How LOUD were the classic rock bands??

deltdrum

Senior Member
I've been playing with a 24" Giant Beat on my set for the better part of a year now. I've had to make adjustments because simply put, the thing is like holding a wolf by the ears. If I get too aggressive on the thing, I completely wash out my band.

I'm playing with the Vater Sugar Maple Fusions too, and even then, I still occasionally let the massive cymbal take off like a Boeing 747.

I've spent the last few days nerding over some live Zeppelin, Cream, and a few of the other bands of that era. It completely blows my mind that John Bonham was playing on that kit with 2b's.

Were the bands of that era just crazy loud? Was it a controlled professional sound still?
 

Griffman

Member
According to some sources the loudest bands from that era are

1972 deep purple 117 dB
And
1976 the who 126 dB

This is about as loud as a pneumatic jackhammer and at the pain threshold
Of course they are well past the hearing damage zone. Some reports of people beig rendered unconscious from these levels but given the availability of all kinds of drugs I wouldn't count on that.

I saw a lot of big rock acts in the New Haven Collisium during the 70's (ELP, Yes, Zappa etc.) and often had ringing in my ears and pain and I tried to make sure I wasn't too close to any speakers. Some folks would purposely get as close as possible. Oh to be young and stupid again... I mean young, stupid seems semipermanent

I don't recall the sound as professional at many of the concerts except for Yes (but it was my very first rock concert and almost 40 years ago)
 

evolving_machine

Silver Member
I saw Deep Purple at Avery Fisher hall in NYC, it must have been about 1972. They were originally supposed to play in the larger Philharmonic Hall, but for some reason Philharmonic Hall had to undergo some emergency renovations. Deep Purple had already aquired the equipment for the larger hall, so they brought all that equipment into the smaller Avery Fisher hall. I had to leave 3/4 of the way into the concert because my ears were hurting. It is hard to imagine that they did not break any records that evening.

I designed acoustic sound enclosures for foundries many years later, and they were measured at 125db and they were not as painful as that Deep Purple concert in the 70s. After building the enclosures, I brought the sound level down to about 65db, and am kind of proud of that work. Perhaps, there were not many people that were just hanging around the Deep Purple concert with Db meters to measure the volume.

It is very easy and cheap to get amplifiers upwards of 500 watts now, but back in those days, it was very difficult to get an amp to be that loud. So they had to really stack lots of amplifiers up to get that kind of volume.
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
Remember, the guitarists were playing 100 watt heads with no master volume. Often times multiple heads to project the sound because the PA systems sucked. In one of my bands the guitarists play vintage Ampegs and Marshalls and the sound at practice is deafening. I could play whatever bass drum I wanted and there is no way I would wash out the guitars.
 

Tommy_D

Platinum Member
According to some sources the loudest bands from that era are

1972 deep purple 117 dB
And
1976 the who 126 dB
And that was with amps, so the various instruments could be mixed on a console so they blended with each other. A 26" bass drum playing with 2B sticks don't mean a thing when you can get the same volume out of an 18" bass drum and brushes. Just turn the volume up! In an acoustic environment, however, the drummer has to be very aware of their dynamics so they don't drown out the rest of the band.

One thing that I found very impressive was the new world record for crowd roar. According to the Guinness Book of World Records the loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium is 142.2 dbA and was achieved by fans of the Kansas City Chiefs (USA), at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, on 29 September 2014.

In case anyone is not aware, ~9db is equivalent to a doubling of perceived volume by the human ear. By comparison, the perceived loudness at that football game was roughly 3-9 times louder than those Deep Purple and Who concerts. Yowza!
 

