|Abbey Road Engineer Ken Townsend, Chief Flanger
The Beatles and their producer, George Martin, and Abby Road engineer Ken Townsend are often credited with pioneering the swooshing psychedelic sound effect known as "flanging," which you can hear on tracks such as "Tomorrow Never Knows." But were they really the first to use it?
Music Radar investigates:
[Geoff] Emerick introduced a new way of recording John Lennon's voice through a Leslie cabinet for the famous lo-fi sounding vocals in the song. Meanwhile, maintenance engineer Ken Townsend inadvertently introduced a flanging effect on Lennon's vocal. He recorded two identical vocals together, with one slightly delayed through a second tape machine.
This process is artificial double tracking or ADT and was used because Lennon hated recording his vocals twice.
...The phasing and flanging effect of ADT was introduced if the speed of one of the tape machines was altered slightly. Lennon loved the effect so much he wanted to know how it worked.
George Martin didn't want to bother explaining the real science behind the effect to Lennon so said, "we take the original image and split it through a double vibrocated sploshing flange with double negative feedback." Lennon understood Martin's joke but would later ask for 'Ken's flanger' whenever he wanted the phasing effect on his voice.
....The term 'flange' stuck and has become the widely used name of the famous effect. However, in our earlier feature we revealed that (at least) two other musicians had recorded the effect previous to The Beatles.
One was on a track called The Big Hurt by Miss Toni Fisher, which was written by Wayne Shanklin in 1959...However there was an earlier, more subtle example of flanging...Electric guitar pioneer Les Paul was also something of a recording wizard and would invent various effects and sound on sound multitrack recording techniques.
Paul apparently came up with the phasing effect in the 1940s and 50s when he mixed two acetates together on variable speed record players. Again this was mixing two identical audio parts together and the speed of one slightly varying.
Here examples via the link above.