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Wall of Sound

Wall of Sound

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The Wall of Sound is a music production technique for pop and rock music recordings developed by record producer
Record producer
A record producer is an individual working within the music industry, whose job is to oversee and manage the recording of an artist's music...

 Phil Spector
Phil Spector
Phillip Harvey "Phil" Spector is an American record producer and songwriter, later known for his conviction in the murder of actress Lana Clarkson....

 at Gold Star Studios
Gold Star Studios
Gold Star Studios was a major independent recording studio located in Los Angeles, California, United States. For more than thirty years, from 1950 to 1984, Gold Star was one of the most influential and successful commercial recording studios in the world....

 in Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

, during the early 1960s
The 1960s was the decade that started on January 1, 1960, and ended on December 31, 1969. It was the seventh decade of the 20th century.The 1960s term also refers to an era more often called The Sixties, denoting the complex of inter-related cultural and political trends across the globe...

. Working with such audio engineers as Larry Levine
Larry Levine
Larry Levine was an American audio engineer, known for his cooperation with Phil Spector on the Wall of Sound recording technique....

 and the session musicians who became known as The Wrecking Crew
The Wrecking Crew (music)
The Wrecking Crew was a nickname coined by the drummer Hal Blaine after the fact for a group of session musicians in Los Angeles, California, who earned wide acclaim in the 1960s. They backed dozens of popular singers, and were one of the most successful "groups" of studio musicians in music history...

, Spector created a dense, layered, reverberant sound that came across well on AM radio and jukebox
A jukebox is a partially automated music-playing device, usually a coin-operated machine, that will play a patron's selection from self-contained media...

es popular in the era. He created this sound by having a number of electric and acoustic guitarists perform the same parts in unison
In music, the word unison can be applied in more than one way. In general terms, it may refer to two notes sounding the same pitch, often but not always at the same time; or to the same musical voice being sounded by several voices or instruments together, either at the same pitch or at a distance...

, adding musical arrangements for large groups of musicians up to the size of orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

s, then recording the sound using an echo chamber
Echo chamber
thumb|right|Echo chamber of the Dresden University of Technologythumb|right|Hamilton Mausoleum has a spectacularly long lasting unplanned echoAn echo chamber is a hollow enclosure used to produce echoing sounds, usually for recording purposes...



To attain his signature sound, Spector gathered large groups of musicians (playing some instruments not generally used for ensemble playing, such as electric
Electric guitar
An electric guitar is a guitar that uses the principle of direct electromagnetic induction to convert vibrations of its metal strings into electric audio signals. The signal generated by an electric guitar is too weak to drive a loudspeaker, so it is amplified before sending it to a loudspeaker...

 and acoustic guitars) playing orchestrated parts, often doubling and tripling many instruments playing in unison
In music, the word unison can be applied in more than one way. In general terms, it may refer to two notes sounding the same pitch, often but not always at the same time; or to the same musical voice being sounded by several voices or instruments together, either at the same pitch or at a distance...

 for a fuller sound. Spector also arranged the songs for large groups of musicians playing instruments traditionally associated with orchestras (such as strings, woodwinds, and brass). Spector himself called his technique "a Wagnerian approach to rock & roll: little symphonies for the kids".

Recording techniques

Spector was known as a temperamental and quirky personality with strong, often unconventional, ideas about musical and recording techniques. Despite the trend towards multi-channel recording, Spector was vehemently opposed to stereo
Stereophonic sound
The term Stereophonic, commonly called stereo, sound refers to any method of sound reproduction in which an attempt is made to create an illusion of directionality and audible perspective...

 releases, claiming that it took control of the record's sound away from the producer in favor of the listener. Spector also greatly preferred singles to albums, describing LPs
LP album
The LP, or long-playing microgroove record, is a format for phonograph records, an analog sound storage medium. Introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry...

 as "two hits and ten pieces of junk".

In the 1960s
The 1960s was the decade that started on January 1, 1960, and ended on December 31, 1969. It was the seventh decade of the 20th century.The 1960s term also refers to an era more often called The Sixties, denoting the complex of inter-related cultural and political trends across the globe...

