Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production.

Ace Records.

During the sixties and into the early seventies, Chicago-born Shel Talmy was one of the most successful and innovative producers working in the British music industry. Shel Talmy had arrived in Britain from Los Angeles in 1962, as a twenty-five year old. By then, his dreams of becoming a film director had been dashed.

This had happened nine years previously, when Shel Talmy attended  a routine check-up at his ophthalmologist. That day, sixteen year old Shel Talmy discovered that he had  retinitis pigmentosa. This inherited degenerative eye disease meant that Shel Shalmy would eventually loose his sight. For Shel Talmy this was  a crushing blow.

Realising his dream of becoming a film direction was in tatters, Shel Talmy was forced to rethink his plans for the future. He decided to settle on the next best thing and become a record producer. Shel Shalmy was determined that when the time came, he would make his dream a reality. 

By 1961,  twenty-four year old Shel Talmy was ready to embark upon a career as a record producer. Rather than knocking on the doors of LA’s recording studios, Shel Talmy headed to one of Los Angeles’ many music business hang outs to network with music industry insiders.

At Martoni’s, Chicago-born Shel Talmy met Phil Yeend, a British expat who owned Conway’s Recorders. The two men talked and soon, Phil Yeend,  offered twenty-four year old Shel Talmy a job as an engineer. By then, Phil Yeend had assured his newest employee that he would train him as an engineer.

Shel Talmy began work at Conway’s Recorders in early 1961. During his first three days at Conway’s Recorders, Shel Talmy was shown the basics, including how to work the board. After that, he was thrown in at the deep end. 

Over the next few months, Shel Talmy spent much of his time working with members of the legendary studio band the Wrecking Crew. They were by then, seasoned veterans who had a wealth of experience, and Shel Talmy was able to tap into their experience. Shel Talmy also found himself working with the Beach Boys and Lou Rawls during his first year as an engineer and producer. For Shel Talmy, his first year at Conway’s Recorders was a whirlwind.

Shel Talmy also found himself working with Gary Paxton, who having started out as one half of Skip and Flip, was well on his way to becoming a successful producer. Meanwhile, Shel Talmy’s friendNic Venet was the A&R man at Capitol Records. He allowed Shel Talmy to sit in on recording sessions with Bobby Darin. Through watching these sessions Shel Talmy learnt how to run a session. This was all part of his musical apprenticeship.

Back at Conway Recorders, when  Phil Yeend and Shel Talmy weren’t working with clients, they spent time experimenting with new recording techniques. Especially working out the best way to record guitars and drums. The pair was interested in the advantages of isolating instruments during the recording sessions. This was unheard of, but eventually, would become the norm. Shel Talmy was already innovating, and would continue do so throughout his career. 

When there was some downtime at Conway Recorders,  Phil Yeend allowed Shel Talmy to try out new recording techniques. This was all part of a steep learning curve.  However, this crash course in engineering and production would stand Shel Talmy in good stead for the future.

Especially when Shel Talmy decided to spend a few months working in Britain. This visit wasn’t planned. Instead, it was a case of curiosity getting  the better of Shel Talmy. During his time working with Phil Yeend, the Englishman had told him about life in Britain and how great a country it was. Eventually, Shel Talmy decided he would like to spend some time working in Britain.

Fortunately, a friend of Shel Talmy’s who worked at Liberty Records setup a meeting with Dick Rowe at Decca Records. When Shel Talmy went into the meeting, he wasn’t lacking in confidence and went as far as playing Dick Rowe acetates of some of the records that he had worked on. British record company executives in the early sixties weren’t used to such confident interviewees. However, Dick Rowe, who was a huge fan of all things American, liked Shel Talmy and hired him on the spot. 

Just over a year later, Shel Talmy and Dick James founded a new label, Planet Records. This join venture was the start of a new chapter in Shel Talmy’s career. 

By then, he was well on his way to enjoying the most successful chapter in his musical career. This lasted seventeen years and saw Shel Talmy become one of the most successful producers working in Britain. During this period, Shel Talmy had the Midas touch. 

