Early Rupert Neve Consoles and their stories | PART SEVEN: 1970 | ‘The first 24-Track Neve’

2023-02-20 Off By David Taylor

Researched and written by DAVID TAYLOR
With information and photographs by JOHN TURNER

And further assistance from BLAKE DEVITT

Much of the internet history of Neve is confused, so with lots of help from John Turner, and by delving into the Neve files that Blake Devitt has been carefully looking after, these articles aim to give the history of the early Neve mixing consoles as accurately as possible. I’m also keen to document some more about the studios that the early Neves went, of the music and programmes they made, and the people that used them.

THE ‘TECHNICAL’ CONTENTS:

If you’re interested in just the ‘techy bits”, these can be accessed via the ‘jump’ facility using the following section ‘IDs’, and then the browser ‘return button’ to come back here again:

52| 1969: Audiofilm Madrid’s 16-channel 4 group
53| 1969: ‘Multitrack for TV and records’ | LWT’s 24-channel 8 group Neve for ‘Intersound’ ‘94008’.
53a| The Neve 1900 Switching Module.
53b| The 1901 Reverb Return Module.
54| 1970: The Hispavox 24-channel 8 group Neve – ‘A40‘.
55| 1970: ‘Not just a Demo Studio’ | Dick James Music’s 16-channel 8 output Neve – ‘A83’.
56| 1970: ‘The First 24-Track Neve’ | Wessex Studio’s 28-channel 24 group Neve – ‘A88’.
56a| The Neve 1073 Mic-amp Module
57| 1970: ‘First on the West Coast’ | Whitney’s 24-channel 16 group 24 monitor Neve – ‘A94‘.
57a| The Neve 1076 Mic-amp module
58| 1970: ‘Chappell’s get a bigger desk‘ | Chappell Studio’s 24-channel 16 group Neve ‘A118’
59| Neve 1072 Gramophone Amps for the AIR Studio’s Neves
60| 1970: ‘The first Neve for BBC TV’ | Lime Grove Music Studio’s 24-channel 8 group Neve – ‘A135’

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1970: Neve selling consoles into more countries

Of the Neve consoles mentioned in this above news item, I’ve already covered the Arne Bendiksen eight-track Neve ‘A24’, and the two Neves ‘A62’ and ‘A63’ for Acousti in Paris in the last article, and the desk supplied to Hispavox by Maldonado was ‘A40’, which is discussed further on in this one.
The Maldonado eight-track Neve for Navarette was ‘A41’, and Ardmore Films got ‘A107’. Two other consoles at this time were ‘A36’ for ‘TVR’, and ‘A39’ for SME TV.
Finding the names of Neve’s ‘clients’ is sometimes difficult but TVR was the UK OB facilities company that bought Intertel from LWT in late 1970

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1970: Neve booming in a growing marketplace

At the start of the ’70s, the growth in both broadcast and recording studios brought many new customers to Neve. However other makers like Helios, Trident and Sound Techniques had also grown into commercial mixer manufacturers from ‘in-house’ recording studio engineering teams and in the US the move from homebuilt mixers in studios was often being replaced with cost-effective ‘stock’ consoles from companies like Quad-Eight and API. Thus the Americans were taking the ‘Henry Ford’ mass production techniques into mixing console manufacture.
Neve though had developed by building totally custom designs and getting a Neve built was still rather like going to Saville Row for an expensive bespoke suit.

JOHN TURNER:
“A customer enquiry usually came via the Neve sales person responsible for that area eg. UK Music salesman would be Les Lewis (latterly Mike Banks dealt with a larger proportion of music sales).
The enquiry would then be passed to Sales Engineering and a Quotation number created. A sales engineer together with the salesman would often meet with the customer to discuss their ideas and produce an initial assessment with a block diagram drawing and console layout drawings together with the initial costings. These varied a lot from no face-to-face meeting, to a few hours at Neve or in London or wherever, to an overseas trip of a few days, which probably required many hours of prolonged discussions spread over several weeks or even months such as the AIR Monserrat console.

The Neve Sales Office, with Les Lewis on the phone and Tony Cornwell behind.
Linda Cook tracing a block diagram

The Neve block, desk layout and electronics ‘2-wire’ drawings were obviously very important in accurately building a custom console and they were to be seen pinned up on walls in the areas involved in their construction.

Drawing B/10116 – the ‘2-wire’ for the AIR Neves ‘A29’ and ‘A45’.
From Blake Devitt’s files

This is the block diagram for the two matching AIR Studios’ 16-Track Neves ‘A29’ and ‘A45’, which were described in the last article.

“The sales engineers involved would be Tony Cornwell, Betty Watts (Harmer-Smith), Robin Ireland & others. There were quite a few other sales engineers latterly as Betty and Tony moved on and took on other, more administrative roles.
Meetings with the customer and drawings would go back and forth until all were satisfied that the drawings represented what the customer wanted. It was an iterative process and as pointed out above, this could take several weeks.
When the design was finalised by the sales engineer, a final costing was produced, again by sales engineering, and the manufacturing director and financial director, with the sales manager would then decide what price to charge the customer. Bear in mind that for a large part of the company’s history, the sales company was a separate entity from the manufacturing company and so internal transfer prices weren’t necessarily the same as sales prices; Sales Engineering latterly worked for the manufacturing company, not the sales company and became the “Proposals and Quotations Dept”, which initially reported to the technical director.”

“At this point, a production Works Order with an “A” number would be allocated and a Project Engineer would be assigned. Changes were often requested, costed and the drawings updated and delivery implications considered.”

A General Assembly Drawing of the layout of an 8014 console

A sales quotation and delivery date were then sent to the customer along with a block diagram and console layout drawings for the customer to approve and sign.
Often after some haggling about the price, the customer would then place an order with an agreed delivery date.

From then on it was the Project Engineers’ responsibility to take the initial system design over from the Sales Engineer and together with a mechanical design draughtsman & electrical draughtsman produce all the documentation required by manufacturing to make the console.
The project engineer was also responsible for ensuring that custom components were documented and ordered, and also for keeping the project on time and within budgeted hours.”

This wireman also has a console ‘General Assembly’ layout drawing pinned on the wall behind him, with the ‘2-wire’ wiring diagram also being important at this stage.

“When the frame was wired and modules arrived, the console passed into “Test”, where the test engineers were responsible for making sure the final design conformed to the Block Diagram and together with the Project engineer responsible for making sure the actual performance was up to specification.”

“After completion of testing, sales acceptance took place, often by Tony Cornwell, to make sure everything worked and looked good and ready for customer acceptance.
Often customers would visit the Melbourn factory to accept the console prior to delivery.”

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Whilst I’ve been following a historical timeline for the consoles, I haven’t fully arrived at 1970 however, as John Turner has recently established that the Audiofilm and Intersound consoles described below were designed in the first half of 1969, and would have been delivered later that year, or early in ’70.

52| 1969: Audiofilm Madrid’s 16-channel 4 group Neve

Audiofilm, Calle Alonso Cano 68, Madrid 3.

The ex-Chief Engineer of the RCA Studios in Madrid José Batlle started Audiofilm in 1967 and initially it must have been a very modest studio, using a little Neve PSM6 6-channel into 2 output desk. They then progressed to having a 4-Track Telefunken recorder, and in 1970 expanded with a second larger studio and a Neve 16-channel 4 group was ordered to work with a new Telefunken 8-Track. Despite their name, Audiofilm never did get to do ‘film work’ though.

The 1970 Audiofilm Billboard entry
The Audiofilm Neve after having been moved to the 2nd small basement studio.

The Audiofilm 16-4 Neve was fitted with 1066 mic-amps and although the first desk to have 1066s was one of the Spanish consoles supplied by Maldonado, it was most probably not this one, as there’s an 8-position monitor matrix panel fitted here, whereas the lack of that panel on Bob Auger’s two 16-4s, must make them a little earlier than this console.
There are 1883 Routing modules for the 4 Groups, 2 Echos and 2 FBs, and 1901 Echo Returns. It is fitted with four of the original model 2254 Limiter Compressors, and the VUs consist of 4 large meters for the 4 groups plus an Ancillary meter, and then 4 more additional meters that presumably showed the extra 8-Track returns. Also on the left side of the upstand are the remote controls for the Telefunken 8-Track.

We’ve already looked at both the 1066 and the 1883 modules in the section on Bob Auger’s consoles, and the 1901 Echo Return module is shown in the next section.

Raul Marcos at the Neve 16-4

Music from Audiofilm – Madrid’s first Neves

The exterior of Audiofilm, now Media Sound as it is today

Spain has a considerable culture of music, and the Audiofilm Neves recorded the complete range of Spanish music including albums by the great classical guitarist Segovia, and lots of flamenco, which often also influenced Spanish popular music, perhaps as much as the pop music coming from the rest of Europe did.
The Audiofilm sound mixers whose credits appear on pop albums were mainly Antonio Morales and Luis Miguel Gonzalez, along with other engineers Juan Vinader and Antonio Fernandez.
Here’s a picture of the producer Alan Milhaud tweaking one of the 1066s on the Audiofilm console.

Freelance producer Alain Milhaud at Audiofilm.
Photo via Discogs

“In a rather prudish Spain in those years, Milhaud sponsored English as the dominant language in his songs and encouraged them to adopt a risky aesthetic to match the image of the foreign artists and groups.
His work was essential in numerous recordings from the 60s, many of them great hits in Spain, such as Los Bravos “La Moto”, Canarios “Get on Your Knees”, Pop-Tops “Mammy Blue” or “Smash’s “Garrotín”.

(Quote from the Discogs listings)

Alain Milhaud was a Swiss-born producer who managed the Spanish Barclay-Sonoplan label for some years and in the late ’60s he preferred to record his Spanish groups in England because he felt that despite the increased costs involved he got a better result. Obviously, Spanish studios reacted to this and in the photo above he’s working at Audiofilm, and trips to London became a thing of the past as the 70s went on.

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53| 1969/70: ‘Multitrack for TV and records’ | LWT’s 24-channel 8-output Neve for the Intersound Recording Studio‘94008’

Intersound Recording Studio, Wembley Park Drive, Wembley, Middx, HA9 0AA.

Intersound’s 24-channel 8 group Neve ‘94008’

After gaining the contract for the London region Independent Television covering Friday evening through to Sunday Night in 1968, London Weekend Television needed to improve the quality of light entertainment programmes, including better music. They planned a new Television Centre on London’s Southbank, but in the meantime, they were saddled with the old studios at Wembley Park, inherited from the previous ITV contractor Rediffusion.
LWT opted to convert an existing medium-sized TV Studio within the Wembley building, to become ‘Studio S’, which could serve as a ‘band room’ for live TV shows, or a ‘music pre-recording’ studio. A 24-channel 8 group Neve was ordered.

The recording studio conversion was completed in early 1970, and was being used to pre-record tracks for a TV special ‘The World Of Maynard Ferguson’ in May 1970. I have previously written about this programme here.
The outlay for the new studio had come at a time when LWT was still struggling to get some of its programming onto the ITV Network, and any ‘income’ was welcome, so it was decided to use the unused time in the studio by making it into a commercial venture. ‘Intersound Recording Studios’ was the outcome, named to tie in with the new purchase by LWT of the existing video OB facilities company ‘Intertel’.

JOHN SANDERS – LWT PROJECT ENGINEER:
“I remember the Wembley Studio S desk being lifted in through the control room window on a forklift and my not being able to watch for fear of it falling off.” 

