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My Memoriam for Gus Dudgeon
Gus Dudgeon, the legendary Producer, the man famous for producing Elton John’s ‘Goodbye, Yellow Brick road’etc but who is more legendary to yours truly for producing a seven inch 45 that remains as one of my most early and moving musical experiences-Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity. This chap’-is-and let me get my breath-sat opposite me on a crappy chair in my flat on Holloway road.
He has the air of a slightly ‘Smashy and Nicey’ DJ type-aura about him-he is wearing white trousers, white socks and white loafers, for lawds sake and his hair has an unreal sheen about it, whilst at the same time, most definitely not being a wig….But..but..But..all this matters not.
He is charm itself, I like him, Matthew sat next to me likes him, and he seems tolike us and more importantly, he produced..’Ground control to Major Tom…’ with it’s zero gravity childhood in Wales atmosphere and it’s Christmasy parping tubas and all.
It is early 1997 and we are looking for someone to produce ‘The Jazz Age’.
Peter Walsh, our first choice, the dude who did ‘Pioneer Soundtracks’ is busy. The man has to make a living. My second choice, Steve Nye, producer of Roxy music and Sylvian, among others has somehow, even after many friendly and cheerful transatlantic conversations, disappeared into ansaphone land.
So, it is in keeping with my wanting ‘old school’ and consummately ‘professional’ producers to produce our, ahem, ‘newish school’ and professionally unprofessional group, that we have Gus dudgeon, (who produced E.J’s ‘Song for Guy ‘and’ Funeral for a friend’, both of which could be outtakes from LOW, I reckon)..And SPACE ODDITY (of which the Italian version is propped up within Gus’s sight-both of us ‘too cool’ to mention this song once throughout the conversation)…anyway..
This is why this charming man is sat opposite me and Matthew, in this divey one bedroom flat in Holloway. Above a Portuguese restaurant. In the afternoon
Talking about…well….Other than the obvious, i.e.; the Jack record, I don’t really recall.
We drank tiny French beers from my filthy fridge, Gus happily chugging away. We smoked a spliff, rolled by Matthew, again, Gus seemed almost too happy to be working at it, as if at home, he were used to having to smoke in the shed….
I remember at one point, while reaching for the beers, I caught sight of a fantastic looking car across the road, parked, in front of a boarded up Model plane shop, beside the overgrown garden of an abandoned house. Probably a rolls? Definitely Pure White.
With little Black kids running over it.
‘Nice isn’t she’? Said Gus, unable to see out of the window from where he sat but obviously sensing my appreciation of it.
‘Yes..looks Lovely’ I reply, as A Holloway street urchin begins bending the wing mirror. Or something.
So we smoked Spliff, drank tiny watery beers and talked about Elton John, Scott Walker, (Gus thought he should do something ‘Commercial-with a voice like that!’), Menswear(!!)……but neither Bowie nor Major Tom.
On leaving, we all shook hands, determined that something would happen; ‘My people will call your people’ etc. We had no demos at that point, so I gave him a Video compilation of live versions of new songs and, as he asked to borrow it, a copy of Mike Leigh’s ‘Meantime’.
Both were lost in the post when Gus tried to get them back to me, so he sent me a cheque for £25 and a copy of the S.Walker biography as compensation.
(I already had the Biog, but still, a nice thought..)
A few weeks later I got home to a longer than usual message on my ansaphone.
It were Gus dudgeon, the man that produced ‘Space oddity’:
‘Hi mate..well..I watched the Vid and think there’s some really good songs on there from what I can make out..but..and I hate to use such a hackneyed phrase..but..I’m gonna’ have to pass on this one. It’s the budget really. Y’know. Anyway, phone me and we can talk about it if you like, but I have to say I don’t think it’s gonna happen. But I also have to say; I think you come across great on film. You’re a star mate..really.
Anyway. All best. Give us a ring, yeah? Bye for now’
I wish I’d kept that tape.
I later found out that there had been some confusion.
Basically, Gus had thought the album BUDGET was his FEE.
But whatever. It was a priceless meeting and somewhere, in some alternative world, there is a ‘Jazz age’ produced by Gus. The main difference between that and the one we know, being the judicious employment of Tubas and Stylaphones, sounding the way they did in 1973, in that Splott living room, during the morning of my life.