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R.I.P. Bob Heil

R.I.P. Bob Heil
March 01, 2024 06:08PM
Bob Heil was a massively important person in music history. I really don't know how well known he is outside of St. Louis, but he's revered here.

He was a tech nerd who loved tinkering with sound systems, which was a hobby he used in conjunction with his gig as the organist at the Fox Theater in St. Louis. In 1970, the Grateful Dead were on tour when their soundman Ousley had to vamoose right before their show in StL due to pending legal actions due to his slightly less legal gig manufacturing LSD. Left without a sound guy, Jerry Garcia took the advice of a local and called up Heil asking if he could fill in at the last minute. Heil showed up with the sound system he'd been tinkering with, which then blew the Dead's minds even more than acid by providing them with a sound system that was louder than anything they'd used before but without distortion. Heil ended up landing a much more lucrative job than organist at a theater.

Word got around that the Grateful Dead was managing to get as loud as hell without the sound turning into complete sludge, and soon Pete Townshend came calling, and Heil became an essential partner to the Who, helping them achieve their Guinness World Record for being the loudest band ever at that time and working with Townshend to achieve his vision for Quadrophenia.

Watch live videos of Beatles stadium shows being completely drowned out by screaming teenaged girls.for life before Heil.

Aside from completely revolutionizing concert sound, Heil's other main invention was the Talk Box, beloved by Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton.
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Re: R.I.P. Bob Heil
March 02, 2024 01:43PM
Apart from Heil's name, I remembered the Dead's history with large, loud sound systems and Owsley's extra-legal gig. Didn't know he invented the Talk Box, though. (Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" comes to mind for a good example as well.)

Your advice to watch a Beatles video or two, to get a sense of pre-Heil and post-Heil, was well placed. We've all been to a few concerts with shoddy sound. And we've all seen concerts where the band seemingly had no business sounding as good as they did -- either because of the band's louder-louder-c'mon-damnit-louder aesthetic (Metallica's 1992 show comes to mind; they needed to be loud, to overcome the screams of their manic fans, yet the sound quality was startlingly good) or because they were playing in a big stadium, where you'd take it for granted that the sound is going to be a mess (U2's 2017 concert being a brilliant example; in Seattle's NFL stadium, the band's sound was almost impossibly clean). So yeah, for his pioneering genius, Bob's place in rock history should be respected.

Rest in peace, Bob.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/02/2024 01:57PM by Delvin.
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