In the basement of an ultra-high-end villa on the ultra-high-end Caribbean resort island of St. Barts is a recording studio. The centerpiece is the recording console, a big slab of electronics that had made the journey from New York. On the wall is a picture of John Lennon from the 70s featuring this self-same console during the recording of “Imagine.” Lennon was converted into electrons and pumped through this thing to create that song.
Then a couple of years later, I visited a studio in Nashville called House of Blues. In one of the control rooms was a older recording console that had been purchased from one of the studios where Prince recorded Purple Rain. To think that the sounds that became “When Doves Cry” went through this desk almost gave it a visible aura.
Many–too many!–of these ancient analogue consoles were scrapped when the digital era came in. But a strange number of them have been rescued and now live in Canada.
For example, the Rolling Stones Mobile unit that used by the Stones (Exile on Main St.), Led Zeppelin (the IVth album) and Deep Purple (as name-checked in “Smoke on the Water”) can be found at the National Music Centre in Calgary. The NRC also has a console from the long-shuttered Olympic Studios (Hendrix, Beatles, Zep, Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Oasis, etc.)
Then there’s this great article by Jonathan Dekel in the Globe and Mail. Who knew?
“Beyond marking a commercial and critical epoch for the band and arguably bringing the synthesizer into pop culture, Van Halen’s 1984 has the prominent distinction of being the only diamond-certified (10 million plus units sold) release recorded in a home studio. So perhaps it’s fitting that, in the era of bedroom hi-fi, the console that the group’s guitarist and creative driver Eddie Van Halen used to revolutionize recording resides not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or even The National Music Centre, but rather a coach house tucked quietly behind a Victorian home in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood.”