, Spector usually worked at Gold Star Studios
Gold Star Studios
Gold Star Studios was a major independent recording studio located in Los Angeles, California, United States. For more than thirty years, from 1950 to 1984, Gold Star was one of the most influential and successful commercial recording studios in the world....

 in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 because of its exceptional echo chamber
Echo chamber
thumb|right|Echo chamber of the Dresden University of Technologythumb|right|Hamilton Mausoleum has a spectacularly long lasting unplanned echoAn echo chamber is a hollow enclosure used to produce echoing sounds, usually for recording purposes...

s, essential to the Wall of Sound technique. Microphones in the recording studio captured the sound, which was then transmitted to an echo chamber—a basement room outfitted with speaker
A loudspeaker is an electroacoustic transducer that produces sound in response to an electrical audio signal input. Non-electrical loudspeakers were developed as accessories to telephone systems, but electronic amplification by vacuum tube made loudspeakers more generally useful...

s and microphone
A microphone is an acoustic-to-electric transducer or sensor that converts sound into an electrical signal. In 1877, Emile Berliner invented the first microphone used as a telephone voice transmitter...

s. The signal from the studio was played through the speakers and reverberated throughout the room before being picked up by the microphones. The echo-laden sound was then channeled back to the control room, where it was recorded on tape.

The natural reverberation
Reverberation is the persistence of sound in a particular space after the original sound is removed. A reverberation, or reverb, is created when a sound is produced in an enclosed space causing a large number of echoes to build up and then slowly decay as the sound is absorbed by the walls and air...

 and echo from the hard walls of the echo chamber gave Spector's productions their distinctive quality and resulted in a rich, complex sound that, when played on AM radio, had an impressive depth rarely heard in mono
Monaural or monophonic sound reproduction is single-channel. Typically there is only one microphone, one loudspeaker, or channels are fed from a common signal path...


Songwriter Jeff Barry
Jeff Barry
Jeff Barry is an American pop music songwriter, singer, and record producer.-Early career:...

, who worked extensively with Spector, described the Wall of Sound:

"[It's] basically a formula. You're going to have four or five guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

s line up, gut-string guitars, and they're going to follow the chords...two basses
Bass guitar
The bass guitar is a stringed instrument played primarily with the fingers or thumb , or by using a pick....

 in fifths
Perfect fifth
In classical music from Western culture, a fifth is a musical interval encompassing five staff positions , and the perfect fifth is a fifth spanning seven semitones, or in meantone, four diatonic semitones and three chromatic semitones...

, with the same type of line, and strings...six or seven horns
Horn section
In music, a horn section can refer to several groups of musicians. It can refer to the musicians in a symphony orchestra who play the horn . In a British-style brass band it refers to the tenor horn players. In popular music, it can also refer to a small group of wind instrumentalists who augment a...

, adding the little punches…formula percussion instruments — the little bells, the shakers, the tambourine
The tambourine or marine is a musical instrument of the percussion family consisting of a frame, often of wood or plastic, with pairs of small metal jingles, called "zils". Classically the term tambourine denotes an instrument with a drumhead, though some variants may not have a head at all....

s. Phil used his own formula for echo, and some overtone arrangements with the strings. But by and large, there was a formula arrangement."

The Wall of Sound has been contrasted with "the standard pop
Pop music
Pop music is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented toward a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.- Definitions :David Hatch and Stephen Millward define pop...

 mix of foregrounded solo
Solo (music)
In music, a solo is a piece or a section of a piece played or sung by a single performer...

 vocal and balanced, blended backing" as well as the airy mixes typical of reggae and funk:

While the Wall of Sound might give such an initial impression, further examination reveals that it is indeed more flexible, and it is a false premise that Spector filled every second with a megalomanic conundrum of noise.:
Closer reflection indeed reveals that the Wall of Sound was quite compatible with, even supportive of, vocal protagonism. Such virtuosity was ultimately serving of Spector's own agenda—the Righteous Brothers' vocal prowess provided him a "secure and prosperous headrest". Bobby Hatfield
Bobby Hatfield
Robert Lee "Bobby" Hatfield was an American singer, best known as one half of the Righteous Brothers.-Early life:...

's rendering of "Unchained Melody
Unchained Melody
"Unchained Melody" is a 1955 song with music by Alex North and lyrics by Hy Zaret. It has become one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century, by some counts having spawned over 500 versions in hundreds of different languages....

" serves as an example:

By Phil Spector

The Wall of Sound forms the foundation of Phil Spector's recordings, in general. However, certain records are considered to have epitomized its use. "Be My Baby
Be My Baby
"Be My Baby" is a 1963 single written by Phil Spector, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich, performed by The Ronettes and produced by Spector. When released as a single, the song reached #2 on the U.S. Billboard Pop Singles Chart and #4 on the UK's Record Retailer...

