Down into the Magic Kingdom (I’ve dropped the ‘Dive one’ and ‘Dive two’ stuff because I think it’s a bit naff)
I have to confess right at the start that I’ve never heard this album; I’ve seen the sleeve many times but never had anything to do with the record inside it. Not that there was a record inside it in Steve’s cellar, it was just one of the album sleeves decorating the walls. But this was The Cellar, full of electronic gadgets and tape recorders, microphones and dalek voice machines (or at least that’s how I remember it).
As I said in a previous post, Steve and I reconnected at the Co-op where, in between serving customers (and in Steve’s case adding up their bill wrong so that they either got their order very cheaply or paid too much), we spent our time:
- reading Mad Magazine – especially anything illustrated by Don Martin
- talking about music – we were both big Beatles fans and had just started to discover bands such as The Velvet Underground, The Mothers of Invention, Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band and The Incredible String Band (so, middle of the road stuff then)
- trying to think of ways to embarrass the temporary manager, Edwin, by sending notes supposedly written by him to the girl in the Post Office who we knew he fancied, asking her to meet him at a certain place and time. I don’t think he appreciated this! As far as I remember we did get into some trouble from the people at the Post Office, but I can’t remember what the outcome was but I do know that the meeting between them never happened. Wonder why.
- thinking of ways to torture the delivery boy who lived across the road in a gatehouse to Heysham Head with an archway (see photo)
While working at the Co-op Steve mentioned that he was into electronics and recording and that he’d been recording a songwriter called Dave Wynne (see previous post). I was very excited about this and Steve said I could visit his cellar and see what he was up to.
Well, over the next few years Steve’s cellar became my second home – actually more like first home as I think I spent more time there than I did at my mum and dad’s. You know how places have their own particular feel and smell; well the cellar, or ‘The Cellar’ as I think of it now, had the damp, cellary smell of creativity and invention. I loved it! I think if Steve’s mum and dad had said that I could put a bed in there and live in it I would have jumped at the chance.
So what did we do there? Well, we recorded stuff, and when I say stuff I mean all kinds of things – songs and sound effects and take-offs of things we saw on TV. I have a cd of recordings from thecellar, naturally called ‘The Cellar Tapes’ and I’ve just spent the last half hour looking everywhere for a copy and, when I find it, I’ll put some stuff up for you to listen to. Of course it was Steve who did all the recording (as he continues to do). He’s a born recording engineer and producer, always full of ideas on how to make something more interesting, whether that’s through adding some effects or a little backwards guitar, or even using loops (and I mean loops, loops of tape which could be several feet long and take quite a lot of controlling. He now uses a laptop and pro-tools, but I always see him in front of an old reel-to-reel, adjusting the gain and pressing ‘record’ and ‘play’ to set the tape rolling. On one occasion he managed to borrow a state-or-the-art Revox reel-to-reel and we recorded to songs of mine, ‘Gardens’ and ‘Morning into..’ in Steve’s mum’s shop (it was in the evening so the shop was closed). We took them to a studio in Hest Bank (I think it was called ‘De Lane Lea’ to be made into an acetate. They sounded great the first couple of times we played them but, after a few plays, the just got more and more distorted – shame really, I’d like to have a decent copy to listen to now. Funny thing is, I think ‘Gardens’ is the best song I’ve written, and I was seventeen when I wrote it. Over time Steve progressed from two-tracks to better two-tracks (Ferrograph and Revox) until he eventually ended up with an eight-track Tascam through a sixteen channel deck at his proper studio at The Mill, but the approach was always the same, ‘let’s try this and see what happens’. I’ll talk more about The Mill in a future post.
Although I never heard ’32 Minutes and 17 Seconds with Cliff Richard’, I had been a Cliff and the Shadows fan in my younger days, even seeing them at, I think, Blackpool Opera House in about 1961. But whenever I see a picture of the record sleeve, I think back to The Cellar and all the fantastic, crazy, inventive times we had there.