London, UK (December 13, 2018)—Bonhams made headlines last month when it announced it would be auctioning off a HeliosCentric Helios console used to record Eric Clapton, Bob Marley, David Bowie and others in December. The desk, which notably was used to record portions of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” including its guitar solo, hit the auction block on Tuesday, and was sold for £112,500—roughly $142,313.
The Console Close Up
The auction came in the wake of Bonhams' previous sale of an EMI mixing desk used to record Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. That auction, held less than two years ago, netted $1.8 million, landing well above that desk’s pre-auction $700,000 estimate.
Possibly hurting the HeliosCentric Helios console’s comparative payday was the fact that it is actually a hybrid desk, constructed out of two separate Helios boards. Merged in 1996 by Elvis Costello and Squeeze’s Chris Difford in 1996, the console is a mashup of a desk from Island Records’ Basing Street Studio 2 in London (the desk that recorded “Stairway to Heaven”) and another from Space Studios at Hook End Manor, the Oxfordshire home studio of Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee.
The resulting console’s combined pedigree means it had already recorded a seemingly endless list of artists before the merger—acts like Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens, Eric Clapton, Sly Stone, Jimmy Cliff, Harry Nilsson, Jeff Beck, Humble Pie, Mott The Hoople, David Bowie, Free, The Rolling Stones, Steve Winwood, George Harrison, Ron Wood, Joe Brown, Tim Hinckley, Boz Burrell, Jim Capaldi and Mick Fleetwood, to name only a few.
Once the desks were combined, the "new" console was put to work, so in the intervening 22 years, it has recorded acts like Supergrass, Sia, Keane, Athlete, The Feeling, KT Tunstall, Turin Brakes, Squeeze, Paolo Nutini, Dido, Gary Barlow, David Gray, Royworld, Toploader, Marti Pellow, Paul Weller and the Pet Shop Boys.
Given the low auction price—as compared to the Pink Floyd desk—there’s some speculation that the desk will continue to be used somewhere as opposed to becoming a museum piece, as happened to the EMI desk, which appeared as part of an exhibition at London’s V&A soon after its sale.