My first personal Multi-track Machine
Around 1976-1977, I had quit Sound Exchange Studio and rented a little space within David Brown’s Photo Studio- 6 West 20th Street. It was not a recording studio, but it did have a silent room within a room, in the middle of the photo studio. There I started my own studio. First I bought a 2 track machine and did editing. I did lots of editing. Over time I took whatever money I could spare, and plowed it back into used recording studio equipment until I had a 24 track recording studio. In these two little rooms I was able to record a few tracks at a time and then mix and edit.
The way I got the 24 track machine was interesting. I was looking around for used one. Machines went for very varied prices. Everybody wanted to be in the recording business. Sure it sounds like fun until you realize that you have to sell and amazing number of hours to pay for the construction and equipment. Recording is really a stupid business even prior to computer recording (stupid as far as businesses go). So with the number of studios that fail being large, and used equipment everywhere, the price was simply a matter of lucking into the right machine, at the right time, at the right price.
I had heard that Electric Lady had a used MCI 24track for sale. When I called up I was told it was only $6500 dollars because it was broken with a massive hum problem. This machine was $25-$30,000 dollars new and used could be as much as $17,000. $6500 was a steal. I had to see what was wrong with it.
I went to Electric Lady. I was armed with my test equipment and alignment tools. I degaussed the heads and put up my alignment tape. What I found was, every playback control on the machine was turned up to max. Each of the 24 tracks had a giant amplification dialed way up at 100 Hz. Of course the machine sounded like it had a lot of hum. As for other things wrong with the machine, only two switched needed replacing on the remote. NO big deal. This machine was a steal.
I offered the Owners $6,000 dollars. They said yes. I gave them two thousand in cash and said I’d be back in 24 hours with the $4,000 and a truck. While I was at it, I took the main logic board off the transport and the two head assembly stacks (16 and 24 tracks) and went uptown.
By the time I got back to 20th street from West 4th street, all hell broke loose. I seems that since I thought the machine was worth the money, all the equipment brokers now wanted the machine. Before I got uptown there was a message left on my studio’s answering machine offering $8,000 dollars. Then I got more phone calls $9,000 dollars, $10,000 dollars. The previous owners had also gotten calls from the equipment brokers. They said they could get much more for the machine and would split the additional profit from the machine. I wouldn’t even have to pick it up. The offers kept going up. I always explained to the studio owners I didn’t buy the machine to resell it. I bought the machine to build a studio around it.
The brokers didn’t care. They just want to resell it and make a profit. The owners didn’t care, they just wanted to sell it for more. Nobody cared about me wanting to build a studio. I guess why should they.
When the machine got an offer of $14,000, the previous owners called me up with an ultimatum. “Listen kid, were going to sell the machine to somebody else, and you can sue us to get your two thousand back.” They were downright condescending and nasty. After all who was I? They owned Electric Lady Studios and I was just an engineer. I paused and said to them. “Listen KID!, you go ahead and sell the machine and see how long it take for the new owner to figure out it has no heads or main logic board”. They paused. They had nothing more to say. I went the next day with a truck and four thousand, and picked up the machine. The owners never came to see me take it.