second,) and can capture frequencies as high as 20 kHz. That is about the limit of what humans can hear. One experiment has confirmed that listeners in blind tests can't tell the difference between recordings that include frequencies above 21k and ones that don't.
Plus, vinyl is physically limited by the fact that records have to be capable of being played without skipping or causing distortion. That limits the dynamic range—the difference between the loudest and softest note—and the range of pitches you can hear.
To avoid distortion, engineers mastering for vinyl often cut back on extreme high or low ends, using a variety of methods, all of which alter the music."
-- Dylan Matthews, Vox.com
The 1960s saw major shifts in the realm of music production. Rapidly changing technology allowed for new forms of recording which led to a musical explosion and the dissemination of hundreds of thousands of bands throughout the world.
The way in which music is produced has stayed relatively the same ever since voice recordings became prominent in the late 1930s. The song starts with songwriting, in which the music and lyrics are written. It then moves to arranging, where the music is crafted to be cohesive, to create a build, and to select the instruments that should appear throughout the piece.
Next comes tracking. The song is recorded multiple times in order to create a group of recordings resulting in one cohesive recording. This was extremely difficult before the1960s since music was recorded on vinyl records, meaning that the songs could not be sliced together across multiple vinyls easily. But this would change significantly in 1963 when Berlin Funkaustellung introduced the Masicassette, the predecessor to cassettes. They were much easier to slice together before going into mass production. It was also the first form of recording marketed for in car use.
In the 1960s there was an explosion of music throughout North America. Radio was king. In order to get music out, one needed connections to the hundreds of thousands of radio DJ’s who controlled what was heard by the public. Therefore, studios had to have amazing connections, use bribery, or hope that the song would be requested by individuals who bought a copy of a single or the entire album when strolling through their local record store. This process has largely continued. The big difference between the 1960s and now is the ease of which music is shared and how many platforms are now available to listen from.
The music industry has gone through many changes, but there is one thing that will hopefully hold true, and that is the power of music and humanity’s love of creating it.
This is a tale about dreams becoming a reality. 33 1/3- House of Dreams, by Jonathan Rosenberg and Brad Ross, spotlights one of the most prolific and celebrated independent recording studios in rock and pop-music history and one of the visionaries who helped create it, Stan Ross.
Brad wanted to do something special for his late father, Stan Ross. So he created the 33 1/3- House of Dreams musical along with Rosenberg, his longtime friend. With the help of the talented creative team of Javier Velasco and Steve Gunderson, their dream became a reality.
Then they had to start a fundraising drive to bring the hit songs-packed musical to stage.
After seeing an early workshop presentation, San Diego Repertory Theatre’s founder Sam Woodhouse believed this musical to be a unique offering and encouraged Brad and Jonathan to raise funds to help produce this world premiere musical. To get the initial seed money of $25,000, they launched an online Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that includes testimonials about Gold Star from Herb Alpert, Brian Wilson, Bill Medley, and others who regularly recorded there.
The dreams just keep on coming…
1. What is your favorite Gold Star Recording Studios song and what memory does it evoke?
2. Did you ever have a dream that came true? If so, what was the dream and how was the journey?
3. Balancing time and energy between career and family can be tricky. How do you feel you have done navigating this balance? Any advice you can share?
4. If we were to make a musical out of someone from your life, who would it be and what sort of music would fill our stage?
5. This Xchange Xperience collaborative production program offers up-and-coming musicians, dancers, and actors a chance to work alongside professionals. What skill do you have that you could share with a mentee?
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