“You’ve never heard of Ron Nevison?!?”
Um, no, I answered.
Thus began a conversation with my friend Rick King, noted gear hustler and owner of my favorite guitar shop on Earth: Tacoma’s Guitar Maniacs. Rick was describing the Roland tape echo he was bringing in for servicing; its flight case was marked “Ron Nevison,” and when Rick professed ignorance of the name, its previous owner huffily replied: “Dude, he produced Night Ranger!!!”
“Uh, wow!” said Rick.
As it turns out, Ron Nevison did more than produce Night Ranger, but more on that later.
The first time I walked into a “real” studio (cut to 1985 or so, and Geoff Turner’s basement in Glover Park), I was instantly drawn to the Tolex-clad box emitting a slithery hiss. This, of course, was a Roland Space Echo (likely in need of a tape replacement).
Even more interesting than the mechanics of the thing was its sound: A trippy, ghostly echo that could simulate deep space (at least a noisy version of it), or be cranked into a distorted and rather scary mass of feedback. I was hooked.
Even back then, the Roland had been out of production for some years, and was starting to show its age. These days, most of the original units are in fairly sad shape. The killer on these units is the DC motor / capstan which drives the tape. The bearings at the top and bottom of the capstan inevitably wear, and the motor has a harder and harder time maintaining speed.
Replacing the bearings isn’t particularly difficult (though finding replacements can be!). After that it’s mostly an issue of cleaning up the tape path, renewing lubrication and felt pads and the like. In the case of Rick’s Roland–one of the late-model and truly excellent sounding 555s–I went the distance and ended up replacing every electrolytic capacitor plus some other minor tuneup items.
Anyway, what piqued my (admittedly mild) interest in Ron Nevison was the note taped inside the unit:
I wrote my friend Steve Perrone, source of much obscure rock knowledge, to see if HE had heard of Ron Nevison. With no hesitation whatsoever, he replied:
“From the liner notes to Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, the song is “The Rover”:
‘….mixdown, Keith Harwood Olympic Studios/guitar lost courtesy of Nevison. Salvaged by the grace of Harwood.’
That’s where the trail ended, for me at least. As it turns out, the common denominator in Night Ranger, Heart and Led Zeppelin (besides Ron Nevison) is that I don’t really care for their music (preparing self for massive onslaught of internet-borne bile for that last one, I know).
However, I DO love restoring old audio gear, and this project was a blast!