“Love is Bigger” Direct-to-Acetate at Third Man

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2018-05-28)

Last night U2 popped by Third Man Records in Nashville, TN, and recorded a new version of “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” for a future release on limited vinyl. Bono told fans the band had also recorded “Red Flag Day,” and fans outside the store confirm that it could be heard. The video of the band working on “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” was live streamed on Facebook, with the note, “When you think you’re done, you’ve just begun…’ Down at Jack White’s @thirdmanrecords in Nashville, recording a live version of ‘Love is bigger than anything in its way…’ Special limited edition vinyl coming soon. Thank you #Nashville #MusicCity #U2 #U2eiTour #U2SongsOfExperience”

Over on Twitter the message was slightly different:

So there’s a limited release coming soon. And this version of “Love is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way” was the first ever direct-to-acetate live recording in the Third Man Records Storefront.

What does that mean?

The “Direct-to-Acetate” process is something that Third Man Records revived in 2013. On June 25, 2013, Third Man released three singles recorded this way, one each by The Shins, The Kills and Seasick Steve. Each had been recorded in October 2013 using the Third Man direct-to-acetate recording process. The songs are recorded live, and mixed in real time by a sound engineer, and instantly cut to vinyl. Since those 2013 singles, Third Man has released a number of other direct-to-acetate recordings, including singles by Pokey LaFarge, Shabazz Palace, The Melvins, Death from Above 1979 and Jack Johnson.

Third Man released a video of Seasick Steve recording direct to Acetate for the launch of these direct-to-acetate recordings. You can see the performance, while the engineer, mixes the track, and the process of cutting the vinyl commences.

Most of these prior recordings done by Third Man Records were done at their Blue Room performance venue. U2 is the first to actually record their session in the Third Man Store itself.

For many years, gramophone records were made by cutting grooves directly into an acetate disc. The process to make copies involved making a mold from the master acetate, and then using that mold to produce records. The process was very popular prior to 1950s when analog tape started to gain in popularity and most studios started using tapes to record acts rather than going direct to acetate. In recent years the method of recording direct to acetate has regained popularity with a number of studios, including Third Man Records, Influx Studios in Switzerland, Corduroy Records in Australia. The recording you hear is direct from the session, and no remixing or later adjustment of the track is possible. It is a live recording of a moment in time with no tweaking after the fact.

It may not even be U2’s first direct-to-acetate recording. In the 70s, older studios still existed with direct-to-acetate capabilities, and some of U2’s early demos may have been done in this manner, although we know that they did record to tape for a few of these sessions.

This will be U2’s second collaboration with Third Man Records. It was Third Man Records that pressed copies of “The Blackout“ in black vinyl and in limited colour vinyl for Record Store Day’s 2017 Black Friday event. A release date for this new vinyl is not yet known, nor any details about how limited the release will be. Third Man operates stores in Nashville and Detroit, as well as an online store where previous direct-to-acetate singles have been sold.

(Thanks to Daniel, Agustin and Nick for some additional information.)

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