Thursday, March 27, 2008

Peter Jay Philbin

Peter Jay Philbin, Cyndi Lauper, ht
CBS Records Convention, Hawaii, '83

Last week, I had lunch in Manhattan with Peter Philbin and his son, Michael. Peter rarely leaves Los Angeles, so I jumped at the chance to catch up with a good friend I rarely see, these days. We first met when I was working at CBS in London and he at Columbia in Los Angeles. He had come over to sign a UK act to the label but they were messing him around, acting all arrogant and wouldn't play him any songs, either on tape or in rehearsal. I suppose I must have banged on and on about my latest discovery because we both flew up to Edinburgh to see The Psychedelic Furs at the American company's expense, my travel budget at the time not being sufficiently large enough for luxuries like plane rides. He had enjoyed 'India' from their first album and the show impressed him enough to promise a Stateside release. Little did I know - apart from one secretary, Spock, and one product manager, Ricki Ostrov - the band were reviled by the rest of the Columbia staff, who didn't 'get' them or even want to. Mickey Eichner objected strongly when Peter announced at an a&r meeting following his trip that he had picked up the Furs, reminding him that he, not Peter, was the head of the department and therefore decided who was released on the label. Peter reminded him (in a private talk, later) that he had also turned down Abba, another one he could have gotten for free from a CBS affiliate and furthermore, that Mickey had wanted to drop Bruce Springsteen - not only before the Born To Run album, but also after 'Born To Run' (the song) had been delivered. To be fair, there was hardly any support for Bruce at Columbia and when he was doing publicity, Peter's belief and constant badgering on Bruce's behalf played a crucial part in him staying there. Anyway, never during their time at the label were the Furs given any kind of priority in marketing or promotion and therefore, only managed to reach #77 on the Billboard Pop Charts with 'Love My Way'. I watched Scandal, Loverboy, Buckner & Garcia (remember 'Pac Man Fever'? - didn't think so), Tommy Tutone and a slew of others have money thrown at them from all sides while Richard Butler and his crew slogged around the country trying real hard to get a break.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Peter C Johnson

Peter C Johnson - 'The War Is Over'
at the Hi-N-Dry Loft, Feb 3rd 07

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mick Ronson

During my first week on the job at Trident, David Bowie came in to cut 'Hunky Dory'. David cut quite a dashing figure with his long blonde tresses, his yellow patent leather Mary-Janes and Oxford bags. He was confident, outspoken, handsome, eager to give an opinion about anything, approachable and very easy to talk to. Thanks to a batch of dodgy tea I'd made (due to some milk that had gone bad and tasted fishy) David decided to call me Harry Kipper and from then on, everyone at the studio called me Kip. When he wasn't bust singing, he'd talk about the music that influenced him and pointed me in the direction of The Stooges and The Velvet Underground. I wasn't really familiar with either, although a neighbour, Veronica Curry, had the first VU alb and I'd seen the Stooges discs at Harum Records in Crouch End. In return for the excellent tips, I lent him a couple of albums by The Pretty Things and The Yardbirds and never saw them again, much to my dismay. During my time at Trident, he also recorded The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (that's me, turning the phasing knob for the strings in 'Moonage Daydream', an 8-hand mix), Pin Ups and Diamond Dogs. The last time I got to work with David was when he came by to get some acetates of 'Rebel Rebel' made. By this time, I was working in the disc-cutting room at Trident, as Ray Staff's #2.
Mick Ronson was quiet and introverted in person...even humble. He was one of the nicest people I ever met. He was genuinely friendly and I really enjoyed the times I spent with him, watching him work. When he wasn’t tracking his guitar parts, he’d be reading 'The Theory of Music', pencil in hand, 'staff paper' on his lap, learning how to write the notes for an orchestral arrangement. I vividly recall him (stiffly, but successfully) conducting his first 40 piece orchestral session. Mick's arrangements were beautiful and helped David reach a much wider audience. Check out the strings on 'Starman'. His parts for Lou Reed's 'Transformer' gave Lou's career a massive boost, too. Mick smoked roll-ups, liked his tea and, while every one else would send me out to get curries from the Shahbag or sandwiches from The Sandwich Scene, he liked me to cook him beans on toast for his dinner during the overnight sessions. His thick Yorkshire accent was
undisguised and as real as it gets and sounded funny coming from a man who wore the tightest Stirling Cooper jeans and shirts you could ever imagine.
The first time I ever came to Manhattan in the mid 70s, I was walking up 7th Avenue in the West Village enjoying the sights when I hear, “Kip! what’re you up to?” It was Mick. We chatted, and I immediately felt at home. On my second visit to Manhattan, I’m walking along Broadway, this time, looking for Stirling Sound and out of the blue, there’s Mick again, smiling and carrying on as if both of us had just bumped into each other outside The Ship on Wardour St. The last time I saw him, he was very sick with liver cancer, his golden aura now a faint yellowy-grey. We were in the bar at the Halcyon Hotel on Holland Park and he was looking for some production work. Later, Ian Hunter wrote 'Michael Picasso' about Ronno. It's a real tear jerker for anyone who met him.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


