TOM HEDDEN MUSIC, inc.
Skyline Recording Studios
Mid-Town Manhattan, NY, NY
I’ve probably given the impression that Abbey Road or The Power Station were/are my favorite studios. I know, I tend to gush but that’s the whole idea, here. Actually though, I do have a favorite: Skyline. Skyline was kind of like my home field in the late 80’s. The downstairs room was never available; Nile Rodgers seemed to have it locked out… forever. That was my first indication that this was a very cool place. When he wasn’t in there, it was because some other amazing record was being mixed or sweetened. That forced the rest of us upstairs. This room was of a decent size and it generally sounded great; it was really versatile. The big visual feature was a blond, heavily burled, grand piano from the late nineteenth century. It was unique and one of the most beautiful pianos I’ve ever seen. The control room was private and felt sequestered and a lot of the bookings seemed to be artists just getting started on projects simply because it was such a creative space. I remember watching guys set up for a night session as I was wrapping a jingle date one afternoon. It was a single synth on a stand in the studio, no amp, no mic, nothing acoustic at all. I thought it was kind of odd that they didn’t just put it in the control room and asked why they were doing it that way and they said it was for Laurie Anderson, they said she just liked to write in the main room. I completely understood.
There was a smaller, third control room upstairs as well and I did some work in there too. It was a popular room for hip-hop and dance projects as well as sound design. This was back when it still required a studio to record and mix electronic sounds. The most successful engineer from my class at Berklee (he’s one of those household names) made some very cool records in that little booth.
One of the best things about Skyline was the staff. Lot’s of really great people ended up there and it showed. The rooms were spotless, the gear was all in perfect shape and the assistants were all practically famous (including the techs). I learned more about engineering from the guys who were supposed to be assisting me than I did in four years of college. If any of you are reading this, THANKS! Suffice it to say, it would be flagrant name-dropping just to list these guys. My youthful anticipation of what the Power Station staff might be like was replaced, once I was working in New York, by my growing respect for what the Skyline staff actually was. In fact, more than a few of them had been at The Power Station.
The studio had several brushes with closing and reopening over the years. I believe that John King reopened the space as Chung King in the summer of 2012. There’s so much great history there and so many great records were done there that maybe the legend will give them enough traffic to keep it going. I sure hope so.