Composer, musician, producer, and audio engineer Alan Shacklock isn’t just a respected faculty member at SAE Institute’s Nashville campus. He’s also the writer and producer of “The Mexican”, a 1972 release by the U.K. band Babe Ruth which is one of the most important tracks in the history of hip-hop and breakdancing.
“’The Mexican’ was – and continues to be – a total enigma,” says Shacklock. “I composed it while I was in my last year at the Royal Academy of Music in London where I was studying classical guitar and orchestration, and I put Babe Ruth together to try out my compositions. Our sound was a combination of classical music, Motown, Western film scores, and progressive rock, and we eventually got signed to Harvest Records, which was also the label for Pink Floyd and Electric Light Orchestra. The song’s success has been very flattering, and it’s been sampled legally and illegally more times that I know!”
Artists that have utilized “The Mexican” in their productions include Pete Rock, N.E.R.D., Sugar Ray, R. Kelly, The Prodigy, Helloween, Deekline, and Ghostface Killah. The song is regarded by international music critics and historians as being the defining anthem of breakdance/hip hop culture.
Shacklock was born in Hatfield, near London, England. When he was 12 years-old in the early 1960s, he was a guitarist with the band The Juniors (EMI Records), which also included future Rolling Stones’ guitarist Mick Taylor and Jethro Tull’s future bassist John Glascock.
After his work with Babe Ruth in the early 70s, he became a solo songwriter and record producer. His projects have earned three Grammy nominations, and have produced silver, gold and platinum recordings for such artists as Jeff Beck, Meat Loaf, Roger Daltrey, and Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Shacklock has also produced soundtracks for films, the original score for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, and music scores for BBC/PBS wildlife documentaries.
In 1990, he emigrated to the United States, and after presenting production master classes at SAE in Nashville, decided to join the school as an instructor. He’s been the faculty co-chair of SAE Nashville’s audio technology program for the past 7 years.
“Alan is a natural leader, really personable, and very popular with our students,” says Lynn Dorton, the Nashville campus director for SAE Institute U.S.A., which was recently cited as being the best recording/engineering school in America by Vibe Magazine. “A number of our grads, who are currently enjoying successful audio engineering careers, have told us the reason why they chose SAE over other schools was entirely because of their desire to work with Alan.”
Along with teaching at SAE in Nashville and helping to develop promising new artists like Striking Matches, Shacklock is working on a tribute project to Italian composer, orchestrator, and conductor Ennio Morricone, whose films scores for the “spaghetti westerns” of director Sergio Leone were huge influences on Shacklock’s career. He’s also producing some Nashville-based Americana/soul artists and developing ideas for a future Babe Ruth album.
“SAE’s audio technology program can put students on a brilliant fast track to a rewarding career if they seriously apply themselves,” says Shacklock, whose son Jesse – aka DJ Kidsmeal – is a graduate of SAE and an established Nashville club DJ/turntabilist and producer. “To really achieve and take advantage of the growing opportunities in the marketplace for audio professionals, SAE students need to stay on top of developments in the industry, remain teachable, and always remember your first love – and make your hobby your job.”