L to R: Gus Dudgeon, Steve Thompson, Peter Collins
Everyone knows Gus Dudgeon as a terrific record producer of artists like David Bowie, Elton John, Elkie Brooks, Chris Rea, Lindisfarne and many more. Nobody thinks of him as a songwriter but I know he wrote at least one song. I know this because we wrote it together. He was producing Elkie Brooks at the time and I thought it would be a great bit of politics to write a song for her with her producer. Gus saw it as a creative adventure never before having written a song. As with most things Gus it became a BIG production. Having spent the previous day at a grand piano in my publishers (MCA) offices Gus decreed that we book into the massive rehearsal studio, Nomis where I played acoustic guitar through a huge PA accompanied by a drum machine.
The full story of this episode is told in my forthcoming book but I also touch on it in my Songwriters Masterclass because Elkie although didn’t record the Dudgeon/Thompson song it was a precursor to a song of mine Elkie did record – “The Last Teardrop” and I’ll be exploring the construction of Teardrop.
Anyway, the writing session at Nomis had concluded and I was driving around London with Gus in his Aston Martin (a gift from Elton John). I think we worked late at Nomis and perhaps we’d been to dinner as it was now midnight. I suddenly remembered that I had not returned the guitar and drum machine I had borrowed from Peter Collins. Peter was also a producer who was tearing the UK charts apart with acts like Tracey Ullman, Alvin Stardust and Nik Kershaw. Peter had also produced a number of my songs including Paris By Air (Tygers of Pan Tang). We headed over to Peter’s flat and Gus called Peter up: flash git, he was probably one of the few people to own a car phone in 1984. Peter answered. We’d obviously woken him up. He responded with “ok, where are you coming from?” To which Gus replied, “we’re outside your gaff now old boy”. This clearly must have freaked Peter out as we were at his door and he was obliged to answer in his dressing gown. The two producers had never met so I made the introductions and Peter made coffee. He fucked up the coffee, I later realized he was very nervous.
So Gus asked Peter if he minded if he roll a joint. Peter had no objections but didn’t participate. So began a great storytelling session. There I was between two of the UK’s top record producers listening to tales of daring-do. As usual, I was amazed at Gus’s ability to go off on several tangents and still arrive back at his original point of departure and all the while partaking of the weed. Gus regaled us with the full tale of making Space Oddity with Bowie, how he came to be doing it, the processes and the players. Then Peter told us how he had recorded “Wouldn’t It Be Good” with Nik Kershaw and how he took the tapes to L.A. to record the brass parts. Maybe not quite the gravitas as the Bowie story but it had the benefit of being a current hit. At one point one or the other of them asked me about my Heavy Metal productions and I probably said something like “stick the mic in front of the cabinet, crank up the vol and hope for the best”. This all went on a good while and Gus and I eventually left around 2 am. It’s a lovely memory to have of him. Of course, there is a good deal more to this story, some of it will be told in my Songwriters Masterclass and some in my book (eventually)