Police, Deep Purple, Rainbow Engineer Nick Blagona Dead at 74
Nick Blagona, a veteran studio engineer who worked with many major artists including the Police, Deep Purple and Rainbow, died at the age of 74 in a hospital near his Canadian home, friends confirmed.
He started his career at Decca Records in London, working with Tom Jones, the Moody Blues and others, and went on to work with acts as varied as Chaka Khan, the Bee Gees, Chicago, Ian Hunter, April Wine and Nazareth. Blagona was ill for some time and succumbed to complications due to heart, kidney and lung issues.
Le Studio, the complex he set up with producer Andre Perry outside Montreal in 1974, became known as Rush’s Abbey Road because the Canadian prog band relied on it in the way the Beatles once relied on the London complex. Le Studio was also used by David Bowie, Cat Stevens and many others, establishing a reputation for high-quality equipment and a laid-back rural environment.
“The light that comes on for me every time is the song,” Blagona told the Journal on the Art of Record Production in 2011. “If the song is bad, I have a really hard time engineering. I can deal with bad musicians to a point and I can deal with bad singers to a point … but the light only comes on, and it still happens today, when the song is good. That’s what I look for. That’s been the case with most successful recordings.
"There’s a difference between finding a good song and finding a commercial song. You’re lucky if you can find a song that’s both. I’ve engineered a lot of records that weren’t good songs, but they were hits, because a hit is also a matter of being at the right time and place for that song.”
Former Ian Gillan guitarist Michael Lee Jackson paid tribute to Blagona in a blog post, writing that “Nick often said to me in the studio that if ‘something is worth doing, it’s worth over-doing,’ a philosophy of his much more nuanced than you could imagine. … But when it came to his own approach to living, that philosophy was certainly dominant, and, as I recently said to Nick, he used his chips up better than anyone I know.”
Jackson noted that when he "arrived at the hospital a few days ago when Nick was still semi-lucid, I asked him how he was doing. ‘Dying,’ he said. I said, "On the way here today, I was thinking about the immortality of your life's work. Records you’ve made have been threads in the lives of millions of people you haven’t even met. Those records will always be played. Your work will be in the time capsule, I’m sure of it.’ Nick smiled and said, ‘That’s pretty cool.’ ‘Damn right,’ I said.”