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In the early sixties the process for recording pop groups was based on the system built up over previous decades for the recording of classical music. An albums worth of songs would be recorded in a day, the studio capturing what was predominantly a live performance. By the end of the sixties the commercial success of the pop and rock genres had fuelled the development of new equipment and techniques.

Recording a 'Rock' album for the major bands had changed from a day out in the studio to the commandeering of the building for weeks or even months. The studio was now a playground to experiment in.

In the case of The Rolling Stones (and probably other bands at the time), large chunks of expensive studio time where being wasted by inactivity viewed as creativity and the biggest culprit, musicians not showing up on time or not at all.

Our rock and roll hero, Keith Richards was notorious for this and Mick, an astute business man who always had his eyes on the pennies, decided on the direction. They needed to be in charge of their own recording 'production'. This would become part of a process leading towards autonomy for the band, who now mistrusted many forms of conventionality including, the justice system, the media, management, government and its taxes and financial institutions. And they were right to have such mistrust. They had constantly been shat upon from a great height.

Throughout the most important years of their development ,The Beatles had two important figures from what could be seen as the conventional establishment to guide them i.e. Brian Epstein on the management side and George Martin musically. Two proud parents who had nurtured their wild off spring in such a way as to allow their individuality but still listen to its parents as the voice of reason. The Stones never had this and it eventually fell on the shoulders of Mick Jagger to take charge, a role that he proved to be as gifted and shrewd as any music mogul or manager.

So why not just set up their own studio?

This became the way forward for many of the top artists of the era, masquerading under the justification or misguided belief that it would actually save or make money. Owning your own studio became a kudos symbol in an age of excess. The final two fingers to an authority that ran the conventional studios. But studios need to be watered and fed, rent and rates and salaries paid even when not in use and often the savings made when the studio is being used has to be offset by the empty times.

By the early seventies many of the top bands including The Beatles, Pink Floyd ,The Who and Moody Blues had become defined by their studio albums or studio sound. It was no longer about capturing a live performance, the boundaries of the conventional 4 or five piece had been blurren blurred by the ability to overdub and a willingness to process the conventional and add other instruments and players if required.

They were using the studio to create new combinations of instruments and sounds. The albums including Sgt. Peppers, Dark Side of the Moon, Tommy etc. would become art works in their own right.

The Stones may have spent the same amount of time in the studio recording albums but they were still defined by their live performances, even on record. If we listen to 1972's 'Exile on Main Street' there are no new sounds or experimental techniques. No arty vague lyrics, concepts or arrangements that push the boundaries of pop. What you hear is sex, drugs and rock and roll, a blues rock band doing what it does best. Having dabbled in this new studio experimentation with 'Her Satanic Majesties Request' they had the sense to see that their strength was as a live blues/rock band.

For The Stones the studio was a place not to experiment with new genres but as a glorified rehearsal rooms, a place for a guitarist to feed a band with a new riff and for that band to take it, run with it, see where it goes. Added instruments or musicians would always be in the convention of a soul or blues band. i.e. Sax, Hammond organ , piano, soul backing singers.

The ideal solution for the Stones was to create a mobile recording facility; a control room on wheels that could be moved about and hitched up to various buildings that would double as a recording studio playing area. This would obviously suit a live band, an 'on the road' band, a bunch of renegades not particularly wanted by certain types of authority in their own country. It could follow the band around on tour, to capture that magical performance that was often elusive in a standard recording environment. It could be taken up to Newbury, to Mick’s newly acquired mansion, 'Stargroves' away from constant and often hostile media attention and police harassment of the capital. But also, and here was the important bit for Mick, it could hired out to other artists.

StargrovesStargrove - Mick Jagger

"Stargroves, was ideally suited because it was a big mansion and a kind of grand hall with a gallery around with bedroom doors and a staircase. Big fireplace, big bay window - you could put Charlie in the bay window. And, off the main hall there were other rooms you could put people in. We did stuff like Bitch there, and you can hear Moonlight Mile when Mick is singing with the acoustic, it sounds very live, because it was! 4 or 5 in n the morning, with the sun about to come up, getting takes". Andy Johns

He was spot in in this last bit and here's the amusing bit about recording many of the rock bands of this era. For all the developments in technique, increase in tracks to record on, ability to process, overdub, budgets for studio time etc. many of them were trying and failing to capture their live sound, or what they perceived to be their live sound as it was often a product of sheer volume.

Shirley Arnold, Stones' secretary: The Stargroves sessions :

"They could hardly get any work done, with Mick the way he was about Bianca. She'd come into the studio and give him the eye... he'd leave the other Stones and follow her upstairs".

In many ways the plan worked and the mobile ended up paying for itself, and outlasting many of the top studios of the day, although if we look at the complete released recordings by the Stones, the amount produced by the Mobile is limited.

