David Reilly

Life On Earth

1982, The Marquee Studios, Soho, Central London

After I starting to play with the Toyah band from the beginning of 1981 I began a long tenure on the radar as a 'session' musician in and around the central London recording studios. Initially I played a lot bass on recordings produced Nick Tauber, who had been instrumental in my inclusion into the Toyah project. Nick had previously produced one of my favourite albums up to that time, Thin Lizzy's 'Vagabonds Of The Western World' so to me it was a major professional box 'ticked' once I'd started playing for someone I considered a part of my musical education from my pre-professional days. I loved 'Vagabonds' and after I'd seen a three-piece Thin Lizzy, with Gary Moore playing guitar, for the first time at a Central London Polytechnic 'all nighter' in early 1974, I'd bought that album and learned all Phil's bass parts on it, by ear, note for note, by obsessively listening to it and copying it off the record. I did the same with Thin Lizzy's next record 'Nightlife' and to this day I believe I still have more of Phil Lynott's attitude and style in my bass playing than any other previous or subsequent influence.

Anyway, Nick started using me for other sessions apart from Toyah (with Toyah I was in the band so to speak) and one of those sessions was an album for a songwriter called David Reilly. David was a nice guy who had a bunch of really good songs and was given the budget to make his own album. Nick was the producer and I think he was David's manager too ... mmm no conflict of interests there!!! We commenced recording at The Marquee studios where Nick was producing all his projects at the time and where I'd been doing all the Toyah stuff from December 1980 and through 1981.

It was on this session that I was introduced to the great Alan Murphy on guitar and the amazing Tony Beard on drums. These guys were both already seasoned, experienced 'name' session players and were pretty much in a place that I wanted to be so I welcomed the opportunity to play with them and LEARN!!! It was the beginning of a great professional but also more personal relationship with these guys from whom I learned so much about feel, timing, space, dynamics, arrangement, laughing, having fun (especially!!!) and making great records!!! I played together with them on a lot of great stuff until Alan's premature death (I still miss him as I know many people do) and subsequently with Tony on many recordings as the rhythm section. I'm now back in touch with Tony since I got into recovery; a truly great musician and a lovely man ... a true friend and a great teacher for me in many ways.

This album was typical of the way I learned to make records ... a bunch of guys rehearsing, arranging and laying down tracks playing TOGETHER in the studio AND getting it right, once we'd agreed an arrangement, with no drops and no editing. Alan and Tony were a revelation for me; impeccable precision, timing, feel and communication, far more in control than any of the musicians I'd played with up until this point in time AND they actually took the time and trouble to help me settle down, lay back, wait for the snare (instead of leaping all over it!!!) and learn to leave plenty of space for a song to breathe.

The standout track for me is 'Strange Stories' more because I can still remember it quite clearly and even after over thirty years I still find myself playing it over in my head from time to time. A nice, mid tempo, soft rock song with a great chorus. All the backing tracks were recorded 'live' as I previously said, with David singing along and me , Alan and Tony just 'playing' the song after arranging and rehearsing it in the studio beforehand. When we were ready to record Tony used to say ... ' ... right OK we're gonna lay it down now ... PHIL ...' ... which meant I was NOT going to make ANY mistakes during the ensuing take !!!

I'm grateful to Nick for giving me this opportunity and more so for hiring me to arrange and sing the backing vocals. I was able to put into practice all the 'oohs', 'aahs' and vocal answers that I'd learned from Beatles, Beach Boys and ELO recordings. In those days we'd sing each vocal part double or triple tracked on a separate 24 track tape, mix them down onto two stereo tracks and transfer them to the two track machine and laboriously 'fly' them back onto the master 24 track tape. This could be very much a 'hit or miss' affair BUT what people don't appreciate is that with tape machines it was such an imperfect, precarious and unpredictable process that you could have what we'd call 'happy accidents' ... something unusual or random would happen and suddenly you had something unique on the track that nobody had planned. Using computer software running your tracks nowadays, much of the process is based around perfection and is therefore predictable and, for me, that takes a lot of the fun out of recording.

As far as drug and alcohol use was concerned during this album, I was smoking pot habitually now, all day every day so, as long as I had a smoke, I never felt any pressure BUT the 'real' me inside, on reflection, was actually terrified; If I didn't have at least can or two and a joint I felt dreadful. I sometimes did a bit of coke snorting usually towards the end of the days session or after the session and then sometimes we went out in the West End, to eat if we were hungry or to drink if we were on one. One night during this album I remember us all going to Bangs, a gay club held in the old Sundown in Charing Cross Road opposite Centre Point, and Alan having the time of his life there while me and Tony stuck close to each other and played the perfect couple to keep eager admirers at bay !!! Well ... I did wear make up ALL the time at this point so what should I have expected ??? Hahaha ...

Life on earth