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“Stairway to Heaven” Desk to be Auctioned

By Steve Harvey. Bonhams is putting the Helios console that recorded Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” on the block.

London, UK (November 27, 2018)—Less than two years after auctioning the EMI mixing desk used to record Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for $1.8 million, far above the pre-auction $700,000 estimate, Bonhams is now putting the Helios console that recorded Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” on the block.

The desk, an amalgamation of two consoles, was constructed by Elvis Costello and Squeeze’s Chris Difford in 1996 after consultation with Helios Electronics founder Dick Swettenham, a former employee of Abbey Road and Olympic Studios, for their HeliosCentric Studios in Rye, England. It has been in constant use ever since.

Pink Floyd ‘Dark Side’ Desk Sold for $1.8 Million

The HeliosCentric console comprises 38 channels of Helios Type 69 mic/EQ modules with 24 buss routing, four echo sends, two foldback sends, switchable separate pre- and post-EQ insert sends and returns, and an additional six mono line inputs. It features 24-channel monitoring with six group outs and four mono headphone sends. It includes eight onboard signal processors: four mono A&D 760 compressors and four mono Helios 5056 EQs.

The console is a combination of two desks—one from Island Records’ Basing Street Studio 2 in London and the other from Space Studios at Hook End Manor, the Oxfordshire home studio of Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee. Basing Street Studios used the console from 1970 until 1974, when it was decommissioned, remaining in storage until 1996. Lee’s custom desk, commissioned in 1973, was later moved to his Wheeler End Studios in Buckinghamshire, where it was in use until the early nineties.

The Basing Street console was used by Led Zeppelin to record its fourth album, which includes “Stairway to Heaven,” and by Bob Marley & The Wailers to record the Burnin’ and Catch a Fire albums. Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens, Eric Clapton, Sly Stone, Jimmy Cliff, Harry Nilsson, Jeff Beck, Humble Pie, Mott The Hoople, David Bowie, Free, The Rolling Stones, Steve Winwood and numerous others also recorded through the desk.

Lee’s projects recorded through his Helios console included the album On the Road to Freedom, a collaboration with The Thames Valley Gang that included George Harrison, Ron Wood, Joe Brown, Steve Winwood, Tim Hinckley, Boz Burrell, Jim Capaldi and Mick Fleetwood.

At HeliosCentric Studios, the amalgamated desks saw action with Paul Weller, who recorded his Heliocentric album through it, Supergrass, Sia, Keane, Athlete, The Feeling, KT Tunstall, Turin Brakes, Squeeze, Paolo Nutini, Dido, Gary Barlow, David Gray, Royworld, Toploader, Marti Pellow and the Pet Shop Boys.

According to Bonhams department specialist Claire Tole-Moir, “It is hard to overestimate how crucial a role this console has played in the British rock and pop scene. It is entirely unique, being an amalgamation of two already incredibly influential and important consoles, and in its current form has hosted some of the most popular bands of recent years. Songs and albums recorded on this bespoke console and its original parts rank among some of the most recognizable and best-loved pieces of music in existence, and have resulted in Grammys, Brit Awards and multiple number one spots. This console is a piece of Britain’s modern cultural history.”

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The HeliosCentric console goes on the auction block on December 11 as part of the Bonhams Entertainment Memorabilia Sale, which encompasses an array of important rock, pop and film memorabilia.

Bonhams •