Biography
As a staff engineer at RCA's Hollywood studios in the 1960s, David Hassinger worked on a number of important and classic recordings. The most famous of these, perhaps, are mid-'60s tracks that the Rolling Stones recorded in Hollywood, including the entirety of their 1966 album, Aftermath. They also include, however, the first two Jefferson Airplane albums, along with efforts by Sam Cooke, Love, the Monkees, the Byrds (their first attempt at Eight Miles High, re-recorded later for official release), Crosby, Stills, Nash Young, and others. Hassinger also attempted to establish himself as a producer in the late '60s, with limited success, most notably with the Electric Prunes and the first Grateful Dead album.

Hassinger's work with the Rolling Stones was probably pivotal in expanding his musical and professional horizons. The Stones liked working in American studios, and during their mid-'60s tours in the States, they would often record in that country, including sessions at RCA in Hollywood. Hassinger first worked with them at the end of 1964, and did engineering on tracks that appeared on Out of Our Heads and December's Children. He did all of Aftermath, even writing the liner notes. The palette of sounds and instruments on the record -- marimbas, dulcimer, sitar, harpsichord, and fuzz bass -- was a challenge for both the Stones and the producer (Andrew Oldham) and engineer. Hassinger decided to form his own independent production company, signing the Electric Prunes for that purpose.

Hassinger's most notable achievements as producer were the first Electric Prunes singles and albums. Several of the Electric Prunes' best and most well-known songs had sonically adventurous psychedelic effects, like the extended humming guitar that starts their big hit I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night, the distorted psychedelic Bo Diddley guitar of Get Me to the World on Time, and what sounds like a sped-up ukulele on Sold to the Highest Bidder. The Electric Prunes have gone on record as noting, however, that they themselves were largely responsible for the creation of these effects, and have also said that Chief Electrical Engineer Richie Podolor and assistant electrician Bill Cooper were more responsible for the engineering than Dave Hassinger was. The Electric Prunes' promising career soon got off track when the original lineup started to dissolve, and Hassinger, who owned the Electric Prunes name, kept the group going with entirely different musicians. The final Electric Prunes albums thus bear no resemblance to the original group, and are considered embarrassments.

Hassinger seemed to have another opportunity to advance his career as the Grateful Dead's first producer, acting in that capacity for their first album. The Grateful Dead's qualities as a live band and cultural icon were difficult to capture on tape (as they would be throughout most of their career), and Hassinger was not the most suitable intermediary for a band that disdained conventional industry practices. Hassinger got fed up with the group during the recording of Anthem of the Sun, when they asked for effects that would simulate something like "the sound of thick air," and ended his association with them. In the '70s and '80s, he continued to work as an engineer, assuming that position on albums by diverse performers including Leo Kottke, Seals Crofts, the Blackbyrds, and George Strait. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi




 
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