Smoke On The Water

A Tale of Our Vintage Helios Sidecar:  This box of knobs has seen some epic action. These Helios mic pre/eq modules were used to create the legendary Led Zeppelin song “Stairway To Heaven”.  That’s a great story in and of itself, but there’s lots more.

Vintage Helios modules from the Rolling Stones Mobile unit

The Rolling Stones began building a mobile recording truck in 1967. It allowed them to record in unique locations like stately manors, remote mansions and on location at concert halls. They called it the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio.

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Mick Jagger checking out the Rolling Stones Mobile truck

These channel modules are microphone preamplifiers and equalizers, they were pulled from the original Helios mixing board that was installed on this truck. The Stones used it to record songs like “Brown Sugar”, “Wild Horses” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”. Ultimately, they recorded the albums Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street with this Helios console.

Led Zeppelin also had great success with the Rolling Stones Mobile truck with the albums Led Zeppelin III, IV and Houses of the Holy.Immigrant Song”, “Gallows Pole”, “Black Dog”, “When The Levee Breaks”, “Rock and Roll” and “Misty Mountain Hop” were all recorded through these modules from the Helios desk.

“We all came down to Montreux, /on the Lake Geneva shore line / to make records with a mobile / we didn’t have much time / Frank Zappa and The Mothers were at the best place around / When some stupid with a flare gun / burned the place to the ground”

In 1971, Deep Purple set up shop in an empty hotel in the outskirts of Montreux, Switzerland after being evicted from their planned location due to a fire. This story comes to life in their legendary rock song, “Smoke On the Water”. The lyrics describe that Deep Purple was embarking on a recording project. They even refer to the “Rolling truck stones thing just outside”.

As advancing technologies became available, The Stones decided to upgrade the mobile unit to add more channels and tracks. In 1972, these original mic preamp/eq modules were pulled from the desk and replaced with more flexible ones.

Helios sidecar at EMEAPP

Our sidecar consists of 8 channels from the original 20 input Helios console that was installed in the Rolling Stones Mobile truck. They were racked up in a Boutique rack, complete with switched +48v phantom power and phase invert per channel, plus variable volume pots for the direct outputs.

These channels have been there and back, helping to produce some of the best and most important music created in that era. This rack is currently in use in our portable recording rig and will end up on our roster of great stuff available for use in our forthcoming recording studio.

Written by Drew Raison, photography by EMEAPP