March 17th 08, Hiro Ballroom, NYC

Duffy's NYC debut was fantastic.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"Hey Mr. DJ"

In the early 70s, I used to frequent places like the Roundhouse, the Marquee and the Lyceum. These venues would hire a dj to spin records while audiences would wait for the main attraction. I remember being profoundly affected by certain tracks these guys would play and after a while, seeing Jeff Dexter or Andy Dunkley’s names listed in the ads meant it was worth getting to the show early, as they would often play stuff that you'd never hear anywhere else. Dunkley - or as he's sometimes known, The Human Jukebox - once played 'Only You Know And I Know' and it took me nearly 5 years to discover that it was Dave Mason who’d recorded it. It wasn't until I checked a Dave Mason “best of” test-pressing at Island Records that I recognized that distinctive lick and best of all, I now didn't have to buy it! Andy also 'introduced' me to Tom Rush, The Ventures, Caravan, The Soft Machine and Miles Davis, amongst many others. Andy found himself in New York for a while DJ-ing at all the Irving Plaza shows. He (along with John Stainze, Frank Gallagher, Peter Leak and I) was a founding member of the Curry Club, an every Tuesday night gathering at 6th Street's Good Karma restaurant. The rules were simple. You couldn't be American, female or a div. You had to tell a joke and bring 2 litres of Suntory Japanese beer. First timers had to pick up the bill.
Andy Dunkley, John Stainze
Austin, late 80s

When Jeff Dexter played 'He’s Gonna Step On You Again' by John Kongos at the Roundhouse, he announced that it “sounded like 400 freaks locked in a studio” and I couldn’t wait to get hold of a copy. It turns out, a few weeks later, Gus Dudgeon would produce its follow-up, 'Tokoloshe Man' at Trident Studios and I got to watch that single get mixed. Years later, when Elektra celebrated its 40th anniversary, I invited Happy Mondays to cover 'He’s Gonna Step On You Again'. Kongos had been released on Elektra in the US and we’d asked the current roster to pay tribute to Elektra’s history by covering its 'classics' for a double cd, which ended up being called 'Rubaiyat'. Good idea, BAD title. Because their version turned out so well, Factory Record's Tony Wilson held it back so he could release it as a single in the UK and 'Step On' became their biggest hit. This forced us to find an alternative and in the end, we made-do with a questionable version of 'Tokoloshe Man' instead. 'Step On' was a massive club hit for us (thanks partly to a Brit dj in NYC clubland called DB) and it did well on the alternative charts here, also. To return to Jeff D for a moment, I remember him coming to Trident with his pal and colleague, Ian Samwell, where they produced their latest discovery, America, who subsequently hit it big with 'A Horse With No Name'. In 1958, Ian Samwell had written and played on the excellent 'Move It', originally recorded as a b-side for Cliff Richard's first single, but flipped on Jack Good's advice to become a huge hit and arguably Britain's first, great rock & roll single. 'Sammy' had also produced and written the lyrics to 'Watcha Gonna Do About It', the Small Faces' fantastic debut single ('65), so he's clearly the business, too. When I was doing some research for the 'MC5 * A True Testimonial' film, Jeff was enormously helpful in naming and locating some of the 'players' around the underground scene in the UK when the band played there and recently, he tipped me to Pete Frame's marvelous book about the birth of skiffle and the beginning of the UK rock & roll scene in 50's London, 'The Restless Generation'. I've plugged it before and I'll do it again. It's one of the most enjoyable books - on any subject, including smut - I've ever read.

