The Rock & Roll Pop Culture Auction Summer 2022
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Recording industry giant E.M.I. Corporation did so many things extremely well back in their heyday, including manufacturing their own professional recording equipment, namely the BTR (British Tape Recorder), a ¼” tape, twin-track valve (vacuum based) machine. In 1953 they started building the 'BTR2' tape recording console and at the time, these were considered state-of-the-art mono recorders – the best that money could buy. They were extremely well built, using high quality components and expert craftsmanship, and they weighed almost 600 pounds apiece. Originally made for 'in-house' use only - they were very highly regarded due to the fact that they were fabulous recording machines with great sound quality, were extremely dependable and relatively easy to operate – and as such there was a high demand for them outside of E.M.I. Orders were placed by The British Broadcasting Corporation (B.B.C.), who ultimately purchased and used many BTR2s throughout Great Britain..

In 1957, E.M.I. Studios (which was renamed “Abbey Road Studios” in 1970) located on Abbey Road in London (where The Beatles recorded almost all of their music) took delivery of and started using the BTR2s, which were a noticeable upgrade from their predecessor, the 'BTR1'. Originally manufactured and painted two tone green (as all BTR2s were), the ‘Abbey Road machines’ were all painted two tone grey in the late 1950’s, for the sake of consistency, in order to match some existing grey recording equipment and mixing consoles already in use at the studio. Of all the BTR2s manufactured by E.M.I., ONLY E.M.I. / Abbey Road Studios used machines were ever painted grey, and this very important distinction is what sets them apart from all others.

The BTR2s that were in the control rooms at E.M.I. / Abbey Road Studios ran at 15 IPS and 30 IPS and were switchable to either speed. These tape recording consoles were in use at Abbey Road throughout the entire time that The Beatles recorded there. They were the front-line mono machines when The Beatles began making records there in 1962, and they were the mono machines used to record the entirety of the band’s first 2 albums in mono: "Please Please Me" and "With The Beatles", and also their first batch of hit singles, including "Love Me Do", "Please Please Me", "From Me To You", and "She Loves You".The mighty BTR2s were the so called ‘work horses’ of E.M.I. / Abbey Road Studios throughout the 1960’s and they were an extremely important and integral part of The Beatles’ recording process, remaining in constant use by the elite team of engineers and technicians employed at the studio on every album and single throughout the band’s time recording there until 1969. There are numerous photographs of the BTR2s in operation with one or more of The Beatles in the shot during recording sessions for many of their albums including “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Beatles For Sale”, “Revolver”, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, “Magical Mystery Tour”, “The White Album” and “Abbey Road”. These photos are shown here.After many years of reliable use, Abbey Road Studios finally ‘decommissioned’ the BTR2s in the mid-1970’s, sand shortly thereafter they were relegated to a basement storage area. In 1980, Abbey Road Studios was updating its equipment and decided to sell off some of their old gear that was laying around gathering dust in order to raise funds for the proposed improvements. In October 1980, they had a 2 day on-site auction they called "The Sale of the Century". These BTR2s were sold in that auction as a pair and wound up with an audio engineer named Edd Leetham. In 1987, Mr. Leetham wrote to Abbey Road Studios with some questions about his Beatles recording consoles. He received a letter from the Chief Engineer there confirming that indeed these were certainly used during The Beatles’ recording sessions. Leetham shortly thereafter put these recording consoles in a Sotheby’s London auction (August 1988), where the winning bidder was The Hard Rock Café. The consignor bought these BTR2 recording consoles directly from The Hard Rock Café decades ago.

In addition to The Beatles, many other important artists recorded at E.M.I. Studios during the time that the BTR2s were in use there including: John Lennon (“Plastic Ono Band” LP) and George Harrison (“All Things Must Pass” LP), Pink Floyd (their first six albums, including “Dark Side of the Moon” were recorded at Abbey Road during the period that the BTR2s were in use there), The Hollies, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Peter and Gordon, Cliff Richard & The Shadows, Deep Purple, Jeff Beck, Connie Francis, and The Pretty Things.It is believed that these are the only two surviving Beatles E.M.I. / Abbey Road Studios front-line used BTR2 machines, as the four others in use there (there were two in each of the three studio control rooms, with four wheels at the bottom of each so they can be moved as needed) have not turned up anywhere in any form and they were most likely scrapped almost 50 years ago. These BTR2 recording consoles are of great importance related to the recording history of The Beatles. Very little exists in any collection, public or private, with regard to Abbey Road / Beatles used recording equipment in any form and the rarity and significance of these BTR2s cannot be overstated. A level meter has been replaced on one of the machines and this was done while still in use at Abbey Road Studios. In addition to the letter from the Abbey Road Chief Engineer, also included with these recording consoles is the original instruction manual that was used at E.M.I. / Abbey Road Studios when needed. Also comes with a Gotta Have Rock & Roll Certificate of Authenticity.
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