Classics Du Jour


Studio Desk Used to Record Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” Going Up For Auction

Helios Console (Image: Bonhams Auctions)

A significant piece of rock music history is going up for auction next month.

Bonhams Auction House has revealed that they will be taking bids on a console which was used to record portions of Led Zeppelin’s IV including “Stairway To Heaven.”

This unique console is actually an amalgamation of two different studios desks, both built by Helios Electronics, who also built consoles for The Beatles’ Apple Studios.

The first console is the Basing Street Studio 2 Helios console, first installed at Island Records’ newly-constructed London studio in 1969.

In December 1970, Led Zeppelin began work at the Basing Street studios on what would become their seminal album Led Zeppelin IV, which sold more than 37 million albums around the world.

Though much of the album ended up being recorded using a mobile studio at the country house Headley Grange, the bulk of sessions for “Stairway to Heaven” did take place at Basing Street, including Jimmy Page’s legendary guitar solo.

The countless effects and settings of the huge Helios recording console are what attracted sonic pioneers such as Jimmy Page (Image: Bonhams Auctions)

In addition to being used for Led Zeppelin IV, recordings such as David Bowie’s “Holy Holy”, Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff”, Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” and Free’s “All Right Now” were also engineered on the console along with Stephen Stills’ debut solo album, which contained guitar contributions from both Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.

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The second console was built in 1973 and installed in the Hook End Manor studio of Alvin Lee, guitarist and singer with the band 10 Years After.

Renowned musicians who used this desk included George Harrison, Ron Wood, Tim Hinckley, Boz Burrel, Jim Capaldi, Mick Fleetwood and Joe Brown.

Though the desks spent years playing a significant role in shaping the musical landscape, both desks eventually ended up in storage where they languished for years until they were rescued and given a second life by a new set of music legends: Elvis Costello and Chris Difford of Squeeze.

The pair teamed up in 1996 to open their own recording studio, HeliosCentric, which Difford described as “a chapel of music in the most idyllic spot”.

Costello and Diffort spent two years carefully combining the two historic consoles into one remarkable desk, under the supervision of Dick Swettenham of Helios Electronics, Ltd. This newly amalgamated console played a significant role in the recording of a new generation of artists including Paul Weller, Dido, Sia, Cage The Elephant and Keane.

Now, after 22-years at HeliosCentric and nearly 50-years after it first came into use, this piece of music history will be moving to a new home.

Related: Top 20 Rockers over 70


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