The LWT/Intersound Neve was a custom console, as all Neves were at this time, with drawings for it being done in August and September 1969. This 24-channel 8 group layout though was to become one of the designs that Neve was soon to call the ‘S24/8’, and most readers would identify it as an ‘8016’ however at this time, neither label was in use.
Neve ‘94008’ was tailored for broadcast work, with BBC-type PPMs fitted on the groups and safely interlocks for live transmissions, such as a locking ‘kellogg’ key to switch the desk to ‘TX’. This blocked the talkback and tone from accidentally going to ‘Line’, and in the event of a power supply failure dual power supplies with an automatic changeover were fitted, as John Turner explains:

JOHN TURNER:
“I was involved with the installation of this console for LWT at Wembley, and the LWT project engineer was John Saunders.
We had a number of problems to overcome, one of which almost caused a major strike. As this could be used on ‘live’ television, LWT insisted that the large Coutant power supplies had to have an auto change-over system which proved a real headache to get working reliably. However, the hole which had been previously cut in the floorboards was too small to fit all the power supply and patch cables through. As it was not part of our usual install tool kit, we asked for a carpenter’s saw, so one of us could just enlarge the hole. ‘No, no, no’, that was a carpenter’s job and he was busy. If we did it there would be a strike!
So the installation had to be delayed until the carpenter came eventually and enlarged the hole.”

The channels and groups.

The channel strips are equipped with 1064 Mic-Amp Modules and 1900 Switching Modules, and the two 12-section groups of faders are labelled as ’12T1′ or ’12T2′, which were also ‘normalled’ on the jackfield to the line-level playbacks from the tapedecks.
Neve customers chose the number of positions provided on the ‘Monitor Matrix’ and here it has 12 Monitors. These are switchable between the 8 Groups and the outputs of the Scully 8-Track and two Scully Twin-Tracks, and each is selectable to the 4 monitor loudspeakers, allowing any track during recording or playback to be sent to one or more of the speakers. This was standard at that time and since there was no ‘panning’ between speakers, there ended up being four discrete loudspeaker signals in the ‘sound field’. It was never a truly ‘accurate’ way of listening as, our ears perceive a quality difference between a signal sent to a single speaker, and the ‘phantom’ one heard via two speakers, as hi-fi listeners with the single central speaker in a surround system will know. As I’ve said before, this was a hang-over from the days of 3 and then 4-Track recording and it’s surprising it still persisted on these ‘multitrack’ desks. Studios were slowly changing to having pan-pots on the monitors and just using a stereo pair of speakers.
Like probably most UK studios at this time, the speakers are Lockwood’s. Here they are Majors using 15″ Tannoy Gold drivers, suspended on hanging brackets.
This desk has 8 small VU meters showing the 2 FBs, the 2 Studio LS feeds, and the 4 Echo Sends, with the Echo Returns on 1901 modules. Four 2254/A Comp/Limiters
are fitted above the 8 groups.

Labelled photo of the groups and monitoring panels

Detail of the Scully remote and monitor panel (out of focus TB mic in foreground).
The Scully ‘sel-sync control’ for recording on the 8-Track was simple to use, as the new Dolby 361s on the 8-Track switched the input signal back to the output as the Scully went from its playback to record heads when the pre-selected track went into ‘record’. Also, remote deck controls for the three Scully tape decks are just above the TB panel. Who needs ‘tape-ops’? (Hey, that was my job at the time!)
Note that the ‘Playback to Foldback’ buttons allow selection to ‘FB1 & 2’ and ‘LS1 & 2’, the latter being the loudspeakers in the studio, and we usually used them for feeding the small foldback speakers forsession musicians.


A large EMT 930 turntable was in a desk unit in front of the console …alas just under the speakers, and there was a bay-mounted EMI TR90 mono tape deck used to tape-delay the echo send feed. A switch on the desk was provided to select between four mono and two stereo EMT140s for the pair of Neve 1280 EMT remotes that set the decay time of the echo plates.

53a| The Neve 1900 Switching Module

Neve 1900/1

The 1900 Module became the standard group routing module on 8 Group consoles around this time. It has 2 FB (Cue) and 4 Echos (Revs) sends, and Neve provided the option of this ‘UK or US English’ labelling. Neve though had been labelling echo controls as ‘Rev’ ever since they’d started. Once again, like the 1883 modules, the 1900 had EMI illuminated ‘Pan’ and ‘Cut’ switches and the 1900/1 pictured above has Isostat switches with separate LS7 indicator lamps.

53b| The 1901 Echo Return Module

Neve 1901

Another module that became standard on 8 group Neves was the 1901, used for Echo (Rev) Returns. The ones above have the original EMI switch with the integral indicator bulb.

The LWT Studio ‘S’ and Intersound

Intersound Recording Studios, London Weekend Television, Wembley Park HA9 0AA

To operate as a separate recording studio, LWT recruited three staff from their TV sound department. The senior mixer was Vic Finch, who had already proven himself as an outstanding music mixer during his short tenure as a TV Sound Supervisor. Vic was joined by Ian Southern, who also had been dying to get into the ‘recording world’ from the very ‘staid’ confines of TV sound. Lastly, I joined as the junior ‘tape assistant’ with a lot of interest in recording, but no experience behind a mixing desk. The studio shown below was to be our home, often ‘night and day’ for the next couple of years.

Vic is at the Neve, Ian filling out the session details and myself at the tape decks.
The Scully 8-track was fitted with the Dolby A361 noise reduction units in the base of the multitrack and they are well-lit in this photo because it was used in advertising by Dolby in 1971. The two Scully twin tracks have 361s beneath each amplifier as well, and this was probably the first installation of this new model.

The cover of the American dB Magazine in Feb 1971
dB were still using it in 1975; here as an ad in Billboard magazine .
Studio’S’, which was ‘Intersound’ when the TV boys weren’t in it.

A photo looking from the far side of the studio from beside the lowered roof of the ‘drum booth’. The raised conductor’s rostrum has the studio entrance door behind it, and above that is the larger window to the control room. The open door to the right of the entrance door is into the small ‘isolation booth’, used for vocals. I find it strange that nowadays the studio here might be referred to as the ‘live’ room. Back then it was just the ‘studio’, and this acoustic design certainly didn’t attempt to be ‘live’ in any sense!

Music from the LWT’s Studio ‘S’/ Intersound Neve

London Weekend’s TV Live and pre-recorded music

The original reason for building Studio ‘S’ was to provide a ‘band room’ for both live and pre-recorded music for LWT’s shows. These were mixed by LWT Sound Supervisors who were keen to improve their music-mixing skills on the new Neve. Below is an early session in the studio.

Well known from his years at the BBC, the LWT Head-of-Music, Harry Rabinowitz conducts a session musician band in Studio S, Wembley Park Studios in 1970. The musicians identified are Nat Peck (trombone right), Tony Fisher (trumpet left), Derek Watkins (trumpet centre), Kenny Baker (trumpet right), Martin Kershaw (guitar) and Alf Bigden (drums).
Sound Assistant Dick Monk is standing on the far right taking it all in. Dick is a guitarist and I’m sure he was delighted at the ‘big distorted sounds’ Martin Kershaw could produce from his tiny little amp, if that is what the session required.
This was being mixed by Vic Finch, and because it’s a ‘blowing band’ and not a rock group, he’s put four mics on the kit, with C-12As on the cymbals and toms, a D-12 on kick and probably a KM-84 on the snare. The bass would be DI’d and the trombones have C-12As and the trumpets U-87s. All the woods are on KM-84s and the guitar amp has a U-87.

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‘Standard Music’ – The starting of LWT’s Library Music label

Music recording for broadcast was tightly controlled by the UK’s Musician’s Union, with an example being the banning of any form of miming to existing records, both vocal or instrumental during TV music shows. This lasted for a long period in the 60s and 70s and applied to rock groups as much as session guys. This didn’t mean all music was live though, just that new backing tracks had to be recorded.

MUSICIAN’S UNION 1966:
“Miming on Top of the Pops (and other BBC programmes with musical performances) is banned. Subsequent performances feature re-recordings of the backing tracks, with all musicians who appeared on the recording having to appear on the show. This was intended to protect work for musicians, but also meant that being an MU member was effectively a pre-requisite for appearing on Top of the Pops.” [1]

Broadcast music didn’t have to be from a specially setup ‘original’ recording of course, and in the mid-60s, Robin Phillips who had taken over the long-running KPM Mood Library realised that ‘library’ music really needed to change and adapt for both TV programmes and the commercials now on ITV.

ADRIAN KERRIDGE:
“Robin explained that KPM were going to record a new library with a different approach and ‘modern sounds’. Modern arrangements with new composers writing different styles of music with large and small orchestras and a different approach to recording, clean sounds upfront and present (effective), when called for, and instruments EQ’d where necessary, compositions tailored with the ability to edit out of the main piece, shortened versions 30 or 60-second cuts for TV Jingles and ‘stings’ for TV.” [2]

Adrian Kerridge was a renowned recording engineer in charge of Lansdowne Studios and in early 1966 Robin recruited him with a specific purpose.

ROBIN PHILLIPS:
“We are going to Germany to record our library music – Cologne in West Germany. Are you up for it?”
[2]

Despite his concerns about what he would find in studios and equipment, Adrian was ‘up for it’ and so KPM started taking a few key UK musicians to join the jazz players of the Clarke/Boland Big Band and the strings of the Cologne Symphony Orchestra for the first sessions at Ariola Studios. Adrian was recording on their 6-Track 1-inch machine so unfortunately, they found they weren’t able to playback in the UK at all, forcing them to do the mixing back in Germany.

ADRIAN KERRIDGE:
“These recordings could, and should, have been done in the UK but the Musician’s Union made it too expensive. In the early ’60s the British Musician’s Union in their doctrinaire ‘wisdom’ effectively by restrictive practice debarred library recordings because of the expected high cost of multi-use, which is the whole point of library music. The musicians had to be paid again wherever the work or edit pieces were re-used.”

KPM continued making their library recordings frequently at the Ariola studio in Cologne and after a while, other library companies came to Adrian to do similar work, and as other European studios improved their equipment, these also began to take place in Munich and Brussels.
One such company was London Weekend, now running its own library music label.

ADRIAN KERRIDGE:
“I had a telephone call at Lansdowne from Harry Rabinowitz, conductor and composer. I knew him from his days as Music Director for BBC TV Light Entertainment. He was now Head of Music at LWT, and had heard I was recording in Germany for music libraries. He explained that LWT had founded a company called Standard Music to record library music, and he wanted me to organise a day of recording and mixing in Germany.
We flew out at some point during September 1969 for two four-hour sessions with mixing following the next day. It was only a small orchestra with Harry conducting so we didn’t anticipate any problems. Skip Humphries, the newly appointed head of Standard Music came with us.

I knew that Harry always worked with Keith Grant at Olympic Studios, and after we flew back to the UK, I never heard from Harry again about recording in Germany. All future gigs went to Keith at Olympic.” [2]

And so the LWT Standard Music started doing their library recording in Brussels with Keith Grant and either he mixed them at Olympic, or Harry arrived at Intersound with a load of 8-Tracks for Vic, Ian and eventually myself to mix. They weren’t hard to do as great engineers like Keith and Adrian effectively mixed a really good useable product at the time of recording, so we were mainly fine-tuning the mix, adding ‘echo to taste’ and sorting out levels between tracks for the disc master. Trotting off to a specialist ‘Disc Mastering’ engineer was almost unheard of in the early 1970s.
The job also comprised any editing required on the 8-Track, although that was kept to a minimum, and trimming and leadering the 1/4 inch mix tapes.
Cutting a 1-inch 8-Track was more difficult than 1/4-inch tape as the usual 45, or even 30-degree splice could still allow unwanted sections to remain in a tight music edit. So a vertical cut was often used, which in the past was frowned upon because it could cause a click at the edit point. This problem became even more acute on the 2-inch wide 16 and 24 Track tapes.

Harry was a hard taskmaster to his musicians and some of them liked to try and get back at him, in a good-humoured way. The great bass player Herbie Flowers named a piece he’d written for Standard Music “Here’s Harry” and another “Harry Who?”
Harry joined in with the music-making for Standard occasionally though, and became the keyboard player in a recording group called ‘Midas Touch’, along with guitarist Martin Kershaw, bass player Dave Richmond and drummer/percussionist Harold Fisher.

