Sound Mixing, Storyville, and “Gurl 28” Sandy Friedman

Sound mixing was mostly a mans world until "Gurl 28" Sandy Friedman took the reins of the soundboard at Storyville and blazed her own sonic trail.

The only known photograph of Michael Whittaker mixing sound.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, 1983 – There certainly must have been some historical high points for women as our primativo ancestors stomped across the globe. There don’t seem to be many records that bear this out, but they must have had some kind of fun.

Since proto-hominids first gathered those Neanderphallic bones and clanged and chanted “nnn, grrr urrr mout” around the fire as the flames licked the stars, we endeavored to encourage those special ones among us that could ‘perform.”

Somehow, some among us embody executions of collective consciousness that slip the bonds that bind us to the serpent and allows us as spectators the pretense that we are the stardust we seek to be.

Essentially, we learned to applaud artists and appreciate art.

More likely than not, it was women around that fire pit, with lots of bone rattling, foot stomping, wild-eyed yelps and spooky-ooky magic madness creating way better transformational theater that took us on journey’s we are just now starting to remember.

Surely, way better than the dudes boring replay of the elephant hunt that they always did.

These cool shows by women didn’t last long though and got shut down pretty early on, because, y’know, guys are basically dicks and hate it when chicks are better at stuff than they are.

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Despite their ability to give birth to ideas, emotions and other things, for the longest time, it seemed a woman’s place in the world of transformation was trodding the boards of performance at those “all girls – all lyres – all nite long” shows that took place “after hours” on Paraskeví nights out by the Parthenon.

Those ecstatic moments of pure bliss that make all the practice, work and discipline pay off while in front of an audience or, when captured with the tools of a scribe on his recording medium only last a mere blip in time and are rarely repeated. It was sad for the world and tragic for Gurls in those olden days.

It is a testament to the innate awesomeness of women who used those nanoscrivenings to sustain a lifetime of work and attention to craft. Sad, but it seems that was all that the early pioneers of musical macht schau could cling to for validation were bits of woven fabric or, odd etchings in bone. Unlike our amazing sisters performing today.

Surveying the music scene these days we have the amazing authoritativeness of Gaga, Adelle, Miley, L-7, Beyonce and still-to-this-day Dolly Parton producin’, performin’, playin’ callin’ all the shots and signing fat paychecks for the men who work for them.

It wasn’t always that way. Ask them and just ask The Go-Go’s, The Bangles, ask Pink or Cher.

Seeing woman enter music in the 70’s and 80’s was thrilling and overdue. It was also painful to watch.

Barbiturate Bobs still drawing a line with Aerosmith and a vulgar “hey girlie, need a male plug for your ‘instrument?”

Sniveling Syds making note that your amp is all wrong for your guitar which is all wrong for you. “You need something lighter, y’know, for a girl.”

Amps are heavy so let the person who owns it, move it. Criticism is boring, so save the comparisons to other musicians for the critics and geeks on the guest list. Sound is cool and easy but oddly devoid of women.

Until Gurl Twenty Eight, Sandy Friedman. YHN had just taken over as the house sound engineer at the revamped and legendary “Storyville.” It had Don Law booking muscle which meant a steady stream of Violent Femmes, Three O’Clock and other college favorites on the calendar.

Sandy had a look that coulda come from either a 13th-century Romany camp, a scene in a racy Victor Hugo novel, early twentieth century Manhattan Bohemia or, Haight Street. The cloth that flowed but never really became a garment, no shoes and a vague whiff of turmeric and tuberose.

She showed-up unannounced. She made a joke about baseball and got it all wrong. Before the gentle words “Sorry man, the guest list is full,” spilled out of my mouth, she said, with the clarity of a lifelong devotee of Henry Higgins, “I want to learn to do sound and will do whatever you tell me to.”

It was not the first time YHN had a person say they would do whatever they were told to do. It was the first time, however, YHN thought of things to tell that person to do. Like calculate compression ratios and learn how to make feedback in tune with the guitarist.

Like YHN when he began, Sandy knew next to nothing. She knew what a microphone was and that was about it. She is an amazing GURL who became an astounding audio engineer. Like most Gurls, she can do whatever she wants, if she wants to do it.

She wanted to do sound and she would do anything to learn how. Sandy was thrown to the wolves and man, they were savage. There were many times it was unsure if she would return the next day. She refused to let YHN intervene. She learned to give as good as she got and got better at everything.

When YHN was making plans to move to Los Angeles many thought the house gig at Storyville would go to another guy who did sound around town.

Nope! it was Sandy who got the gig and later did the house production for Jonathan Swift’s and (take that Barbiturate Bob) Aerosmith’s club Mama Kin.

She also did a tour with one of YHN old pals. Small world. Gurl Twenty Eight is an example of manifesting your dream and I am so proud that she is a much better engineer than YHN.

No equalization was used in this article.

YHN Richard Sumner is a character from “The Desk Set” and is known for a futile attempt to educate a women about “manly” things she somehow knew everything about. With his comeuppance, he learned somehow that woman knew more…about everything, than he ever could comprehend.

Punk rock music can be heard regularly on John Carlucci’s SpeedieJohn program on Channel 21 of Little Stevens Underground Garage on Sirius XM Satellite radio.

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