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Remembering two EMI studio legends: Mike Batchelor and Norman ‘Hurricane’ Smith

test 8 April 2008

PEOPLE: Former Abbey Road chief engineer Mike Batchelor has passed away at the age of 79. An EMI employee for nearly 40 years, Batchelor played a fundamental role in the development of numerous pieces of iconic EMI studio gear, including the ATOC Automatic Transient Overload Control and the TF12345 mixers. The news emerges shortly after that concerning the death of another distinguished EMI employee, engineer/producer Norman Smith, reports David Davies.

Based at Abbey Road for many years of his long tenure at EMI, Batchelor's contribution to the modern professional studio set-up has been recalled by friends and colleagues, among them former EMI Studios Group managing director Ken Townsend, who brought Batchelor back to Abbey Road from EMI's Central Research Labs at Hayes in 1975 to take on the role of chief engineer.

Evoking the days of the late '50s and early '60s when few professional audio manufacturers existed and engineers often had to construct their own equipment, Townsend (pictured here between Batchelor and balance engineer Chris Parker on the day of Batchelor's retirement) noted that "those designing and building this equipment had to be highly trained engineers, only capable of performing such tasks after years of studying to attain the necessary qualifications. Mike Batchelor was one such pioneer, to whom everyone owes a debt of gratitude for the sheer brilliance of his work, particularly in the field of mixing consoles, limiters, compressors, curve benders and a host of similar devices."

Norman Smith, who died last month aged 85, first joined EMI as an apprentice sound engineer in 1959. He went on to engineer all of the Beatles' EMI studio recordings up to and including 1965's Rubber Soul. Smith's next major engagement saw him producing three of the first four Pink Floyd albums, including the band's much-loved debut, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Other clients during the late '60s and '70s included The Pretty Things (cult classic S.F. Sorrow) and Barclay James Harvest (Once Again).

The early '70s found Smith forging a parallel career as a recording artist under the name of Hurricane Smith, with at least one single (1972's Oh Babe What Would You Say? ) enjoying significant success on both sides of the Atlantic.

While Smith spent extended periods away from the music industry in later years, he did revisit his memories of working with the Beatles and Pink Floyd at Abbey Road for a limited edition 2007 memoir, John Lennon Called Me Normal.

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