Sunday, February 13, 2011

Alan Parsons and the Recording of Time

I recently listened to a call-in show where the guest was the famous sound engineer Alan Parsons. None of callers asked him about his amazing work with the Beatles, Al Stewart or the Hollies, none of them asked about this most recent project or his old band, The Alan Parsons Project. Every single caller wanted to know about his work with Pink Floyd and their masterpiece, The Dark Side of the Moon.

You cannot listen to The Dark Side of the Moon without having awe for the achievement in sound engineering especially considering the technology that was used to record it. There was no Garage Band or any other type of sound mixing software back in 1973. This was all done with tape machines. The song "Time" begins with a bunch of clocks ticking with a Roger Waters bass riff and then their alarms all go off. He recorded this by wheeling one of his tape machines into a clock store near Abbey Road studios. He asked the store manager if he could to stop all the clocks and record each of them individually, first the tic-toc and then the alarm. Then back in the studio, he superimposed the clocks onto each using multiple tape machines, one on record and the rest on play.

The next time I play with Garage Band on my Mac, I will be thinking of Mr. Parsons. I was in awe of him before I heard this, now I can place him among the legends. If Billy Preston can be called the Fifth Beatle, I have no problem calling Mr. Parsons the Fifth Floyd.

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