John Peel would drag some of his collection around the country opening and closing for bands - sometimes he was the main attraction - but his radio shows on (pirate) Radio London and the BBC throughout the years were always essential listening. As an a&r person, I'd use John's show as a resource for new, up-and-coming, bands/artists and would always want the bands I worked with to record 'John Peel Sessions' at the BBC studios in Maida Vale. I had one of those 'pull-over-and-park' moments when I was driving home from Dingwalls one night. He was playing 'O Superman' by Laurie Anderson...something so foreign, so beguiling, so extraordinary that I just had to stop everything and listen, have a bit of a think, you know, take stock.

Fan letters would sometimes arrive at Island Records, mostly for Roxy Music, Bad Company or Bob Marley. The receptionists would open them and we'd have a good laugh at some of the polaroids that were sent to Robert Palmer. In Oct '76, an envelope bearing the logo of an
American radio station landed on my desk. It was addressed to Eddie & The Hot Rods but instead of forwarding it to Sheila Martian (their fan club secretary) I opened it. This was the first time anyone from the U.S. had written to the band, (their 3rd release, 'Live At The Marquee' e.p. had just come out in England). At the time, I was very naïve about the States and had no idea how many radio stations there could be in any one town, let alone the country, as we in London only had 2 (the BBC's Radio One and Capital Radio, launched in '73) that were devoted to “pop” music. Naturally, I thought if I sent this dj a few singles, we’d end up gaining some interest for our artists in America, so I sent Kevin Patrick a bunch of 45s and some publicity pics and it wasn’t long before he was sending me all the cool, new US singles (like Little Johnny Jewel by Television and 45s by Blondie, The Ramones, the Talking Heads etc). I'd send him the Sex Pistols, the Stranglers, the Damned, the Buzzcocks, The Jam and all the Island and Stiff records on the days of their release and he'd often be the first DJ in the States to get them on the air. Later I found out his station - WITR - was a college station, but that didn’t matter to me as we were trading 25-count boxes of 45s by this time and significantly improving our collections! Kevin turned out to be a very dear friend and we’ve had many good times together, both professionally and socially. Furthermore, he introduced me to the glory of Suicide - the band - who, if you’re a regular listener, you’ll know is a perpetual staple around these parts. I'm tired of banging on about Suicide only to be met with blank stares and "who?" so pick up the November 08 issue of MOJO for Kris Needs’ brilliant 6-page appreciation to see why they're so important. And watch out for their 6 cd limited edition box set 'Live 1977-1978' coming soon on Blast First Petite (UK).

Kevin Patrick
Rochester, NY, '77

Other djs who had a strong influence on me over the years include Brian Matthew (ITV’s Thank Your Lucky Stars, and the BBC Light Programme’s Saturday Club), Keith Fordyce (Ready Steady Go), Jerry Floyd (The Marquee), Pete Drummond & Kenny Everett (Radio London), Johnnie Walker (Radio Caroline), Emperor Rosko (Radio Caroline, Radio Luxembourg), Stuart Henry (Radio 1), Charlie Gillett (BBC Radio London) Bill Bahlman (Danceteria), Johnny Dynell (Jackie 60), The Purple Knif, The Hound (WFMU) and the great Hugh Nolan, who I’d listen to whilst in bed, at school, on a crummy little crystal set that had a crocodile clip on a cord which you’d attach to an 'earthed' pipe to get a feeble Radio Geronimo signal into one very uncomfortable plastic 'earphone' like deaf people used to use in the 60s. I remember thinking how groovy it was listening to him play ALL 6 sides of the Woodstock soundtrack uninterrupted before it came out. Um, I’m not so sure I’d ever want to do that again, but at the time it seemed pretty radical. It’s where I first heard 'Ohio' by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and he’d play the crap out of Balls! Geronimo was my favourite station and their theme song was a neat psychedelic version of 'Amazing Grace' by The Great Awakening. They had a studio in Harley St. but broadcast from Monte Carlo. Go here for more info - Geronimo

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Trident Studios

John Anthony
Jamaica '83

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). 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).

