Thursday, September 23, 2010

Scoop To The Forum w/ Harry Weinger

Harry Weinger has been in the music business for more than 30 years, and for the past decade and more he’s been the VP of A&R at Universal Music Enterprises, the catalog division of Universal Music. A two-time Grammy® winner, HW most recently produced, among many other classic compilations, the two-CD Jackson 5 set Live At The Forum. He sat down with J5 Collector to give us the scoop of the production of this amazing release.
Additionally, Harry is also a guest speaker at the Michael Jackson symposium at Columbia College, “Genius Without Borders,” sharing the stage with Ed Eckstine, Siedah Garrett, Greg Phillinganes and Ricky Lawson, on a panel covering MJ’s entire career. Read about it here:

How did the Forum project come about?
Once I began work as the catalog guy for Motown I had, as a research and listening source, a box of DAT tapes from my predecessors. Among the tapes was a treasure trove of music that had been pored over for the J5 Soulsation! box set, and within those were concert recordings from the Los Angeles Forum and the San Diego Arena. They were fascinating, but – what to do? A few years went by and a friend, a real J5 fanatic, strongly suggested I go back and listen again, especially since the 40th anniversary of the Jackson 5 was coming up [in fall 2009]. I was listening to a lot of the unreleased studio tracks at the time and, in fact, the original plan for the I Want You Back: Unreleased Masters collection was for it to contain a disc of live stuff. After a few more listens, though, it was clear that the entire Forum shows should be a separate release.

Can you take us fans through the process once the tapes are located? What goes on next?
It’s not a given that every tape is perfectly marked with song titles and dates and venues. What we do is look up in a database every reel that looks “live” – meaning, an unusual sequence of titles that doesn’t match an actual LP but has familiar names. Sometimes the database does display a venue name and at least a year, but to be sure we order every physical multi-track reel and if we’re lucky end up with reels that are indeed live, with venue names, dates and other markings that were not entered into the computer database. This allows us to see, among other things, how many shows were recorded and if two tape decks were used in order to pick up the remainder of a song being sung; otherwise we would be stuck with an incomplete song. We then build an inventory of material to decide what the record will be. The tapes were transferred to digital format and I was able to make rough mixes and piece the puzzle together. During the Forum project we found that in the San Diego show the J5 followed the exact set as the LA show from the night before – except that they did “Ain’t No Sunshine” during the San Diego show, and that in general the crowd was much quieter and not as frenzied. “Sunshine” was not performed during Michael’s solo set, it was elsewhere in the San Diego show, but as you’ve heard it was so great that it had to be included on the live release. Rather than make “Sunshine” a bonus track, separate from the Forum live album, I edited it into Michael’s solo set. Then we – meaning engineer Kevin Reeves! – had to do some finessing in the final mix to make it sound seamless.

How did Motown decide to record at The Forum vs. Madison Square Garden?
It’s hard to say the reason. Logistics, perhaps? Motown was spending more time in LA – it may have been more difficult to record them in NYC. But why they even recorded them may have been out of a curiosity to hear what the 5ive sounded like live or maybe a decision was made based on the J5 hysteria at the time – you know, “Let’s capture the moment.”

What reason do you believe The Forum shows were not released at the time they were recorded?
Perhaps because, for one example, the 1970 show actually started and ended badly, with technical problems at the head and the frenzy at the end where the group fled for their lives. For the ’72 show, MJ’s voice was changing. We had technology advantages not available back then; we did a lot of work to manage the levels and other problems. At times, where Michael’s voice started to waver, we would fade his lead track slightly to make it appear that he’s falling away from the microphone; that way the listener could focus on the excitement rather than an occasional bad note. Not to say Motown’s engineers couldn’t have nailed it. But separate from those challenges, I think one must also consider where the group was at the time. Why mess with the long string of studio hits? For Motown and the J5, there was no need for a live album to fill a release schedule.

Why haven’t we been able to see any commercially released J5 concerts on DVD?
From a record company perspective, we don’t own the material. It would have to be licensed in and we’d have to get permission from everybody involved. It’s a long

We are coming up on a 40-year anniversary of the Goin’ Back To Indiana TV special (September 19, 1971 air date). Will we ever see the complete concert on CD?

I’d love to do the complete concert along with the TV special. I’d like to have both before we work on one. Again, the video portion is not something we control.

Did you have to consult with any of the Jacksons while putting together the Forum CD?
Once it was out we got copies to them and they loved it!

What is your favorite Jackson 5 record?

“Get It Together,” produced by Hal Davis, and I wish it was longer. Of course, I have great love for “I Want You Back,” but “GIT” always did something for me – that and “I Am Love.”

What do you think happened with the Skywriter LP?
Skywriter was an attempt to mature them and their sound – I mean, they did a tune from a Broadway show. What I found fascinating in reviewing the unreleased material is that there are outtakes from Skywriter that are fantastic! You do stop and think, gee, why didn’t they use these tracks? Those are earmarked for possible future rarities releases. The Skywriter and Get It Together period was very prolific, as was earlier, during their first year of recording with Bobby Taylor.

