History Part 2
........by now the band were becoming used to recording live sessions for “Sound of the Seventies” at one or other of the BBC studios but one recording stood out above all the others. The band arrived at the Paris Theatre, Lower Regent Street expecting to record a session in the normal way only to find that it was a “live” performance with a studio audience! They performed that night with Ian Carr’s Nucleus who also frequently played at Ronnie’s. John Peel eased any tension with reassuring news of how many millions of listeners would be tuning in, which was a great comfort when the red light went on – a scary but exhilarating experience. The list of legendary bands that performed at the Paris Theatre during those few years is awesome - Beatles, David Bowie, Jeff Beck, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Queen, Deep Purple, Joni Mitchell, T Rex and so many more. These were truly heady days for this aspiring band.
Even more interesting times were to come when the band recorded their album at London’s Trident Studios. It was technologically the most advanced studio in England at that time and had become the studio of choice for many of the great artistes of the day including The Beatles, George Harrison, David Bowie, Queen, Genesis, Free, Frank Zappa and many others. The producer chosen by the recording company was John Anthony who was great fun to work with but the real joy and privilege was that the house engineer was Ken Scott, who has become legend with his work before and after working on Aubrey Small’s album. He had just engineered “All Things Must Pass” for George Harrison and during their time at Trident the band were studio sharing with Harry Nilsson who was recording “Nilsson Schmilsson” produced by Richard Perry. It was a priceless experience being close at hand and watching such talented people create a great piece of work!
One day the band were taking a break from recording and went upstairs to grab a coffee and bumped into an old friend Ian Duck of Hookfoot, who Rod had known since his first job after leaving school. The shock was mutual at meeting in such unusual circumstances and it turned out that Ian had been playing on the Nilsson album and both he and another Hookfoot acquaintance, drummer Roger Pope from Southampton were mixing “Madman Across the Water” with Elton John - Hookfoot were his and Kiki Dee’s backing band at the time.
The recording experience at Trident became intoxicating and at times even became somewhat surreal. For one number “Smoker Will Blow” John Anthony had the idea of putting orchestration on the track as it was too simple. Within a matter of days arranger Richard Hewson appeared together with a huge assembly of the finest jazz and orchestral musicians available. Here was another highly respected musician who had a list of high profile credits to his name including the Beatles, Bee Gees, Diana Ross, Art Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac, Supertramp, Chris Rea among others – another who’s who! The band watched from the control room with amazement as an extraordinary and complex soundscape unfolded on their song. Ray Jackson of Lindisfarne was also invited to play harmonica on one track and Mike Vickers of Manfred Mann brought his giant Moog synthesiser in for another couple of tracks.
After the album was completed in September 1971, John Anthony went on to produce “Orange” for Al Stewart and as often happens with working relationships being fresh in mind he invited David (Bass) & Graham (Drums) to do the session work. The rest of the band were “most put out” as they hadn’t been asked to play until it was discovered that Rick Wakeman and Tim Renwick were chosen to play keyboards and guitar – no contest! Peter Pinckney and Rod Taylor were eventually invited to do some backing vocals together with Lesley Duncan who they had also met at Trident when she was working with Elton John with whom she had a long-standing connection.
Before the album was released there were further complex and political hoops to jump through! The album cover design process turned out to be farcical. The record company had actively involved the band in discussions and decisions with everyone finally settled on a terrific photo transparency of vibrant bubbles. However the final result that appeared on the cover was a dull and muddy version which was nothing like the original, but eventually the band did learn to love it!