White Label Friday: Yes, “Rhythm of Love (Dance to the Rhythm Mix)”

Written by Music, White Label

whitelabel.gif The late ‘80s caused rock bands to do many a strange thing in order to maintain their broad appeal. There were three surefire ways to reach the youth of the day: hire outside songwriters to write a piece of schlock you wouldn’t dream of claiming as your own (but would be happy to sing for a buck), record a dippy power ballad, or commission a dance mix of your latest single. It should be noted that Aerosmith, in an effort to hedge their bets, did all of the above.

Remixes were not new to the rock world – the Stones were making disco mixes as early as 1978 – but the early extended versions, like Steve Lillywhite’s cacophonous mixes of his work with U2, Big Country and Simple Minds, were made with a certain devil-may-care looseness, with little regard for whether a radio DJ or a club DJ gave the records the time of day. By 1987, however, the game had changed completely. If you were going to make a remix, you were going to make it club-friendly, damn it. Even bands like Duran Duran and the Cure, whose 12” mixes were guaranteed power rotation club play regardless of what they sounded like, were now getting worked over by Shep Pettibone and Francois Kevorkian. The message was clear: gimme a beat!

Enter Yes, and their Big Generator album.

Yes had the luxury of going the what-the-hell route with the remixes to “Leave It” after the massive success of “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” but this time around they were a little more cautious. The first single from Big Generator, “Love Will Find a Way” – which is wildly popular with the Popdose staff for the unintentionally hilarious line “I eat at Chez nous” in the pre-chorus – had remixes of the track released on the down-low, the label clearly thinking it wouldn’t need a boosted presence in the clubs to hit Number One. When the song peaked at #30 on the singles chart, the label stepped up their efforts, hiring Mark S. Berry to remix the second single, “Rhythm of Love.” (download) It would seem an odd match on paper, given that Berry was neck-deep in Miami’s Latin dance movement at the time (as his mix of Duran Duran’s “Meet El Presidente” will attest), but Berry made his bones under the tutelage of George Martin, Geoff Emerick, Jeff Lynne and Chris Thomas, to name a few. The man knew UK rock and he knew dance music; he was just the man for the job.

Berry’s changes were small but significant, remixing the vocals so that Jon Anderson’s castrato tenor soars over his band mates and punching up the drum track to give “Rhythm” some much-needed rhythm. And, in keeping with his Latin tendencies, Berry also added some Sheila E.-style percussion and a horn section. (He also kept the guitar solo, which was not yet verboten in clubland.) The song did great on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart, but Atlantic, inexplicably, did not send a remix edit to radio, opting for an edit of the LP version, which sounded pancake flat by comparison. The song peaked at #40 on the singles chart, serving as Yes’ final entry into the Top 40.

Countless Yes songs have since been given the remix treatment – largely the work of new-school remixers looking to carve up a classic for the sake of carving up a classic – but “Rhythm of Love” is still the only Yes remix that matters.

UPDATE: Instrumental mix and dub mix added. See below.

Bonus: Mark S. Berry talks to Popdose about remixing “Rhythm of Love”

WOW, you’re taxing the old memory now. Okay, so I’ll try and recollect the events that led to the mix…

I was based in New York City in 1987 where my office was, and Rick Stevens (he now owns the Record Plant in LA) was my manager and he was based in LA – he also managed a band that had Chris Squire’s ex-wife Nikki in it called Esquire – and Rick also managed a producer named Paul Fox, with whom I had worked on some keyboard overdubs for the Alisha album I was producing for RCA. So Rick kinda put all the pieces of the deal together with Paul doing overdubs, me handling the engineering and both of us mixing the extended remixes. Rick owned SUMMA Studios on LaCienega and Sunset, which was a small overdubs studio. I was staying at the Le Mondrian Hotel about 200 yards from SUMMA.

The first fiasco was going to Westlake Studios in LA (Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and “Beat It” hangout) to make copies of the 24-track masters that were sent to us from Sunset Sound where the original masters were mixed for the actual album…Paul and I went to go eat while the techies were busy lining the machines up for the 24-track transfer copies so that we could mix. On lining up the tape machines, the tech engineer erased over some of the original masters on one of the reels (it was a 48-track mix). Paul and I came back from dinner to find everybody hiding from us. It was literally a ghost town with just the tech to answer for his crime…

So we had a situation and needed to get the original slave reels sent over from Sunset Sound to reconstruct the top 60 seconds of the song that was now a 1000Hz tone…

We got the reels and “The Big Generator Book,” which transcribed every overdub for the original slave reels to the master…so we were in a good position to reconstruct the top 60 seconds and then cut onto the master. That was done by deciphering the Big Generator book which was a task unto itself…coded, drug-riddled nonsense, but we got through it.

So I had the masters reconstructed and then headed back to SUMMA for the overdubs with Paul Fox. We did a few days of keys, which Paul did, and brought in Paulinho De Costa for some killer percussion. We redid the drums with a studio guy from LA named Craig, I forget his last name. We needed to redo the drums as they were drifting all over the place and needed to get them into a steady groove with some kind of strict tempo.

After that we headed to The Enterprise Studios in LA to actually do the mix and spent two days putting the mix together. It was long days and lots of cutting and experimenting as there had never been a long extended remix done on a Yes song so we wanted to keep the integrity of the band but also move it onto the dance floor which Atlantic wanted from us. We also did several different styled remixes like the “Rhythm of Dub,” (download) “Move to the Rhythm (Instrumental)” (download) and “Dance to the Rhythm,” which was the extended vocal mix.

It was difficult to do this remix, as the guys were my idols and it always felt funny to me to do a remix of a progressive rock band. Paul and I argued a bit about certain elements of the mix as I came from the dance background and he came from the rock background, but in the end everyone loved it and it worked on the dance floor, as it was a Top 10 Billboard dance single. [Mixing] it was a lot of fun, and people to this day compliment me on the mix.