Entertainment behind the scenes
Alan Parsons is perhaps best known for his work with the easy-listening progressive rock group that bears his name. Between 1976 and 1990, the Alan Parsons Project enjoyed eight top-40 singles in the United States, including the No. 3 smash “Eye in the Sky.” But before he became a rock star, Parsons was a knob-twiddler at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in London. He was an assistant engineer on the Beatles’ final albums “Let it Be” and “Abbey Road,” and one of the brains behind the 1973 Pink Floyd opus “The Dark Side of the Moon,” one of the biggest-selling albums of all time.
Now resident in Santa Barbara, 95 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Parsons is trying his hand at instructional filmmaking. He has just released a three-disc DVD package that aims to lift “this mysterious veil of secrecy” that surrounds the recording experience, he said Wednesday.
“Art & Science of Sound Recording,” which was two years in the making and is narrated by Billy Bob Thornton, is aimed at both music industry professionals and casual observers. It covers such topics as studio acoustics, the use of microphones and consoles, and recording techniques for vocals and various instruments. There’s also a useful section called “Dealing with Disasters.”
Parsons, now 61, chatted about the DVD and his career during a Q&A at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles, and performed a couple of songs, including “Sirius”/”Eye in the Sky,” ”Games People Play” and “Time.” He wryly noted that he had never won a Grammy despite receiving 10 nominations, one of the worst losing streaks in Grammy history. He received his first nod for “The Dark Side of the Moon,” losing that race to the engineers of Stevie Wonder’s “Innervisions.”
Parsons, who learned his craft on the job at Abbey Road under the tutelage of “Get Back” sessions engineer Glyn Johns, lamented that the album-listening experience is becoming obsolete. “Albums are, I think, a thing of the past. We’re in now a three-minute download world and listening on nasty, little white things,” he said, referring to the reductive earbuds that accompany most MP3 players. His revelation that 80 percent of music is listened to on such devices sent a shiver through a boomer audience weaned on what Parsons had jokingly described as “big black CDs.”