|THE BRASS SECTION
||GUYS WITH HAIR
In 1973, I founded a ten piece band called Force Ten. (A hybrid of Blood Sweat & Tears/Chicago/Tower of Power) It was comprised of studio musicians from the Manchester area. I met Barry Guard, our producer, when I was performing with Wilma Reading, an exotically beautiful woman, and a wonderful singer from Australia. Barry was also a producer for Sir Cliff Richards and so he managed to secure a recording contract for us with Decca. They ordered us away to a marvelous studio in Oxfordshire called The Manor, owned by Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Records. There, we were to reside within its confines for a week; free from the distractions of those things that tend to distract twenty and thirty year old guys with horns and other such instruments. Artistry and creativity were free to conjoin in an atmosphere of mutual expression and aroma therapy. We followed a group named "Queen" onto the premises, and while we were considering what aroma therapy had done for them, I recall how one of the staff members commented that we were "rather large for rock musicians." I made some snide remark about, "rock on this! and who were those starving musicians, anyway?" We smiled knowingly, as we tucked into our third helping of Yorkshire Pudding and a flagon of their best mead. These serving wenches were going to hear some real music now that we had arrived. What kind of a name is "Queen" anyway. Force Ten! Now there's a name you can get your teeth into! Let the royal treatment begin, says we.
The rhythm section was first at bat after our night of debauchery. The red light came on, and a wave of nausea ensued. The producer yelled, "CUT!" and the brass section hurled insults. "Flipping Heck" says I. Oh well, maybe a little game of football, (soccer) will get the creative juices flowing. Robin sends a pass in my direction, and I collide into a tree. I'm sure that was deliberate! More insults, and I spent the next month on crutches. (The nurses at the hospital agreed that we were "a little large for rock musicians.")
was the turn of
the elite, patrician horn section to make their grand debut before the
Neumann U87 microphones.
The red light is turned on and tension fills the air; Eric fouls the
air. This wasn't the aroma therapy we had signed on for. Eric lets out
with one of his robust belly laughs, and the producer
yells, "CUT!" More
insults, and another game of football ensues. By the third day, our
football game had really improved.
final product was
something we were all excited
about, but our timing, karma, or whatever, denied us our audience, our
entourage, our----MONEY! Decca went belly-up and we did the
same---belly-up to the bar that is; "more beer! and red meat for our
friends!" Decca refused to release the masters to us and when
asked for a rough mix, they gave us one that was full of bleeps and
other sounds that I'm certain we didn't make. (Except for Eric) I guess
we really were "rather large for rock musicians!"
guitar player has since gone
on to a successful classical career, having released his eighth cd for
label. With the exception of our second trumpet player,
Eric, who became a commercial airline pilot, (Lord help us all) and who
also holds the record for surviving the longest bungee jump, without a
bungee, when he plummeted off of table mountain in Cape Town, the rest
have all enjoyed successful musical careers. As for me: after twelve years, I returned to
the land of my birth, and...
had written a Jazz-Rock/Fusion arrangement on what was at the time a
relatively obscure piece of classical music: Aaron Copland's, "Fanfare
For The Common Man." Once recorded, and believing that we had something
really special, our producer took it to the "powers that be" at Decca.
A few days later we were told that we couldn't do it since Aaron
Copland wouldn't permit any arrangements on his music. Six months
Emerson, Lake & Palmer had their number one hit with this piece,
earning them millions. It was uncanny how similar an arrangement it was
to mine. (Years later, I wrote a "cross-over" arrangement for trumpets
and trombones. [no rhythm!] Andy Crompton and I tracked up the eight
parts, and it
can be heard on my "Trumpets & Crumpets"
I managed to get a "rough mix" of the Force Ten album before Decca
pulled the plug on us.
After years of storage on cassette, and non decoded reproductions of
encoded dubs, the following tracks have managed to survive on my hard
The issues of copyright have always amazed me. Evidently, the fact that we wrote and performed this music warrants us absolutely zero entitlement to the recordings or their disposition. Even though Decca entered into bankruptcy, their mean-spiritedness lived in perpetuity as they continued to deny us any acquisition rights to our own creativity. Given the musical climate of the seventies, this band definitely caught a bad break from a despotic multi national corporation.
track on the cd energized us
all. This was
one of the many compositions that Robin brought to the project.
Typically, he would lay down a guitar track on my Sony: Reel to Reel
(at my home in Euxton, Chorley) and I would work out the horns from
Listen To Me:
Portrait Of The Artist:
Come Home Baby:
Requiem Max: Nigel Thomas (Nidge) asked Robin to go for a pack of cigarettes. Take his car and his dog, Max, and the Doberman would be happy for the ride. However, Nidge forgot to warn Robin that Max was very protective of the car. When Robin arrived at the shops, Max allowed Robin to get out of the car, but wouldn't let him back in. Nidge had to take a taxi to the shop in order to get Robin back in the car. Robin memorialized Max's ultimate demise (in 7/8 time) with this track. (It should be noted that Max's demise was not a consequence of this particular incident.)
Silly Place For A Zebra: "Zebra Crossings" (Zeh-bra) are better known as pedestrian crossings in the USA, and they are much more pervasive in the UK. I regularly complained about the placement of a particularly heinous one in my "hometown" of Chorley in Lancashire. Especially at eleven pm when the pubs were just belching out their final, and most rebellious customers. It seemed a good enough excuse to write a tune!
Nature: This track has become a post-script to our collaborative efforts. Robin, and Maurice Cheatham (drums) visited Irene & I in the Catskill Mountains. Robin and Maurice laid down the rhythm, and later, I added some synths and trumpets. The Latin section was performed by Rodgers Grant on Keyboards and Ron Fink on flute.
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