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Shep Pettibone (19?? - )

Related: club music - dance music - remix - Salsoul records - Madonna - New York music


Shep Pettibone is a record producer, remixer, songwriter and club DJ, one of the most prolific of the 1980s. His early work was for the disco label SalSoul Records.

His contribution to 80's club music is too extensive and successful to list completely. He was very instrumental in bringing the early underground sound of house music into the pop mainstream by way of a hybrid sound (much to the dismay of some purists).

He was one of the first to create multiple versions or alternate productions/interpretations of the very same song to be released all on the same single. This is called a remix. Today this is standard practice to market a song and artist to a multitude of different radio formats and international markets which have different style preferences.

His most famous work was by far his remixes for and writing, and production collaborations with Madonna. Most notable was the number one song "Vogue" and the "Erotica" album. Their association appeared to end soon after working on several songs together in 1994 for Madonna's "Bedtime Stories" album that did not work out. Madonna finished two of these songs with different collaborators. See Unreleased Madonna Songs. A third tune from this session called "Love Won't Wait" was later given to Gary Barlow to record and it reached #1 in the UK in 1997 with co-writing credit given to both Shep and Madonna.

Today, Pettibone owns a night club in Asbury Park, New Jersey and has invested his fortune into real estate. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shep_Pettibone [Mar 2005]


Famed for his late eighties, early nineties remix and production work for Madonna and other major league pop stars, Pettibone's early origins lie in hip hop. Together with Arthur Baker he was behind Afrika Bambaata & The Jazzy Five's groundbreaking 'Jazzy Sensation'. He also pioneered the 'mastermixes' of Kiss FM Radio, introducing a new methodology by segueing records to build 'sequences', almost like movements in classical music. It was a parallel development to hip hop's scratching and DJ innovations, which were undoubtedly an ungoing influence. 1982-1983 saw Shep moving into another musical area, reviving the sounds of people like Loleatta Holloway, Rochelle Fleming and Jocely Brown to great success, which ensured his status as an in-demand mixer for large budget studio sessions.
In 1981, he gave Tony Humphries radio access on New York's Kiss FM, after hearing the latter's demo cassette.

Tom Moulton in an interview by Claes Widlund:
Claes Widlund: Cool! So, when talking about Salsoul... You told me earlier about when you mixed First Choice's "Dr.Love" in 1977. But then SalSoul had Shep Pettibone remix it in 1982.
Tom Moulton:"Yes, which was dreadful...
Claes Widlund: Yeah. That was actually my next question, but what did you think about that?
Tom Moulton"Well, I don't know Shep... I had signed a exclusive deal with Casablanca so I couldn't work for Salsoul any more. And I know when Shep wanted to do it, somebody said to me "Won't you get offended?" I said "No, I wish him all the luck in the world." 'Cause I know it would be a nightmare for him to do."
Claes Widlund: Because I love your mix of it and I don't like Shep's mix of it. But how did that make you feel when somebody told you - he is going to remix this or when you heard the result?
Tom Moulton: "It didn't bother me, I just said "Boy, these guys really like punishing themselves." 'Cause I know how difficult it is. I knew that they were gonna try to add things - they wanted to be able to have synther code on there and things like that. In the days I was mixing we were just starting to do that, but I still didn't - I still used the real musicians. I didn't use anything like that. So there was no synther code on it anyway."
<Full Interview>
From: "bruce baron"
To: jahsonic@yahoo.com
Subject: Unreleased Madonna Songs with Shep Pettibone - Article Link
Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2000 10:10:59 PST

Found your great site on Shep Pettibone. Thought I would send you a link to an article of mine that mentions some unreleased Madonna/Pettibone productions from the "Erotica" and "Bedtime Stories" albums. - ENJOY

For a transcription of my July'99 article in Goldmine Magazine on Unreleased Madonna Songs, travel to:

  • Selected Discography
    • Tommy Boy rds
      • 12" single #812 Afrika Bambaataa & The Jazzy 5 Music by The Kryptic Krew 'JAZZY SENSATION' (3/81)
    • Salsoul rds
      • SG-356 Skyy 'Call Me' (1981)
      • SG-371 Sly Cabell 'Feelin' Fine' (1982)
      • SG-373 Rafael Cameron 'Desires' (1982)
      • SG-376 Salsoul Orchestra f. Loleatta Holloway 'Seconds' (1982)
        • Produced , Arranged & Conducted by: Patrick Adams
          • A1. Seconds (5:39)
          • B1. Seconds (Special Club Version) (8:40)
      • SG-377 The Jammers 'And You Know That' (1982)
      • SG-379 Inner Life 'Moment of My Life' (1982)
        • (Leroy Burgess , Sonny T.Davenport)
        • Produced by: Greg Carmichael , Leroy Burgess
        • Arranged by: Leroy Burgess
          • A1. Moment of my life (extended version)(7:35)
          • B1. Instrumental (5:25)
          • B2. Short vocal (5:15)
          • * Inscriptions: on a-side "It's fresh"
      • SG-387 Aurra 'Such a Feeling' (1982)
        • Produced by: Steve Washington
      • SG-388 The Jammers 'Be Mine Tonight' (1982)
      • SG-389 Skyy Let Love Shine' (1983)
      • SG-391 Salsoul Orchestra Ooh, I Love it (love break)' (1983)-->Love Is The Message
        • (V.Montana,Jr)
        • Produced & Arranged by: Vincent Montana,Jr
        • A Shep Pettibone Mix for Mastermix Productions
        • Engineered by: Carla Bandini
          • A1. Ooh, I Love it (love break)(7:15)
          • B1. Love Break Groove (5:00)
          • B2. Love Break Version (7:37)
      • SG-392 Inner Life I Like It Like That' (1983)
        • Lead Vocals by: Jocelyn Brown
      • SG-394 Aurra Baby Love' (1983)
      • SG-395 Weeks & Co. 'If You're Looking For Fun' (1983)
      • SG-396 Vaughan Mason & Butch Dayo Party on the Corner (1983)
      • SG-397* First Choice 'Let No Man Put Asunder'
      • SG-400? Weeks and Co. 'Knock, Knock' (1983)
      • SG-401DJ Surface Falling in Love (1983)
          Produced and Arranged by: David (Pic) Conley and Toni Byrd
      • SG-404? The Strangers Step Out Of My Dreams (1983)
        • (Hubert Eaves III) [D-Train]
        • Mixing Engineer: Bob Blank
      • SG-406DJ Candido 'Jingo' (1983)
        • (M.Olatunji)
        • Produced & Arranged by: Joe Cain
        • Mixing Engineer: John Potoker
        • A Shep Pettibone Mix for Mastermix Productions
          • A1. Jingo (7:22)
          • B1. Jingo Breakdown (6:30)
      • SG-408DJ Skyy 'Show Me the Way' (1983)
      • SG-409DJ Leroy Burgess Heartbreaker' (1983)
        • Produced & Arranged by: Leroy Burgess
        • A Shep Pettibone Mix for Mastermix Productions
          • A1. Heartbreaker (5:53) (Leroy Burgess , Sonny Davenport)
          • B1. Stranger (6:23)(Leroy Burgess , Sonny Davenport)
      • SG-410 Instant Funk (Just Because) You'll Be Mine' (1983)
      • SG-411? First Choice Let No Man Put Asunder ' (1983)
        • Produced by: Baker-Harris-Young
        • A Shep Pettibone Mix for Mastermix Productions
        • Engineered by: John Potoker
          • A1. Let No Man Put Asunder (7:58)(B.Gray , B.Hawes)
          • B1. Let Me Down Easy (D.Jordon , A.Smith)
          • Mixed by: Tom Moulton
      • SG-414 Jimmy Williams 'All Of My Lovin'' (1983)
        • (Bert Reid , Cliff Branch)
        • Produced , Arranged & Mixed by: Bert Reid
      • SG-415 Loleatta Holloway Love Sensation' (1983)
        • (Dan Hartman)
        • Produced by: Dan Hartman
        • Arranged by: Norman Harris
          • A1. Love Sensation (7:27)
          • B1. Instrumental (6:40)
          • B2. Acapella (3:00)
          • Inscriptions on a-side: "Fierce Memorys" " Hot Sensations, Past, Presents and Future".
      • SG-417 Casanova Eye Contact' (1983)
      • SG-419 First Choice Doctor Love' (1983)
        • (Norman Harris , A.Felder , A.Tyson)
        • Produced & Arranged by: Norman Harris
        • Engineered by: Carla Bandini
          • A1. Doctor Love (7:47)
          • B1. Dub (8:15)
      • SG-423 Weeks & Co Let's B-B Break' (1984)

