I am a fan of Queen, one song that I absolutely adore from Queen's 1980s era is the 1982 No.1 hit single that featured David Bowie "Under Pressure".
If you search the web you'll find plenty of articles that tell the story of how Queen & Bowie met and how "Under Pressure" came about but there is a small, almost unknown fact about Under Pressure that may surprise you. The final mix of Under Pressure that made it to both single and album release was... a rough mix. Apparently, Freddie and Bowie had different visions for the mix so neither happened. The final mix of Under Pressure was basically the mix they finished up with when they completed tracking. So the mix of Under Pressure was a bit of a rush and compromise, yet it went on to be a No.1 selling single and world class timeless anthem.
Don't Discount The Rough Mix
Rough mixes are commonly considered as the initial mix idea - "Nice try, now let's mix this properly". We are all guilty of this, judging a mix as not good enough in its infancy because it has been labelled or referred to as "The Rough Mix". More often than not mixes are usually where they need to be in the early stages of production. Many engineers, such as Al Schmitt, practically mix songs in tracking stages leaving very little to do in the mix, do engineers such as Al label their efforts as rough mixes? - I doubt it.
If It Sounds Good - It Is Good
I have always believed that well written and arranged songs that have been recorded well mix themselves, a belief that proved itself again to me just the other day when I had to finish the mix of an album that I started in 2013. I dreaded opening up these sessions as I hadn't heard a number of the songs in awhile. Before I listened back to the sessions I considered each of the mixes as rough. Well, I was pleasantly surprised upon listening back as a majority of the mixes sounded great and I didn't need to change anything.
Inexperience Vs Experience
An inexperienced Dan from the past would have rushed into the mix, removed every plug-in and automation lane and start the mix again without even considering that the "rough mix" could be close to the finished mix. Experience has taught me that rough mixes can often very close to the finished product. Jumping in to start a mix again can harm a production as it's easy to strip out elements that were created in the initial birth of a song, it's very easy to dissolve the soul of the record when the rough mix has been thrown out.
Never Underestimate The Rough Mix - It Could Very Well Be The Final Mix
Next time you hear the term "Rough Mix" remember "Under Pressure" - A great song, a perfect arrangement, bags of energy, flawless performances, powerful lyric but it's a "rough mix" - who cares right?