An extraordinary number of different musicians were used on this album [Never For Ever] on this album because the songs were so different, not only in mood but in treatment, that it seemed that, for Kate to get the results she wanted, she had to do it this way. The contrasts that existed were very beautiful and often amusing: the Sceapings, whose knowledge of and ability to play early instruments was so exciting--they were so in sympathy with the mood of The Infant Kiss-- at one end of the scale; and John Walters and Richard Burgess, who introduced Kate to the heady realms of the most up-to-date computer synthesisers, at the other end.
The Hare Krishna Temple coming in to tea; Brian Bath and Alan Murphy standing on their amplifiers like two sound-surfers to feel the vibrations better for those heavy-metal licks at the end of Breathing; Kevin Burke bringing the mysterious craft of Irish fiddling into the electronic hum of Air Studios; Kate down in the darkness of an enormous studio as she goes over and over her vocals, linked only by her headphones to the control-room that seems miles away... Perhaps it's just that sense of isolation that is unique to so much of modern recording studios. The musician is placed far away from the control-room and the experience of hearing himself in the headphones as well as the track which he is trying to add to, can be extremely confusing at first. He does his bit of work and then waits patiently for the control-room to tell him either "One more time, please," or "Fine, come up and hear it." Down there in that darkness you learn a lot about yourself very fast and, indeed, you can quickly come to enjoy the intensity of the experience.
There were so many people using Kate's studio as a focus for creative energy, and her openness to ideas and suggestions meant that some very exciting things happened. It was quite possible to walk into the studio and find someone demonstrating how a rifle-bolt clicked as a form of percussion, or someone practicing on a musical saw. You could walk into the studio and find it filled with an orchestra working hard on Max Middleton's arrangements for Blow Away; or you might walk into the studio and think nothing was happening, and then find Kate tucked away behind a sound-booth, adding the most delicate, almost boy-treble harmonies to one of the tracks.
Of course, there were extremes of experience that produced unexpected results, such as the engineer who found it impossible to stay in the room when listening to the end part of Egypt, as it scared him so much. Of course, this is something that one tends to forget, that the sound quality from the speakers in a recording studio is so superior to the sounds you hear coming out of your cassette-player or radio. Most studios test the quality of the sound by playing it on the large speakers first, so that they can hear the slightest variation from what they want; and then the final test is playing it through two small, ordinary speakers, which gives some indication of the sound quality that most people will be getting.
Having a group like Sky working at Abbey Road while Kate was there was interesting, as they are a group whose level of appreciation of music can shift from the classical to the popular without any problem. An interesting competition developed, to see who could outdo Herbie Flowers in the variety of pullovers worn each day. Roy Harper was completing his album The Unknown Soldier for part of this time, and there was an interesting cross-flow of information and ideas with him. Many old friends turned up during the making of this album, and on one strange occasion the survivors of the Tour of Life all turned up exactly one year from the last concert gig, with no previous organisation or planning--they'd all got it into their heads to come along; and from early evening 'til late morning they were still arriving.
Another extraordinary evening was when Breathing first took its direction and shape, and a couple of record-company personnel came in to see how things were getting on. At the end of listening to it, one of them had to walk out, because there were tears in his eyes, and the other one thought it was the most moving thing he'd ever heard. And then where do you get the sound of a bee in early spring, so that it sounds like a bee on a hot summer's day? And also, the strange experience of watching the first single off the album struggling up the hit parade while the last touches of the album were still being added.
Late-night drives through London, when it seemed that there would never be a time when there were no cares on the road--at two o'clock in the morning there were as many cars as there are at two o'clock in the afternoon. Or there would be a strange absence of vehicles, and you'd drive round a corner and there would be a road accident still steaming as it waited for the ambulances to arrive. Or driving up to Abbey Road through rush-hour traffic to find the isolation of the recording studio a great relief and coolness after all that hectic anger and aggression. Perhaps that was it--the journey of leaving the quiet of one's home through the noise and pollution of London to another place away from home where you could relax and enjoy the company of people interested in music and ideas. Kate acts as a focus for many people with ideas, and the conversation in the studio could be as absurd as wondering how many times the record-holder managed to spin round in his chair without his feet touching the ground, to the latest on the Quantum theories (these so excited Roy Harper at two in the morning that he had to rush off and find a newspaper to read the article!).
And of course behind all this pleasure and hard work are the responsibilities and the obligations of involvement with one of the country's biggest rock-and-roll stars. Unfortunately, it's something that never goes away, and however much fun you have and however good the end results are, that one fact will come round and slap you in the face at any time of the day, and it has to be dealt with just so the music can be allowed to communicate with the people it's meant for. It's how things are at the moment--an unfortunate necessity that, in order for a person to get his songs to his public, he has to go through the whole groaning, collapsing machinery of the record business. But it's never really been any different: there are always people who will pick clean the egos of the artists and use them for no other end except making more money. But you live with it, you understand it, and you try not to be angry.
After an album has been finished, a terrible flatness sets in. The obligations to be in the studio at a certain time, to think about it all the time, to hope that you do something that people will want--all the feelings still hang round without the need to go in and do it. And it takes a while to come down from all that, to find your feet again in the ordinary world, and even--if you're lucky--to go on holiday. But it's worth it, because that piece of vinyl will stay around for a long time, and you can always come back to those moments of inspiration and perfected expression whenever you want; and, while you have a wind-up gramophone, wherever you want.
©1990 Andy Marvick