Monday, November 23, 2015

Who needs a fourth track?

L-R: Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Andrew Loog Oldham, Hassinger, Bill Wyman, Keith Richards in the RCA Studios.
(Photograph by Bob Bonis courtesy of BobBonis.com)
In the new issue of Ugly Things, writer and musician Greg Prevost interviews legendary RCA recording engineer and producer Dave Hassinger, who died in 2007 at the age of eighty. The conversation is essential reading for anyone who loves mid-1960s record production. Hassinger is most notable for engineering the Rolling Stones' classic 1964-1966 Los Angeles sessions that produced, among other songs, "Heart Of Stone," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "She Said Yeah," "Get Off My Cloud," "Mother's Little Helper," and "Under My Thumb." He also signed, managed, and engineered the recordings of the Electric Prunes, and over many years recorded sessions for Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, the Monkees, Love, the Jackson 5, and others. In 1969 he opened the venerable and highly lucrative Sound Factory recording studio.

In this lengthy, fascinating interview, the appealingly modest Hassinger discusses the finer points of his studio gear and set-ups and band arranging, as well as his personal background and history, the wide variety of artists he produced, and the melancholy fact that much of his equipment (including a Gibson Firebird guitar given to him by Keith Richards) and his albums were stolen from him; at the time of the interview—conducted during the early-aughts—a disconsolate if accepting Hassinger had made little effort to replace his collection via CD's, finding the prospect overwhelming.

Hassinger acknowledges that he learned a lot about rock and roll from the Rolling Stones. ("A turning point in my career.") My favorite moment in the conversation comes as Hassinger's describing the arrival in RCA Studios of a four-track recorder. "'Satisfaction' was [mixed] on four tracks," Hassinger recalls. "That was a big thing." He adds:
When I first arrived at RCA there were three tracks. When it went to four tracks we were all thinking. What are we going to do with the extra track?
Hassinger in 1968



Bottom photo via The Collectors

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