About this project
Help us get The Smith Tapes out into the world!
Between 1969–1972, Howard Smith recorded interviews with scores of rock stars and cultural icons. As a Village Voice columnist and radio personality on WPLJ FM, Smith sat down for revealing, personal conversations with Eric Clapton, Andy Warhol, Jim Morrison, Buckminster Fuller, Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia and Hugh Hefner, to name just a few. He interviewed John Lennon and Yoko Ono no less than five times, and called in live dispatches from his Winnebago parked stage-side at Woodstock. Smith was at the center of culture during an era of extraordinary transformation.
Smith kept the original interview reels, hundreds of them, buried in a crate in the back of his New York City loft, and they haven’t seen the light of day in over 40 years.
We’re launching this Kickstarter campaign to produce a limited edition, hand numbered box set with more than 12 CDs of the cream-of-the-crop interviews. Out of more than 150 interviews that we found, we’ve selected 18 incredible conversations for this boxed collection.
The Smith Tapes will also be a larger project. After the release of this box set, we will independently release 100 Howard Smith interviews on iTunes. These will be available in themed collections, downloadable as albums or as individual tracks.
So, what's left to do?
We’ve already digitized everything, so the heavy lifting is done. What once were boxes of reel-to-reel tapes stacked in the back of a West Village loft are now thousands of files on hard drives. Sifting through them was a forensic process, like an enormous audio jigsaw puzzle. We listened for clues in the conversations to chronologically piece together hundreds of disorganized and sometimes unlabeled reels. Then, often using online archives and a multitude of fan blogs, we determined the recording dates… It’s been a tedious blast.
We're asking for your help to raise funds for the cost of producing the box set.
As you can imagine, the audio editing, restoration and mastering on this project is intense. The tapes are 40 years old and were not stored with preservation in mind. Remarkably, most are in great shape, but the audio conditions do vary. Some reels have experienced magnetic tape degradation, and some had technical issues in the original recordings. We already have two incredible audio engineers hard at work on their restoration and mastering. They sound great.
This box set is going to be beautiful. We’ve teamed up with Art Director Masaki Koike at Phyx Design (winner of the 2007 Grammy Award: Limited Edition Box Set Category) to design it. The set will contain:
- 12 CDs of interviews
- A USB drive shaped like a vintage cassette tape
- A booklet featuring Howard describing each interview
- Identically reproduced photos and memorabilia from the original collection to recreate the feel of digging through the boxes of reels yourself!
Here are a few examples of the CD jacket graphics:
In the Box Set: Track Listing
- Disc 1 Mick Jagger 10/20/1969 & Eric Clapton 10/24/1970
- Disc 2 Jim Morrison 11/6/1969
- Disc 3 James Taylor 3/1970 & Lou Reed 3/26/1969
- Disc 4 Frank Zappa 6/6/1971
- Disc 5 Pete Townshend 6/8/1970
- Disc 6 John Lennon and Yoko Ono 2/5/1972
- Disc 7 Jerry Garcia 9/19/1970 & Janis Joplin 9/30/1970
- Disc 8 George Harrison Spring/1969 & Joe Cocker 6/1969
- Disc 9 James Rado and Gerome Ragni, HAIR 9/2/1969 & Abbie Hoffman 6/25/1970
- Disc 10 Jane Fonda 3/1971
- Disc 11 Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, Easy Rider 6/1969
- Disc 12 John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Bed-In Montreal 5/29/1969
- Cassette tape USB drive Hugh Hefner 4/1968 & Live phoned-in broadcast reports from Woodstock 8/15-17/1969 & 1 hour of Howard wandering around Woodstock with a handheld tape recorder 8/15-16/1969
More about the Interviews
Smith had a knack for meeting with artists at seminal moments in their careers. He talked with Mick Jagger on tour a few weeks before Altamont; Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda directly after the Cannes Film Festival, in advance of Easy Rider’s release; Pete Townshend during the two night run of Tommy at the Metropolitan Opera; and Andy Warhol after he was shot. He even taped Janis Joplin’s last interview, just a few days before her death.
The Smith Tapes are time capsules, portals through which we meet each interviewee in his or her prime, uncensored, unedited and uninhibited. These tapes have an immediacy – and an intimacy – that is astounding.
Got another minute? Give a listen!
Risks and challenges
The box set has had its technical challenges. We want to create a unique and beautiful collection, not merely a set of discs that fall into the generic templates we're used to seeing on the shelf. We want to share the experience of the collection: the authenticity and cultural context surrounding the interviews themselves.
The set will be lovingly hand-assembled and presented in a custom wooden crate containing 3 boxes for the CDs, loose pictures and reproduced ephemera from Howard's collection. In order to create such a unique and massive set (12 discs is sort of unheard-of in the box set world), we've had to source elements from many different vendors.
Our plan is to ship the sets by mid-December, and our production schedule is lined up to meet this goal. We have done our best to factor in sufficient lead time to avoid any foreseeable setbacks.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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