The idea of a mobile studio was not a new one. Many existed in the classical field to record orchestras in concert halls. Abbey Road had a mobile from the early 1930s. It was just not that common for pop or rock.

The consultant engineer was Glyn Johns, the acoustic layout was by Sandy Brown, the electronics and desk provided by Dick Swettenham and his new Helios company with the wiring by Roger Knapp. The box and trailer construction was by Bonnallack Freight Containers of London built onto a 1971 J reg BMC Laird truck.

Rolling Stones Mobile

Originally the unit was unpainted and looked silver, being the colour of the aluminium skin of the custom built body. The American Camouflage colour scheme which the vehicle sported for many years came about when recording orchestral music for the Frank Zappa film "200 Motels". As the film was being shot on location, with the Mobile in view, it was decided to paint it camouflage to hide it the trees.

During The Rolling Stones 1973 European Tour Mick McKenna took over the engineering role. The next couple of years saw a great deal of re-building and general upgrade to the Mobile. The 16 track was upgraded to a 24 track, 12 new outputs were added to the existing 20 on the desk, and a large amount of work was done to improve the acoustic environment of the unit.

Recorded on The Rolling Stones Mobile :

AL JARREAU -  “IN LONDON”

ANGELIC UPSTARTS -  “LIVE”

ARTURO SANDOVAL -  “NO PROBLEM”

BAD COMPANY -  “RUNNING WITH THE PACK”

BAD COMPANY -  “STRAIGHT SHOOTER”

BE-BOP DELUXE -  “DRASTIC PLASTIC”

BE-BOP DELUXE -  “LIVE IN THE AIR AGE”

BLACKFOOT -  “HIGHWAY SONG LIVE”

BOB MARLEY -  “LIVE AT THE LYCEUM”

BRINSLEY SCHWARTZ

CAMEL -  “PRESSURE POINTS-LIVE IN CONCERT”

DEEP PURPLE -  “BURN”

DEEP PURPLE -  “MACHINE HEAD”

DEEP PURPLE -  “MADE IN EUROPE’

DEEP PURPLE -  “MADE IN EUROPE”

DEEP PURPLE -  “WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE”

DIRE STRAITS -  “ALCHEMY”

FAMILY -  “IT’S ONLY A MOVIE”

FLEETWOOD MAC -  “MYSTERY TO ME”

FRANK ZAPPA -  “200 MOTELS”

FRANK ZAPPA -  “TINSELTOWN REBELLION”

GANG GREEN -  “CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT”

GARY MOORE -  “OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY”

GARY MOORE -  “WILD FRONTIER”

GREGORY ISAACS -  “AT THE ACADEMY”

HORSLIPS -  “LIVE”

IAN DURY AND THE BLOCKHEADS - ”LIVE! WARTS AND AUDIENCE”

IRON MAIDEN -  “LIVE AFTER DEATH”

IRON MAIDEN -  “NO PRAYER FOR THE DYING”

LED ZEPPELIN -  “PHYSICAL GRAFFITI”

LEVEL 42 -  “A PHYSICAL PRESENCE”

LOU REED -  “LIVE IN ITALY”

MANHATTAN TRANSFER -  “LIVE”

MOVING HEARTS -  “LIVE HEARTS”

NAZARETH -  “RAMPANT”

NO DICE -  “2 FACED”

ONSLAUGHT -  “LET THERE BE ROCK”

OSIBISA -  “BLACK MAGIC NIGHT”

QUEEN -  “LIVE MAGIC”

RAINBOW -  “ONSTAGE”

ROLLING STONES -  “EMOTIONAL RESCUE”

ROLLING STONES -  “EXILE ON MAIN STREET”

ROLLING STONES -  “SOME GIRLS”

ROLLING STONES -  “STICKY FINGERS”

SIMPLE MINDS -  “EMPIRE AND DANCE”

TEN YEARS AFTER -  “RECORDED LIVE”

TEN YEARS AFTER -  “ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC TO THE WORLD”

THE ANIMALS -  “BEFORE WE WERE SO RUDELY INTERRUPTED”

THE DAMNED -  “MINDLESS DIRECTIONLESS ENERGY”

THE FACES -  “LONG PLAYER”

TOYAH -  “TOYAH! TOYAH! TOYAH!”

TUCKY BUZZARD -  “ALL RIGHT ON THE NIGHT”

WHITESNAKE -  “LOVE HUNTER

 
Rolling Stones Mobile : Part 2  - At Headley Grange with Led Zeppelin
Rolling Stones Mobile : Part 3  - Exile on Main Street
Rolling Stones Mobile : Part 4  - Smoke on the Water
Rolling Stones Mobile : Part 5  - The Truck Stops Rolling

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The Rolling Stones Mobile         Part 1

 phi lsbook.com

Rolling Stones Mobile

 

Rolling Stones Mobile

1975

 

 

1979

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recorded on The Rolling Stones Mobile