Rock LEGENDS AT ROCKFIELD - Latest extract - Budgie
ROCK LEGENDS AT ROCKFIELD......to be published Sept 15th 2007.
Hi everyone. Here's the latest extract from my book on Rock Legends at Rockfield. Last time out in chapter two featured Black Sabbath. Also there at the same time were heavy rockers Budgie. With a similar sound to their Midland counterparts, Budgie recorded most of their albums at the Monmouth Studio. These two extracts look at Budgies big break -- when they had an audition at Rockfield with Sabbath producer Rodger Bain and then looks at the pressure the band found themselves under sometimes when producing themselves:
CHAPTER THREE excerpt --- Welsh Rockers Budgie Influence Metal Greats.
After two years of gigging, and writing songs, the Budgie's big break was just around the corner. One day in 1969 when they visited their agent to pay her, she told them about an audition taking place at Rockfield Studios - just down the road from Cardiff in Monmouth. A producer there, Rodger Bain, was looking to sign a rock band and was auditioning a few acts from across the UK. Singer and bass player Burke Shelley laughs, though, when he remembers the agent’s warning to them as they left her office that day. ‘Our agent, Mrs England, I think her was name, took on a very stern face and told us, “Don’t you dare play any of your own stuff !” He giggles at the memory. ‘You’ve got to laugh, haven’t you? We were playing a few well known tunes by other bands to get gigs, but half our set was our own material and although she warned us not to play that stuff - and I’d reassured her that we wouldn’t - as soon as we got outside I said to the guys “Forget that. We’re doing our own songs” and it worked.’ The band, armed with songs like All Night Petrol, Guts and Rape of The Locks, impressed the veteran music producer. He told them he was keen to sign them, despite the fact he’d already given a contract to one other budding young band. The group in question was Black Sabbath, a band that Budgie would frequently be compared to over the coming years. Before that deal could happen, the band had to play another audition in London for representatives from some of the major record companies.
Ray Phillips was baffled that they didn’t hold the second audition at Rockfield, but instead at a small recording studio in London.
‘As we set up our equipment, we noticed two guys there. One was from a company called Bell Records and the other was called, David Howells, from MCA Records. I’d always thought that if a record company heard us play, then they’d sign us straight away. Dave Howells was Welsh as well. He was Merthyr born and bred, so we had an affinity with each other. Anyway he loved us and we signed a major deal with MCA records just a few weeks later. I was quite proud of the fact that Budgie had only been playing for 4 or 5 years, before we signed a major worldwide deal. That was fast work, because most guys had been in bands for 10 years before they got a deal. But we’d practiced and rehearsed non-stop. We wanted to be the best.’
The band was now (1973) getting used to the way Rockfield operated. Burke Shelley would make sure most of the songs were in reasonable shape before heading out to the studios. ‘We used to go up there with most of the album written. But you’d often get up to Rockfield and something wouldn’t work out, or would sound weak, so you’d have to rewrite it. Luckily the atmosphere at Rockfield is extremely conducive to writing. I found that was especially true with acoustic numbers. It would be great sitting outside in the summer, with a bit of straw in your mouth, laying back watching the birds fly by and trying to think of something. I did actually write a few of the tracks up there. I remember one, Black Velvet Stallion, was written at Rockfield as you can imagine.’
Budgie was now in the groove. They were successfully balancing playing live against the pressures of recording. Though, occasionally, it didn’t always go as smoothly as hoped, and Budgie’s front man would find himself up against it, when mixing the band’s very next release.
‘I remember being at Rockfield on one album. It was one of our most popular ones called In For The Kill. We were always on a tight schedule, but I remember being in the studio finishing the mix on this particular record, when right outside the Coach House studio was the tour bus, revving up and waiting to take us to the ferry. We had to be in Germany to tour, but I was still trying to mix the album. The rest of the band were calling out “Burkey, hurry up. Come on, man!” and I was shouting back at them that I was going as quickly as I could. In a panic and short of time, I’d turn to the studio engineer and ask him “Can you bring the guitar up a little bit?” Then I start to leave the control room, but I’d get to the door when suddenly, I’d remember something else. “Hang on a minute.” I’d say. “Can you adjust the bass a little?” So I was trying to hand over the track to the engineer while the band was in a frenzy and screaming for me to leave. It was that tight! It was night and I can remember driving in the pitch black to head off for Germany and Holland. We were really tight on time sometimes.’
Despite those pressures, In For The Kill was eventually finished and was released in 1974. By then Budgie had secured a bigger following, and the album was well received both critically and by the music buying public.
The group also set off on tour with a new band, which was starting to make waves of their own: Judas Priest. Burke Shelley remembers they took Priest on tour as their support act as a favour to their Midlands based agent, who looked after both bands.
‘We toured with Judas Priest to give them a break. The Birmingham connection was via our agent at the time. He was doing Judas Priest.’ Burke now mimics his former agent’s thick Brummie accent as he continues with story, ‘I want to give them some work, like. I’ll get you the work, right, but you’ve got to have them on the bill with you, like.’
He laughs. ‘It was a top time though. We did a load of great tours with Priest. We used to crash on the floor at their flat in Birmingham. Bands didn’t stay in hotels in those days. If you stayed in a hotel, you were rich. It was usually “Can I crash at your pad, man?” And there’d be 3 or 4 people crammed on the floor in sleeping bags.’
During that tour in ’74, Judas Priest often joined Budgie on stage for the Welsh band’s encore with both bands jamming a version of Running From My Soul from that year’s release In For The Kill.
ROCK LEGENDS AT ROCKFIELD is now available on pre-order from www.amazon.co.uk and www.amazon.com (plus the Amazon websites in France, Germany, Canada and Japan) It's also available from the websites of WHSmith and Waterstones as well as the University of Wales press iet (www.uwp.co.uk) and the Welsh book site www.gwales.com.
Hope you enjoyed the extract. More to come in a fortnight --- It's Hawkwind to be followed by Motorhead!!!