Bobrush

Senior Member
On the flip side, John Lennon said that the screaming girls at their concerts were so loud, they couldn't hear themselves playing. There is some footage of him 'playing' a keyboard with his butt (I think it may have been in Chicago), and supposedly he did it because the noise situation was so ridiculous, it didn't really matter.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudest_band_in_the_world
(I am skeptical of the "Hanson" claim. Reminder, Wikipedia MAY be edited by anybody.)
 

wildbill

Platinum Member
I saw Deep Purple at Avery Fisher hall in NYC, it must have been about 1972. They were originally supposed to play in the larger Philharmonic Hall, but for some reason Philharmonic Hall had to undergo some emergency renovations. Deep Purple had already aquired the equipment for the larger hall, so they brought all that equipment into the smaller Avery Fisher hall. I had to leave 3/4 of the way into the concert because my ears were hurting. It is hard to imagine that they did not break any records that evening...
.

I have a similar story that involved a different band.

A symphony concert hall designed to amplify and project the quietest solo acoustic instrument passages.
Every square inch of the very large stage filled to the brim with full stacks cranked past 11.
It was one of those incidents where if you didn't see and hear it yourself, you probably wouldn't believe it. Impossible to describe.

I hate that band to this day.
 

evolving_machine

Silver Member
I have a similar story that involved a different band.

A symphony concert hall designed to amplify and project the quietest solo acoustic instrument passages.
Every square inch of the very large stage filled to the brim with full stacks cranked past 11.
It was one of those incidents where if you didn't see and hear it yourself, you probably wouldn't believe it. Impossible to describe.

I hate that band to this day.
I have to say, that since that day, I stopped being a fan of that band (Deep Purple) and ignored anything they would contribute to the overall musical universe. I guess it all turned out for the better, I started listening to jazz and found a new way.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Luckily, we still have AC30's, BFR's, and JMP's around to let us know exactly how loud things were.

In many instances, the stage volume was incredibly loud. Master Volume was a godsend, as the only way to get the sustain/saturation desired was to push a amp close to its capacity.

I still play at-volume on occasion, typically when the part requires the feedback response of a directly present amplifier.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I do not speak acronym, what are ? I have the idea that these are software devices, if so how would that be a way to know what the decibels were ?
AC30 is a 30 watt Class A amplifier made by VOX/JMI with Alnico speakers. Think "Beatles".
BFR is short for "Black Face Reverb", a particularly desirable Fender Twin reverb
JMP was marshall's take on the Fender Bassman circuit I believe, and came in 50 and 100 watt varieties.

These were the big 3 that were played prior to master volume amps being readily available. The thing about these amps is that they increase in volume from 1-6 on the dial, and 7-10 increases the distortion/saturation.

You can find at-least one of these in any music shop on the planet, and most guitarists will be all to happy to demonstrate how loud they are. They're glorious.
 

Les Ismore

Platinum Member
Remember, the guitarists were playing 100 watt heads with no master volume. Often times multiple heads to project the sound because the PA systems sucked.
Actually 200 watt heads, and especially in the case of Ritchie Blackmore who used factory modded MARSHALL MAJORS that approached 300 watts.



How could they play that loud without guitars feeding back and musicians own ears going numb?
Effortless feedback was desired, to prevent it, a technique that mutes the strings has to be mastered.



It completely blows my mind that John Bonham was playing on that kit with 2b's.
I believe John Bonham's signature PROMUCO drumsticks were 5B weighted.
 

GeoB

Gold Member
I used to leave concerts with muffled hearing and I usually wasn't anywhere near the front. I don't remember all the concerts but some loud ones were Led Zep in 72, Grateful Dead at RFK, Grateful Dead with the Allman Bros (the week before the Watkins Glenn attendance record).... Little Feat, Pure Prairie League, Missing Persons. And a whole lot of fusion bands RTF, Vital Info, Cobham, Mahavishnu... Uriah Heep with Blue Oyster Cult (that was loud). Mountain... Grand Funk, Sly, Moody's, Muddy, B.B., Gatemouth, Clapton... The Stones (they sucked).... a bunch. They were all loud.

BUT... The Grateful Dead starting in the early to mid 70's had the BEST stadium sound system of them all. They cared and I think some Alembic folks helped set them up. Man they had pure clean power and lots of cabs. They defined the state-of-the-art sound system standards as far as I'm concerned.
 
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