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the Pale

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'All Pros and no Cons'

Tom McKee on working with Matthew Fisher

I'll start by blaming Mike Ober for getting me involved. I, as he, had always wanted to make albums and work with Matthew Fisher. Since I first heard Matthew's wonderful style of playing with early Procol, I was hooked on him!

Mike Ober had already started fulfilling his dream. I had not. He wanted funding for this project: I had a few dollars stashed away, so we hooked up. He was to stay on as a producer / organizer on my little label 'Combustion Records' (which was very little, as it had not produced anything to date for publication / release!)

Shortly into my preplanning stages, of this off-the-wall concept of the Downliners with Matt doing obscure Beatles and Lou Reed stuff, I decided to change the label name to 'Endangered Records', in honor of Matthew who appeared to me to be truly endangered an artist! And that's how Pigmy Productions was born too (small ... the other meanings don't apply).

After some time back and forth deciding on what songs the Downliners would attempt (I didn't have to much clout yet at this time in the decisions) Mike O got us a date and time in England near Matthew's home to do such recordings. I flew over and the rest is obscure history!

I was there two weeks and in approx. eight days the album was done and mixed, less the final digital sequencing, editing, etc. Those I did with the help of a CT USA studio shortly thereafter.

Some interesting things that happened while in England was the Liners' drummer could only be there the first few days or week so we rushed those parts up front. Ober had reserved a 16-track demo recorder instead of the big 32-track unit I had wanted! (he said he wanted to save me money - grrr!) Some songs I had them do were not done as I had intended, such as Strange Locomotion (by Siren in the 70s, another English band) Bad Moon Rising which I wanted more like Jerry Lee Lewis version to highlight Matthew's barrel house potential.

Mike Ober walked out on A World Without Love because he wanted it like the Peter and Gordon version. He made what was there of the band walk in and do it live just like P and G and they did it at 16 rpm. Oh that was a belly burster: the engineer and I almost died laughing! The Downliners asked me what to do. I gave them the green flag to carry on and I do think it is a classic (of sorts). The band threatened him to be walked out of the rest, and that was that: Mike kept coming in and helped but he had lost total control: better for me as now I had more room to influence a little here and there.

Matt was supposed to come in that first weekend and use his magic to the M-3 we rented. Saturday he didn't show up so I went off to the local pubs and had a few too many! Sunday he wasn't there till later on and I was getting desperate! (Ended up being a misunderstanding between him and Ober: I forgive Matt!). I tried to get Matt on baby grand as much as possible also. At one point in A Light Went Out the band told me 'my hero' had screwed up his timing! I listened and listened and sure enough there was a screw-up in timing but it was the drummer! The engineer fixed it and my hero was still up in his pedestal!

In I'm In Love Paul Tiller was trying to sing a high note on the phrase I'm In Love but he couldn't pull off the notes quite right due to an ear infection that gave him a hearing loss of sorts so I suggested to Del, the lead vocalist, to end the phrase in a deep ballsy way to suggest the sexual side of the song à la Downliners' style! It worked and that song with the love affair between the guitar and Hammond, a suggestion of mine too, worked pretty well.

The instrumental version of World Without Love was partially to piss off Mike Ober but more so to fatten up the album time. Del sat down the last night or night before and did it in one take if I remember it. It worked out pretty good too I think. Funny thing was the original album was to be called A World Without Love and the background of the back of the CD was to be the working cover in the sense that the little hand was to be outstretched and the title on the side like the back is and then the back would be as it is, but more prominent and show the hand was of an infant and the father's hand below holding it up!

If I ever redo the album that's exactly how I will redo it . In fact I brought promo tee shirts of that cover to the set the first day and gave them to the boys. Then a ways into the album (I think the Sect didn't like the concept) Keith Grant came in with a picture of the Lennon glasses a friend artist had done. At the time I liked it so I changed the whole thing when I got back to the States.

Oh back to Matthew: he worked late into Sunday night, came back on Monday, then some time he spent listening in on the mixing and adding a chime effect on A Light Went Out.

Matt was just wonderful at what he did: he had no idea of the songs and I doubt he knew half of them but it mattered not for Matt, almost on every piece, did it in one take and that was that! It was hard work, long days and nights, and almost every night; and with Matt on one of those we all went to the Croydon International Hilton where I stayed and had several drinks and much nice chat with a bunch of guys who I am proud to have met and worked with: all pros and no cons!

Whether you judge this good bad or indifferent it was a good album from what we had to make of it: a bit disjointed but nevertheless in a short low-budget way a real nice foot-stompin' album.

I am very proud of my association with all on the album: the Downliners, the studio, yes even Mike Ober and most importantly to me Matthew Fisher. Since that time we have become friends and he has stayed at my US home in CT a couple of times.

The last was last Labor Day when I also had Michael Brown (Left Banke, Stories, Montage, the Beckies and his newest album on my label on this moment) over for a cookout with Matt: this was the first time these two finest keyboardist / composers have ever meet! It was a sweet treat to me and all had a good time. Plus I got to hear new things by both great artists!

I hope this helps the readers get a little glimpse into a wonderful moment or two with Matthew Fisher and friends.

best tom mckee endangered records

Those who have corresponded with tom mckee will know that all punctuation in this article is editorial!

Could you please give a mention : I have acquired a large amount of Matthew Fisher's A Light Went Out in NY CDs which I'm selling for the low price now available of $14 (2 for $20) overseas (includes airmail postage) and $10 (2 for $15) postpaid from the USA direct from: Michael Ober, 1600 South Eads Street, Suite 1031 South, Arlington, Virginia, 22202 USA. Thank you: Mike Ober

Matthew Fisher's page at 'Beyond the Pale'

More about the Light Went Out album

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