"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 yourdemo recording), but ready at the drop of a hat to call things off for a while and watch the Boston Celtics on the TV downstairs.
The nicest damn guy in rock 'n' roll. I should know. I've seen a lot of them.
See 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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All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.