Gus Dudgeon-Production Gems.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD. 

The late, great Gus Dudgeon never set out to become a producer. It was something he had never considered after leaving school and being fired from eleven jobs over a four year period. Working in a toy shop, advertising agency and even a clip joint wasn’t for him and his search suitable career continued.

Luckily, at that time, Gus Dudgeon’s mother was involved in PR and working on the account for ManPower, a new recruitment company. This was how she heard about a job at London’s prestigious Olympic Studios. Maybe this could be the job that had so far eluded her son?

When Mrs Dudgeon told her son she had found him a job at a recording studio he wasn’t sure. “Doing what? What do I know about recording?” However, the seed was planted and soon Gus said: “Okay, I’ll go and do an interview.” 

The next day, Gus Dudgeon headed for the old Olympic Studios just off Baker Street for the interview. As he entered the reception he saw framed Lonnie Donegan EPs on the wall behind the receptionist. He had two at home. That was when it struck him that it was in this building that the EPs were recorded. This was where the magic happened.  Suddenly, Gus Dudgeon knew that this was where he wanted to work. All he had to do was impress the interviewer.

After being asked various questions Gus Dudgeon was asked if he knew how to take a tape recorder to bits and reassemble it? He didn’t but answered yes. Luckily, he wasn’t asked to demonstrate, and a week later, received a phone call and was told he had got the job. Little did anyone know that this was the start of a long and illustrious career. Gus Dudgeon became one of Britain’s leading producers and went on to work with the great and good of music.

However, when Gus Dudgeon started at Olympic Studios in 1961 or 1962 he was an assistant who was learning his trade. However, he was able to sit in on sessions and watch, listen and learn. The first session he sat in on he was captivated as the engineer pushed the faders up and the music played. The sound was totally different from what he heard back home. Suddenly, he was hearing things he had never heard before as the music played over the monitors. As the engineer mixed the recording his newest trainee knew this was what he wanted to do with his life.

Soon, Gus Dudgeon was sitting in on sessions some of his heroes. This included American rock ’n’ roller Del Shannon. However, over the next few years Gus Dudgeon would meet many more top musicians. Especially after 1962 when music was transformed when The Beatles took the world by storm.

By 1964, Gus Dudgeon was working as a tape operator on a session for The Zombies’ single She’s Not There. The session was being produced by Ken Jones with Terry Johnson, who was Gus Dudgeon’s boss taking charge of engineering duties. It started off as just another session. That was until Terry Johnson headed out for lunch. On his return, he was too drunk to continue. He was sent home in a taxi, and that was when Ken Jones decided to promote the tape operator to engineer. This gave Gus Dudgeon his first engineering credit and was the first hit he worked on.

When The Zombies released She’s Not There later on Deccan later in 1964, it reached number twelve in the UK and two in the US Billboard 100. For Gus Dudgeon it was the start of a successful career that spanned four decades. 

The Zombies’ She’s Not This is also the track that opens a new compilation Gus Dudgeon-Production Gems. It was recently released by Ace Records and is part of their long-running and successful Producer Series. The compilation features twenty-one tracks engineered and produced by the Gus Dudgeon.

This includes All Your Love by John Mayall with Eric Clapton which was engineered by Gus Dudgeon. The group had re-signed with Decca in 1966 where the twenty-four year old engineer was working. Having re-signed the group headed into the studio to record an album with producer Mike Vernon. At his side was Gus Dudgeon who played an important part in capturing Eric Clapton’s groundbreaking guitar playing. When The Beano Album as it later became known was released, it introduced many music fans to one of the greatest guitarists of his generation. Sadly, it was Eric Clapton’s only album with The Blues Breakers. However, for Gus Dudgeon a new chapter in his career was about to unfold.

This began when Gus Dudgeon was working on a session by The Moody Blues. Denny Laine wasn’t present when the rest of the group suggested a number of changes to the equalisation which they thought improved the mix. However, Gus Dudgeon didn’t agree. The only problem was Denny Laine liked the new mix when he heard it a week later. Despite that, Gus Dudgeon asked him to listen to a flat mix. This didn’t go down well with the Moody Blue who had been given his own label by Decca. He phoned the label to complain.

Not long after this, Gus Dudgeon received a phone call and was told to apologise to Denny Laine. As he made his way into the control room, the leader of the Moody Blues asked to hear the flat mix. When he heard it he realised it was much better than the other mix. Suddenly, no apology was required and the engineer was vindicated. 

As he left the control room Denny Laine said: “You’re bored with this aren’t you?” That was when Gus Dudgeon realised that after the best part of six years as an engineer he needed a change. The question was what? Then Denny Laine said: “I reckon you should get into production. I think you’d be good at it.”

Just a fortnight later, Gus Dudgeon was working on another session at Decca with Andrew Oldham the Rolling Stones producer and manager. At the end of the session he said: “It’s about time you went into production, isn’t it?” He also told Gus Dudgeon to make sure he got a royalty. This was good advice given the success that was about to follow.

In 1968, Gus Dudgeon was working as a producer when he and Paul McCartney coproduced The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s I’m The Urban Spaceman. However, rather than use their real names the pair decided to use the moniker Apollo C. The single reached number five in the UK when it was released on Liberty, and was group’s most successful single. Later in 1968, Neil Innes who wrote the song won an Ivor Novello award. This early Gus Dudgeon production features on the compilation. 

So does The Strawbs’ Oh How She Changed which was released in 1968 on A&M. Sadly, this progressive rock hidden gem failed to trouble the charts. However, it’s a welcome addition to Gus Dudgeon-Production Gems.