‘Harry Rab’ as he was known, was never one to miss a single musical slip in a recording session, helped by his superb score-reading and his perfect pitch, but I remember one funny moment when Harry, sitting beside me at a Standard Music re-mix session said “a bit more flute”, so I pressed the appropriate woodwind track solo button, and there was absolutely no audible flute.
“OK” said Harry, “tacit the flute!”, and very carefully rubbed out the flute in his pencilled score, to eliminate the oversight.
These tracks also often became the theme tunes for many of LWT’s own shows.
Harry recorded some of the LWT TV Themes like Denis King’s composition for the series ‘Black Beauty’ mentioned later, and the theme from ‘Love For Lydia’ and although he left LWT in the late ’70s, he never stopped conducting until his death in June 2016, just after his 100th birthday.

“(Harry Rabinowitz) conducted many film scores including ‘The Remains of the Day’, ‘The English Patient’, ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ and ‘Cold Mountain’; and was music director on numerous TV shows, West End musicals – including the first run of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Cats’ in 1981 – revues and radio series; not forgetting the Eurovision Song Contest! In 1985 John Williams nominated Harry for a position at the Boston Pops Orchestra, an experience he said was ‘one of the most rewarding and exhilarating jobs ever’. The breadth of Harry’s career was matched only by its length – over 70 years – and was truly magnificent.
His relationship with the LSO dates back to 1973 and together we had made over twenty film soundtracks and studio session recordings. He also conducted the early live performances of the ground-breaking ‘Classic Rock’ series – albums which are still enormously popular today. “

(London Symphony Orchestra website)

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November 1970 -July 1972: ‘Top Of The Pops’ series- The UK’s top-selling Albums (for a time) (Engineer: Ian Southern)

Ian Southern provided a regular supply of work at Intersound by way of a friendship he’d struck up with producer Bruce Baxter, and it also meant we participated in one of the strange undertakings that took place at a number of the UK recording studios in the early ’70s; the rushed making of budget ‘copy’ LPs of current hit singles.
Bruce had just taken over the production of the Pickwick’s budget ‘Top Of The Pops’ records, which were sold initially in Woolworths. They had been running since 1968 and Bruce started full-time producing them with ‘Top Of The Pops – Volume 14′ in November 1970, which was also when Ian started recording them at Intersound. The ‘Top Of the Pops’ name obviously hadn’t been copyrighted by the BBC.

“Timing was vital. A committee at Pickwick consulted ‘Music Week’ each Wednesday, choosing 12 titles and attempting to hoover up as many prospective Number 1s as possible. Bruce was sent singles on Wednesday evening and immediately worked out the instrumental line-ups, to ensure the right instruments were booked for the studio. “If there were strings on six songs, all of those would have been done in one session,” he explains. His next task was to write a score for each track by listening to the records. the singers were charged with working out the lyrics. If they couldn’t, they improvised.” [3]

Obviously making ‘rip-offs’ of records doesn’t sound like a very creative pastime, but for everyone involved, it was treated very seriously and was damned hard work, given the fast turn-round time each month. The engineering task was daunting as Ian had to copy records that had been made over days of work in 16-Track studios with vastly different acoustics and equipment, and he had to do it in at the most a couple of takes, with just an over-dubbed vocal squeezed in later. The session musicians had to copy both the style and sound, and if say the guitars were heavily overdubbed on the original disc, then a number of guitar players were needed to reproduce it.

Here’s my layout sketch of one of Ian Southern’s ‘Top of The Pops‘ sessions in 1971. There are more mics here than the 24-channel Neve could take, and compromises would be made depending on the record being ‘cloned’, probably by reducing the kit down from the 7 mics shown if the record’s ‘drum sound’ allowed it, or perhaps one of the keys or percussion might not be required.

In the studio, we started by setting up for the first three-hour session, with a ‘full band’ like that above, comprising strings, brass, woods, rhythm and almost always with multiple guitarists. Everyone listened again to the single we were copying to get the sound, the phrasings and the timings as accurate as possible.


I remember that even something apparently simple like a solo ‘folk’ singer with a backing band like Cat Stevens with his guitar, which the engineers at Island had given a very ‘Hi-Q’ bright EQ, was so very different to say James Taylor’s instrument recorded in the US, with his sometimes strange guitar tunings, and both would require probably two acoustic and three electric guitarists playing; all in one take of course. Something even more complicated…like ‘The Stones’, ‘T-Rex’ or ‘Led Zeppelin’ ….well they were fun. Had the guitarists even got a similar-sounding guitar and amp? How well could we match Elton John’s strident Trident Studio’s piano on our Bosendorfer?

BRUCE BAXTER:
“There were varying degrees of success, Some were very close to the original, virtually indistinguishable, but some left a bit to be desired. we never had an awfully good Mick Jagger, though a few people had a go.”
[3]

In 1971, there were no ‘tribute bands’ dedicated to copying well-known groups, but Bruce came across a pretty good ‘Frank Sinatra’ in a pub, who turned up for the session continuing to act the part, despite the dirty mac he wore!

IAN SOUTHERN:
“The TOTP album sessions were usually 20-24 hours straight, finishing with the 2-track masters in Bruce’s arms. Looking back, at the challenges what we achieved was remarkable, if not exhausting!”

Top Of The Pops -March 1971 with the imitation Frank Sinatra ‘I Will Drink The Wine’

“By 1971, Top of the Pops was the market leader among a good number of anonymous covers albums in production. The competition included Pye Chartbusters, Pick of the Pops, World Top 12 and several others, plus of course Top of the Pops chief rivals in the 1970s: Hot Hits on the MFP label.” [4]

In November 1971 Volume 20 was the top-selling UK album

There was no subtly in selling these albums, with ‘models in hot-pants’ on every cover and trite text on the reverse, but because they were so much cheaper for young pop fans than buying even a few of the current Top 10 singles, the ‘Top Of The Pops’ series sold in high volumes and started becoming one of the best-selling albums in the UK charts. Volumes 17 to 20 of ‘Top Of The Pops, which were all recorded by Ian at Intersound were high charting albums in the first week or so that they came out and Volume 20 achieved the UK No.1 album status, so a few months later the complete genre of these copy-discs were banned from being included album charts at all.
Bruce Baxter recorded at Intersound ‘Top Of The Pops‘ until Volume 25 in July 1972, when the studio stopped working, as we will see later.
Ian, however, went off to continue looking after Bruce for some time, before running Audio Kinetics, making some much-needed acoustic screens for studios amongst other items, and then he began producing the very successful Q-Lock timecode tape machine synchronisers.

We weren’t the only London studio engaged in this monthly ‘cloning game’ and others like De Lane Lea and CBS were also turning out the other similar ‘cover’ albums mentioned above. Bruce’s ‘Top Of the Pops’ outlasted them, but finally, the hectic pace forced Bruce to give up as well and the series failed fairly soon after he left.
There was one surprisingly successful recording in the series though, that came in December 1975:

TOP OF THE POPS – VOLUME 49:
“This album features the most famous Top of the Pops cut, the legendary version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. It took Queen almost three weeks and 180 vocal overdubs. Tony Rivers needed one night. Bruce Baxter: ‘Kenny Everett spliced them together, the original and ours, played it on the radio and said, “I defy anyone to tell me which one they’re listening to”. The Pops series at its best. This recording was even released as a single in Italy! It was billed as being by a group called Green Fly.” [4]

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9th December 1970: Emerson, Lake and Palmer “Pictures At An Exhibition” Lyceum concert recording – (Engineer: Ian Southern)

For a fairly short while London Weekend TV owned the OB Facilities company Intertel, and I’ve already written about their Neves in an earlier article. In December 1970 Intertel was booked to record a live concert at the Lyceum Theatre in London by the prog-rock band ‘Emerson, Lake and Palmer,’ then becoming increasingly popular. Keith Emerson was influenced by classical music as he was a classically trained pianist who knew how to get ‘a good tune’ from the Classical composers and ‘run with it’. He was happy to credit his sources though and this concert was based around Mussorsky’s ‘Pictures At an Exhibition’.
Intersound was tasked with recording the concert, and because sound mobile trucks were still hard to come by in 1970, this resulted in using the Intertel TV OB unit’s Neve with Ian Southern mixing and myself and maintenance engineer Dave Lancaster looking after the recording side, with a hired Scully 8-Track parked in an adjacent van. Intertel was one of the few independent OB units with colour facilities then and the pictures from the four Philips LDK3 cameras were vision mixed straight to 2″ Quad VTR.
The Intertel Neve was only 4 group, so the 8-Track was fed by utilising the desk ‘FB’ and ‘Echo Sends’ to provide the extra four output feeds needed. With a lack of any multi-track monitoring on the broadcast desk, a rather smart-looking monitoring box was built by LWT engineer Dave Lancaster that ‘listened’ across these feeds, providing 8 VU’s and Monitor gain pots, plus ‘left-centre-right’ toggle switches instead of pan-pots to feed the two OB scanner’s speakers.

Someway into the concert the Scully played up and was observed to be running slowly owing to the transport’s pinch-roller slipping. So Dave and I had to hand-hold the pinch-roller hard against the capstan, restoring it to normal speed, for the rest of the concert!
We remixed the concert back at the Intersound studio with Greg Lake producing, and to correct the speed error that had occurred, I controlled the 8-Track using a ‘vari-speed’ consisting of a 100-volt line amplifier powering the capstan driven by a Levell Oscillator. The deck’s playback was compared with the guide soundtrack from the video recording to correct the speed problem, that had occurred during an extended drum solo by Carl Palmer.

I can’t remember now whether the re-mix that the group attended at Intersound was for the video or an LP disc version or both, but TV was still mono of course and ‘Pictures At An Exhibition’ was made into a film version that often appeared at UK College film circuit, and in the ’80s it came out on VHS.

How do you make a 5.1 Surround version of a 1970s mono video?
I’ve looked at two video versions of the 1970 Lyceum concert, and they both illustrate that manufacturers of ‘historic music videos’ still blatantly deceive in order to promote the audio on their discs. The first is the Japanese Laserdisc from 1990, which states it has ‘Digital Stereo Sound’, which it isn’t….just mono with a contrived small stereo spread, which seems to be just a phase shift, which also makes it rather bass-light.
The ’35th Anniversary Collectors Edition DVD’ from 2005 states it has ‘Stereo/Dolby 5.1/DTS 5.1’ audiotracks and ‘Sound Remix Mixed by John Buckley’, but it lacks any credit for recording engineer Ian Southern on the box, although he is on the DVD credits. This ‘remix’ has not been done off the 8-track original and there’s no sign of even a stereo mix, but it’s a contrived DVD 5.1 mix made using the original mono audio on ‘Left and Right’ and also at a lower level on the ‘Centre’ channel…..so that’s mono only across the front then… and a pair of ‘Surrounds’… which is the mono at lower level with a slight delay and some reverb I think. Although they did add some realistic concert stereo audience applause. This then is the same audio mix as the Japanese Laserdisc, obviously Ian’s original mono mix, and sounds like it’s the ‘live’ TV one on the night because Keith Emerson starts off on ‘Promenade’ with his synth-level too low and he struggles to correct it for a while, which would have been corrected at the later re-mix.

The finished video pictures throughout though were completely ruined by the extensive addition of really terrible video effects and cartoon images. It’s easy to forget that in the early ’70s video wipes and coloured effects weren’t common, so either ELP or Director Nicholas Ferguson must have thought it worthwhile to obliterate much of the concert coverage with them. I’ve avoided any of these in choosing the sequence below, but we do get to see how a ‘prog-rock’ band presented themselves at the time. Pity I couldn’t include Keith Emerson stabbing his Hammond with a large knife!

VIDEO: Press ‘Play’ in bottom left

Double-miking on guitar and vocals

Once again we see that in 1970 both the PA and the recording crew had to use separate mics, as no ‘splitters’ were available then. Ian’s are the Neumann U-87s and AKG C-451s of course.
The band chose to re-record ‘Pictures’ live once again at Newcastle City Hall on 26th March 1971, to release as their third LP with Eddy Offord mixing, and it came out on LP in December at a budget price by Island’s HELP series and reached number 3 in the UK album charts.

