Shep Pettibone  

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Robert E. Pettibone, Jr. (born 15 July 1959, better known as Shep Pettibone) is a record producer, remixer, songwriter and club DJ, one of the most prolific of the 1980s. His earliest work known to the public was for one of New York City's top disco/dance radio stations, WRKS 98.7 "Kiss" FM, and later as remixer/producer for the disco label Salsoul Records. His prowess at production and mixing led him to work with Madonna in the 1985-1990 era during Madonna's arguably most popular period of creating dance music. Shep's contribution to 1980s club music is too extensive to list completely. He was 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 who preferred standard disco/dance and R&B). Though he was contemporaneous to others (such as Francois Kevorkian), he is certainly the most prominent DJ/Remixer to bridge the high Disco and House eras in popular dance music.


The Early Days: 98.7 Kiss "Mastermixes"

He was one of the first to submit multiple remixes (with different approaches) to be released all on the same single. Today this is standard practice to market a song to a multitude of different radio formats and markets. Shep's remix skills became known to the public starting in 1982 when began to create "Mastermixes" of single hit songs for the New York City disco/dance radio station WRKS (98.7 Kiss FM). Shep's "Mastermixes" were remixes of hit disco and dance songs of the time, and continued into 1983, after which Shep became more closely involved with Salsoul Records and expanded into studio mixing and production. Shep's "Mastermixes" would often incorporate the "dub" version or instrumental version of the 12" single, using the vocal-only track or other unique portions of the various versions of the 12" singles. Shep made ample use of tape splicing and other methods of editing to create repetitive lines of music or vocals, often in quick, staccato rhythm, and he also made judicious use of tape delay and digital delay effects, usually opting for an eighth-note 'triplet' continuous echo effect either effected on a specific vocal or musical point, or set on a continuous mode with limited delay length to allow for an echoing effect as the music played. Some "Mastermixes" he did for 98.7 Kiss FM which featured these effects significantly include those for "Do It To The Music" by Raw Silk, and "So Fine" by Howard Johnson (both hits in 1982). Of such popularity were his "Mastermixes" that in late 1982 Prelude Records released a double-album LP set of "Mastermixes" by Shep for a number of Prelude-released songs. The remixes Shep did for D-Train's "You're The One For Me" and "Keep On" are considered classic "Mastermixes" from this set.

Later: Work With Madonna & Others

Shep added to his work at 98.7 Kiss FM from 1982 by working in the studio on a number of well-known 12" singles for Salsoul Records in 1983, including hits by Skyy, Inner Life, the Salsoul Orchestra and Loleatta Holloway, among others. His remix of First Choice's "Let No Man Put Asunder" is the version now found in the majority of urban dj's record crates. Shep also had a go at remixing "Dr. Love" (which had anthemized many a disco night in the late 70s as A Tom Moulton Mix). Moulton wished Shep luck, but later hinted that he didn't care for the remix. Shep formed an early alliance with Pet Shop Boys, mixing "West End Girls" and co-producing some B-side material with the group. He did a notable "turnaround mix" for level 42 on their "Something About You" release in 1985, getting the record airplay and decent sales after the first release had been a bona fide flop. His most famous work by far would be his remixes, writing and production collaborations with Madonna, starting in earnest in 1987 when he added new material to Madonna's "Into the Groove", significantly changing the arrangement so that Madonna could get more stage time and a broader performance out of the song. Most notable were the duo's collaborations on the number one song "Vogue" and the "Erotica" album. Their association appeared to end soon after working on several songs together in 1994 for a Madonna album that did not work out. Madonna finished two of the 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. Shep helped British songbird (now millionaire songwriter and producer) Cathy Dennis break US radio by means of his mixes of "Just Another Dream" and "Touch Me (All Night Long)". The latter is a definitive example of a "turnaround" mix, where a remixer significantly commercialises an otherwise uncommercial song for single release, usually resulting much improved sales for the associated album. Shep worked with Cathy on her sophomore release, which did not perform as well as its predecessor.

In the mid-80s, Pettibone also produced the first version of the Pet Shop Boys hit "Heart", although an entirely new production would be used for the eventual single and yet another mix was used on the album Actually - it was eventually released on the 2001 2-disc rerelease.

Shep's snare drum sequencing

During Shep's peak years at the end of the 1980s, he established a trademark style of mix most easily identified by the use of a sequenced "machine gun"-sounding snare drum. Steve "Silk" Hurley simultaneously made use of a rapid fire snare, usually with more reverb applied. In England, the mixes of Phil Harding would feature this element (as one can hear on Bananrama's "I Can't Help It") and, less in the spotlight, Dancin' Danny D. and Mark Saunders (both respected remixers) were featuring variations of this motif in their own work (Danny D's snare usually lacked the syncopation of Shep's while Saunders was slower and displayed a pronounced "splash" effect). In contrast, Frankie Knuckles used the snare drum in an extremely sparing manner for his trademark "Def Classic Mixes". Shep's "bazooka snare" evolved into a singular sound that can be used with great accuracy to identify his remixes from the period 1988 to 1992, when present.

Was That What It Was?

Fans of Shep's 1986 remix of "Was That What It Was" for Pet Shop Boys may be interested to know that Shep did NOT mix that record: he was booked to do so but missed his plane, and his management mixed the song in his absence. It is unknown if Shep was consulting the manager over the phone. This fact went unnoticed until Pet Shop Boys revealed it in the liner notes for the "Alternative" cd anthology of b-sides and rarities.

Today, Shep Pettibone owns the Paradise Nightclub and The Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Shep Pettibone" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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