Our live sets of the time ended with this instrumental, the old Yamaha trombone (which still lives in my garage) pressed into action once more, in the vital interests of approximating the sound of a rampaging martian mammoth. The guy at the sound board was invariably encouraged to go overboard with his echo box, to mixed results. You need to get very bold with the feedback control to get a good dub effect, a fact which many of our sound men were probably too inebriated to absorb.
This studio version came out quite well, Jo’s bobbing bass and Nick’s cool percussion somewhat invoking my fave mixer Lee “Scratch” Perry without crossing into pure copycat territory (I hope). And overall, although I was somewhat dissatisfied with the sound of the Cool Snap EP, it had the effect of making me grab the controls for myself, and I’ve held on to them ever since.
The B side of the first single was another ode to the metropolis, an expression of our delight with the grubby, miasmic London of the mid 70s. The shiny new towers at the old city gate seemed to herald a way forward for this oldest part of town. Surveying the modern assortment of architectural gewgaws, one can only wish that a similar standard could have been maintained; but prophetic these buildings certainly were.
I still find this track quite compelling. Another of our sequences that we would play for hours, this one had Jo Forty asserting a more melodic role for the bass, while I employed a kind of sitar style on the guitar, letting open strings ring a G major chord whilst pitting descending inversions against it.
It also features the same Yamaha trombone that I played during my school years.
A sad anniversary passed this week; even sadder to reflect that, just 8 years before the end, about to turn 16, Ian Curtis was preparing to leave the King’s School, Macclesfield, armed with 7 “O” Levels and a religious education award. I know this because he was in Upper 5 Modern and I was in Lower 5 Modern, and I happened to find this rather historically interesting 1972 school report in a box of old stuff.
I didn’t know Ian well, although we were both in the Dramatic Society and I think we were both in a play called The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew. The last time I saw him was in 1976. He handed me a dole cheque through a pane of glass and we exchanged nods.
Meanwhile here I am later in the same report, chalking up a rather indifferent trombone grade as compared to my obviously more gifted brass playing peers. It was at about this time, at the age of 14, accompanied by some of these fellow brass players, that I had my first recording studio experience. The town of Macclesfield was putting on a grand Town Faire, and to enhance the grandeur it was decided to pipe brass ensemble music from large Tannoys. For some incredible reason which I have never divined, this incidental music was recorded in Studio 1 at Abbey Road, London.
Thus it transpired that every reasonably competent brass player in Macclesfield was bussed down to Saint John’s Wood. Being in Studio 1 was mind-boggling enough; down the corridor in Studio 2 The Hollies were recording, and during a tea break they allowed some of us schoolboys to stick our heads briefly into that hallowed space. And so my life’s course was set.