Greg Lake was interested in ‘production’ and came back to Intersound with a young band he’d found in Poole called ‘Spontaneous Combustion’. Greg must have been into comic book illustrations, as he filled their album cover with them.

Greg with ‘Spontaneous Combustion’ with their eager EMI PR guy at the doorway, at the Intersound Neve.

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1971: John Killigrew “Just A Line” from the LP “John Killigrew”- (Engineer: Vic Finch)

The ‘Kiligrew’ album recently re-released as a CD in Portugal

One of the albums Vic engineered was the first album from a singer/songwriter called John Killigrew that was produced by Pete Delo, who’d been a member of the group ‘Honeybus’. Delo left them when they became successful as he really didn’t want a life of touring with a band. He still occasionally produced and was very influenced by some of the interesting sounds in classical music and therefore used a range of instruments to add ‘colour’ throughout John Killigrew’s album. Like this track, “Just a Line”.

John Killigrew: “Just A Line” from the LP ‘”Killigrew”.

We’d sneakily doubled those strings on the 8-track by recording the rehearsal, which you weren’t meant to do as the Musicians Union thought you should be employing more players to get a bigger sound. I think the producer’s decision to do a fade-out was unfortunate, as you can hear that the track did in fact end nicely. The LP deserved better promotion from the record company ‘Penny Farthing’ and Killigrew disappeared, like so many promising talents in the pop world, but surprisingly I found that the album has recently been doing well re-issued in Portugal.

I’m the young guy at the Scully, Pete Delo leans back as Vic mixes and the backing vocalists with John Killigrew on the far right.
Photos: Studio Sound July 1971

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1971: Donny Elbert –“Where Did Our Love Go?” from the LP of the same name (Engineer: Vic Finch)

Donnie Elbert was an American soul singer who had a hit in 1965 with ‘Little Bit Of Leather’. The next year he moved to London and got married. In late 1971 Donnie walked into Intersound carrying a large pile of 8-Track tape boxes to commence the overdubbing and mixing of a new album. He’d already recorded at many of the best London studios and I remember the 8-Track reels from Decca, Advision and De Lane Lea amongst others, laid out across the Neve, as he considered where to start.
I was probably more concerned at the sight of them, as recording onto different brands of tape required extensive re-setting of the Scully 8-Track for each tape change.
Donnie produced himself and was easy to work with as he knew what he wanted, and after sessions overdubbing strings, backing vocals, piano and guitars, Vic immediately commenced the mixing of Donnie’s album. We were all used to long ‘days into nights’, but this one ran for 32 hours continuously and Donnie walked out with his finished album masters……and Vic and I retired to sleep!

Donnie flew back to the US and he alas didn’t pay his studio bill; a problem we’d managed to avoid up till then. LWT lawyers sued Donnie for payment but it was a year later when a cheque arrived because Donnie had a hit with the single “Where Did Our Love Go” from our sessions. It got into the Top Ten at No.8 in the UK at the beginning of 1972, and getting his track on the BBC’s ‘Top Of The Pops’ must have helped, it being danced to by the resident ‘Pan’s People’ on the show of 13th January. The next two weeks it was featured again, this time with the audience dancing; Donnie’s non-appearance in vision meant he was obviously still in the US. [6]
The UK success on the ‘London’ label, caused it to be picked up by the American ‘All Platinum’ label and it reached No.15 in Billboard and No.6 in the US R&B chart. Donnie’s complete Intersound album was finally released on All Platinum and his remade version of “Little Bit Of Leather” from the album went to No. 27 in the UK a few months later, with ‘Top Of The Pops‘ playing it on 25th May.

AUDIO: Donnie Elbert “Where Did Our Love Go”.

Vic’s ‘tape-delay’ on the echo in evidence, and of course we again cheated by using the “Can we have another take?” request to the string players as we switched tape tracks to double them up, thus getting the sound of 16 players instead of the 8 that were being paid for. The strings were listening to small column PA speakers for foldback near them, as no self-respecting fiddle player would don ‘cans’ at that time.
Donnie had a history of being cheated out of his songwriting credits in his deals with US record labels, and he finally stopped singing and writing and worked in A&R in Canada. [5]

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1971: Dennis King – The Titles Theme for “The Adventures of Black Beauty” (Engineer: Vic Finch)

Exposure on TV is great for selling records of course, and it can produce the demand for a recording of an extended version of TV Theme tune. This happened to Dennis King’s short theme tune for the opening and closing of the 1972 children’s TV series ‘Black Beauty’.
The original recording for the titles was done by Vic Finch in the Intersound studio and it became a surprise hit. Harry Rabinowitz conducted the smallish session orchestra and after the demand for it grew, he took a larger band into Olympic with Keith Grant producing the extended stereo version, now given the name ‘Galloping Home’. The session band also required a name, so it was ‘the South Bank Orchestra’ after LWT’s studio centre’s location.
He’s a clip of Dennis King explaining his writing of the piece, followed by Vic’s original mono Title Music:

VIDEO: Press ‘Play’ in the bottom left:

From the short documentary on Dennis King by Paul Heiney

Farewell ‘Intersound’ – What a way to go!

By mid-1972 LWT was already planning their move from Wembley into their newly built studios and offices on the South Bank, to be named ‘Kent House’ after the Duke of Kent who opened it. The decision had already been made that Intersound could not be housed there because the cost of digging more foundations into the muddy Thames was prohibitive. However, Intersound finally ‘went out’ in a very dramatic way, when in July 1972, a large fire destroyed the main studio completely. This was fuelled by the amount of flammable acoustic treatment material inside the studio and particularly from the original ’30s film studio shell being ‘acoustically treated’ by using straw!

Ian Hix plays only the black notes on the Bosendorfer.

The control room off on the side on the 1st floor actually escaped being burnt, but the double window collapsed and the Neve console suffered with badly burnt control knobs on the mixer surface. Neve was approached to undertake a restoration, but they had no interest in that and sadly demanded it be destroyed.
Ian recovered some of the other equipment, the Scullys and Dolbys I believe.
Vic returned to TV mixing; Ian departed and freelanced in many studios and then started Audio Kinetics, and I headed off to Capital Radio before realising that sort of radio held no interest for me and I returned to LWT a year later.

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54| 1970: Hispavox, Madrid’s 24-channel 8 group Neve – ‘A40’

Hispavox, Torrelguna 102, Madrid 17

I mentioned much earlier that both Spanish studios and broadcasters embraced Neve consoles enthusiastically. Estudios Hispavox was a long-established Madrid studio whose Chief Engineer was Michael Llewellyn-Jones, who came from Chile despite his obvious Welsh name.
The Billboard Recording Directory of May 1970, mentioned the 24-channel 8 group Neve and stated that their main Studio 1 was 50ft x 90ft x 35ft high and accommodated 60, with a control room of 14ft x 20ft. They had Ampex 4-Track with Dolby and Tannoy speakers powered by Quad amps.
During the 1970s, Howard Barrow, an established engineer from Pye in London, joined Hispavox and he worked as both a recording engineer and a disc mastering engineer during his period at Hispavox. He returned to Pye and where he became Chief Engineer from 1974.

Mike Llewellyn-Jones at the Neve ‘A40’

Hispavox’s Neve is arranged with centrally mounted group faders and the monitoring panel on the left. The mic-amps are 1064s and the routing modules are 1900s, with 1901’s for Echo Returns on the far left. Four 2254As are fitted above the groups.

The Hispavox studios

A team from Neve arrive at the large Hispavox building in Madrid.

Hispavox S.A. was founded by José Manuel Vidal Zapater in 1953, and was a major record distribution company, as well as having its own label and recording studios mainly focused on Classical and Spanish music. The above photo shows its building illustrating the size of the record distribution it undertook, which included worldwide labels like the US Columbia.

In 1956, the composer Rafael Trabuchelli became the artistic director and had successes with artists such as Miguel Ríos, José Luis Perales, Karina, Raphael and Los Pekenikes. The biggest worldwide hits though, came from the composer-arranger Waldo de los Ríos, when he re-arranged popular classics into pop versions with strings and with sound engineer Mike Lewellyn-Jones, produced this ‘rather excruciating track’, amongst many other really successful ‘cross-over’ records.

AUDIO – 1970: Waldo de los Ríos and the Orquesta Manuel de Falla – “Mozart Symphony No.40

Mozart’s Symphony No.40 with electric and acoustic guitars and a rhythm section! I can’t imagine the great Spanish composer Manuel de Falla would have been too excited at this orchestra named after him, playing this.
If you’re one of those that thought that was an insult to Mozart, do go and also listen to Waldo de los Rios’ arrangement of the slow movement from Tchaikovsky’s 5th as it’s even worst.

“His version of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, used for many years as the theme to the Radio 4 quiz show Brain of Britain, was the subject of frequent complaints from classical music fans (with whom the show was popular) and presenter Robert Robinson described it on air as “Mozart plus sacrilege”. [7]

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55| 1970: ‘Not just a Demo Studio’ | Dick James Music’s 16-channel 8 output Neve – ‘A83’

Dick James Music Recording Studio, 71-75 New Oxford Street, London, WC1.

Dick James ran a music publishing company, which ‘struck gold’ when they were virtually handed the publishing for the music of The Beatles, and after running their own record label they started a demo studio for ‘in-house’ artists.
Dick James decided to let his son Stephen take care of the new recording side and in 1969 they ordered a Neve, which was to become ‘A83’, a 16 channel 8 group desk. It was delivered in 1970 to the little ‘DJM Studios’, which was listed in Billboard 
as ‘accommodates 12’.

JOHN TURNER:
“The drawing M/11,708 records this as being “16 Channel 8 Track Recording Console Gen Assy”  dated 05/02/1970.”
 

A rather startled look from Stephen James as he poses at the Neve

This is the only picture I’ve found of the DJM Neve ‘A83’, which they used with an Ampex 8-track, plus Studer 4 and 2 -tracks and the usual Tannoy speakers. The photo shows three sets of Studer tape machine remote controls on the near side.
The console had 1064 mic-amps and 1900 and 1901 Switching Modules.
That’s a very drab-looking control room; converted from an office, and it had no window to the studio and relied on a black-and-white TV monitor to see the artists. On occasion, another adjacent office was also used, but that had no visual link to the control room at all.

JOHN TURNER:
In the early days prior to Neve forming a technical services department, installation, commissioning and fixing faults at customer’s studios were done by different people. Rupert Neve, Tony Cornwell, Ian Cook, John Copsey and myself were all involved at some time.
One Friday afternoon in 1970, just after lunch, Neve received an irate telephone call from Clive Franks at Dick James Music. The recently installed Neve 16 channel console (A83) was completely dead and wouldn’t switch on. I was asked to go and find out what was wrong. I drove down to London in the newly acquired white mini-van to the studio at 71 -75 New Oxford Street.
Situated above a bank, on the second floor was this small studio with an equally small control room. Shoehorned
 into the control room was the dead Neve mixer with an agitated Studio Manager Clive Franks. An angry young Elton John was playing piano in the studio and should have been recording; but no mixer!
So the first thing to check was the 24-volt power. Where was the power supply? Stuffed on the floor adjacent to the console was the Coutant 15 Amp power supply and those power supplies had two large screw terminals on the rear carrying the B+ and B- of the 24volt’s power. Running along the wall behind this power supply was a cast iron heating pipe, against which the two power supply terminals were solidly jammed! Move the power supply and hey presto the mixer comes back to life.
So within 10 minutes of arriving at the studio, I was back in the van with a rush hour slog through London traffic back to Melbourn.
I did suggest they housed the power supply in a more suitable position and at least raised off the floor away from the central heating pipes! 

