Life On Mars

“We were Punk long before the Pistols ever set foot on a stage”

It’s all too easy to write-off the seventies as a decade of political chaos, bad dress sense and football violence, yet the seventies was a wonderful decade for me. I was a teenager living in Corby surrounded by friends who all had one thing in common: music. On 21st May 1972 three lads from Corby caught a bus to Wellingborough via Kettering carrying with them nothing more than one acoustic guitar, a pair of old maracas, half decent voices and a bucket load of dreams.

Left: Jim Crawford & Richard Oliff en route to the studio. 21st May 1972. Right: The same spot today: West Glebe Road, Corby

Since finding out that it was possible to not only hire a recording studio but also have a ‘record’ cut, they had spent the previous few months rehearsing four songs which they had written themselves. On top of this they had had to save a substantial amount of cash from their meagre earning in order to achieve their goal. Studio time has always been expensive. As the bus they were on approached the outskirts of Wellingborough the excitement mounted. After all, very few people in those days made independent records, and certainly very few people had ever met the rich and famous whose names appeared on the seven inch pieces of plastic that made the musical world turn.

Richard Oliff & Jim Crawford en route to the studio. 21st May 1972.

They simply had no idea what to expect as they headed for the Beck recording studio on Lister Road. They knew what a studio was supposed to look like from the many studied pictures of the Beatles recording at Abbey Road but to actually experience being in a studio…well, that was a whole different ballgame. They were greeted by a tall grey-faced man who had a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. His jumper had seen better days and his baggy unkempt trousers were as grey as his face. He wore sandals and spoke with a soft, stuttering, reassuring voice. This was Derek Tompkins. A man that the three boys would come to know very well throughout all of the seventies, Derek was the owner of the studio’s and despite my description of him was one of the most knowledgeable studio technicians in the business. He had produced and engineered some of the biggest names in British popular music, yet he never once patronised or looked down on our three intrepid hopefuls. Indeed, they found this first foray into the whole studio experience to be one of unexpected education.

Richard Oliff in the studio. 21st May 1972.

Jim Crawford & Richard Oliff in the studio. 21st May 1972.

Richard Oliff & Jim Crawford in the studio. 21st May 1972.

The lads didn’t become the next Beatles, in fact their attempts that day left a lot to be desired, but they did get to record their four songs which were later transferred onto acetate demonstration records: three copies cut on a fascinating machine at Derek’s electrical shop off Kettering’s Rockingham Road.

Derek Tompkins former Telefunken electrical shop in Kettering’s Regent Street where our demo’s were cut to acetate

(One of the songs is available to hear on http://www.oliffmedia.com). I was one of those boys and I just wanted to officially say a huge thank you to Derek for making the seventies the happiest decade of my life.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Life On Mars

  1. Jim Drummond

    I to was facinated by two visits to the Studio with two bands when I was the “roadie”. As we know roadie’s are in fact frustrated rock stars trapped in erstwhile unsympathetic bodies with no voice to speak of and absolutely no competence with any instruments. Wouldn’t have changed it for anything, hear my old mate (and ace lead guitar) John Grimly is now driving HGV’s. Best gig The Whittlesey pub at Whittlesey-rock melody to light show finishing with born to be wild-wow good times

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