", a 1963 hit song for The Ronettes
The Ronettes
The Ronettes were a 1960s girl group from New York City, best known for their work with producer Phil Spector. The group consisted of lead singer Veronica Bennett ; her older sister, Estelle Bennett; and their cousin Nedra Talley...

, written by Jeff Barry
Jeff Barry
Jeff Barry is an American pop music songwriter, singer, and record producer.-Early career:...

 and Ellie Greenwich
Ellie Greenwich
Eleanor Louise "Ellie" Greenwich was an American pop music singer, songwriter, and record producer. She wrote or co-wrote "Be My Baby", "Christmas ", "Da Doo Ron Ron", "Leader of the Pack", "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", and "River Deep, Mountain High", among many others...

 and produced by Spector, is widely regarded as one of the finest pop tunes of all time; it is considered by some to be the quintessential Phil Spector production. The Ronettes' version of "Sleigh Ride
Sleigh Ride
"Sleigh Ride" is a popular light orchestral piece composed by Leroy Anderson. The composer had the original idea for the piece during a heat wave in July 1946; he finished the work in February 1948. Lyrics, about a person who would like to ride in a sleigh on a winter's day with another person,...

" used the effect heavily. Another prominent example of the Wall of Sound was "Da Doo Ron Ron
Da Doo Ron Ron
"Da Doo Ron Ron" is a 1963 hit single by The Crystals, produced by Phil Spector in his Wall of Sound style. The song was written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Spector. The drummer was Hal Blaine....

" by The Crystals
The Crystals
The Crystals are an American vocal group based in New York, considered one of the defining acts of the girl group era of the first half of the 1960s. Their 1961–1964 chart hits, including "Uptown", "He's a Rebel", "Da Doo Ron Ron " and "Then He Kissed Me", featured three successive female lead...


Spector himself is quoted as believing his production of Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High" to be the summit of his Wall of Sound productions , and this sentiment has been echoed by both George Harrison (who called it "a perfect record from start to finish." ) and Brian Wilson .

Perhaps Phil Spector's most infamous use of his production techniques was on the Let It Be album. Spector was brought in to salvage the incomplete Let It Be, an album practically abandoned by The Beatles, performances from which had already appeared in several bootleg versions when the sessions were still referred to as Get Back. His work resulted in the legitimately released album being what the LP cover called "the freshness of a live performance, reproduced for disc by Phil Spector." "The Long and Winding Road
The Long and Winding Road
"The Long and Winding Road" is a ballad written by Paul McCartney that originally appeared on The Beatles' album Let It Be. It became The Beatles' 20th and last number-one song in the United States on 23 May 1970, and was the last single released by the quartet...

", "I Me Mine
I Me Mine
"I Me Mine" is a song by The Beatles, written and sung by George Harrison. I Me Mine is also the title of Harrison's autobiography. The song traces its origins to the January 1969 Get Back/Let It Be sessions, when it was rehearsed by the band at Twickenham Film Studios.-Origin:The set of pronouns...

", and "Across the Universe
Across the Universe
"Across the Universe" is a song by the English group The Beatles. It was written by John Lennon, and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The song first appeared on the various artists charity compilation album No One's Gonna Change Our World in December 1969, and later, in different form, on Let It Be,...

" are often singled out as those tracks receiving the greatest amount of post-production work. The modified treatment (often misrepresented as a "Wall of Sound," although neither Spector nor the Beatles used this phrase to refer to the production) and other overdubs
Overdubbing is a technique used by recording studios to add a supplementary recorded sound to a previously recorded performance....

 proved controversial among fans and The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

 themselves. Eventually, in 2003, Let It Be... Naked was released, an authorized version without Spector's additions.

Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen
Leonard Norman Cohen, is a Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, poet and novelist. Cohen published his first book of poetry in Montreal in 1956 and his first novel in 1963. His work often explores religion, isolation, sexuality and interpersonal relationships...

's album Death of a Ladies' Man
Death of a Ladies' Man
Death of a Ladies' Man is the fifth of Leonard Cohen's albums. Produced and co-written by the storied Phil Spector, it was a surprise to some fans when the voice of typically minimalist Cohen was surrounded, some critics said submerged completely, by Spector's Wall of Sound, which included multiple...

from 1977 was produced by Spector, and the Wall of Sound technique is evident on the album as a whole, but may be most pronounced in both the title track and "Memories".