DJM – Gets bigger than just a ‘demo studio’

It was 1964 when the Dick James Music company had moved into New Oxford Street in order to accommodate its growing copyright and royalty departments. Stephen James formed the record production company ‘This Record Co’ in 1967 and that was when it was then decided to turn one of the office rooms into the DJM recording studio.

STEPHEN JAMES:
“I was definitely more into the record scene. I used to go along to the Beatles’ recording sessions where I would sit in the box and watch George Martin and the engineers at work. That was what made me decide to set up a demo studio at James House.”

DICK JAMES:
So he bought a stereo tape machine and two mikes for about $720 and began recording demos. Gradually the setup evolved; more sophisticated equipment was added and the end result was a fully equipped 8-track studio which runs 24 hours a day and which is used for all the DJM artists except Elton John, who records at Trident, where there are 16-track facilities.” [8]

The studio recorded mostly demos of songs for Dick James to pitch to other singers but Caleb Quaye, an accomplished guitarist who was working as the studio engineer, had started sneaking recordings of his own band and others into the quiet nighttimes. Eventually Dick James discovered this and put a stop to it.
Caleb left in January 1968, and by 1970 Clive Franks and Jeff Titmus were the studio engineers, with Clive being the Studio Manager, but Caleb was still able to come in with other musicians, such as Reginald Dwight.

Reginald Dwight changed his ‘professional’ name in 1967 to Elton John and along with his new writing partner Bernie Taurpin was on the payroll of Dick James Music to write songs destined for other singers to obtain the publishing rights. During his early days working with Bernie, Elton was frequently found as a session piano player, working under his real name.
Elton’s early demo recordings were produced in the little DJM studio by Caleb Quaye during the time he worked as the studio engineer, and Caleb and drummer Roger Pope, formed the band ‘Hookfoot’, who then went on to record three of their four albums at the DJM studio. A new member of the DJM staff, Steve Brown convinced Elton and Bernie to write songs for Elton to perform as a solo vocalist, and this led to Elton recording his first album ‘Empty Sky’ in the DJM studio between November 1968 and April ’69. [9]

Guitarist Caleb Quaye, Elton John at the studio’s ‘Knight’ upright piano and bass player Tony Murray during sessions for ‘Empty Sky’ at the DJM studio in 1969. The drummer was Roger Pope.

That recording of ‘Empty Sky’ by ex-Olympic engineer Frank Owen, assisted by DJM’s Clive Franks was most probably what caused Dick and Stephen James to invest in the new console, Neve ‘A83’.

Stephen James then started another label simply called ‘DJM’ and Philip Goodhand-Tait was a DJM artist who recorded his first album ‘Rehearsal’ at the studio in 1970. The DJM Studio engineer Jeff Titmus recorded this and here’s one of the tracks, ‘Lean On Me’, which intrigued me because of the utterly distorted guitar that arrives later on buried in the mix (what were they thinking!) …… and those ‘angelic backing vocals’ …… all very 1970!

AUDIO: Philip Goodhand-Tait – ‘Lean On Me’ from the LP ‘Rehearsal’ 1970

Roger Bain was the Producer and DJM’s Steve Brown was also involved.

It wasn’t just Caleb Quaye who used his time behind the mixing desk at DJM to produce ‘private recordings’ and since most studio engineers are ‘musical’, you’d expect they occasionally might give vent to their musical sides. Which is what happened when the three DJM Studio engineers recorded themselves on an album with Clive Franks on acoustic guitar, Jeff Titmus on drums and Stuart Epps doing vocals. Also on piano and vocals was singer/songwriter and later actor Kaplan Kaye.
They called themselves ‘The Claggers’ and the LP was ‘Chumley’s Laughing Gear’. It’s mainly all very ‘British Comedy’……so I think I’ll bypass that one for now.
Stuart Epps had joined DJM prompted by his school days association with Clive Franks.
I’ll play a 1971 ‘single’ release by them written by Stuart, who became a successful record producer in later years. He’s ‘into’ an American voice here, probably because the idea for the song came from a trip to US. The Neve’s compressors are being well exploited I can tell.

AUDIO: ‘The Claggers’ ‘Umber Rag’ with vocal by Stuart Epps.

That’s Clive Franks doing bass and guitar, Jeff Titmus on drums and Kaplan Kaye on piano and Stuart Epps on guitar and vocals. [10]

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56| 1970: ‘The First 24 Track Neve’ | Wessex Studio’s 28-channel 24 group 24 Neve – ‘A88

Wessex Sound Studios, 106 Highbury New Park, London N5.

Delivered in August 1970, the Wessex Neve ‘A88’ was the first Neve with 24 groups. This was at a time when other UK studios were still deciding whether to go 16-Track. Having 24 groups might have ‘future-proofed’ them, but it also allowed simultaneous 8 and 16-Track recording, hence the labelling on the ‘monitors’. Wessex however wasn’t to get a 24-Track machine themselves until 1974, despite the fact that they were prepared well before that to advertise that they were ’24-Track’.

JOHN TURNER:
“The Wessex engineers insisted on using bar-graph meters, these alone required the use of a separate 20amp power supply. Two more 20amp power supplies were needed to power the class A electronics, the three large Coutant fully regulated power supplies being housed under the control room floor. Extensive Dolby remote switching formed an integral part of the multitrack monitoring system.”

DEREK STODDART:
“The world’s first 24-Track Neve console for Wessex Studios; that was one of my many projects, and it had bar-graph meters specified by the customer which was partly a space consideration on the meter panels. These created a heat problem, and I had to have a mesh panel made to fit between the frame and the top wood to allow airflow through to the meters.”

Neve ‘A88’ at the Melbourn factory
The monitor section

‘A88’ has 12 channels on the left and 14 on the right with the groups in the middle. Here’s an overall view of the groups and monitoring section of the desk
On both sides, we can see the first 1073 Mic-Amp Modules, which became a standard Neve module for some time afterwards.
The 1073 has over the years achieved ‘iconic status’, despite the fact that it’s just ‘another Neve mic amp’ of course. However as Neve sales were booming, it was produced in great numbers, but apparently not enough were ever produced, as ‘new 1073 clones’ have been coming out fairly regularly for many years!
Each channel has a 1910 Group Routing Module.
Carefully designed by the Thompsons with Neve’s Derek Stoddart, Neve ‘A88’ was filled with original features related to the groups and monitoring, so let’s go closer in on the central panel:

Close-up of the upper left

You can see in the above close shot the mesh grill that Derek Stoddart fitted above the light-beam meters to allow extra ventilation. Beneath the 2254/As are the 1912 Monitor Selectors, so that ‘modules’ are now being used instead of a hard-wired panel for the monitors.

Close-up of the lower left

The ‘Echo On Monitor’ selectors were a new style, and here the 2254/A Comp/lims had their coupling buttons beneath the ‘Studio LS/studio FB’ selector switches. The ‘Console LS’ could be switched to listen to ‘PFL’, the incoming ‘Talkback’ or ‘Monitor’, with a gain pot. The two ‘Cue’ lights were here as well.
Another of the innovations that the Thompsons and Derek Stoddart brought to ‘A88’ was the use of the big illuminated push-buttons seen above, instead of using Neve’s usual large Marconi rotary switches, and the ‘Meter’ and ‘Monitor’ selection switching was completely revised and can be seen in the close-up photos above and below.

Close-up of the lower right

Although designed in 1970 ‘A88’ was 24-Track from the outset, with 24 groups and 24 monitors and it also came with 24 selectors for the external Dolbies on the Wessex multitrack machines.
This remote Dolby switching facility, seen on the right, allowed all the 24 Dolbies to be in ‘Record’, ‘Play’, or independently switched during overdubbing. Wessex would have to have still been using the original A301 Dolbies, which lacked the logic control of the later A361 model which followed the tape machines into ‘record’ or ‘play’. The A301s had relays which could be controlled by this panel on the console however, and I also see the 1970 brochure reproduced a little further down, states that there were a total of 38 Dolbies all housed in a separate room, along with the EMT plates.

56a| Neve 1073 Mic-amp Module

In 1970, the Wessex Neve was the first to get the new 1073 mic amp module. This module probably then became the most commonly supplied Neve mic-amp for some years following. The differences between the current Neve mic-amps, 1066, 1073 and 1078 in this block diagram dated January 1970:

1073 schematic drawn in 1973.

Another document comparing the ‘Control Arrangements’ of modules in 1970:

Note that the above document shows the 1064 controls as being ‘stepped’ and the 1064A as being ‘continuously variable’. This must be incorrect and it was the 1064A that had the stepped controls.

NEVE 1073:
Drawing No: H/10023- later EH/10023
Date: First drawings 10/04/70
Front Panel: ML60119
Special Features: 1066 with different frequencies.
Length: 8.75″ with dual-concentric controls
Circuit boards: BA284/283AV, B211, B205, B182C
Rear Connector: 1 x 18
HF – Continuously variable 12k
MF – Dual concentric. Left to right- KHz 7.2, 4.8, 3.2, 1.6, 0.7, 0.36, OFF
LF – Dual concentric. Left to right- Hz 220, 100, 60, 35, OFF
HpF – Left to right- Hz 300, 160, 80, 50, OFF

Here’s a pair of original 1073s:

In this photo the 1073s have 16 dots plus the ‘0’ mark, around the ‘continuously variable’ HF, MF and LF controls, similar to the engraving on the stepped controls of the 1074 and 1076. See further down for one in its original engraving.

As can be seen from the above documents, the 1073 differed from the 1064 and 1066 by having a 12k HF control and new mid-frequency choices. It surprises me though that the 1073 has taken on such an ‘iconic’ status in more recent years as the circuitry otherwise is similar to the earlier units.
Such is the demand for the 1073 module to provide an analogue mic input for modern digital recording devices that many companies now produce clones of the 1073. Some of these attempt to use the original components whilst others just try to emulate the ‘sound’ of a 1073, and there are also a few software emulations.

A page from an early Neve 1073 brochure shows one with only 8 dots plus the centre point around the controls. The Wessex ‘A88’ console only has this number of markings on each 1073 of course, being the first with this module.

A pair of very expensive ashtrays

JOHN TURNER:
A feature found only on this mixer were two ashtrays at either end, embedded in the front buffer featuring the flying “N” Neve symbol in their front grills. Tom Taylforth had one heck of a job to file the grill as it was made from stainless steel. These required three separate drawings to produce the component parts: M/12160 for the ashtray box: M/12161 for the ashtray grille and M/12163 for the ashtray surround.”

Close-up of the left side, and one of the exclusive ‘Neve ashtrays’

DEREK STODDART:
“The console was almost never made as Mike Thompson was a very heavy smoker and so was Robin, and they insisted that they wanted an ashtray built into the console on the producer’s table. Rupert refused and it became a stalemate so I designed, in conjunction with either Dave Smith or Dave Langford, a special ashtray that had a stainless steel top plate with the Neve flying ‘N’ as part of the grill.  It must have been the world’s most expensive ashtray.”

Rupert’s reluctance to have ashtrays on Neve consoles made great sense, and for the Whitfield Street desks of 1972, George Balla the Chief Engineer for CBS in the UK, actually incorporated a vacuum system for ‘hoovering out’ the cigarette ash from the fader bays of his Neve consoles.

Six 2069 EQ Modules can be seen on the left in the above photo, which are for the ‘Echo Returns’. Each of the 2069’s has a gain pot at the top, for setting the echo return gain, and each pair has a selector button and indicator labelled ‘mono’. the gains for the ‘Echo Sends‘ are on 1272s beneath the EQ units.

Another look at the Wessex Studio

I took a look at the Wessex Studio in the article on their first Neve in Part Two. The studio undertook some improvements when the new Neve ‘A88’ arrived, which included moving the earlier desk into a remix room.

The proud Thompsons with the equally proud Neve staff look at ‘A88’

Mike Thompson on the far right points out something on their carefully designed central panel with Robin Thompson behind him along with their father Ron Thompson, whilst Neve’s sales staff Tony Cornwell, Elizabeth Harmer-Smith and Les Lewis enjoy the joke.
The other partner in Wessex was musician Les Reed and the studio was sometimes referred to as ‘Wessex-Reed’ and also ‘Wessex Film’ because it had film projection facilities.

