ROCK LEGENDS AT ROCKFIELD - Extracts from chapter 7 Judas Priest, Gillan and Rush
The latest extract from the book ROCK LEGENDS AT ROCKFIELD by Jeff Collins --
Chapter Seven -- Judas Priest, Ian Gillan and Rush - Legendary names descend on Rockfield.
(Pics - Top -Rockfield Entrance. Below that: Judas Priest have dinner at Rockfield. Then: Rob Halford in the studio at Rockfield. 4th Pic down: Rush. Final Pic: Ian Gillan (Taken by Andrew Pritchard)
Here are three extracts. The first features Judas Priest. It has the band's manager David Howells talking about the chnages he suggested when he first took over the band.
Then in the second extract Ian Gillan Band guitarist Ray Fenwick talks oh his time with the Deep Purple singer. Then in the third and final extract Geddy Lee of Rush talks about the making of Farewell To Kings at Rockfield.
Hope you enjoy them.
Chapter seven extracts:
'They were terrific' says David Howells of Judas Priest. 'So I signed them to Gull Records, but I made a couple of suggestions. Firstly, that they should add a second guitar player and go for that twin lead guitar sound. It was following the format of another band I’d signed called Wishbone Ash, but no-one had yet done it in Metal. And guitarist K K Downing did a great job and found Glenn Tipton and it took shape from there. I also suggested that Budgie and Black Sabbath producer Rodger Bain work with them.’
Howells also found the cover for their debut album Rocka Rolla in a real stroke of good fortune. That slice of luck occurred when he bumped into a friend of his, art designer John Pasche, who is best known for creating one of the most famous and iconic images in rock music: the Rolling Stones big red mouth with its protruding tongue back in 1971. For that work, which first appeared on the inner sleeve of the band’s album of that year Sticky Fingers, Pasche was paid 50 pounds. The success of the design saw the band reward him with an extra 200 pounds a few years later. The Stones own its copyright, but Pache recently sold the original artwork for almost half a million pounds.
David ran into the designer in London one day and after ending up in a pub for a quick drink, the Gull Records boss recalls asking him about a package he was carrying. ‘It turns out he just come back from Mick Jaggers’ house. He’d gone to show him his latest design for the Stone’s next album. The artwork depicted a metal coke-style bottle top covered in melted ice drops. But Jagger rejected it. So I asked if we could use for the first Judas priest album. I thought the whole idea of the metal cap with Rocka Rolla scrawled across in 50’s style writing was such a strong image. John agreed and I later asked the band if they would write a song called Rocka Rolla. So it one of the rare cases of an image influencing the choice of song as opposed to the other way around.’
Ian Gillan joined his former Purple band-mate Roger Glover for a live performance of The Butterfly Ball at the Royal Albert Hall along with fellow guest vocalists Ronnie James Dio and David Coverdale. It was there Gillan met up with guitarist Ray Fenwick, bassist John Gustafson, and Keyboard player Mike Moran. They would form his first solo group: The Ian Gillan Band.
After their debut album in ’75 called Child In Time, the band arrived in Wales a year later to remix the follow-up Clear Air Turbulence. Ray Fenwick remembers that meeting the post-Deep Purple Ian Gillan was not quite what he had expected.
‘When I first saw him, he’d cut his long hair quite short, which was a bit of a shock. He looked a lot straighter – a lot less rock’n’roll - than he did with Deep Purple. But by then he’d got into a lot of businesses. He had a studio, a hotel and I think he was also running a travel agency – all kinds of things. If he’d stayed away from music for any longer, I think he’d have become a very successful entrepreneur. I think he’d have been a Richard Branson type.’
So why did the band decide on Rockfield, when Ian had his own studio?
‘The reason’, says Ray Fenwick, ‘is that Rockfield was one of the state of the art studios at the time. It had this superb Neve mixing desk, which was just the best thing around. I mean Kingsway had been a great place to record the album, but Ian wanted a better studio to finish it in. Plus Rockfield was residential, so we could all go down there and stay together. That’s why we chose it really. And, as a bonus, it came with a reputation.’
The Ian Gillan band settled into the Coach House studio and started
remixing Clear Air Turbulence. The album was to be a real departure for the former Deep Purple singer. Moving away from the heavy rock signatures of his former band, the music was a fusion of rock, funk and jazz with wonderfully complex and absorbing time-changes and melodies.
Musically the Rockfield vibe was helping the band put together what was to become their biggest selling album up to that point. Geddy Lee recalls, ‘It definitely seeped into the record, because we realised we could experiment quite a bit and record some of the acoustic guitars and percussive instruments outside inn the courtyard. But the longer we stayed there, the later the recording sessions got, until our time clock went completely upside down. Eventually we were getting up in the late afternoon, having breakfast at suppertime and going on to record until the wee hours of the morning. But some of the outdoor recording we were doing was great. We were out in the courtyard in the Quandrangle part of the farm and we recorded the opening of the tracks Farewell to Kings and Xanadu as well as a few other bits and pieces out there.’
If you listen to Xanadu, the second track on Farewell To Kings, you can clearly hear birds tweeting. I enquire if those are Welsh birds. ‘Indeed they are!’ replies Geddy brightly. ‘In the early morning, the birds would gather round in the courtyard and start tweeting away. And it all got captured onto that disc. Those birds on Xanadu, those are genuine Rockfield birds!’
ROCK LEGENDS AT ROCKFIELD by Jeff Collins is out on September 15th on University of Wales Press in Europe. University of Chicago Press in The USA. It's available for pre-order now from Amazon and all good bookstores.