Rocker-audio engineer was always ahead of his time Alan Parsons in person
By John Benson
There’s a good argument to be made that if Alan Parsons was born 40 years later, he would be a superstar EDM DJ and producer. During the late ’60s and early ’70s, the English audio engineer helped produce some of the biggest albums.
This includes working as an assistant engineer at Abbey Road Studios on The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be,” as well as Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon.” The latter project, for which Parsons is credited for incorporating some of the most notable sonic aspects (including the recruitment of singer Clare Torry), garnered him a Grammy Award nomination.
Yet where Parsons’ prescience is most obvious is with the Alan Parsons Project, which is known for hit singles “Eye in the Sky,” “Time” and “Don’t Answer Me.”
“I think the market I was heading for was probably the same market Pink Floyd was looking for,” said Parsons, calling from Santa Barbara, Calif. “I would say the Alan Parsons Project was basically born out of what became known as progressive rock at the time. Our audience was the headphone generation.”
However, despite the success of his albums, he didn’t tour until the mid-’90s. That doesn’t mean he didn’t come to Ohio during his heyday. He described a scene in Cleveland that seems straight out of HBO record industry series “Vinyl.”
“We stayed at the famous rock ’n’ roll hotel Swingos,” Parsons said. “Oh yeah, we had a very rock ’n’ roll time if I remember. And I think we kind of premiered the album to Cleveland in Eric Carmen’s apartment, which was an amazing hi-fi set up.
“We played the album loud and made a good impression. It was for ‘I Robot.’ It was our only means of promotion back then, because we didn’t have a live act. So radio was extremely important.”
Parsons will return to Ohio next Thursday for a concert at Powers Auditorium in Youngstown.
The rocker recently revisited his past in the form of a reissue for his debut effort, 1975’s “Tales of Mystery and Imagination.” The box set, released last year, contains two versions of the album, as well as a CD of bonus material. However, it’s the vinyl release that speaks to Parsons’ creativity and studio geekiness.
“We have six sides of vinyl,” Parsons said. “The reason is because it runs 45 RPM instead of 33 RPM. That gives an amazing quality for audiophiles of vinyl. I’m also going to have a surround mix. It was a fun research period we went through.”
Considering Parsons’ high-profile studio involvement with legendary bands, it’s not farfetched to think one day he also could be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“I’ve been there, of course,” Parsons said. “It’s improved enormously since it first opened. When it first opened, I remember coming away thinking it was animatronics and almost like a wax museum. It’s vastly improved now and a force to be reckoned with.
“Actually, I’m in touch with them and might be donating some artifacts from the Pink Floyd days and my own collection.”