STUDIO SOUND SEPTEMBER 1974:
“Wessex built a vocal booth and control room into one end of the hall and, in a small room to the side of it, they built a reduction room. This smaller room had been used as a Sunday School and they could convert it only if they provided another small building for the Sunday School not far away. The reduction room was enlarged to include a separate control room and vocal booth. The other side of the building was extended to provide space for a plate room.”

The Wessex Studio brochure of 1970

The photo of the new Neve in Studio ‘A’ is printed ‘in reverse’ by error, and there’s another of the new ‘Studio B’ remix room now opened with the original Wessex Neve 18-channel germanium transistor console and an AG-440 Ampex 8-Track in place.

Wessex Ad from June 1972
From Studio Sound 1974

Above and below are two views looking down from the control room, some years apart.

Year unknown
Photo via Discogs.
‘A88’ in the Wessex Studio A control room.
Photo: via Roger Grisley

The surprisingly big deck on the 16-Track Ampex MM-1000 shows its ‘video machine pedigree’, and the original four Lockwoods have come down to two. Since they have a single ‘dual concentric’ Tannoy driver, they would work well sideways, but perhaps they could have been wider apart. There are also still a pair of the wonderful big older Studer machines, a C-37 stereo and J-37 4-Track.

STUDIO SOUND SEPTEMBER 1974:
“When the studio opened they were using a four-track tape machine but they went up to eight-track almost immediately. Four years ago they bought a second Neve desk, one of the first 24-track consoles in Europe. It was used with a 16-track machine until February this year when they bought a 24-track Ampex MM1100. The business grew and grew. We did lots of work for America -people used to come from Nashville and Hawaii to record. Last year 34 percent of our work was for direct export to America.”

Music from the Wessex Neve ‘A88’

With the installation of the bigger Neve came the need for another engineer to join the Thompson brothers and Canadian Nick Bolgona joined in early 1971.

Engineer Mike Thompson with tape-op Roger Grinsley.
Photo: via Roger Grisley

Here’s a clip of the Chelsea football team making one of those terrible promotional ‘sing-along’ songs at Wessex in 1972. There are a few shots of the Neve, with Robin Thompson and the studio looks a bit brighter inside than the earlier interior I showed in Part Two with their very first Neve.

VIDEO: Press ‘Play’ in the bottom left corner:

Film via Pathé

Having 16-Track facilities brought in a variety of groups. Another engineer at Wessex was Geoff Workman, who in 1974 did some of the overdubbing and the backing track of “Now I’m Here” for the Queen album “Sheer Heart Attack”. Queen recorded that album spread across four 16-Track studios; Trident, Rockfield, Wessex and AIR, so at one time, this led to Geoff Workman recording Brian May’s guitar parts, whilst Freddie Mercury was doing vocals with engineer Mike Stone, and producer Roy Baker was trying to get the finished tracks finally mixed at Trident.

A Tamla Motown hit….recorded at Wessex:

From Billboard November 1971

STUDIO SOUND SEPTEMBER 1974:
“In 1970 Robin Thompson got a Grammy nomination for the Moody Blues album ‘To Our Children’s Children’. His elder brother, chief engineer Mike, tended to work on sessions with larger groups; a couple of years ago Mike recorded the band of 50 called Centipede directed by Keith Tippett, and last year he won an award from Military Band magazine for the best album of military band music, one he made with the Royal Life Guards. He was also responsible for the Quincy Jones soundtrack album of McKenna’s Gold, an operation which involved a typically modest Quincy Jones lineup of 73 musicians. The list of artists who have recorded at Wessex also includes the names of Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, the Beatles (separately), the Four Tops, Johnny Dankworth, Cleo Laine, Mireille Mathieu, Alan Price, Georgie Fame, King Crimson, Millie, Morecambe and Wise, the Bachelors, Moody Blues, Bert Kaempfert, Frankie Vaughan, Tom Paxton, Charles Aznavour, Stevie Wonder, Gary Glitter, Queen, Pretty Things and the New Seekers-their ‘You’ll Never Find Another Fool Like Me’ was engineered by Geoff Workman, who joined Wessex five years ago as a junior tape op.”

Afterlife: The Thompsons and the Wessex Neve ‘A88’

Wessex was sold to Chrysalis in 1974 and the Thompson moved away from the studio business.

STUDIO SOUND SEPTEMBER 1974:
“Ron Thompson suffered a stroke from which he has now recovered but which reduced the amount of work he could put into the company. Six months ago, too, his younger son Robin contracted an infection behind the ear which forced him to leave the music business. He is now rebuilding a 30 ft boat on which to take his wife and two children to America.”

DEREK STODDART:
“I had quite a few dealings with Mike Thompson when I was running SHEP, as I set up Michael Stevens and Co to be one of my dealers for our Nemesis Studio Foldback system, and Mike was their Salesman.  Mike has retired and spends his time sailing.
I seem to remember that Robin died, he had bought a yacht and spent time sailing around the Mediterranean, and then got involved with drug smuggling, and was arrested.”

Although Wessex had been talking to Neve about a 34-input 32 Track desk, Chrysalis bought Wessex and installed Cadacs in both control rooms and both the old and newer Wessex Neves were sold. Although many of the ageing studio and broadcast Neves were at that time viewed by studio bosses as having no value once a new console was purchased, many that have survived owe their existence to the few used audio equipment dealers, mainly in the UK, but San Francisco studio owner and used audio and guitar dealer Dan Alexander, was also one of those with the vision that the old consoles and their major components had real value and weren’t just ‘junk’. Having bought the original Wessex germanium Neve for his own studio in San Francisco, Alexander at some later stage also handled ‘A88’:

DAN ALEXANDER:
“How the console ended up in South Africa I do not know.
I bought it from RPM Studios in South Africa, then sold it to Brent Averill as a frame minus the 1073s, 2254s, and the 1272s. Brent had it for many years. eventually, he sold it to the current owners of BAE, who parted out the frame.
The console had a replacement TT patch bay fitted when we received it.”
[11]

DAN ALEXANDER:
“It was a very compact and facility-heavy console! Way cool! A shame that that one was never rebuilt and installed somewhere.” [12]

Yes, it’s a great shame that Neve consoles later became worth more stripped into bits, than restored as working desks and that situation still exists today.

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57| 1970: ‘First on the West Coast’ | Whitney’s 24-channel 16 group 24 monitor Neve ‘A94

Whitney Recording Studios Inc., 1514 West Glenoaks Boulevard, Glendale 91201, California.

A 1960’s advertisement for Whitney

Started by Lorin Whitney in 1957, the Whitney Recording Studios in Glendale housed the large 1928 Robert Morton Pipe Organ that Lorin Whitney bought from the Fox Theatre in Redwood. Whitney had become well known for playing the organ on radio broadcasts of religious programmes from the 1930s through into the ’50s.
The photograph above shows the exterior of the studios, probably taken in the 1960s, with the sign proudly proclaiming the ‘Tape Duplicating’ facilities and by 1970 the studios were increasingly being used for some very ‘non-secular music’ as this advertisement shows.

Whitney's ad in Billboard May 1970
“With 32 Mic Imputs (sic) and 48 Pan Pots”

The Ad was in the 1970 Billboard Studio Directory of May….a little premature as the console still wasn’t installed.

Whitney was the third US studio to get a Neve after Sound studios in Chicago and Vanguard in New York and ‘A94’ was a Neve 16 groups, but with 24-Track monitoring, coming very soon after the Wessex ‘A88’, which of course was the first Neve console that had 24 groups. Tony Cornwell and John Turner went to install the new console and would have found this Californian studio different from anything they had seen before.

JOHN TURNER:
“July 1970 – this was my first trip to the USA and was hard work. In order to be allowed into the USA  I’d had to get a certified vaccination jab as one of the necessary documents, and when I got to passport control I had the necessary certificate but the doctor had forgotten to sign it! Panic stations immediately on arrival. I can’t recall how, but I did get it sorted and was allowed in, fortunately.
I had Tony Cornwell with me and unpacking the wooden crates was done outside in the blazing sun – very hot. Inside the studio, we were fine as they had air-con and we mainly worked alongside their engineer Frank Kejmar.  It took about a week I think to get everything up and put together. We stayed at the very nice Roosevelt Hotel.”

John’s photo of Tony Cornwell outside Whitney

The studios had grown an upper floor when John took that photo in 1970 and as can be seen below, it certainly looked like a serious multitrack studio after the Neve went in.

Whitney’s smart Studio 1 with the Neve

Whitney’s Neve ‘A94’ was a 24-channel desk with 16 Groups, with 24-Track monitoring, and was the first Neve to be found on the West Coast.

Closer in on the desk

Zooming in on the first photo gives us our only close look at the desk, but it shows how big it was compared with the Wessex ‘A88’. Frank Kejmar, the Whitney engineer certainly needed long arms for the Whitney console, as he’d chosen to put the 16 group faders on the far right and the monitor section on the left. They followed AIR’s lead with eight 2254 Comp/lims. The central section has the output faders, and FB and Reverb sends and returns, and are fitted with new 2073 EQ units with dual-concentric knobs and built-in mixing amps for level control. I’m not sure if the 2073’s are in the Send or Returns, but the item from dB magazine below tells us that although only 4 Rev Sends, there are 8 Returns, presumably because EMT stereo plates had one in and two outs.
That monitor section on the left has for the first time a complete change from rotary gain knobs, using 24 narrow P&G faders for the monitor level controls, and by now large Neve desks had individual ‘routing modules’ on the monitors and Whitney here has new 1909s.
Coming so soon after the Wessex ‘A88’ with the first 1073s, Frank Kejmar chose a ‘stepped’, click stop version of the 1073, the first Neve 1076 mic-amps. The Routing Modules are 1908s and the Aux Switching Modules with 4 Revs and 4 FBs using the 1906s first seen on the AIR desks.

From dB Magazine November 1971
Whitney’s Chief Engineer, Frank Kejmar

Whitney were soon quoting differing numbers of mic channels, counting in sub-mixers to top-up their 24-channel Neve, so the Billboard Ad and Directory of May 1970 states ’32 input channels’, and the dB magazine clip of late 1971 above gives 36 via ‘two sub-mixers’. The studio was certainly able to take a reasonable size orchestra and so probably needed more than they’d initially settled on. Neve’s AES Ad of 1971 seen below still regards it as 24 channel desk though.

Neve’s advertisement for the Whitney desk at the time of AES Hollywood in 1971

57a| The Neve 1076 Mic-amp module

NEVE 1076:
Drawing No: EH/10026
Date: First drawings 23/06/70
Front Panel: ML60263
Special Features: Stepped version of 1073. First used on Whitney A94.
Length: 8.75″ with dual-concentric controls
Circuit boards: B283AV, B284, B211, B205, B1820
Rear Connector: 1 x 18
HF – Stepped 12k
MF – Dual concentric stepped. Left to right- KHz 7.2, 4.8, 3.2, 1.6, 0.7, 0.36, OFF
LF – Dual concentric stepped. Left to right- Hz 220, 100, 60, 35, OFF
HpF – Left to right- Hz 300, 160, 80, 50, OFF

The 1076 that Frank Kejmar had installed in ‘A94‘ was a variation on the recently released 1073, but had ‘click stops’ or ‘steps’ which used switches with resistors giving the 2dB steps in place of continuous pots. The steps were used on the HF, Mid and LF controls. This system had already been used in the Neve 1074 module, which was a stepped version of the 1066.
Stepped controls were soon to be favoured by film-dubbing theatres, as they had to work in the dim lighting required for film projection and the stepped controls offered ‘touch sensitive’ repeatability of boost and cut.
Note that the 1076s in the photo below, do not have the usual model number written on the lower left of the modules.

A pair of Neve 1076s.