        Taken from a discography by Thiebaut Laurent

  • Hicks, Clair & Love Exchange
  • Push (In the Bush) 5 vers.
  • KN 1002 / dj / mixed by Shep Pettibone / '84

    1983 Profile by Steven Harvey

    Shep Pettibone

    For a long time it was impossible to live in New York without nearing 'This is a KISS Master Mix... Mix... Mix... by Shep Pettibone!' resounding across the airwaves and into the streets. While there had been disco radio mixes before Pettibone, there was never anything like the buzz that kept building on the streets until demand was such for his remixed tapes that Prelude released the landmark KISS Master Mixes LP This documented for the first time the state of the art in NYC club-style mixing (volume 2 forthcoming).

    Fierce, the word popularised by Pettibone, is the best description of his own mixing style. If 'turntable jazz', the term coined by critic Michael Freedberg for the vinyl legerdemain of b-boy and disco DJs is apt, then Pettibone could be the new form's Charlie Parker, working with three Technics 1200 turntables and a Bozak mixer. It's a bit easier to accept the stop-on-a-dime repeats and starting juxtapositions and you know they are pre-recorded on tape but when you see the same bravura cut-ups improvised live, the complexity of Pettibone's musical re-shapings becomes clear.

    During his hiatus from radio remixing, Pettibone has been playing records live at Better Days, a Black gay bar in the Times Square area. Every club's sound reflects its demographics and, at Better Days, Pettibone spins almost exclusively Black urban post R&B style disco. He constantly mixes over the records, dropping in extra hand claps (like the delayed intro clap in Prince Charles' 'Jungle Stomp') and effects and hardly ever seems to let a record play through. The peak comes when he juxtaposes an acapella version of Chocolate Milk's 'Who's Getting It Now' with the instrumental version of Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean', creating a new song that remains perfectly in sync for minutes. He is constantly teasing the discs with his finger and tapping the rims of the turntable to bring records into sync.

    It's 3.30 in the morning, the lights are flashing, the men screaming and I'm exhausted yet riveted to my spot as Pettibone initiates a new cycle with Sylvester's 'Don't Stop'. The gigantic synth-drum break erupts, the surging vocals climax and the slightly calmer synth melody keeps sneaking back. Build it up and put it back over the top. The young man responsible for this aural mayhem startles me with his cleancut appearance. While he describes his personal pre-remix history as 'boring', he also tells me that his mother was an opera singer and that between the ages of five and 11 he travelled around the European opera hall circuit with her.

    As I write Pettibone has just resumed doing Master Mixes for KISS-FM and producing mixed dance parties for the radio by DJs Jellybean, Larry Levan and Bruce Forest. From the intensive listening he has been doing over the last few years he told me that he cannot experience music without hearing it as separate tracks.

    SH: How did the idea of radio mixing get started?

    SP 'It was Frankie Crocker's idea (programme director at WBLS). Back then the idea of a remixed record was to backbeat it - two records together - to phase it. My idea was wow, you ve got this opportunity: take the record, cut it up, extend breaks, re-arrange it the way I wanted to hear it. I learned about the actual concept of radio tapes from Ted Currier. He was with WKTU for two years and with WBLS for two years and then with EMI/Liberty. He was the first person who ever did those 92KTU dance parties, back when it was Studio 92, The average club DJ can't come along and make a tape and expect it to sound fantastic. You can't think 'club' because it's different. It's all to do with the station's compressors and the levels where you have your mix riding."

    The turntables are quite different, aren't they? "They are similar but they're quartz locked. Usually you touch a turntable to slow it down and speed it up - with these you had to put all your pressure because of the quartz lock."

