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"Octomnipent Zeitgeist" Medley

Making Of… Story

Label: HOT TRACKS Program Service
DJs: Glenn Cattanach, Greg Lee & Jeff McKeehan
Issues: Series 5, Issue 1 & Issue 2
1985 Medley Team

Making Of… "Octomnipent Zeitgeist" Medley

by Glenn Cattanach

To create the medley, Glenn Cattanach worked with two other DJ's - Greg Lee and Jeff McKeehan. Glenn owned all the equipment, and Greg and Jeff were local club DJ's in Lexington, Kentucky. The three of them had previously made two other medleys together - the "1984 Top 40 Medley" and the "Best of Hot Tracks 1984." Both medleys appeared on Hot Tracks during 1985, which was the 4th year for Hot Tracks.

Glenn, Greg & Jeff came up for the idea of a BIG two-part medley for 1985 and started work on it in October of 1985. Greg was really the mastermind behind the medley, being the one with most of the ideas, but the medley was a group effort. Greg reviewed dance charts and came up with the list of songs to include. They named the two-part medley "Octomnipent Zeitgeist" which loosely meant "THE Spirit of '85." These guys wisely kept logs on the entire project, noting the settings for the turntable speed, mix board levels, equalizer settings, tape speed, etc. This enabled them to later re-edit any part that needed perfecting.

All the work was done with two turntables, a ¼" track 15 IPS reel to reel recorder, a cassette deck with dbx noise reduction and a variable speed 7½ IPS reel to reel recorder. Digital recording was uncommon in 1985 and no samplers or effects (delay, reverb, echo, and no CD players!) and no multi-track tape recorders were used.

The key to the entire medley was what was called the Kentucky Multi-Track method (named that because they were living in Lexington, Kentucky at that time). They would record 8 to 16 beats of a percussion piece to use "under" the song being edited. They looped those beats by splicing a length of edited tape together, sometimes several meters long, and playing it repeatedly while recording that rhythm track to a cassette deck (with dbx noise reduction) for 3 minutes. They would then play that cassette back, mixing in the record/song they were adding to the medley with the rhythm track. To transition to another song, they would use the same rhythm track under the next song to make it sound similar to the previous song. Frequently, several rhythm tracks were sampled, layered and cross-faded. This method was often subtle and always effective. This way the songs did NOT sound like a bunch of turntable mixes that were simply chopped up and edited back together. They used more than 70 or 80 different "loops" or rhythm tracks for the entire medley.

Final preparations for "Octomnipent Zeitgeist" included breaking the 35 minute medley into two parts, adding mix breaks between the two parts, and adding a Wizard of Oz theme (since they were calling the separate parts OZ-I and OZ-II). The medley ends with a trickling ultra-high-speed voice-over describing the origin of OZ. Hot Tracks published the medley in January and February 1986 as Series 5, Issues 1 and 2.

The mix took 600 man-hours and over three months to complete. It was a labor of love for these guys. They figured out what they had spent on tape (remember, back then everything was on ¼" tape, no hard drive recording) and the vinyl records, they each made only about $40 US. They didn't care. They had created one of the best year-end medleys ever and were known by DJ's around the world.

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