• Lukas Kendall

Hotel by Johnny Keating—Tape Format Confusion


I am too young to have experienced the 1960s—but I sure like the aesthetics!


Hotel (1967), based on a 1965 Arthur Hailey novel, was a soapy drama set at a fictional hotel in New Orleans. It features a terrific score by Scottish bandleader Johnny Keating (1927–2015), his official site here (courtesy his family).

Keating didn’t do a lot of film work but also wrote a super fun score to the 1967 Peter Yates heist movie, Robbery:

When I was doing a handful of albums from the Warner Bros. Records, I quickly targeted Hotel, which we paired with Stanley Myers’ Kaleidoscope.


This was the album re-recording; I would have loved to have released the original film performance, but we weren’t able to license it.


Why am I mentioning this today? Because of a random memory that was triggered by looking through old files some weeks ago.


When we got the master tapes for Hotel from Warner Bros. Records, we were delighted to find they had the four-track 1/2'' original masters—you get better sound from doing a new mix of the four-track, than if you use the two-track 1/4'' album master.


But when mastering engineer Doug Schwartz had the reels up on his machine, he noticed something...odd. The two vocal tracks had a strange track alignment with a lot of “bleed.” Instead of hearing the strings clearly on channel one, the woodwinds clearly on channel two (for example)—and so on—the channels seemed to be already “mixed”...but not very well.


It didn’t take much sleuthing to figure out that the vocal tracks were actually three-track recordings, not four-track. But there was no documentation to this point. (We added a note on our color xerox, which you can see above.)


I don’t know if I’m explaining this well, but today, with digital media, we’re used to things simply not working at all if you use the wrong equipment. But in the analogue days, you could still get playback—just the wrong playback.


For some reason, the master tape to the Hotel album had combined four- and three-track recordings (spliced together with leader). Good work, fellas.


Once we released this, it was simple to transfer the selections with the appropriate tape head.


One last note about Hotel: the book was also adapted into a popular 1983–88 ABC TV series produced by Aaron Spelling. (Think Love Boat on land, with no laugh track.)


As a kid, I found it dreadfully dull to watch, but I would tune in just to hear the gorgeous Henry Mancini theme—in all its romantic, poppy city splendor:


I remember one time seeing the end credits and Fred Steiner had scored the episode—I recognized his name from Star Trek and was very proud of myself.


I would love to hear more Mancini Hotel music, but he only wrote the theme. He didn’t even score the pilot—that was Artie Kane.


The other show around this time for which Mancini wrote the theme, but only the theme, was Remington Steele:

Think this was the inspiration for the He-Man theme? Nah...

Hey, want to blow your mind? Listen to He-Man’s voice, and then listen to Morris the Cat:

Same actor—John Erwin.


All right, that’s enough going down a pop-culture rabbit hole for one day!

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