    The Master Mix tapes for the radio and the album were all done with records - never the master tapes? "A hundred percent with records and whatever tape recorder echo effects I could find. I'd go back and forth between tape recorders to get effects but you start to lose Sound quality.

    At Better Days, besides the air of sex and excitement it seemed to be about the nostalgia people feel for old classics. "True. The music right now is not good. I'm sick of hearing drums and synthesisers, I'd like to hear music again. Strangely enough, all these computer records started after 'Thanks To You' by Sinnamon. It was kind of like that computer sound within a black vein."

    'Thanks To You' and 'Don't Make Me Wait' came out and started the whole dub thing in disco. "Peech Boys started that - like what are the handclaps doing? You never heard handclaps used. Not always - Witch Queen was one group to use wild handclaps. It was a sense of dub. Now what seems to create excitement in 'Planet Rock' type music is the dub factor. If you just let the record sit through all the way it would be a bore."

    If you're a mix conscious producer you can do what the Peech Boys are trying to do with Larry Levan - use the mixing board as a sixth instrument in the recording process.

    "There are a lot of producers out there thinking that way now. I think the one who really started it was Arthur Baker. The first record he ever did, I worked on."

    'Jazzy Sensation'? "A big garage record. It was the beginning of that sound. There weren't any records out that sounded like Kraftwerk, except Kraftwerk,''

    It was intriguing to me on the Master Mix album how you were redoing tracks that had already received a pretty definitive mix by Francois. ''He's another person I respected. He always gave me the tracks I needed, that drum track with one instrument playing on top of it that I need for a remix. Within his arrangement of the mix he would simplify it enough so that I could loop certain parts."

    Like the two repeated elements in Jeanette 'Lady' Day's 'Come Let Me Love You' - the drum break and the descending flute and vibes lick. "That actually came off another record entirely."

    One of my favourites is the B-side dub you did for Sinnamon's 'He's Gonna Take You Home (To His House)'. The A-side was sort of disposable but the 10 minute instrumental was like radical trance music. Do you ever want to put dub versions on A-sides? ''The A-side of 'Thanks To You' (Sinnamon), she was singing on those breaks. It was very mixed. I slowed it down incredibly, it was like 130-136 beats. 'Thanks To You' was one of those records I came home with four or five reels of tape on it. I just took every way possible and put all those ways together on the 12inch."

    Like a number of the people I've spoken to you don't seem very positive about current trends in disco. What are your favounte records to spin and listen to from the past?

    "They seem mainly to be Salsoul records and 'Spank' (Jimmy Bo Horne), 'Love Is The Message', T Connection's 'At Midnight'. I listen to classical music all the time. It is the most beautiful form of music to me. Mozart is my favourite. He s powerful. Dance music, in general, has to be powerful to get over. I guess I carry over what I get from his music into what I do." --Steven Harvey, 1983, Collusion Magazine

    Electro, Dub, Handclaps

  • excerpts from interview by Steven Harvey in Collusion magazine, 1983:
    • Shep Pettibone [in Collusion magazine 1983?]: " [...] strangely enough, all these computer records started after "Thanks To You". It was kind of like that computer sound within a black vein.
    • Steven Harvey: "Thanks to You and "Don't Make Me Wait" came out and started the whole dub thing in disco.
    • Shep Pettibone: "Peech Boys started that - like what are the handclaps doing? You never heard handclaps used. Not always - Witch Queen was one group to use wild handclaps. It was a sense of dub. Now what seems to creat excitement is "Planet Rock" type music is the dub factor. If you just let the record sit through all the way it would be a bore.
    • Steven Harvey: If you're a mix conscious producer you can do what the Peech boys are trying to do with Larry Levan - use the mixing board as a sixth instrument in the recording process.
    • Shep Pettibone: There are a lot of producers out there thinking that way now. I think the one who really started was Arthur Baker The first record he ever did, I worked on.
    • Steven Harvey: "Jazzy Sensation"
    • Shep Pettibone: A big garage record. It was the beginning of that sound. There weren't any records that sounded like Kraftwerk, except Kraftwerk.


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