Note that the 1076, a version with stepped controls, has the 16 dots plus the centre ‘0’ on each HF, MF and LF control, which is something I’ve already mentioned regarding later 1073 mic-amps.

BLAKE DEVITT:
“What is interesting is that on the 1076 one of the cut/boost switched resistor banks, using a 23 position Elma, doesn’t have symmetry about the mid point – it’s replacing a linear pot, but the resistors for ‘cut’ don’t match the corresponding ‘boost’, as if someone with a brain at Neve used the opportunity to really make the indexing steps a fixed amount of dB up and down……very pleasing.”

Music from Whitney’s first Neve

Despite its strong religious connections, Whitney happily welcomed the likes of Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention. Zappa’s ‘Hot Rats’ album was partly recorded and then mixed at Whitney just before the Neve arrived.

RICHARD KUNC:
“The one that stands out, the place where we did lots of really interesting things, is a place in Glendale called Whitney Studios. I had stumbled upon it accidentally—I think I saw it in the Yellow Pages. I called them up and went over to take a look. It had been primarily a religious music and gospel kind of place. The main room, which was really big, had a well-planned, well-constructed studio. They had a  huge full-blown Wurlitzer organ with dozens of pipes, tambourines, violins, drums, and other crap behind the walls of the studio. There were grills at the upper levels of the walls all around the studio where the sounds of these various things came out. That organ was used on many, many albums by groups you know.
They had a very fine 3M 16-track machine, and a really fine console. Not fancy, but extremely well thought out and versatile. And the more we and our ilk used the place, the more neat new equipment they added, often at our suggestion. That was very smart marketing on their part and it kept us coming back and sending our friends. We cranked out lots of stuff there. We did the first Alice Cooper album, ‘Pretties For You’. We did Captain Beefheart’s ground-breaking ‘Trout Mask Replica’ there. A lot of the later non-Mothers Zappa stuff that involved the ‘Hot Rats’ material with people like Jean-Luc Ponty was also done at Whitney.”
[13]

Frank Zapper At Whitney during the recording of ‘Hot Rats’in late 1969, just before the Neve arrived.
Photo: Bill Gubbins

The keyboard of the pipe organ is reflected in the shot of Zappa above.

BILL GUBBINS:
“A not-insignificant reason why Frank chose Whitney as one of the three studios where Hot Rats was recorded (Sunset Sound and T.T.G. were the others), was because of the large Whitney pipe organ. Dubbed “Organus Maximus” by the studio’s Mormon founder, Lorin J. Whitney, its grandeur can be most clearly heard on “Son Of Mr. Green Genes” and, to a lesser extent, on “Peaches En Regalia.” [14]

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1971: “200 Motels” – Frank Zappa with The Mothers Of Invention, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and a large cast including Theodor Bikel, Ringo Starr and Keith Moon. Released as an LP and a 35mm film (converted from video).
(Director: Tony Palmer. Music recording engineer: Bob Auger. Video sound: Peter Hubbard. Video editing: Barry Stevens. Remix: Frank Zappa and Barry Keene.)

Frank Zappa had been writing a work for rock band and symphony orchestra and having obtained limited funding for his production he decided that although he wanted a 35mm ‘cinema’ film, he would use a new video-to-film process and cut-out shooting on film completely.
There were 4 days of rehearsal and 7-days of recording at the end of January 1971 at Pinewood Studios outside London using a 4-camera TV OB unit from Lion TV and the 16-Track Rolling Stones Mobile. The video editing with extensive video fx work was done at TVR in Soho and the audio mixing at Whitney Studios.

“200 Motels was originally the title Frank Zappa bestowed on a completed suite of orchestral scores which he’d been scribbling over a period of about four years, usually in motel rooms while the original Mothers of Invention were touring in the late-60s (the title being a rough estimation of how many such motels he’d booked into over that period). The suite was eventually given its premiere performance at the UCLA by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, on May 18 1970 as part of a sell-out concert (which also featured an interim ‘Mothers’ performing a few old favourites).
A subsequent live tour with a new line-up of The Mothers (which included Turtles vocalists Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, who were on the guest list of the UCLA gig) saw one concert filmed for the Dutch TV channel VPRO, and it’s likely that this was the point at which plans began forming to turn 200 Motels into a television special: an expanded version of the LA gig, with enhanced fantasy sequences, orchestra and rock band performing live to camera, and a storyline depicting ‘Life on the Road’ of touring musicians. Throughout the rest of 1970, Zappa wrote and revised the various scenarios which would feature in the storyline, as well as composing fresh orchestral scores, and new songs which the Mothers showcased during the tour.

At some point in around October 1970 there was, as Zappa described it in the press at the time, ‘an expansion of the project’ after director Tony Palmer (who had previously featured him as one of the interviewees for the 1968 BBC Omnibus film All My Loving) showed him an experimental VT-to-film transfer he’d made of a live concert. Impressing Zappa with both his quick-cut vision-mixing – performed live to the rhythm of the music – and the general picture quality of the transfer, Palmer was duly employed as Director. The TV show was now a fully-fledged movie project. A meagre movie budget was negotiated with United Artists, on the strength of a 10-page outline, some audio recordings and a bunch of enthusiastic press reviews (although the real deal-clincher was doubtless the rights to the accompanying soundtrack LP being thrown in – providing a boon for the recently relaunched United Artists Records label)”.

“It was hoped that by effectively shooting a movie as if it were a TV production – on 2-inch Quadruplex tape – the whole process would be rendered both faster and cheaper, with instant playback eliminating the need to wait for dailies and the live vision-mixing radically cutting down on post-production editing time. Since the European standard PAL video system afforded a better quality picture than NTSC in the US (and the Technicolor VT-to-35mm transfer process didn’t even exist Stateside anyway) it was elected to shoot the film in England, at Pinewood Studios. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra were booked to play the live orchestral score, pop icons Ringo Starr and Keith Moon, and folk singer Theodore Bikel, were hired to play some of the more fantastical characters, and the Mothers (old and new) were on-hand to mug their way through the completed 254-page script, playing ‘versions of themselves’ and thundering through the rock numbers which, given the intensity of the previous tour, were already rehearsed to perfection.” [15]

FRANK ZAPPA:
“We’re shooting here because the technology to produce on videotape exists here. I saw Tony Palmer’s ‘Juicy Lucy’ and ‘Colosseum’ films and was very impressed. Also, production costs are less here than in the United States.”
“There is approximately one and a half hours of orchestra music that has never been unleashed on human ears before. We have three grand pianos, three classical guitars with John Williams playing lead classical guitar, an orchestra, bass guitar, seven percussionists, an accordion, eight French horns, four trumpets, four trombones, four clarinets, four flutes, four oboes, a piccolo and three saxes. There are 90 pieces in all.”
[16]

Palmer got the job of directing what was to be a cinema release ‘feature film’ at Pinewood Studios between January 28th and February 5th, 1971 using the Lion Television OB Scanner that recorded the video with 4 video cameras and the non-music ‘incidental sound’, mainly of dialogue, was recorded by Lion TV’s Sound Supervisor Peter Hubbard on a 24-channel Neve. This was also one of the first jobs for the Rolling Stones Mobile; duly given a new camouflage paint job, as it was likely to be visible in the Pinewood studio at times. The truck, equipped with a Helios, was used for recording the music onto 16-track with Bob Auger as the recording engineer because of Bob’s knowledge of both rock and classical recording.
Frank Zappa then brought the 16-track tapes back to Studio 1 at Whitney and overdubbed and re-mixed along with engineer Barry Keene on Whitney’s new Neve during April 1971.

Tony Palmer in an OB truck-possibly Lion’s during ‘200 Motels’.
Photo via SOTCAA

ADRIAN HOPE – NEW SCIENTIST 30 DECEMBER 1971:
“VIDEO TIMEBOMB IN THE FILM INDUSTRY:
The British firm Lion Television Services, of Shepperton, and the Vidtronics Division of Technicolor Limited have quietly been cooking up a tape-to-film transfer technique that is beginning to prove itself and is likely to take most of the film industry unawares. So far, only a few relatively short pop-music films have made use of the Vidtronics technique, and these have rarely reached the cinema screen. But probably few people who saw the films that did get to the big screen realised that they had originally been made on videotape. And that of course is the crux of the whole thing. Because if the results are virtually indistinguishable from ordinary film then the days of film as the main medium of the film industry could be numbered.”

The shooting was extremely fraught and at the end, Zappa and Palmer were at loggerheads. Zappa was also unhappy with the attitude of the classical musicians, and he’d pissed off quite a few others including the ‘Mother’s’ bass player Jeff Simmons who’d left.

“After eleven days of bickering in the claustrophobic environment of TVR studio on Windmill Street, Zappa, Palmer and a crack team of VT editors managed to assemble a working rough cut. By now throwing such cinematic trifles as ‘narrative’ and ‘plot’ to the four winds, the film’s scenes were re-ordered, split into different sections (often spliced with or overlayed onto others) and generally twisted about a bit – rendering an already odd project decidedly bizarre. The notion of 200 Motels as a ‘surrealistic documentary’ at least offered some kind of get-out clause for such artistry. As Rance Muhammitz (Theodore Bikel) explains in one early scene, “Within the conceptual framework of the filmic event, nothing really matters. It is entirely possible for several subjective realities to co-exist. It is possible that all things are a deception of the senses!” [15]

The video-to-film process

I’m going off on a tangent here but I thought it would give me a good excuse to look at the technique Zappa and Palmer used of shooting on video and then transferring to 35mm film via this new Technicolor direct-printing process, but the available copies of ‘200 Motels’ over the years have all been ‘screwed up’ in so many ways, that it’s just not worth showing an example of the video/film.
However, let us look at what Adrian Hope, in his New Scientist article called “A timebomb in the film industry”.

TONY PALMER:
“It was a colleague in Technicolor London who came up with the solution, namely that since the old pre-war Technicolor process involved shooting with three different negatives (red, green & blue) run in parallel, and since the television image in those days also comprised three different elements—red, green & blue, it might be possible to transfer each element separately to the different negatives and, when printed together, a true film ‘transfer’ might result. Which is precisely what happened, and the first ever ‘film transfer’ from videotape resulted. MGM/UA was satisfied, because they now had ‘a film’, not a videotape. Frank Zappa was satisfied because he could now have all the effects he desired, quickly and relatively inexpensively.”
[16]

FRANK ZAPPA:
“In the film we use the old technicolour three-strip colour process. They use another process I understand now in Hollywood but the three-strip process is compatible with the PAL 625 line European colour video system. You can separate the three colours off the videotape at the point that you transfer it to film so you get a transfer of each individual colour which means that you can control the density of that colour and so forth.
I want to go into more video projects because in pioneering that thing not only did we experiment around with the technical side of it, but we had the first taste of all the diverse Union problems that you’re going to run into. Just think, we were doing it on a film lot and there’s a big difference between a film union and a video union in England and now all of a sudden they’ve got to work together and nobody’s got a rate card.
I’ll give you one example of the weirdness that happened out there. In thirty-five millimetre when you’re working with a camera crew you have a guy called a focus puller. It uses a little lever to focus it. On the video camera you’ve got a guy who sits on it and rides it around. He focuses it and aims it and he’s got another guy who drags the wires for him. He doesn’t need a focus puller but the union wanted us to hire five focus pullers. I said, ‘But the cameras don’t have that on it’, but they still made us hire them.”

FRANK ZAPPA:
“A slight reshuffling of the scenes was done at the thirty-five millimetre stage. There are no film opticals in 200 Motels at all. There’s no film shooting in the studio. The clips of the things that were in motels and stuff like that was stuff that I shot with a sixteen-millimetre camera on the road. It was transferred on the tele-cine to video tape and processed with the rest of the footage. It was originally transferred to the telecine because we were going to use it as a projected background sign.
It turned out to be just as convenient. It would have actually been cheaper because the video tape-to-film process costs approximately $112 a minute with a machine called a wobulator that cuts out the visual video lines.”

