As soon as I left school, I went to as many concerts as a person with hardly any money could afford. Audience were a band I saw all the time, mostly at The Marquee. (Their sax player, Keith Gemmell, has a new solo album out, Unsafe Sax. I play it on the radio a lot). My frequent companion, John Hopson worked at Pye Records' recording studios with the folk like Status Quo and Mungo Jerry. This seemed like a much better way to spend one's life than hauling cartons of tinned tomatoes up and down flights of stairs, so I applied to Morgan Studios in Willesden Green, Basing Street Studios near Portobello Road and Trident Studios, deep in the heart of London's seedy Soho. I got their addresses from a Music Week annual directory borrowed from my friend Gary Umbo at Harum Records, a record shop across from the Tesco I worked at in Crouch End and chose these particular studios because they were listed in the credits of many of my favourite records. I never heard from Morgan, Basing St. Studios said they'd put my letter “on file” and Trident asked me to call to arrange an interview regarding a recent opening. To date, my 'career' had consisted of being a waiter at The Highcliff Hotel in Bournemouth, where I saw Free and, later, Derek & The Dominos at the Town Hall) and a shelf stacker at a chemist in Tufnell Park. Now I was currently unemployed, having told Tesco's to 'stick it' after they wouldn't give me the weekend off so I could see the Rolling Stones at a festival in Pontoise, near Paris. That had proven to be an unwise choice because the minute my friend Gary and I got to the station in Paris, we saw a wave of people walking towards us, and one of them told us the festival had just been canceled. I interviewed with studio manager, Penny Kramer, a few days later and landed the job of tea-boy for £12 a week and all the overtime I could handle, starting immediately.
On my first day, Atomic Rooster were downstairs, cutting tracks for their 3rd album 'In Hearing Of'. Band-leader, and ex-Crazy World Of Arthur Brown organist, Vincent Crane, had long, greasy hair and his wife sat by his side like they were joined at the hip. He used to sit in the reception area rolling his cigarettes but while he was always pleasant and never rude or arrogant, he never seemed very happy. Their singer, Pete French, had just joined the band and compared to Vincent, was a barrel of laughs.
The same day at around lunchtime, I got a call in my office (the kitchen) and a request for some teas and coffees in the mixing room (whatever that was). I took the tray with its cargo of 6 or 7 mugs of hot beverages to the first floor, pushed the heavy door and entered the suite where Aubrey Small, a Beatle-esque, psychedelic, folky prog-band from Portsmouth were sitting around on chairs and the couch, while two guys were behind a desk, one sitting, one standing. The guy sitting was Ken Scott. He was the engineer and the fellow standing was the producer, John Anthony and, as I handed out the drinks to one and all, I couldn't help noticing that the producer's penis was hanging out his trousers. I was invited to stick around and listen to what they were doing. I saw this as an opportunity to learn what went on in a 'mixing room'. Buttons were pressed, (tiny) knobs were turned, tape rolled. The song 'Country Road' played and the mixing process was quickly explained in a simplistic fashion. As the track ended, I was asked if I had any questions. Well...plenty, actually, but the only one I could think of was, "is it really necessary to have that out while you do this?" John answered, "well.... when it gets hard, we'll know it's a good mix". (Cue: much muso mirth all round).
There...my first day, my initiation. I can't remember my first days at the chemist's, or the hotel, or Tesco's. But I can remember my first day at Trident like it was yesterday. Later that week, David Bowie came in to start on 'Hunky Dory' with Ken Scott co-producing, and not long after that JA started 'Nursery Cryme' with Genesis's new drummer, Phil Collins and new guitarist, Steve Hackett.
Favourite sessions ('71-'72): Bowie (fascinating), Van Der Graaf Generator, (first album credit - "Brightest Hope: Howard"), Marc Bolan (charming, super-friendly), Genesis (clever, trippy), Larry Lurex (Freddie Mercury), Harry Nilsson ("Take 54"/understatement), John Kongos (great productions from Gus Dudgeon), Audience (brilliant), Lou Reed (dazed genius), Lindisfarne (booze), Mott The Hoople (rowdy) and any session that had Rick Wakeman on it. Least Favourite: Elton John (arrogant twat), Queen (deafening).