He discovered The Kinks, when their manager Robert Wace took a demo into one of music publishers on Denmark Street. When Robert Wace asked if anyone wanted to hear the demo, Shel Talmy answered in the affirmative. Having heard the demo and heard what he liked, Shel Talmy took The Kinks to Pye. Having signed to Pye, Shel Talmy produced The Kinks’ first five albums. During this period, The Kinks were one of the most successful British bands. They’re one of twenty-four groups and artists that feature on Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production, which was recently released by Ace Records.

Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production is a celebration of one of the most successful and innovative producers working in Britain between 1964 and 1970. During that period, Shel Talmy  produced The Kinks, The Who, Manfred Mann, The Creation, The Pentangle, Lee Hazelwood, Roy Harper, The Mickey Finn, The Easybeats, The Fortunes and Tim Rose. They’re among the twenty-four artists and bands that feature on Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production.

Opening Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production is The Creation’s 1966 debut single for Planet, Making Time.  It’s a stomping fusion of psychedelic rock and power that at times, is reminiscent of The Who. That comes as no surprise as Shel Talmy produced The Who early in their career. Making Time would later feature on The Creation’s 1967 debut album, We Are Paintermen. Sadly, a year later  after its release The Creation split-up in 1968. This cut short what was a promising career. For The Creation, it was a case of what might have been.

1966 was a year of change for Manfred Mann. Their lead singer Paul Jones was replaced by Mike D’Abo, and Manfred Mann moved to Fontana Records. That was where Manfred Mann first encountered Shel Talmy, when he became their producer. The first single he produced was a cover of Bob Dylan’s Just Like A Woman. While it sneaked into the top ten, the followup Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James fared much better. It showcased a much more sophisticated production style than Manfred Mann’s earlier singles. Record buyers were won over but this carefully crafted production when  Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James was released by Fontana Records, in 1966. It reached number two in Britain and thirty-two in the US Billboard 100. Since then, this pop classic is regarded as one of Manfred Mann’s finest singles, and is still  become a favourite of oldies stations worldwide.

In 1965, The Kinks released the Ray Davies’ composition Tired Of Waiting For You as a single on Pye. It reached number one in Britain, and gave them their second number one single. Across the Atlantic,  Tired Of Waiting For You reached number six on the US Billboard 100. This rueful sounding Kinks classic would later feature on The Kinks’ sophomore album Kinda Kinks which was released later in 1965.

On a visit to Britain during 1970, Lee Hazlewood recorded several songs with Shel Talmy. This included Bye Babe which was penned and produced by Shel Talmy. It wasn’t until 1997 that Bye Baby was released on the compilation Love and Other Crimes. The folksy sounding Bye Baby features a worldweary vocal from Lee Hazlewood, and is a reminder of a talented and underrated singer.

The Who would become one of the biggest British  bands of the sixties. They burst onto the scene in 1964, and in 1965 released the defiant Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere as their third single. It reached number ten in Britain, and epitomises everything that’s good about The Who. Fifty-two years later, Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere is a timeless rock classic that’s one of the highlights of Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production.

Shel Talmy started taking an interest in folk music in 1965, and son, was producing many of the new wave of British folk artists. By 1969, this included The Pentangle, who had been signed to the Big T label. They released their third album Basket Of Light in October 1969, and it reached number five in Britain.  This was The Pentangle’s most successful album . Light Flight, which was the theme to Take Three Girls, was released as the lead single from Basket Of Light, and  reached number forty-three in Britain. The following year, 1970, Light Flight reentered the charts but stalled reached forty-five in Britain. While Basket Of Light is regarded as The Pentangle’s greatest album, Light Flight, which features an ethereal vocal from Jacqui McShee is one of the album’s highlights.