The following year, 1969, Gus Dudgeon was reunited with David Bowie. This wasn’t the first time the pair had worked together. In 1967, Gus Dudgeon had engineered the singer’s eponymous debut album. Although it wasn’t a commercial success the pair were reunited in 1968 when a single was recorded but not released. Still commercial success continued to eluded the David Bowie.

His career was transformed in 1969 with the release of Space Oddity. It was a truly groundbreaking single that featured an arrangement by Paul Buckmaster and David Bowie. Taking charge of production was twenty-seven year old Gus Dudgeon. When the single was released it topped the UK charts and was certified gold, and reached fifteen in the US Billboard 100. Fittingly, what was such an important single in the careers of David Bowie and Gus Dudgeon features on the compilation.

Later in 1969, Gus Dudgeon produced Tea and Symphony’s cult classic An Asylum For The Musically Insane. The album was released on Harvest and featured Boredom. However, this underrated album passed record buyers by. This wasn’t the only Gus Dudgeon produced album released in 1969.

That year, Ralph McTell related his sophomore album Spiral Staircase on Transatlantic Records. It featured Streets Of London which would become the singer’s most famous song when it was rerecorded and released as a single in 1974. However, it was Gus Dudgeon who produced the original version of this iconic song. 

In 1970, Gus Dudgeon started working with Elton John. He had released his debut album Empty Sky in 1969. It was produced by Steve Brown who wasn’t happy with his work on the album and decided not to produce the followup.  George Martin was briefly considered as a replacement but wanted to arrange and produce the album. However, Paul Buckmaster who had arranged Space Oddity had been lined up to arrange some of the songs on the album. It was Paul Buckmaster who suggested that Elton John’s management meet with Gus Dudgeon. He agreed to produce the singer’s eponymous sophomore album.

When Elton John was released in 1970 it featured a classic songs like Your Song and Rocket Man. However, one of the most underrated songs is Sixty Years On. It features one of Paul Buckmaster’s best arrangements and one of Gus Dudgeon’s most innovative and imaginative productions on the album. It was the first of seven albums that he would produce for Elton John.

Meanwhile, Gus Dudgeon continued to produce other bands and artists. This included the third album by art rock band Audience. The House On The Hill was released by Charisma in May 1971, and was the followup to their cult classic Friends, Friends, Friends. The album featured Eye To Eye which doesn’t feature on the American version released by Elektra. This album cut is a reminder of an underrated band whose music deserved to find a wider audience at home and abroad.

In 1972, Joan Armatrading had signed to the Cube label in  the UK, and was preparing to record her debut album Whatever’s For Us. Gus Dudgeon was brought in to produce the album which opened with My Family.  It features an impassioned and emotive vocal that more than hinted at what was to come from Joan Armatrading. Sadly, her debut album wasn’t a commercial success and it was another four years before she made a breakthrough.

Meanwhile, Elton John released his fifth studio album Honky Chateau on the ‘19th’ of May 1972. It reached number two in the UK and topped the US Billboard 200. This resulted in a platinum disc for Elton John. He released Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time) as the lead single and this classic single reached number two in UK and six in the US Billboard 100.  It’s another welcome addition to Gus Dudgeon-Production Gems.

So is How Glad I Am by The Kiki Dee Band who were signed to Elton John’s Rocket Records. It was released in 1975 as the followup to I’ve Got The Music In Me and is a remake of the Nancy Wilson 1964 single.

By 1978, Gus Dudgeon had taken a break from producing Elton John and produced Lindisfarne’s album Back and Fourth. The highlight of the album was the radio friendly Run For Home which was released as a single and reached ten in the UK and thirty-three in the US Billboard 100.  Forty-four years later this Gus Dudgeon production is still a favourite of DJs and music fans.

Having worked with Elton John, Magnet Records hired Gus Dudgeon to work with a new singer-songwriter they had signed, Chris Rea. His debut album was Whatever Happened to Benny Santini? and featured one of his best known songs Fool (If You Think It’s Over). It was released as a single in 1978 and reached number twelve on the US Billboard 100. The album then reached number forty-nine in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. This resulted in Chris Rea being nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1978. The highlight of the album is Fool (If You Think It’s Over), a heartachingly beautiful ballad that’s timeless classic that’s sure to tug at the heartstrings.

In 1979, Gus Dudgeon produced Halfway Hotel for English pop-rock band’s debut album Voyager. It was released on the Mountain label in 1979. When the title-track was released as a single it reached number fifteen in Australia. Sadly, the single failed to trouble the charts in the UK and this oft-overlooked track is a welcome addition to the compilation. 

By 1992, Gus Dudgeon wasn’t as a prolific a producer as he had once been. However, he agreed to produce XTC’s twelfth album Nonsuch. It was released to critical acclaim and featured The Disappointed which was released as a single. It features a polished production by Gus Dudgeon who was still one of Britain’s finest producers. The Disappointed is the penultimate track on Gus Dudgeon-Production Gems, and is also a reminder of a much-missed group.

Gus Dudgeon-Production Gems is a lovingly curated compilation that charts the career of one of the legendary British producers. Over a career that spanned four decades he worked with new names and the great and good of music. The result was an array of classic albums and hit singles. A selection of these hit singles are joined by hidden gems and album tracks on Gus Dudgeon-Production Gems. The twenty-one tracks on the compilation were recorded between 1964 and 1992 and are a reminder of a truly talented engineer and producer who tragically died in a car crash on the ‘21st’ of July 2002, aged just fifty-nine. Nearly twenty years later, and the music on Gus Dudgeon-Production Gems has stood the test of time and is much loved by music fans worldwide.

Gus Dudgeon-Production Gems.

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