By other musicians and producers

Outside of Spector's own songs, the most recognizable example of the "Wall of Sound" is heard on many classic hits recorded by The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys are an American rock band, formed in 1961 in Hawthorne, California. The group was initially composed of brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine. Managed by the Wilsons' father Murry, The Beach Boys signed to Capitol Records in 1962...

 (e.g., "God Only Knows
God Only Knows
"God Only Knows" is a song by American rock band The Beach Boys. It is the eighth track on the group's 11th studio album, Pet Sounds , and one of their most widely recognized songs. "God Only Knows" was composed and produced by Brian Wilson with lyrics by Tony Asher and lead vocal by Carl...

", "Wouldn't It Be Nice
Wouldn't It Be Nice
"Wouldn't It Be Nice" is the opening track on the 1966 album Pet Sounds and one of the most widely recognized songs by the American rock band The Beach Boys...

" — and especially, the psychedelic "pocket symphony" of "Good Vibrations
Good Vibrations
"Good Vibrations" is a song by American rock band The Beach Boys. Composed and produced by Brian Wilson, the song's lyrics were written by Wilson and Mike Love....

"), for which Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson
Brian Douglas Wilson is an American musician, best known as the leader and chief songwriter of the group The Beach Boys. Within the band, Wilson played bass and keyboards, also providing part-time lead vocals and, more often, backing vocals, harmonizing in falsetto with the group...

 used a similar recording technique, especially during the Pet Sounds
Pet Sounds
Pet Sounds is the eleventh studio album by the American rock band The Beach Boys, released May 16, 1966, on Capitol Records. It has since been recognized as one of the most influential records in the history of popular music and one of the best albums of the 1960s, including songs such as "Wouldn't...

and Smile eras of the band.

Johnny Franz
Johnny Franz
Johnny Franz was a UK record producer and A&R man at the Philips label. Although his name is not recognized by many Americans, Franz was one of Britain's most successful producers in the 1950s and 1960s...

's mid-1960s productions for Dusty Springfield
Dusty Springfield
Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'BrienSources use both Isabel and Isobel as the spelling of her second name. OBE , known professionally as Dusty Springfield and dubbed The White Queen of Soul, was a British pop singer whose career extended from the late 1950s to the 1990s...

 and The Walker Brothers
The Walker Brothers
The Walker Brothers were an American 1960s and 1970s pop group, comprising Scott Engel , John Walker , and Gary Leeds...

 also employed a layered, symphonic "Wall of Sound" arrangement-and-recording style, heavily influenced by the Spector sound. Harry Nilsson
Harry Nilsson
Harry Edward Nilsson III was an American singer-songwriter who achieved the peak of his commercial success in the early 1970s. On all but his earliest recordings he is credited as Nilsson...

's hit "Everybody's Talkin'
Everybody's Talkin'
"Everybody's Talkin" is a folk rock song released by Fred Neil in 1966 that became a global success for Harry Nilsson in 1969, reaching #2 and #6 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and Pop Singles chart respectively and winning a Grammy after it was featured on the soundtrack for the film...

", which became the theme song for Midnight Cowboy
Midnight Cowboy
Midnight Cowboy is a 1969 American drama film based on the 1965 novel of the same name by James Leo Herlihy. It was written by Waldo Salt, directed by John Schlesinger, and stars Dustin Hoffman and newcomer Jon Voight in the title role. Notable smaller roles are filled by Sylvia Miles, John...

, similarly used "Wall of Sound"-style production techniques.

During the 1970s
File:1970s decade montage.png|From left, clockwise: US President Richard Nixon doing the V for Victory sign after his resignation from office after the Watergate scandal in 1974; Refugees aboard a US naval boat after the Fall of Saigon, leading to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975; The 1973 oil...

, the wall of sound technique was employed by a variety of artists.

Queen (band)
Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1971, originally consisting of Freddie Mercury , Brian May , John Deacon , and Roger Taylor...

 used the technique in a number of their early-to-mid 1970s songs such as "Funny How Love Is", "Flick Of The Wrist
Flick of the Wrist
"Flick of the Wrist" is a song by English rock band Queen, released as a Double A-side with "Killer Queen" in the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, the US and most other territories...

", and the band's biggest UK hit "Bohemian Rhapsody
Bohemian Rhapsody
"Bohemian Rhapsody" is a song by the British rock band Queen. It was written by Freddie Mercury for the band's 1975 album A Night at the Opera...


