If you haven’t already listened to Shawn Robare’s fantastic Branded in the 80s podcast I urge you to do so. It’s great. And one of his recent episodes inspired me to try something cool. Shawn was talking about the song Thunder In Your Heart by John Farnham which features on the soundtrack of his favourite movie, Rad. It really is an awesome song and a quintessentially 80s movie rock track. He talked about the incredible feeling when he discovered on Spotify that there were in fact two other versions of the track, and they had been recorded by none other than Stan Bush (who of course did You Got The Touch from the Transformers soundtrack) and Joe Esposito (who sung You’re The Best from the Karate Kid soundtrack). I love the feeling when you discover things like that.
When I heard this podcast I just knew I had to do a mix of these songs together. In my daytime job I make a lot of videos and I often have to cut down and mix up audio tracks to fit the length of the video. It’s not something I’ve been officially trained in but I’ve really developed a love for it. And I now have some cool ideas for retro tracks that I want to mix together. But when I heard Shawn’s podcast I bumped this mix to the top of the queue.
First of all the disclaimer… I am purely doing this as a fan’s project and am not making any money from using these tracks. All rights reserved by the original artists and I urge you to track down their original tracks and listen, stream, buy those tracks etc. I didn’t put this mix up on YouTube as I knew they would probably recognise the music clips and force me to take it down. SoundCloud may well do the same thing eventually but I thought I’d just put it up there for as long as I can to let people listen to it. If I eventually have to take it down then so be it.
First of all here is the original John Farnham version.
And here is the Stan Bush version.
The Joe Esposito version is very hard to come by. It’s not on YouTube at all.
I thought I’d outline the process of how I produced the mix in this blog post. But first here is the final mix that you can listen to. I’d urge you to listen to it with headphones in.
First thing I had to do was to import all the tracks into Adobe Audition, which is the software that I use, and try to make them all the same speed. If they’re different speeds they’re never going to be able to be mixed. I used the John Farnham as the master track and tried to change the other two to fit it. I can’t remember which was which but I think one had to be stretched to 102% speed and one was sped up to 98% speed. It’s just a case of trial and error when you’re testing these speeds. This used to be really hard to do because it would also change the pitch of the track, but with Adobe Audition it couldn’t be easier. You just enter the speed and it automatically keeps the pitch the same.
When I played them all together they all mixed perfectly. I was nervous that the backing beats wouldn’t compliment each other but they sounded great. The music wasn’t noisy and jumbled and the vocals sounded like they were all singing in a trio. The Farnham and Bush tracks pretty much had identical backing music. They were easy to mix but the Esposito composition was very different and the general tone of that one was different too, so throughout the mix it was harder to mix the Esposito track. In fact, there must have also been a weird half beat somewhere in the Esposito one too as it synched perfectly with the first verse of the other tracks but the second verse was a bit off, so I had to cut the track in the middle and shift it along a few frames. You really do have to get into frame by frame changes here sometimes and that’s the intricacy that I love.
So next up I had to work out a structure for how I was going to mix the tracks. First of all I decided to have the first verse as a duet between Farnham and Bush and then the second verse a duet of Farnham with Esposito. I also thought I wanted to make this mix longer, like a 12” version or something. So I added an extra verse and made it a trio between all three of them. I just had to pick which lines I wanted each person to sing. I picked my favourite lines and the ones that Shawn had mentioned in his podcast.
For each verse I had it as a combination of some lines where it was just one track being played, and some sections (especially the chorus) being an amalgamation where you can hear them all singing together. In the first verse some of the bits between Farnham and Bush flow really smoothly. Some of the transitions with Esposito are slightly more obvious but I did what I could. It’s a question of timing, to try to synch up the beats, but also judging how much overlap to have and how much to fade in and fade out each track.
I thought about trying to grab a bar of two of instrumental music from the Farnham track and using that as a backing bed across the whole mix, but there weren’t any instrumental bars that didn’t have instruments playing extra melody. Adobe Audition does have a feature to remove vocals but it didn’t work very well in this case. I gave up in the end but actually I quite like that in some spots you know exactly when it changes to the other track. It just reminds you that it is a combination of different songs and that’s fine. This isn’t trying to be a new track of its own. It is a mix and it shouldn’t have to try and hide that fact.
The choruses work very well. I was really pleased with how they came out. In some bits some of the singers go ‘Yeah’ or something like that and in those instances I have boosted their audio so that it can be heard clearly.
The hardest part of the whole process was without doubt the guitar solos. All three tracks have guitar solos of the same length but they are quite different. I really wanted to make a cool mix of all three. I tried lots of different combinations, in different orders and also cutting the solos in half and rearranging them that way. But in the end I sadly had to come to the conclusion that I just couldn’t use the Esposito solo. It was the worst solo anyway and just didn’t really fit with the other two.
The bit right before the guitar solo is a good bit where in their own tracks they all sing something like “When they hear your heart of thunder”. Again it was easy to mix Farnham with Bush but it proved incredibly difficult to add in Esposito. I removed him several times, in order to make the mix sound better, but I always added him back in because I loved his ‘Yeah, yeah’ so much. That bit and a couple of bits of the guitar solo are the clunkiest parts of the mix but I think it was worth it in order to include these lines.
I basically had my main mixed track at this point. But I wanted to add in some more clever bits that I could hear in my head when listening to it. When they’re all singing the chorus together I could just imagine them all ad libbing and singing extra lines to get extra time on the mic, so there’s a few bits where I copied a line and pasted it in at another point or also just made a line repeat itself right away like an echo. In particular in the chorus after the third verse. I’ve actually just realised that I meant to do this in the chorus after the guitar solos, so that we build up to them, and not have them in the third chorus. So I may make that change at some point. But I had no idea how they would sound. I thought I again may have to try the vocal remover but in reverse and isolate the vocals on their own. This can work well on some tracks but it wasn’t working well on these tracks. So I just had to line the tracks up so that they synchronised with the main Farnham track but just a beat or two late, so that it sounded like an echo. I was very relieved when this worked well.
I thoroughly enjoyed making this and still have lots of ideas for other tracks I can mix together. Have a listen to this one and let me know what you think.
If you’re interested here is a screenshot of the full project in Adobe Audition.