The Electric Prunes
David Hassinger

As a staff engineer at RCA's Hollywood studios in the 1960s, Dave Hassinger worked on a number of important and classic recordings. The most famous of these, perhaps, are mid-1960s 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 1960s with some 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 speeded-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 have no resemblance to the original group.

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 Dead supposedly selected Dave Hassinger, a Warner Brothers staff producer, because he had worked as engineer on two Rolling Stones records that they liked. 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 1970s and 1980s 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, All Music Guide

Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones's Bass Player) on Dave Hassinger :

Along with Ron Malo in Chicago, David Hassinger was the first truly important engineer for the Stones. Hassinger worked for RCA Studios in Los Angeles, and when the Stones arrived to record there in November 1964 he became their steady engineer for the next few years. Given that Oldham had no extensive musical/producing background, it speaks of how Hassinger was important in helping to create the sound on the albums that followed (the same ones Jack Nitzsche appeared on): 'The Rolling Stones Now!', 'Out of Our Heads', 'December's Children' and especially 'Aftermath', recorded entirely at RCA, and for which Hassinger wrote the liner notes. Hassinger's last work with the Stones was in August 1966, when the Stones started 'Between the Buttons' sessions at RCA in London.

Afterwards Hassinger worked with artists such as the Jefferson Airplane, the Monkees, Love, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and especially the Grateful Dead. More recently, he's worked with country artist George Strait among others.

(RCA) wasn't as funky as Chess obviously but it was more commercial. And (Dave Hassinger) really... he had a good ear, he'd get good sounds, and we experimented with more instruments... And he'd always get good sounds so we'd always get a good take at 3 or 4 shots at a song.

Dave Hassinger (standing) with the Rolling Stones & Andrew Loog Oldham