Swedish pop group ABBA
ABBA was a Swedish pop group formed in Stockholm in 1970 which consisted of Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Agnetha Fältskog...

 used similar techniques in their early songs, including "Ring Ring
Ring Ring (song)
"Ring Ring" is a 1973 single by ABBA, which gave the group their big break in several European countries...

", "Waterloo", and "Dancing Queen
Dancing Queen
"Dancing Queen" is a pop song recorded by Swedish pop group ABBA. It was released in August 1976, but was first performed two months earlier, on 18 June 1976, during a Royal Variety Show in Stockholm the evening before the Swedish royal wedding. It was the follow-up single to the hit "Fernando"...


Roy Wood
Roy Wood
Roy Adrian Wood is an English singer-songwriter and musician. He was particularly successful in the 1960s and 1970s as member and co-founder of the bands The Move, Electric Light Orchestra, and Wizzard. As a songwriter, he contributed a number of hits to the repertoire of these bands.-Career:Wood...

, another 1970s artist, utilized and arguably, expanded the "Wall of Sound" approach, particularly in his band Wizzard
Wizzard was a Birmingham-based band formed by Roy Wood, former member of The Move and co-founder of Electric Light Orchestra. The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits states, "Wizzard was Roy Wood just as much as Wings were Paul McCartney."-Biography:...

, who would multi-track saxophones, pianos and drums to create a huge sound. Notable examples include "Angel Fingers
Angel Fingers
Angel Fingers was a popular song by Wizzard.Written and produced by Roy Wood, Angel Fingers was Wizzard's second UK number one single, spending a single week at the top of the chart in September 1973...

" and "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday
"I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" is a popular Christmas song, first released in 1973 by the English glam rock band Wizzard.It reached number four in the UK singles chart. The song was famously beaten to Christmas number one by Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody" which remained there for nine...


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's landmark 1975 Born to Run
Born to Run
The album's release was accompanied by a $250,000 promotional campaign by Columbia directed at both consumers and the music industry, making good use of Landau's "I saw rock 'n' roll's future—and its name is Bruce Springsteen" quote. With much publicity, Born to Run vaulted into the top 10 in its...

album — which includes more than thirty guitar tracks — is perhaps the most extensive and faithful updating of Spector's early-1960s "Wall of Sound" production style.

"You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth
You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth
"You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth" is the first single by the American musician Meat Loaf in his solo career. It is a track off his 1977 album Bat out of Hell, written by Jim Steinman.The album version includes a spoken word intro by Steinman and Marcia McClain...

", from Meat Loaf
Meat Loaf
Michael Lee Aday , better known by his stage name, Meat Loaf, is an American hard rock musician and actor...

's 1977 Bat Out of Hell
Bat out of Hell
Bat Out of Hell is the second album by American rock musician Meat Loaf, and his first collaboration with composer Jim Steinman, released in October 1977 on Cleveland International/Epic Records #PE-34974. Selling approximately 200,000 copies per year as of 2010, it is the fifth best-selling album...

album is another example of the Wall of Sound technique. Jim Steinman and Todd Rundgren were inspired by Phil Spector's methods. Todd Rundgren even goes through the motions of adding elements during mixing to the wall in the Classic Albums
Classic Albums
Classic Albums is a documentary series about pop and rock albums that are considered the best or most distinctive of a well-known band or musician or that exemplify a stage in the history of music.-Format:...

 episode "Bat Out of Hell".

In the 1980s, Trevor Horn
Trevor Horn
Trevor Charles Horn CBE is an English pop music record producer, songwriter, musician and singer. He was born in Houghton-le-Spring in north-east England....

's hugely popular productions for ABC
ABC (band)
ABC are an English band, that charted ten UK and five US Top 40 singles between 1981 and 1990. The band continues to tour and released a new album, Traffic, in 2008.-Formation:...

's The Lexicon of Love
The Lexicon of Love
The Lexicon of Love is the critically acclaimed chart-topping debut album by British pop band ABC, released in 1982. It is a concept album in which the singer experiences heartache as he tries and fails to have a meaningful relationship....

, Yes
Yes (band)
Yes are an English rock band who achieved worldwide success with their progressive, art, and symphonic style of rock music. Regarded as one of the pioneers of the progressive genre, Yes are known for their lengthy songs, mystical lyrics, elaborate album art, and live stage sets...

' 90125
-Yes:*Jon Anderson – lead vocals*Tony Kaye – keyboards*Trevor Rabin – guitars, additional keyboards, backing vocals*Chris Squire – bass, backing vocals*Alan White – drums, percussion, backing vocals- Studio personnel :...

, Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Frankie Goes to Hollywood were a British dance-pop band popular in the mid-1980s. The group was fronted by Holly Johnson , with Paul Rutherford , Peter Gill , Mark O'Toole , and Brian Nash .The group's debut single "Relax" was banned by the BBC in 1984 while at number six in the charts and...

's Welcome to the Pleasuredome
Welcome to the Pleasuredome
Welcome to the Pleasuredome was the debut album by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, first released in the UK in October 1984 by ZTT/Island Records. Originally issued as a vinyl double album, it was assured of a UK chart entry at number one due to reported advance sales of over one million...

, and Grace Jones
Grace Jones
Grace Jones is a Jamaican-American singer, model and actress.Jones secured a record deal with Island Records in 1977, which resulted in a string of dance-club hits. In the late 1970s, she adapted the emerging electronic music style and adopted a severe, androgynous look with square-cut hair and...

' Slave to the Rhythm
Slave to the Rhythm
Slave to the Rhythm is the seventh album by Grace Jones. It was produced by Trevor Horn and released in 1985. The album was written by Bruce Woolley, Simon Darlow, Stephen Lipson and Trevor Horn...

are decidedly slicker and more sophisticated examples of the opulent "Wall of Sound" approach in British New Wave
New Wave music
New Wave is a subgenre of :rock music that emerged in the mid to late 1970s alongside punk rock. The term at first generally was synonymous with punk rock before being considered a genre in its own right that incorporated aspects of electronic and experimental music, mod subculture, disco and 1960s...

Hi-NRG describes a form of high-tempo disco music as well as a genre of electronic dance music originating in the United States during the late 1970s...

 dance music — all of these recordings utilize a large string orchestra and dozens of synthesizer and guitar overdubs with featured sound effects and treatments.

The Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

-based New Wave band Wall of Voodoo
Wall of Voodoo
Wall of Voodoo was an American New Wave group from Los Angeles best known for the 1983 hit "Mexican Radio". The band had a sound that was a fusion of synthesizer-based New Wave music with the spaghetti western soundtrack style of Ennio Morricone.-Formation:...

 offered their own quirky, ominous interpretation of the "Wall of Sound" (the band's name is itself a take-off on the phrase) with their 1982 album Call of the West
Call of the West
Call of the West is the second studio album by Los Angeles new wave band Wall of Voodoo, released in 1983. "Mexican Radio", released as a single and as a video that received moderate airplay on MTV), is the group's most well-known song....

(produced by Richard Mazda
Richard Mazda
Richard Mazda is a record producer, writer and musician. In later life he also became an actor and director.-Music career:Mazda was one of the co-founders of Poole punk/mod band Tours, singing and playing lead guitar. They signed to Virgin Records in 1979 after selling large quantities of their...

), and its hit single "Mexican Radio
Mexican Radio
"Mexican Radio" is a song written and performed by the band Wall of Voodoo, and produced by Richard Mazda. The track was initially made commercially available on their 1983 album Call of the West. The song peaked at #58 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S...


Canadian Metal musician Devin Townsend
Devin Townsend
Devin Garret Townsend is a Canadian musician and record producer. He was the founder, songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist in extreme metal band Strapping Young Lad from 1994 to 2007 and has had an extensive career as a solo artist....

 is well known for his extensive use of this technique in his works, employing gratuitous use of delays and reverb on the guitar, keyboard and vocal tracks, while at the same time overlaying multiple takes for a rich, full sound and atmosphere. Townsend uses these techniques on the making of Strapping Young Lad
Strapping Young Lad
Strapping Young Lad was a Canadian extreme metal band formed by Devin Townsend in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1994. The band started as a one-man studio project; Townsend played most of the instruments on the 1995 debut album, Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing...

's Alien
Alien (album)
Alien is the fourth album by Canadian extreme metal band Strapping Young Lad. It was released on March 22, 2005. The album was written by Devin Townsend and Gene Hoglan over a 6 month time period....


Marillion are a British rock band, formed in Aylesbury, England in 1979. Their recorded studio output comprises sixteen albums generally regarded in two distinct eras, delineated by the departure of original vocalist & frontman Fish in late 1988, and the subsequent arrival of replacement Steve...

's song "Beyond You", from their 1995 album Afraid of Sunlight is reminiscent of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound productions, and is recorded monaurally, rather than in stereo.