Monday, March 10, 2008

North Fork Sound

Core Artists:
The Band
Bo Diddley
Bob Dylan
Buddy Holly
Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band
Chuck Berry
Dave Edmunds
Eddie Cochran
Gene Casey & The
Lone Sharks
James Brown
Jerry Lee Lewis
John Coltrane
Mickey Newbury
Miles Davis
Mott The Hoople
Nick Lowe/Brinsley Schwarz
Neil Young
Robyn Hitchcock
Rolling Stones
Small Faces
The Who
& all things Lemmy, Lou and Lydon

Recurrent Artists:
Alan Vega
Alex Chilton
Amy Allison
Andre Williams
Angel Corpus Christi
Angelo Badalamenti
Arctic Monkeys
Arthur Alexander
BB King
Bill Hicks
Billy Bragg
Billy Fury
Billy Swan
Betty Davis
Betty Wright
Bob Seger
Bobby Charles
Booker T & the MGs
Brian Eno
Burning Spear
Canned Heat
Carlene Carter
Chas & Dave
Chris Isaak
Christine Ohlman
Cowboy Junkies
Curtis Mayfield
Dandy Warhols
Danny Gatton
Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips
Delbert McClinton
Doug Powell
Doug Sahm
Drive-By Truckers
Dr. Feelgood
Dr. John
Dusty Springfield
Eddie and the Hot Rods
Elvis Costello
Elvis Presley
Ennio Morricone
Etta James
Fats Domino
Flamin’ Groovies
Fun Lovin’ Criminals
Gene Vincent
Georgie Fame
Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
Graham Parker
Hamell On Trial
Happy Mondays
Ian Dury
Ian Hunter
Ike & Tina Turner
The J Geils Band
James Hunter
Jimi Hendrix
Jimmy Cliff
JJ Cale
John Campbell
John Cooper Clarke
John Lee Hooker
John Lennon
John Lydon
Johnny Cash
Johnny Kidd & The Pirates
Johnny Otis
Julee Cruise
Kevin Ayers
Little Feat
Little Richard
Lo-Fidelity Allstars
Lonnie Mack
Marianne Fasithfull
Marianne Nowottny
Mark Knopfler
Martin Rev
Marvin Gaye
Mary Gauthier
Mothers Of Invention
New York Dolls
Nick Cave
Patti Smith
Paul Westerberg
Peter C Johnson
Pink Fairies
PJ Harvey
Pretty Things
Primal Scream
Psychedelic Furs
Randy Newman
Richard Lloyd
RL Burnside
Roky Erickson
Roxy Music
Roy Orbison
Ry Cooder
Screaming Blue Messiahs
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Sean Tyla
Shelby Lynne
Sisters Of Mercy
Star Spangles
T. Rex
Tony Joe White
Toots & The Maytals
Van Der Graaf Generator
Warren Zevon
Willie Nile
Wreckless Eric
The Yardbirds
The Yayhoos
22 Pistepirrko

Core Locations:
Birmingham (UK)
Los Angeles
New Orleans
New York
San Francisco
Southend/Canvey Island

Core Producers:
Andrew Loog Oldham
Chet Atkins
Chris Blackwell
Chris Thomas
Coxsone Dodd
Dennis Linde
Denny Cordell
Felton Jarvis
Gus Dudgeon
Ike Turne
Jerry Wexler
Joe Boyd
Joe Gibbs
Joe Meek
John Anthony
“Junjo” Lawes
Lee Perry
Mark Bingham
Mickie Most
Neil Slaven
Nick Lowe
Norman Petty
Peter Jenner
Phil Spector
Richard Gottehrer
Sam Phillips
Swamp Dogg
Teo Macero
Todd Rundgren
Tom Wilson
Vic Maile
Willie Mitchell
Frank Zappa

Core Labels:
Ace (UK)
Bear Family
Black Ark
Charisma (UK)
Decca (UK)
Island (UK)
New West
Red Bird
Shout Factory
Stiff (UK)
Studio One
Sue (UK)
Warner Bros

Core Drummers:
Angus “Drummie” Gaye
Charlie Watts
Clem Cattini
Clyde Stubblefield
Doktor Avalanche
Earl Palmer
Hal Blaine
John "Drumbo" French
John Halsey
Keith Moon
Klaus Dinger
Levon Helm
Mo Tucker
"Philthy Animal" Taylor
Richie Haywood
Sigtryggur Baldursson
Terry Williams
Tony Williams
Vivian Prince

Featured styles/genres:
contemporary classical
garage rock
rhythm 'n' blues
rebel country
rock 'n' roll

Core Songs:
All The Young Dudes
Be My Baby
Honky Tonk
Midnight Special
Mystery Train
Not Fade Away
Promised Land
River Deep, Mountain High
Wade In The Water