I suppose Gary Asquith, being about the same vintage, was similarly traumatized. His way of dealing with it was to meet the beast head on, to channel his inner Bernard Cribbins and bring the world Probably A Robbery. I’m sure the I’m Too Sexy chaps were taking notes.
Thus my last mix with Daniel Miller was a minor hit, and I was able to end my innings with head held high. Silly as it is I love it, not least for the classic Asquith couplet:
The funniest thing…I just wanted to sing, but the notes wouldn’t come my way.
I got to work with two legends on this assignment, two legends who are sadly no longer with us: Dan Hartman and the immortal Dusty Springfield.
Dan Hartman started out in the Edgar Winter Group in the early 70s, a magical time when heavy bands were also allowed to be funky, and their big hit Frankenstein is a good example. Another chart topper was the super catchy Free Ride, penned by Dan himself. In the late 70s he was big in the disco world, and coincidentally at the time of this session a sample from one of his disco hits (Love Sensation by Loleatta Holloway) was all over the dance floors once again. In the mid 80s he produced James Brown’s last hit Living In America, in fact I think he did a mix of that at the Guerilla Studio in Maida Vale; I seem to recall some excitement back in ’85 when the Godfather’s multitrack tapes turned up.
I’d been doing some mixes for Dan at the Virgin Townhouse in Shepherd’s Bush. He’d been working with an interesting outfit called The Fabulous Pop Tarts, two highly talented chaps, Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, who later became film makers and reality TV pioneers. I don’t think any of my mixes were used but Dan seemed to like me and asked if I’d be recording engineer on his next gig, which was to record some tracks with Dusty Springfield for her Reputation album.
I probably shouldn’t have taken the job, because although a nifty mixer, I am not the world’s best recording engineer, particularly on those big-assed SSL desks…but come on! Dusty Springfield! Even as a nipper back in the 60s, her voice touched my heart like no other. No other white girl, anyway. This was a job I had to do, and although ensign Rico did have a couple of close calls on planet Dusty, he got through it and all was well.
The Townhouse was buzzing at that time. Prince was gigging in London and every evening after the show he would come down to Shepherd’s Bush and jam for hours into the night. Quite something to go to the bathroom and hear The Revolution blasting down the corridor. Every studio was booked solid; Bob Clearmountain was mixing a The Who album in one of our vocal rooms.
Dusty was charm itself, her instinct and attention to detail supernatural, her voice as shiver-inducing as ever. Memories of recording her, kidding around, listening to her and Dan reminisce in the canteen…this stuff fills my head like a corny tableau, but it’s my corny tableau, and nobody can take it away from me!
I mentioned previously that Rhythm King didn’t release much Acid House, but to be fair they did release arguably the most successful UK version of the genre in the form of Baby Ford’s Oochy Coochie. Peter Ford was also a more than respectable white soul singer, as evidenced by this summer stomper, co-produced with Jeremy Healy, with Laurie Mayer, Lorita Grahame and Sonique on backing vocals, and programmer R.Salt’s Roland Jupiter 8 abundantly featured. Also check out the excellent Wiganon the B side.
The advent of “rave culture” propelled Jeremy Healy into that top tier of superstar DJs, where he has remained to this day. He also had a record label called More Protein, in partnership with his old mate, the estimable Boy George. Their first release was Everything Starts With An E.
You won’t see this one listed on my Discogs resumé; it was done under the alias, given to me by Jeremy, of Sir Frederick Leighton. Truth be told, Sir Fred was a bit of a lost soul: somewhat above it all, but also an outlier; forced, despite his heightened sensibilities, to grub around with the salt of the earth to earn his crust. And yet more truth be told, Sir Fred was somewhat appalled by Everything Starts With An E. In fact he thought it was a fucking nightmare, MC Kinky’s fierce performance seeming to convey the sensation of being dragged into a parallel universe by a yellow DMT goblin of questionable intentions.
Obviously this impression informed the musical parts I added to the track. There is a pervasive atmosphere of doom, and at one point the gates of hell open up, with deep droning synths and apocalyptic choirs ushering sinful partygoers across the stygian divide.
