Although he’s bet known for his ’70s and ’80s hits with the Alan Parsons Project, Alan Parsons made his bones as an Abbey Road Studios engineer working with the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Paul McCartney & Wings, among many others.
Ultimate-Guitar.com quoted Parsons recalling his earliest project with the Beatles: “‘Let It Be was the first to happen. That was actually nothing to do with the Abbey Road Studios except that I was sent down (to the Beatles’ Apple Studios) as a member of staff to help them out. And it was quite an intimidating experience, walking into the Apple basement studio. There were all four Beatles there, their wives, and it was intimidating, but amazing at the same time. . . As a result of working on the Abbey Road’ album, at least half the time they were there making it, but I got to know Paul a bit better.”
Parsons went on to say, “I probably got to know Paul and Linda (McCartney) best on the (1971) Wild Life album, which I didn’t engineer; I did a mix on one of the songs on Wings’ Wild Life, and Paul said, ‘It’s fine, we’ll go with it.’ So that was my first real breakthrough, just getting a mix of the Wings onto that first album.”
He went on to remember, “As I progressed from being an assistant engineer to a fully-fledged balance engineer as they were called at Abbey Road at the time, I was let loose with Paul on some of the sessions for (1973’s) Red Rose Speedway and ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ and ‘C Moon’ as singles.”
Parsons offered up a standard trick of the trade: “If the producer doesn’t comment on the sound, then you can be fairly confident that you’re doing an okay job. I mean, McCartney would always say just as a matter of principle, ‘Make the drums sound better.’ So, what is it that makes the drums sound better? I’d say, ‘OK, I’ll try a different mic, I’ll try a different EQ, I’ll change the balance.’ And eventually, he’d say, ‘Yeah, that’s fine, that works.’ Some artists, some producers are much more demanding than others, but Paul was always pretty demanding.”
Alan Parsons was especially pleased with the Beatles’ 2003 Let It Be remix album, Let It Be. . . Naked: “It was great to hear it again in its naked form. Glyn Johns, the original engineer that I worked with on the album, was heard to say similar sentiments to myself — ‘It was nice to hear it before Phil Spector crapped on it.” (Laughs) I think Spector did some good work and some bad work on the record. One of the ones I really enjoyed hearing in its virgin form again was ‘The Long And Winding Road.’ That deserved to be just essentially Paul and the band — not strings, choirs, and all, all kinds of other stuff. It was a great song, just as a song.”
During a recent chat with GQ.com, Paul McCartney passed his 1972 Top 10 hit “Hi, Hi, Hi” off as a snapshot of an earlier, far more funkier time in his life: “Y’know, a lot of people were getting high. So, to me it’s just like a fantasy song, sort of saying, ‘Hey girl, c’mon, let’s get high!’ And now, I must admit, it can get a little bit embarrassing ’cause I’ve got grandkids, and here’s me going, ‘ Yeah! Is everybody getting high?!’ So, when we do it live, I kind of go, ‘Let’s get high — on life!!!‘ (Laughs) A little bit of a disclaimer there, y’know? But at the time, it was just about the times and ‘multicolor band’ and it’s very much a period piece — but it goes down well.”