Mojo at Abbey Road – Electronic Music

Mojo ask Daniel Miller, Andy McCluskey, Martyn Ware, Mark Jones, Trevor Jackson, Matthew Herbert and Bill Brewster their thoughts on electronic music.

Electrospective-The Remix Album (2CD) release date 27 August 2012-  EMI Gold

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Happy Birthday Brian Eno. Born on this day in 1948.

Lest we forget, the mavericks that forged the history of recorded sound did not die out in the first half of the twentieth century…..one or two are still playing around. None more famously and successfully so than Brian Eno, to whom we raise a celebratory glass on his birthday today.

Eno has twiddled his fair share of knobs and has prodded sound recording into new areas. This is an interesting interview from circa 1980 where he is talking about a new-fangled video disc and what it might offer a world where (American) TV has gone mad. In it he looks back at the revolution sound recording made up music’s place in the world. It’s worth a watch. He could have been describing the work of Edison, Gaisberg and the audio pioneers:

“The important thing about tape is that it transformed something [i.e. music] that existed in time and therefore wasn’t durable into something that existed in space [i.e. a physical medium] and is durable and is not only durable but malleable in lots of different ways”

Eno would take video and the new malleability of recorded sound to create “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” with David Byrne which pioneered sampling techniques and nudged electronic music into a number of new directions.

He also invented the term “ambient music” and used recording technology and the physical medium of the LP record to spread it round the world.

George Martin documentary review

Thanks to the wonders of the BBC Iplayer I finally watched the Arena documentary Produced By George Martin last night. It was even better than I’d hoped for. If you are in the UK you can still just about catch it here and I’d advise you to ignore the Bank Holiday sunshine for an hour and a half to do so immediately. It went over many familiar tales that make up the George Martin story but also uncovered some things that were new to me:

1. The device of using son Giles to interview his father really worked, with Giles gently needling his father to reveal some of the steely drive that is not always apparent when you meet George (who is one of the most polite, generous and entertaining men on the planet).

Giles teased his father, in the way that only sons who get on very well with their Dad’s can do, into opening up slightly. He revealed glimpses into George’s competitive nature, his workaholism and his very obvious pique at the relatively tiny rewards that EMI offered him as a reward for the phenomenal success that he’d delivered with The Beatles and the other Parlophone acts. The hurt at John Lennon’s comments and behaviour during Let It Be was also palpable.

2. I thought I knew a lot about George’s pre-Beatles career but was delighted to find he’s recorded even more seminal recordings across a range of genres that I’d thought including The Archers theme tune. He really was a key player in inventing the modern recording industry.

3. The scenes where George talked to Paul McCartney were wonderful. The pair of them were incredibly affectionate, respectful and deferential to each other. Clearly old warriors with a lot of shared battle scars enjoying each others company as they reminisced. George remained encouraging to the younger man, gently praising Paul each time he remembered what was happening in the photos they were looking at. I wonder if there is anybody left on the planet who Paul can enjoy this sort of relationship with.  He certainly seemed to value it.

Just as this documentary focussed on George Martin’s contribution to musical history and the wonder-story that was The Beatles I’d like to see more about how Abbey Road Studios and its engineers – Ken Townsend, Ken Scott, Alan Parsons and the rest – helped George and The Beatles make their sounds. Is there anybody out there making a documentary on this? Its Abbey Road’s 80th Birthday in November – would be good timing for such a documenatry.

Produced By George Martin

George Martin:The thinker

There was a recent article by David Hepworth in The Word magazine where he concluded, after listening to the recently remastered Beatles albums, that the group’s recordings – as distinct from their myth – were even more extraordinarily good than is generally recognised. The quality exceeded the (ongoing) hype. Whilst undoubtedly genius was in Abbey Road’s Studio 2 during those six intense Beatle-tastic years, it was not just the song-writers and performers who were channelling it. Revered producer George Martin’s fingers are all over the finished recordings and it’s true to say that the records could not have been made in the same way without him.

There is another chance to see into the world of George Martin when a BBC Arena documentary “Produced By George Martin” is aired on BBC2 on Bank Holiday Monday April 25th at 9pm.

As often seems to be the case when genius is flooding through a situation; much perspiration is also required to deliver on that genius. Like many a veteran of the sixties, the decade passed in a blur for George Martin but his blur was a result of supremely concentrated effort. “My workload was enormous and I had such little time,” he recalls in the documentary.

You can read a nice piece from Jon Savage in the Guardian about the new George Martin documentary here.