It would never have crossed my mind to dig through mountains of studio archives for dusty old track listings and details of long forgotten recording sessions. Maybe I’ve a legitimate excuse, in that I’m just too busy touring and adding today’s recording to yesterday’s lists. The truth is, of course, that I’d never have the patience to thumb through one file, let alone hundreds!
Happily there are those who believe our musical past – or some of it – is worth preserving and sharing, and are prepared to invest effort to ensure that it happens. I doff my hat to Nigel and Peter, who are two such guys, and I’m flattered, to say the least, that it’s my work they’ve chosen to research.
Recording, of course, has been the cornerstone of my career and that, together with performing, still is the great love of my life. For me, a recording project has never been an end in itself, but rather the start of a creative process. The studio environment sets me thinking, not only about the immediate sounds we want to achieve, but how I’ll eventually perform the material on stage or on TV. I even find myself working out lighting effects and choreography potential.
I pride myself on working well in a studio – mainly I suppose, because time is usually unpressurised. No one calls to distract or interrupt and, although I work fast compared to many artists, an album usually takes at least two or three months. I love the luxury of having no deadlines. If we don’t finish something today then, no matter, there’s always more time tomorrow if necessary. As I say though, I’m not one for hanging round nattering or doing nothing. Studio time is money – big money these days – and I don’t waste it.
Technically, of course, I can’t begin to relate to today’s computerised magic. I have a kind of awed respect for the engineers who give the impression of such total and nonchalant control. I don’t have a clue how it all woks. I just know that, if I want the impossible, all I have to do is ask! That’s why I’ve no inclination whatsoever to turn back the clock. In the ‘old’ days, making a good record was largely dependent on the arrangement, and that was completed before ever setting foot in the studio. All musicians had to do was play their dots, the vocalist sing in tune, and the engineers had to get the balance right. Today, record making is about inspired and often spontaneous production and musicianship, and the apparently endless choice of sounds and effects makes it a tremendously rewarding and stimulating experience.
If we’re talking nostalgia, then there’s no doubt that EMI’s internationally famous studios in Abbey Road, London hold the most memories. The early stuff that the Shads and I largely improvised, and the wise and patient advice of our fondly-remembered producer, Norrie Paramor, seemed to occupy a whole era. As you’ll realise from what is in this book, however, I’ve worked at many different studios over the years and, to be truthful, I’m not specifically committed to any one. Obviously some studios are better equipped than others, but then you can always hire in bits of specialised equipment if required. For me it’s people that matter more than places and, of the technicians, engineers, musicians and producers are good at their jobs, and if the creative vibes are good, then little else matters.
Thanks then to Nigel and Peter for an amazing piece of work. You’ve stirred my memory, and made a unique contribution to the industry by bringing together what, in all modesty, surely has to be a bit of UK pop history.