In the beginning…..was Spaceward Studios…..1985
When I was about 15yrs old and doing my ‘O’ levels, I decided that I wanted to work in a recording studio and become a recording engineer. It had become obvious to me that I would never make it as a guitarist or keyboard player as I had very little talent and couldn’t remember how to play any songs. So if I was going to make music….well, someone else would have to make the music for me. So I wrote letters to every studio in the country asking for a job without success.
I began my ‘A’levels, but spent most of that term going on demonstrations in support of the miners strike. And then Spaceward rang and gave me a job as tea boy. I started engineering sessions very quickly as the Chief Engineer, Ted Hayton, went freelance and the owners had moved on to making computer graphic systems. I had a good time learning at Spaceward. some of the happiest times of my life. I engineered for Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin, The Stranglers, The Bible!, The Dave Howard Singers, The Cas Carnaby Five, Stevie Breeze….and I just remembered The Lodge which featured Peter Blegvad and his odder brother…….and produced my first album for the band Jack the Bear.
And then the owners…..under the new leadership of the despised, hairy necked, arch Thatherite, John Hinchliff ….unceremoniously closed the studio in 1988.
If you click on the things below, they should open up and have some more detailed stuff I’ve written about those artists/sessions.
Actually, the truth is that Dave did 90% of his own engineering…..he knew far more about making records than I did at my tender young age then. Infact he probably still knows more about making records than I do now.
Dave was a perfectionist. He had an amazing keyboard and midi setup…..certainly for the time. And was an incredible musician. Barbara was a gorgeous, beautiful lady and a very kind and gentle soul.
They were both always very nice to me and I learned an incredible amount from working with Dave.
Their music was a bit too clever for my tastes, but their hearts were definitely in the right place. I was very fond of them.
When it was announced that Spaceward would be closing, Dave block booked the last few months to squeeze as much recording time out of the place as he could (at a vastly reduced rate).
My favourite track of theirs that I was involved with was the prog/pomp epic to end all epics “New Jerusalem”. It is completely over the top. But definitely a good song and sentiments. There is a picture of the track sheet attached…..we were recording 24track analogue with Dolby A at Spaceward. Dave pushed the limits of 24track recording to bursting point. The track sheet is over 5 feet in length and shows the extraordinary construction of the piece with each track changing to whatever’s needed for each section (there are a lot of sections!). Dave and Barbara were true English eccentrics. I liked them.
Jack the Bear were a local Cambridgeshire band formed by Steve Penn, Graham Fuller and John Carter. Steve Penn had previously been in the band “The Great Divide” with Boo Hewerdine, who went on to form The Bible!
Steve Penn also worked at Spaceward in the computer graphics manufacturing bit, with Joe Bull, who used to engineer The Great Divide. All very interesting so far.
I’m guessing that the album Bearfootin was recorded 1986/1987. Spaceward gave them a “production deal”, which basically meant that they could have as much studio time as they wanted for free. And it gave me a great opportunity to record a live band…..in a much more relaxed way than the typical Dave Stewart sessions or the awful sessions by certain other acts…..
It is notable, to me anyway, for featuring local Cambridge great white soul hope, Stevie Breeze on keyboards on the song “Skin and Bone”, which was released as the bands only single. I remembering finding Stevie’s genuine annoyance very funny because when John Peel played the song on Radio One, it became the one and only time that Stevie was ever played on Radio One.
We had a lot of fun in the studio…….the first side of the album was played as live……we built overdubs in a live style on top. I seem to remember that we spent more time setting up “the scene” for a particular song, than actually recording: for example “Man From Laramie”, we’d’ve made a horse for Steve Penn to sit on while he sung his lead vocal, while the others dressed as Indians….all to add atmosphere. I kinda miss those innocent recording days.
I’m putting a few tunes by The Cas Carnaby Five and one by The Bible on this Spaceward Studios page.
The Cas Carnaby Five was a three day session…..paid by Backs Records, from Norwich…..Derek from Backs…….it’s all coming flooding back. It was an album of drinking songs, and I think I got in the mood and got a bit drunk…….and on day two, collapsed somewhere in the studio. And so they decided to call the album Mr Morris’ Funeral.
The Bible. Well, this is mostly here, because it was the first time I recorded my friend Dave Larcombe on drums. I went on to do lots more recording with The Bible, but this was probably as good as it got