Other recent examples of the wall of sound technique include Glasvegas
Glasvegas are a Scottish indie rock band from Glasgow. The band consists of James Allan , Rab Allan , Paul Donoghue and Jonna Löfgren . The band received critical acclaim for their debut album Glasvegas which was released in September 2008, reaching No...

 and Bernard Butler
Bernard Butler
Bernard Joseph Butler is an English musician and record producer. He first emerged in the early Britpop era with Suede. He has been hailed by some critics as the greatest guitarist of his generation, as well as one of Britain's most original and influential guitarists...

 (in his work with such acts as McAlmont and Butler
McAlmont and Butler
McAlmont and Butler are an English rock/soul music duo, comprising singer David McAlmont and guitarist Bernard Butler.- History :The duo formed in 1994. Both Butler and McAlmont had already experienced success in the music industry. Butler was the guitarist in the indie band Suede, until his...

, The Tears
The Tears
The Tears were an English rock band, formed in 2004 by ex-Suede bandmates Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler. The band was a much anticipated reunion of an acclaimed songwriting couple, and music critics praised their first concerts and their debut album, Here Come The Tears...

 and Duffy
Duffy (singer)
Aimée Ann Duffy , known as Duffy, is a Welsh singer-songwriter. Her 2008 debut album Rockferry entered the UK Album Chart at number one. It was the best-selling album in the United Kingdom in 2008 with 1.68 million copies sold...

, with such songs as "Yes
Yes (McAlmont and Butler song)
"Yes" is a McAlmont and Butler hit single, released in May of 1995 and part of their debut album The Sound of McAlmont and Butler. It was their first UK hit, written and performed by the duo and peaked at number 8 on the UK singles chart. It remains their most successful single....

", "Apollo 13
Here Come the Tears
Here Come the Tears is the debut album by The Tears, released on June 6, 2005 on Independiente Records.The album proved a comeback for Bernard Butler and Brett Anderson as the album was praised by critics and fans alike, and charted at number 15....

", "Rockferry
Rockferry (song)
"Rockferry" is the debut single by Duffy, written by Duffy and Bernard Butler. It is the first track on the album Rockferry.-Song information:...

", and 'Distant Dreamer'). The Super Furry Animals
Super Furry Animals
Super Furry Animals are a Welsh rock band that lean towards psychedelic rock and electronic experimentation. Since their formation in Cardiff, Wales in 1993, the band has consisted of Gruff Rhys , Huw Bunford , Guto Pryce , Cian Ciaran and Dafydd Ieuan Super Furry Animals are a Welsh rock band...

 song "Run-Away" was heavily influenced by the technique.

Other references

The term "wall of sound" first appeared in print in the New York Times on 22 June 1884, in a description of Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

's redesigned Nibelungen Theater in Bayreuth, Germany, which placed the orchestra (for the first time, it seems) in a deep orchestra pit
Orchestra pit
An orchestra pit is the area in a theater in which musicians perform. Orchestral pits are utilized in forms of theatre that require music or in cases when incidental music is required...

 out of sight of the audience. (Previously, the orchestra had been placed in front of the stage, at the same level as the audience and in plain view).
"The mere sinking of the orchestra is, however, not the only innovation. Wagner leaves there, a space of eighteen feet wide, and extending the entire breadth of the stage (not merely of the proscenium) and extending up to the roof, perfectly free. He calls this the Mystic Space, because he intends that here the invisible 'wall of music,' proceeding from the invisible orchestra, shall separate the real (that is the audience) from the ideal (the stage pictures.) If we may so express ourselves, the audience will perceive the scenes through an invisible wall of sound."

The term became popularly used around 1955 to describe sound of the jazz orchestra led by Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
Stanley Newcomb "Stan" Kenton was a pianist, composer, and arranger who led a highly innovative, influential, and often controversial American jazz orchestra. In later years he was widely active as an educator....

, with its booming trombone, trumpet and percussion sections.

The term "Wall of Sound
Wall of Sound (Grateful Dead)
The Wall of Sound was an enormous public address system designed specifically for the Grateful Dead's live performances by audio engineer Owsley "Bear" Stanley. Used in 1974, the Wall of Sound fulfilled the band's desire for a distortion-free sound system that could also serve as its own monitoring...

