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Piccadilly Studios

Cubicle of Studio 2
Studio 2 in 1957
There were two studios at 201 Piccadilly. The entrance, on the south side of the thoroughfare, was an innocuous doorway sandwiched between two shop fronts – one was the Air France office, I think. A corridor led to doors into Studio One; a staircase led down to Studio 2 and another staircase led up to the Control Suite of Studio One. This comprised the usual Outside Studios setup of a Control Cubicle and an adjacent Recording Channel. As these were on the first floor, a cast iron spiral staircase with a sound lock at the top provided faster access to the ground floor studio than going down the main staircase and turning 180 degrees at the bottom.

Until Studio One’s refurbishment in the mid-1960s, both studios were equipped with Type A consoles, which were adequate for the sort of drama and early Variety productions for which they were intended, but not large enough to cope satisfactorily with the increasing demands of the 1960s Light Entertainment productions with orchestras and singers.
Cubicle of Studio 1
Type A desk in cubicle of Studio 1, date unknown
In 1965/6 (?) Studio One was re-fitted with what can only be described as a complete mish-mash of equipment. (Has anyone got some photos, please!) The Type A microphone amplifiers were retained, but the console was removed and replaced by a bank of faders and panels of ancillary controls, some mounted between the faders and the studio window and others in an upstand to the left of the SM.

There were 20 faders in three groups – 10 blue, 5 red and 5 green, plus two independents (which didn’t have any echo sends and were therefore completely useless for vocals). The one good point about the new design was the excellent sight line into the studio, but there were a great number of bad points. The controls above the faders were not, as would have been useful, echo mixture switches – they were cue light selectors. Utterly utterly irrelevant in a PM & LE studio. The echo mixture switches were in a panel to the left, in two rows, and following engineering practice channel one was at the left of the bottom row, not the top row as operational logic might dictate. There were not enough RSAs for one per channel, so 10 were provided, taking two panels to the left of the SM. RSA 1 was furthest away, and there was room for 7 units per panel, so they were mounted 1-7, 8-10 with blanks in the remaining positions – nearest to the operator. The jackfield was also on the SM’s left – at floor level! Following engineering practice, of course, channel one was bottom left, literally an inch above the floor, and the only way to plug up the jackfield was to lie on the floor.

Studio One was used regularly for Light Entertainment shows with an audience; there were two 4038 microphones slung about 8 feet or so above each of the two banks of seats. These proved to be a highly attractive target for George Harrison during a Beatles recording session in 1963, as he smoked Stuyvesant cigarettes which came in the American style soft pack carried in a thin steel non-crush sleeve. The guitar amps were miked with 4038s and George soon discovered that they were magnetic, and then realised that they were the same type that was slung overhead. Being bored and inherently mischievous he started to throw the steel packet holder up in the air to try to stick it onto one of the audience mics, despite the desperate pleadings of the junior SM (John Andrews) who was horrified at the thought of having to explain how he’d let it happen, as there appeared to be no easy way to lower the microphones and they were over the seating making using a step ladder a difficult proposition. Luckily George’s aim wasn’t good enough and he soon gave up.

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