Music History

The mobile recording studio that changed rock

The third verse of Deep Purple’s iconic “Smoke on the Water” contains these lines.

We ended up at the Grand Hotel
It was empty, cold and bare
The Rolling truck Stones thing just outside
Huh, making our music there now

This was a reference to the Rolling Stones mobile recording studio (RSM), an eight-track rig jammed into a truck that could go anywhere. Commissioned by Mick Jagger in 1968 when he wanted to record at home in Hampshire–actually, it was keyboarding Ian Stewart who came up with the idea of a mobile studio–the truck was used not only by The Stones (Sticky Fingers and Exile on Mainstreet) and Deep Purple (Machine Head, Burn, Live in Europe), but by:

  • Led Zeppelin for both their third and four albums
  • Neil Young’s Harvest
  • Lou Reed, Live in Italy
  • Fleetwood Mac for Penguins and Mystery to Me
  • Dire Straits Alchemy: Dire Straits Live
  • Bob Marley, Live!
  • Iron Maiden
  • Frank Zappa
  • Santana

Eventually, though, technology surpassed what the truck could provide after its 1973 upgrade and fell into disuse. Its whereabout was unknown for a while until Calgary’s National Music Centre found it somewhere in New Jersey back in 2001. Some cash was exchanged and the RSM was given a new home next to the King Eddy stage, a live music venue. And yes, it now works and anyone can use the RSM if they’re playing at the NMC.

This video goes through everyone.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38513 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

Let us know what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.