" was also used to describe the enormous public address
Public address
A public address system is an electronic amplification system with a mixer, amplifier and loudspeakers, used to reinforce a sound source, e.g., a person giving a speech, a DJ playing prerecorded music, and distributing the sound throughout a venue or building.Simple PA systems are often used in...

 system designed by Owsley Stanley
Owsley Stanley
Owsley Stanley also known as Bear, was an essential and transitional personality in the development of the San Francisco Bay counter-culture. Spanning the Beat-era years of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters scenes, he was equally pivotal to the explosion of 1960's Psychedelia culture...

 specifically for the Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in the San Francisco Bay Area. The band was known for its unique and eclectic style, which fused elements of rock, folk, bluegrass, blues, reggae, country, improvisational jazz, psychedelia, and space rock, and for live performances of long...

's live performances circa 1974. The Wall of Sound fulfilled the band's desire for a distortion-free sound system that could also serve as its own monitoring system.
Raymond Scott
Raymond Scott
Raymond Scott was an American composer, band leader, pianist, engineer, recording studio maverick, and electronic instrument inventor....

 nicknamed the vast array of homemade sequencers and synthesizers that took up a wall of his studio the "wall of sound."

Bernie Taupin
Bernie Taupin
Bernard John "Bernie" Taupin is an English lyricist, poet, and singer, best known for his long-term collaboration with Elton John, writing the lyrics for the majority of the star's songs, making his lyrics some of the best known in pop-rock's history.In 1967, Taupin answered an advertisement in...

 refers to the term explicitly in the Elton John
Elton John
Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE, Hon DMus is an English rock singer-songwriter, composer, pianist and occasional actor...

 hit song Bennie and the Jets
Bennie and the Jets
"Bennie and the Jets" is a song composed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. The song is written in the key of G major and first appeared on the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album in 1973. "Bennie and the Jets" has been one of John's most popular songs....

 in the line "We're gonna hear electric music/Solid walls of sound." It is unclear if this reference is for the term itself or just a line he conjured, but the context would support the former.


Shoegazing is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged from the United Kingdom in the late 1980s. It lasted there until the mid 1990s, with a critical zenith reached in 1990 and 1991...

, a style of alternative rock
Alternative rock
Alternative rock is a genre of rock music and a term used to describe a diverse musical movement that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1980s and became widely popular by the 1990s...

, is influenced by "Wall of Sound". Shoegazing emerged from the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 in the early 90s and lasted until the mid 1990s, peaking circa 1990 to 1993. Common musical elements in shoegazing are distortion, delay, and chorus effects, droning riffs and a "wall of sound" from noisy guitars. Typically, two distorted rhythm guitars are played together to give an amorphous quality to the sound. Although lead guitar riffs were often present, they were not the central focus of most shoegazing songs.

Vocals are typically subdued in volume and tone, but underneath the layers of guitars is generally a strong sense of melody
A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

. While the genres which influenced shoegazing often used drum machines, shoegazing more often features live drumming. Chapterhouse
For the religious buildings, see Chapter houseChapterhouse are a British shoegazing band originally of the early 1990s, from Reading, Berkshire, England. Formed in 1987 by Andrew Sherriff and Stephen Patman, the band began performing alongside Spacemen 3...

 and Seefeel
Seefeel are a British electronic/post-rock band formed in the early 1990s. They are currently signed to Warp Records.-Biography:Seefeel formed during 1992 in London, England; with Mark Clifford on guitar, Mark Van Hoen on bass, Justin Fletcher on drums and Sarah Peacock on vocals and guitar. During...

 utilised both samples and live drumming. Jesus and Mary Chain and Cocteau Twins
Cocteau Twins
Cocteau Twins were a Scottish alternative rock band active from 1979 to 1997, known for innovative instrumentation and atmospheric, non-lyrical vocals...

 are often regarded perhaps the initial exponents of the style, appearing at the beginning of the 1980s and continuing into the style's heyday a decade later. The Jesus and Mary Chain's debut album Psychocandy
Psychocandy is the debut album by the Scottish alternative rock band The Jesus and Mary Chain, released in November 1985. Psychocandy combined the concepts of pop songs and searing guitar chords....

 is widely hailed as a landmark. My Bloody Valentine's 1991 album Loveless
Loveless (album)
Loveless is the second studio album by alternative rock band My Bloody Valentine. Released on 4 November 1991, Loveless was recorded over a two-year period between 1989 and 1991 in nineteen recording studios...

is perhaps the best-known example of meticulous Wall of Sound-influenced production in the shoegaze genre; featuring heavy processing on vocals and guitars, it is tipped to have cost £250,000 to produce over a 3-year period.