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Friday, February 19, 2016

Decca vs. EMI: friends or foes?

A giveaway for us all... secrets-secrets... everything in the name of music.

"There the story might have ended, had Mike not noticed an article in a magazine called The Absolute Sound. Mike’s attention was drawn to a piece someone had written about Decca and its techniques, which he realized was not entirely accurate. “Of course, I had all these notes and thought, ‘Oh, that’s not right,’ so I sent them a letter correcting it and The Absolute Sound editor, Harry Pearson, replied and said, ‘Why don’t you write about Decca?’
“This led me to contacting former members of Decca staff: Jimmy Brown, Gordon Perry and a number of other staff who helped me understand how sessions worked, on the technical side. And Perry was especially helpful in terms of technique and turned out to be a goldmine of information from the inside; about things that were not often published.
“Of course, in those days the technique was a closely guarded secret and, in fact, there was a ‘no poaching’ agreement between EMI and Decca. It was an informal agreement which said that when a Decca or EMI technician was let go the other company would not hire them, because they had their own little secrets. That continued well into the ’70s and ’80s even though their studios were located within a mile of each other!
“For instance, in Kingsway Hall the microphone connectors for Decca were wired one way, that is to say either male or female, whereas EMI’s were the opposite. So even though they both had facilities there until the hall closed in ’84, they were entirely separate.
“Everybody had their own technique but Decca was pretty confident they were doing the best job with the techniques they had.”
Recording at Sofiensaal, Wien

Read more here.. while I visited Kingsway Hall in mid Nineties, and all the huge place - after climbing the large staircase - was mesmerized into smaller units, used for several, different activities, all not music-related, I still fondly remember the emotion when visiting Sofiensaal in Wien, about 15 years ago... a blue/red Decca logo truck was in the back yard and the old theatre windows were dusty and everything was like it used to be back in 1958 when Wagner's recordings were made... only abandoned like in a Tim Burton's movie, spider-webs and all.

The crew was - indeed - so kind to let me enter the hall for half an hour, while some rehearsal before the recording was going on... a lot of serious job and people, Neumann's mikes, booms and recorders, cables... my world.

I was in heaven...

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