Now here’s a funny thing. As a result of this remix I became the secret co-author of a Renegade Soundwave classic, a fact they probably aren’t even aware of themselves.
In 1990 RSW did their own mix of Everything Starts With An E. As usual their mix has the best bass line. They also used quite a few of the elements I had added to the track. Two years later they released their own Women Respond To Bass, which itself included some elements of the E-Zee Posse track, including, bang in the middle, the “gates of hell” section! Those mischievous magpies…
You might not expect a hard-hitting electronic band like Pankow to emerge from the historic city of Florence, Italy. As I discovered though, there are two sides to Florence. The incredible old town is practically unchanged from the days of Leonardo, but sprawling off down the valley is an industrial new town.
This genial and dedicated collective had done a lot of good work with the estimable Adrian Sherwood, and it was an honour to do some mixes for them. The enchanting environs and friendly company made this project memorably pleasant.
This epic single took a lot of making, in many different studios. Started in the Guerilla Studio at Hampstead, the end of the lease on that property rather put a spanner in the works and it was finished at Swanyard and Good Earth, amongst others. Ultimately the Club Mix was done at the new Guerilla Studio in Crouch End.
Good Earth was Tony Visconti’s studio in Soho, a vibey subterranean place, reputedly haunted. Visconti closed it soon afterwards, citing an influx of Akai sampler-wielding types as having brought about the end. Oops!
This record was criticized at the time for being less catchy than its three predecessors, and it only made 21 on the UK chart. There are those though who appreciate it for the deep, funky, spiritual masterpiece that it is.
Back to the spring of 1989, where we’re keeping it furiously and fabulously French with a stomping remix of the excellent Zobi La Mouche by Les Negresses Vertes. This one features Laurie Mayer on backing vocals as well as me on synth and William Orbit at the controls. If this track doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know, you’re too cool or something.
The temporary Guerilla Studio digs in Hampstead soon became party house central. It was one of those charming old London town homes with wonky passageways and a blue plaque on the front to denote a former occupancy by the great and good, in this case the painter John Constable. There was always a session of some kind going on, generally William Orbit or Laurie Mayer projects, but there was also a retinue of sound designers including Simon Fisher Turner and my old pal Nigel Holland, who could regularly be found attacking pig’s heads with hammers and imbibing alarming amounts of alcohol.
What with all my travels I hadn’t done so much with William for a while. He had released the first of his excellent Strange Cargo album series and had also been going from strength to strength as a remixer. His stupendous remix of the S’Express show stopper Hey Music Lover had resulted in a partnership with Mark Moore that was to produce a lot of great work, starting with this mix for the fabulous french duo Les Rita Mitsouko.
When I was in Paris in early ’86 I saw Les Rita’s Marcia Baïlavideo and was absolutely blown away. Fred Chichin and Catherine Ringer had made their debut album with german legend Conny Plank and it was superb. Their follow-up with Tony Visconti didn’t disappoint. So I made sure I was lurking around the studio when William and Mark were working on this, and in particular when Fred and Catherine came to visit. That’s me on the funky Juno 106 in this slamming remix.
Cloudland was the second album released by the mighty Pere Ubu during their “pop phase”; in fact this one is much poppier than the previous year’s The Tenement Year, they really went for it. The roster of producers includes Stephen Hague (Pet Shop Boys, Erasure) who did five tracks including the superb Waiting For Mary. Daniel Miller was asked to mix two tracks and he brought me in to help him.
So we set up Daniel’s jaw-dropping synth rig at Konk Studios in Muswell Hill, a studio much used for Mute sessions. Formerly a working men’s club, it had been bought and converted by The Kinks for their own use. It had the perfect mixture of homely comfort and high-tech desirability.
Daniel got a producer’s credit for Love Love Love and quite right too, this mix is full on Pere Ubu vs The Normal, with Dan’s ARP 2600 sequence running through the whole thing. The other mix we did was Why Go It Alone?, which must be one of their prettiest songs, and most definitely makes the grade as a Rico personal fave.
I’d forgotten how great this album is. I’m gonna dig it out and blast it in my car.