The Technicolor video-to-film process still showed the video lines, so a BBC technique was employed to remove them as Zappa mentioned.

ADRIAN HOPE:
“To destroy the line structure – the 625 standard lines would appear very large on a cinema screen – a spot wobbling technique is used. Film printed this way and projected on a fairly large screen (at the National Film Theatre, London) looks unbelievably good.”

I can understand why Adrian Hope thought in 1971 that it would so disruptive to the established film world to have video as the shooting medium but of course, it didn’t make the waves he predicted. It’s a very different video/digital world in ‘film’ 50 years later though.

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1972-1983: Barry White / Love Unlimited / The Love Unlimited Orchestra

Barry White became a very successful ‘soul’ artist who used Whitney Studios extensively during the ’70s and it was first with a girl group that he produced:

“In 1972, he got his big break producing a girl group he had discovered called ‘Love Unlimited’. Formed in the imitative style of the Motown girl group ‘The Supremes’, the group members had gradually honed their talents with White for two years previously until they signed contracts with Uni Records. His best friend, music industry businessman Larry Nunes, helped to finance their album. After it was recorded, Nunes took the recording to Russ Regan, who was the head of the Uni label owned by MCA. The album, 1972’s “From A Girl’s Point of View We Give to You… Love Unlimited” became a million album seller. White produced, wrote and arranged their classic soul ballad, “Walking In The Rain With The One I Love”, which climbed to #14 in the Billboard Hot 100 Pop chart and #6 on the Billboard R&B chart in late 1972. This single also reached #12 in the UK chart. White’s voice can clearly be heard debuting in this piece as he plays the lover who answers the phone call of the female lead.” [17]

1973: “Never Never Gonna To Give Ya Up” – Barry White (Recording engineer: Frank Kejmar)

He became a massively successful soul artist and I’ll play a track he made at Whitney in 1973. I can just imagine Frank Kejmar overdubbing the sexy whisperings and groans of Barry White, and using the ‘bass tip-up’ from a big Neumann mic to full advantage!
Barry White formed a 40-piece group, ‘The Love Unlimited Orchestra’, originally to back his ‘Love Unlimited’ girl group and he used the orchestra, heavy with strings, right through until the early 80s to both back himself and produce albums under the ‘Love Unlimited Orchestra’ name.

AUDIO: “Never Never Gonna To Give Ya Up” from the LP “Stone Gon'”– Barry White

“The best Barry White songs may have made him the boss of bedroom soul (and the ruler of songs with brackets in their titles), but if you are stuck with the idea that he was an example of 70s excess, you should kick back and really listen. This guy had the funk, the soul, and the disco down to a T.” [18]

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58| 1970: ‘Chappell’s get a bigger desk‘ | Chappell Studio’s 24-channel 16 group Neve ‘A118’

Chappell Recording Studio, 52 Maddox Street, London W1.

The 24-channel 16 group Neve ‘A118’ in the Chappell Studio control room

John Timperley, along with John Illes at Chappell’s had been early adopters of Neve, having had one of Rupert’s first multitrack germanium transistor consoles since 1967 (see Part 3). They must have thought long and hard about the replacement though.

JOHN TURNER:
It looks like this console had quite a long gestation period. Perhaps an indication of just how finicky John Timperley was. He had a big thing about always using the large 316-type jacks on the patch. (He insisted on continuing to use these on the later V series console at Angel, requiring a huge amount of 19″ rack space.)
Records show the 1075 channel module being for Chappell’s ‘A118’, circuit drawing being H/10,025 with the description”1066Z IN not Phase!” This possibly meant the Mic input Impedance switching was brought to the front-panel switches in the place of the normal phase button.
The 1916 switching unit was also designed for ‘A118’, having ‘3-Track Monitor + Pan, &
‘Echo on Monitor’ drawings M/12,006 for the front panel layout, E/10,025 for the Desk Block Diagram & S/10,066, the Desk Circuit
Diagram.
The first drawing for ‘A118’ was M/12,006; the 1916 module Switching Unit Front Panel drawn 31/03/1970 by “MG” and the Metalwork drawings continued being done until 17/08/1970.

The long gestation period that John mentions didn’t stop Chappell from listing their “Neve console – 24-input 16 output” in the May 1970 Billboard Studios Directory.

Another view of Chappell’s Neve from an Ad. in Billboard Nov 1971

There’s an Ampex MM-1000 16-Track visible in this picture and once again John Timperley has fitted a pair of Astronic Graphic EQs on the right side of the desk. Perhaps they were the ones taken from his previous Neve.

Close-up of the left of Neve ‘A118’

John Timperley chose to put the 16 Group faders in the centre of the console, and opted for the usual rotary controls for the Monitor gains with once again, like Wessex, narrow P&G faders for the Groups. The 24 Monitors here have been arranged in two rows of twelve though.
The 1075 Mic-Amps mentioned by John Turner, have 16 on the left and 8 on the right. Alas, we can’t see if that ‘Phase’ button on the 1075 is now labelled ‘Z-In’, giving a front panel change of mic input impedance. This was not a major requirement in the eyes of most recording engineers, as the ‘Hi/Lo’ switch, already fitted to the rear of most Neve mic amps toggles to suit ‘300 ohm’ (and higher) mics like dynamics and condensers to the ’30 ohm’ best suited to the ribbon mics of the time.
The ‘Routing Modules’ are 1903s, and the Aux Routing Modules are 1906s, with 4 ‘FBs’ and 4 ‘Echos’.

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59| Neve 1072 Gramophone Amps for AIR Studio’s Neves

Each of the three main AIR consoles which were detailed in Part Six, were also supplied with a turntable unit built by Neve. These used Garrard 401 turntables with a new Neve RIAA Gram amplifier given the module number 1072, and labelled ‘Stereo Gram Amp’, as John details below:

JOHN TURNER:
“M/11,921 Transcription Unit Cabinet A29, A45 & A46 12/03/1970 “
“As the drawing register shows, all three consoles supplied on the initial AIR order required these ‘transcription turntables’.

One of the three Neve turntable units supplied to AIR
The Neve 1072 RIAA Gram Amp.
Photo: James Rowell
Interior of one the Neve 1072 gram units supplied to AIR.
Photo: James Rowell

James Rowell, a very talented Neve repair technician in Canada gives us the following details:

JAMES ROWELL:
“The 1072 is a ‘stereo grams’ RIAA phono pre with a switchable high pass (rumble) filter.
It is moving magnet input (unbalanced 47k – via the 47k input impedance of a 283 card input) Class A with 283 and 284 cards and a LO1166 class A gapped output transformer, per channel.
I own one (s/n 20001/K) – I believe Neve started production module serial numbers at 20000 as I have some other very rare modules that are in the low 20k region as well.
A Neve made a stereo RIAA phono preamp with balanced Class A 600-ohm outs using all classic class A era Neve cards and output transformers.”
[19]

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60| 1970: ‘The first Neve for BBC TV’ | Lime Grove Music Studio’s 24-channel 8 group Neve – ‘A135’

JOHN TURNER:
“In the early days of Neve, Rupert was very reluctant to sell consoles to the BBC. I suspect that his reluctance stemmed from his experience that previously all BBC audio equipment had been designed and manufactured in-house and adapted for each specific application. i.e. each mixer was custom, designed and built by BBC engineers and suitable only for the BBC.
Des Browning approached Neve and Rupert, reluctantly I suspect, and eventually was persuaded to sell to the BBC a “standard” 8-Track music recording console specifically for the BBC’s Lime Grove music studio. This was A135, it had limited modifications including Ernest Turner PPMs, a modified XLR panel and re-arranged jackfield.

“This was installed mid-1970 and was the BBC’s first multitrack console, costing some £15,000. The BBC’s SCPD engineer in charge of this installation was Dave Proctor. Dave was subsequently involved in the acceptance and design of many other BBC contracts.”

The BBC had been using big Pye transistor consoles in many studios, including TC1 at TV Centre but as John says, everything for the BBC usually required lots of ‘R&D’ work, thus making it unprofitable as no other customers required the same facilities.

The Lime Grove 24-channel Neve

The LMS installation came with monitor speakers that were certainly non-standard for the BBC; Lockwood Majors. Something that did remain BBC-standard however, were the BBC faders, being reversed and fading up by pulling them toward the operator.
The desk is very similar to the earlier LWT/Intersound Neve 24-8 and also included the UK broadcast standard meters-PPMs and the mic-amps are again 1064s with 1900 routing modules for channels and groups. There are four Echo Returns that take up the slots next to the Groups. These have VUs on the upstand and each has an EMT140 plate remote control, 1901 routing modules and then four high-level 2069 EQ’s, as on the previous Wessex ‘A88’ console.
Six 2254 compressor/limiters are fitted, which must have been pleasing for some BBC music mixing engineers as compressors weren’t always that common on BBC equipment.

Here’s one such famous BBC music mixer, Len Shorey, at work on the Neve in LMS:

Len Shorey mixing on the Neve at Lime Grove in the early ’70s. With Len is assistant Neil Sadwick.

Music mixed on the Neve in ‘LMS

JOHN TURNER:
This console was used to record the music for such classic BBC shows as The Black and White Minstrel Show, The Two Ronnies, Rolf Harris Show, Morcombe & Wise, Lulu, & background music to Paul Temple and Elizabeth 1st.

CREDITS AND REFERENCES

[1] From the Musician’s Union website history page: https://www.muhistory.com/contact-us/1961-1970/
[2] Quotes from Adrian Kerridge’s biography “Tapes Rolling, Take One”, which Adrian wrote in 2013 and it came out just before his death in 2016. Alas, the second part of this biography has never been published. It’s a fascinating look at the early years of IBS and then the studio that Adrian ran, Lansdowne. Famous for many of its great jazz recordings as well as pop groups to big orchestras.
[3] From “Better than the real thing”, an article about making the ‘Top Of The Pops’ albums in Mojo Magazine Sept 2000, by Kieron Tyler.
[4] Lots more information on ‘Top Of the Pops’ on http://topofthepopslps.weebly.com/about-the-albums.html
[5] The history of Donnie Elbert’s songwriting troubles from: http://www.rebeatmag.com/donnie-elbert/
[6] Details of the real ‘Top Of The Pops’, the BBC TV show, reveal that Donny Elbert was in interesting company for the programme of 13th January 1972. From the website: https://totparchive.co.uk/episode?id=420
[7]Quote from the website: https://readandlistenwithkeith.co.uk/2022/03/26/waldo-de-los-rios-classics-for-the-70s/
[8] Quote from a Dick James Music feature in Billboard on September 18th, 1971.
[9] Some of the info on “Empty Sky” from: https://www.eltonjohn.com/stories/empty-sky-50
[10] More on ‘The Claggers’ and Stuart Epps: https://stuartepps.co.uk/claggers-chumleys-laughing-gear/
[11] From Dan Alexander’s book “Dan Alexander Audio: A Vintage Odyssey”, published in 2021 by Rowman & Littlefield.
[12] From the Vintage Neve Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/488643975507938/
[13] Quote from: “Necessity Is…The early years of Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention”
by Billy James published in 2001 by SAF Publishing Ltd, London.
[14] Quote from: “Frank Zappa-The Hot Rats Book” by Bill Gubbins
.
[15]Details from a well-researched article about the making and a comprehensive summary of the problems in getting a decent-looking and sounding version of ‘200 Motels’ can be found on the website : http://sotcaa.org/editnews/200-Motels-On-DVD.html
[16] Lots of quotes giving background information at: https://www.donlope.net/fz/videography/200_Motels.html
[17] Quote from Steven Michael Bogarat on the YouTube video “From A Girl’s Point of View We Give to You… Love Unlimited” .
[18] From the website: https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/best-barry-white-songs-soul-music/
[19] Further details and photos of the Neve 1072 RIAA Grams Amp came from Neve repair specialist James Rowell, from his own Facebook page and the Vintage Neve Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/488643975507938/