Will the J5 get a deluxe edition treatment for any LP’s? (For the fans – a deluxe edition is a 2-disc release of the original studio album accompanied by a second disc containing alternate takes/versions of the same songs as well as studio outtakes).
I hate to say we’ll see…but we’ll see. There’s a lot more in the vault – even after Motown seemed to clean it out when MJ was hot with Thriller, and then in 1995 with Soulsation!, there are plenty of quality recordings left. A few titles include a studio version of “Feelin’ Alright”; the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” which was also part of their first live sets and then dropped; a great cover of “Up On The Roof”; some cool funk tracks; Corporation outtakes that I hope to have Deke Richards put back together; and a song called “We’re The Music Makers,” a fun up-tempo song that is similar in subject matter to “We’re Here To Entertain You.” Man, for all that hysteria and the crazy schedule they were on, the boys recorded like crazy. There are also things that aren’t finished and in my opinion are not great, but that’s to be expected from so much volume.

Are there alternate versions of Michael’s solo work at Motown?
Motown in general didn’t save takes; they only kept a master take. So, there wouldn’t be a session reel with several takes of “Got To Be There.” I haven’t seen or heard a lot of unreleased Michael solo stuff, but there are a few cuts.

How has the response been for the Live At The Forum disc?
The response has been pretty good. I believe we sold more overseas than in the U.S. In regards to sales, if I get to do another project you know the numbers were good.

*Now here’s a Scoop bonus, Thanks HW!
It turns out that the May 1970 Philadelphia show was recorded. What the!?!?! As any fan could imagine my jaw dropped to the floor. Your roving reporter was hit with an Ali left hook and a Tyson uppercut! As most fans know, there is footage circulating on the internet of the J5 performing “ABC” and Sly Stone’s “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin,” but who knew the entire J5 Philly show was also recorded? HW states that the J5 were really raw, the sequence of the show wasn’t strong and the audio recording is quite distorted. One interesting discovery from the Philly show: the J5 performed a cover of the then-current Lulu single, “Hum A Song (From Your Heart),” which for her was not a hit. After our discussion I went out on the internet highway and found a snippet of the Lulu track. Indeed, it sounds like a tune fit for the J5, during the breakdown. Here’s the link.

A big Thank You goes out to J5C for making this interview possible. Another big Thank You goes out to Mr. Harry Weinger for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with me. I learned a lot and I hope I was able to bring the fans the scoop, the only way I know how to bring it…straight up and down! THANK YOU FOR LETTIN’ ME BY MYSELF…

Adam Worthy (Scoop Newsworthy) has been a Jackson 5 fan since 1981. He first saw the Jacksons on TV at age four during their summer variety show and he has been a collector since 1991. He loves to listen to music, dissect music, make music, and spend time with his wife and children.


  1. superb interview Adam. Learning about those new titles certainly gives us all something to look forward to. I'd like to see this J5 Blog given some official approval. Great site Katy, aided by Corey and Adam.

    (For The Record)

  2. Oh, great interview!
    "Hum a song" really does sound like a song fit for the J5! I can imagin Jackie doing the high backgrounds, Tito humming some low 'pompompompom's... A little guitare solo for Tito perhaps. And some funky dancing too :)

    You're right, Chris, this gives us something o look forward to.

  3. i agree with Raisa. it does sound very J5-ish!
    here's hoping HW and team issue material from the Skywriter to GIT sessions.

  4. I just really want another live performance to be released. A show from 1971 maybe???

  5. I would want Diana Ross presents the Jackson 5 sessions.

  6. This was soo exciting to read. Thanks so much Adam (Scoop) for your research and interview. You truly asked the questions that all of us would have chosen. Thanks also to J5C---you're a one of a kind.

    Thanks Mr. Weinger as well.

    Truly grateful for this interview.
    Corey :o)

  7. Really great time reading that. Reading a bit of what had to be done to cover Michael when the voice changed is real interesting!!

    I guess we just have to hope the CD sells out, coz I need to get everything else mentioned here. Thanks Scoop, and Mr. Weinger--I also appreciate all the work you did for The Complete Motown Singles.
    -Sir Lev

  8. Is there an audio tape for the Philly show or is there just a video for it??

  9. Oh, what I wouldn't do to relive the Philly show....Maybe one day it will actually be made available. We can only hope. Thanks for the great posting Scoop!


  10. One question Scoop, is those shows H.W. mentioned are they the only concerts recorded(audio and video recorded)?

  11. Little Michael's voice on the 1972 concert sounds so worn out... poor little dude.

  12. Harry Weinger is the best!!! Thanks for having me in your office to listen to all the found J5 treasure HW...
    The only problem with live J5 audio is that you ALWAYS want more and more and more...haha
    I think a live album from 71...right after the "Maybe Tomorrow" album would be the ULTIMATE J5 live album.