"See you in Prague..."
There are a lot of laudatory remarks in publication having to do with Graham
Nash, the man. "Congenial" is an adjective frequently used. "Not given over to
the drug-induced excesses of his friends from the 1960s" is a theme frequently
(and accurately) expanded upon.
All this understates the matter, however. Graham Nash must be
the nicest damn guy in rock 'n' roll. Concerned about you, who he might
not even know that well. Always had a nice thing to say about anybody, including people who
aren't that nice. A hard worker in the glassed-in isolation booth, singing
harmonies with himself (or with you on your demo recording), but ready at the drop
of a hat to call things off for a while and watch the Boston Celtics on the TV
The nicest damn guy in rock 'n' roll. I should know. I've seen a lot
You in Prague Davitt Siegerson and Richie Zito, 1984. Graham
Nash, vocals. A rough mix, at Long View, of the song which would later appear on the
LP Innocent Eyes. This was the LP that the pundits didn't like, because
of its synthesized sound each of them however quick enough to catch
themselves in mid-sentence and to point out that, whether or not you liked the
synthesized drums, Graham Nash was still one hell of a nice guy.
As was customary for any "name act" using the studio, Graham
Nash brought his own engineer with him. This was a guy from the West
Coast, about our age at the time, with whom Graham had worked for many years.
His name was Stanley Johnston. You can click on his picture to the left.
There was a lot of instant respect between
Stanley Johnston and the people at the farm. He had heard some good things
about us, and we had (just) heard some good things about him from Graham:
that, for example, Stanley was a tek' wizard with good ears. That's a very
good recommendation within the community of audio professionals, and so we set
out to learn something from Stanley. We didn't have long to wait.
It was one evening, just after supper, that Stanley reached
behind his chair and retrieved a small black piece of equipment with a few wires
hanging off it and plumped it down onto the dining room table, in between the
ice creams and the cappuccinos.
"Ever see one of these?" he asked. "Fresh in from Japan.
It's a portable DAT digital recorder. Like a Walkman, only better. Takes
sounds and makes data out of them instead of pictures. Pictures don't hold
up so well on magnetic tape; data does. When you play it all back, the
sounds are indistinguishable from the originals. Real hi-fi."
We were skeptical,
to say the least. After all, we were analog guys; not digital guys. We had our
Walkmans, Stellovoxes, Nagras, Ampexes and Studers when it came to recording
sounds, and we loved them. As for the rest, vacuum tube devices were our cup of tea. We'd
show you our "pre-CBS" guitar amplifiers, our McIntoshes in the
hi-fi closets, and our rack of antique Pultec equalizers. We'd preach to
you about the warm, friendly feeling of analog tape machines, and warn against
the deconstruction of these warm, friendly sounds into the on-or-off,
zero-or-one status of millions of tiny switches made out of molecules of silicon dioxide. "Heresy!" we
would say, wagging our fingers in the air. "For what? For an extra 10 db
of signal-to-noise? Heresy!"
Stanley Johnston was nonplussed. He pushed his chair back
from the table, got up, and waved us into the control room, carrying his DAT
digital recorder. He took the two little black wires, plugged them into
the the recording console, and slid a tiny switch on the device from left to
right. The device turned on. "Listen to this," he
said. "It's a live recording of Crosby, Stills & Nash I made just before I
came here. No vacuum tubes." A brief blast of thousand-cycle tone
twisted our heads around and silenced us.
"Judge for yourself," he said.
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
Wasted on the Way
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