Perpetual Langley were an Irish girl group who released two singles for Planet Records. This included Surrender which was released in 1966. It’s a glorious slice of perfect pop. Partly this is because of interplay between the lead vocal and harmonies, and Shel Talmy’s  production skills. All this results is a beautiful, melodic and memorable song that’s sure to tug at the heartstrings

During November in 1967, Roy Harper was in CBS’ London studio recording material for his sophomore album Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith. It was released by CBS in 1968, and featured Ageing Raver, which features a stripped down, folk sound. It’s  Roy Harper and his guitar, as he delivers an impassioned vocal on Ageing Raver, which marked his major label debut.

Lindsay Muir’s Untamed were  a garage rock band from Worthing, in East Sussex. They signed to Planet Records and released Daddy Long Legs as their debut single in 1966. It was fusion of garage rock and blues that sounded as if it had been recorded in LA not London. Alas, the single failed to make any impression on the charts, and there was no followup. Thirty-three years later, and Lindsay Muir’s Untamed had a cult following,  and in 1999, belatedly released their debut album It’s All True!

After the demise of the Planet Records, Shel Talmy signed a production deal with Polydor. One of the bands he worked with were psychedelic rockers Wild Silk. They released (Vision In A) Plaster Sky as a single on Columbia in 1969. Hidden away on the B-Side was Toymaker a hidden psychedelic gem, which is a welcome  addition to Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production.

The Nashville Teens were founded in Weybridge, Surrey in 1962, and were part of the first wave of British bands to serve their musical apprenticeship in Hamburg, in Germany. This gave The Nashville Teens a good grounding for the future. They had enjoyed a degree of success in America. However, in 1967 The Nashville Teens  released I’m Coming Home on Decca in Britain. It’s an upbeat and joyous fusion of R&B and pop rock, that should’ve enjoyed more success than it did. 

The Fortunes were formed in Birmingham in 1963, and within a year had signed to Decca. They released four unsuccessful singles before enjoying a breakthrough hit single with You’ve Got Your Troubles. It reached the top ten in Britain and America. However, the one that got away for The Fortunes was Caroline which was released in 1964. Al wasn’t lost though. Radio Caroline started using the song as an unofficial theme tune. Some fifty-three years later, and Caroline  has stood the test of time, and is a welcome reminder of another musical era.

In 1969, Tim Rose entered the studio to record his third album Love, A Kind Of Hate Story. It was released by Capitol Records in 1970, and featured Jamie Sue which closed the album. It’s the perfect showcase for Tim Rose as he delivers an impassioned, soul-baring vocal.

Closing Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production is Trini Lopez’s Sinner Not A Saint. It was released by DRA Records in 1962, and is a reminder of the R&B sound of the early sixties. Soon, though, music would change with The Beatles and the release of Love Me Do.

From 1962 until 1979, Shel Talmy was one of the most successful producer in Britain. So much so, that it would take a box set to do comprehensive overview of his career. However, Ace Records’ recently released  compilation Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production is the perfect introduction to a groundbreaking producer. 

Whilst other producers stuck to tried and tested production methods, Shel Talmy was experimenting and innovating. That had been the case since he started work at Conway’s Recorders in early 1961. Since then, Shel Talmy was a blue sky thinker when it came to production. This was similar to George Martin, when he worked with The Beatles. 

Producers had to be able to think outside the box. They were hamstrung by what is now regarded as basic equipment. By being able to innovate, some producers were able to make groundbreaking recordings  with this basic equipment. This included George Martin, Phil Spector, Joe Meek, Jimmy Miller and Jack Nitzsche. To that list the name Shel Talmy can be added. He belongs in such illustrious company. 

After all, Shel Talmy wasn’t just a producer. He was a songwriter and talent spotter. However, first and foremost Shel Talmy is remembered as a pioneering producer who worked with some of the biggest names in British music. His innovative approach to production transformed many groups, and made stars of The Kinks and The Who, who went on to become two of the biggest names in British musical history. They’re just two of the hundreds of bands and artists who were produced by Shel Talmy. Twenty-four feature on Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production,  which is reminder of a pioneering producer during the most successful period of his career.

Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production.

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