I'd called Kim Turner to tell him about my Tape Operator job at the Marquee and without hesitation he offered me space in the house in Forest Gate sharing a room with there Roadie. It was temporary whilst I looked for my own place but just one example of Kim's big heart.
So the exciting time arrived of my first day as Tape Operator. In addition to Phil Dunne as engineer the Marquee had another staff engineer who was Geoff Calver and Phil and Geoff each had there own clients. Geoff had previous worked at Pye and had been a disc cutter. Both had totally different styles of engineering and I was very fortunate to spend my first year with both of them.
My initial training though was done by Will Roper who was the senior tape operator. The other key member of the team was the technical engineer who fixed anything that got broke and at the time I joined this was Doug Jane. I should explain that unlike most other studios the Marquee had a seperate tape machine room on the far end of the recording room. To get to the control room you had to either walk through the musician recording area or go back out of the rear of the machine room into Richmond Mews and then enter the studio from the front door. The point I'm making is that the tape operator was somewhat isolated.
In my initial "break in" period my first test was "how good was my tea making?" and could I gauge my timing to have a new brew ready for the engineer, producer and artist before being asked! I think I passed and then moved onto the technical stuff. I should mention though I loved making tea because it was the opportunity to deliver a tray of mugs to the control room and see how long I could stay and actually observe the recording process before being sent back to the tape room ! This worked well in the beginning because Will was always in the room handling the machines in my initial training period.
On the technical side there was a talkback system between the control room and the tape room. The engineer had remote buttons for the tape machine, play, record, stop, forward and rewind. There were no track record select buttons at this stage on the control room tape remote panel. The tape operator was asked to enable the track record ready buttons as instructed by the engineer and after doing so confirm via talkback the exact track number that had been enabled. The engineer would then control the machine dropping in and out of record as was needed. The tape op would sit by the machine writing a cue sheet of positions from the tape counter. When a take broke down it would be noted as F/S (false start). When the engineer pressed rewind we would then take control and take the machine back to the last start point unless given a different instruction from the engineer. Noise reduction was with Dolby 301 units 2 channels in each and part of the tape ops job was to select either record or monitor/playback mode from the rear of the units. This was quite a process going from record to playback. Eventually though Doug Jane wired the 301 units to the multitrack record relays so this switching became automatic.
We had two different head blocks for the Ampex MM1000 machine a 1" 8 track and a 2" 16 track.The monitors in the tape room were Altec 9844's hung with chains from the ceiling and we had two studer A62's and one Apex 440. My training from Will involved learning how to align these machines for playback and recording. Will was a perfectionist, strict in exactly how I had to do things but it was a great foundation for the future. We did some pretty large set ups recording wise full string, brass and rhythm sections and everything was recorded together. The discipline was you could never be late for the set up of these sessions too much was resting on your shoulders to ensure all was ready for the engineer to press the recording button for the string players at 10 am, at 1 minutes past 1 pm you were in overtime.
During the next year I worked without a holiday. Being at the Marquee Studios in the early 70's was an amazing time. As it was located next to the Marquee Club we did several live recording after installing mic lines from the studio to the rear club wall. I got to see many bands every night when I popped in to get Phil a pint of lager and lime!
Also I was part of many changes that were made....
The control room was re vamped by Ken Shearer, the JBL 4320 monitors were mounted on an upper shelf and the 15" bass drivers where changed to a model LE15B's that definitely extended the low frequency range and the HH amps were changed out for a Crown DC300A.
In addition the Helios console was replaced with the first MCI 416a console in the UK. A new MCI JH 16 24 track machine and 3 x 1/4" MCI machines installed with new racks of Dolby M16 and All installed in the control room !
The MCI installation pretty much guaranteed Producer Gus Dudgeon would work there for some time forward as he was a huge MCI fan.
Looking back between 1972 and 1973 as Tape Operator I worked with Phil Dunne on the following projects:
Joan Armatrading - Whatever's For Us - Producer Gus Dudgeon
Tom Paxton - New Songs for Old Friends - Producer Tony Visconti
Roy Buchanan - Live at The Club
Hookfoot - 'Roaring' - Producer Caleb Quaye. Phil also gave me my 1st engineering break on this album. He'd just got married and left early for many nights leaving me in the chair with the band. Thank you Phil !
Mary Hopkin - Mary Had A Baby - Producer Tony Visconti
Sarstedt Brothers - Producer Tony Visconti
Mike Batt - Various Orchestral
T. Rex - Producer Tony Visconti
Medicine Head - Producer - Tony Ashton
Rory Gallagher - Blueprint - Producer Rory Gallagher
Strider - Exposed -Producer - Jimmy Horowitz
John Kongos - Producer - Gus Dudgeon
Top of The Pops (Pickwick) Producer - Bruce Baxter
Graham Bonnet - DJM Records - Producer Kaplan Kaye
Moon Williams - Producer Kaplan Kaye
Stapley Markstein - An Expensive Pacific Ocean Cruise - Producer Kaplan Kaye
Mahatma Kane Jeeves (with Moon Williams and Alan Murphy) - Marquee Management
Between 1972 and 1973 as Tape Operator I worked with Engineer Geoff Calver on the following projects:
Gerry Morris - Producer Tony Atkins
Lyndsey De Paul
Sarstedt Brothers - Producer Tony Visconti
Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars/The Troggs/Marianne Faithful - Midnight Special Live from The Marquee
How my next move happened:
Towards the end of 1973 I had been working on most of the Kaplan Kaye sessions and one day he asked me if I would be interested in being the engineer and manager of DJM Studios. I had learned it was never easy to always be accepted as an engineer where you had also been a tape operator so I saw this as a great opportunity. Kaplan set up and interview with Dick and Stephen James and it went well and I was offered the position.
My parting from the Marquee was a very happy one and the door left open for anything in the future.