Talk Talk

It's My Life

1984, Scorpio Sound, London (recorded 1983)

This is a bit of a strange one as it's one of the few recordings on which I don't have an actual credit on the album notes but I did play on ONE track.

A musician friend of mine, Ian Curnow, a keyboard player who'd helped out on some Toyah stuff in 1982 and with whom I'd done a few sessions, called me about playing on a 'Talk Talk' track. Now I was acquainted with the band through some of the appearances I'd done on TV pop shows with Toyah where Talk Talk had also appeared on the same shows. Naturally I always spoke to Paul Webb (the bass player) and we had a very friendly passing acquaintanceship; he was a nice guy and we just talked bass and about the fun and madness of being in pop bands and stuff. The reason, in this case, they wanted me to play on a certain track was that Paul was exclusively a fretless bass player and they needed a fretted bass on this particular track which was called 'The Last Time'. So, Ian knew me and recommended me, Paul knew me so he was cool and I agreed to go to Scorpio Sound in Hampstead Road by the old Capital Radio … it must have been the 23rd July 1983 because I remember it was the very day after I'd played with Mike Oldfield at Wembley on the 22nd. Looking back, realistically, that's something I shouldn't have arranged and agreed to do on that particular day !!!

The night before this session, the night of the Mike Oldfield gig and after gig party, I and Simon Phillips had been amongst the last people to leave the Wembley venue and for some mad reason we'd decided to walk from the gig until we found a cab to take us to my house in Regents Park. As we were in North London anyway it wasn't that far to get to mine. We'd all had more than a skinful of booze and a few nosefuls of the rather excellent coke I'd procured for the evening's festivities. I remember seeing the trucks pulling away from the back of the venue much, much later after the show and thinking why were we still there, what the fuck had we be doing there and for how long ?? The crew had dismantled and packed away the whole show while we were talking shite in the bars and dressing rooms and we really were almost the last people left backstage !!! Must have been really, REALLY good coke I reckon … 

Anyway Simon and I walked and walked, stopping occasionally on our march in old red telephone boxes for a little 'booster', and I think we got a cab between Archway and Kentish Town which, by then, was only twenty minutes or so to my place. On arrival at mine the AFTER PARTY PARTY was in full swing with my partner, friends and various others all getting as hammered as possible and then I don't really remember much after that. 

So … next day late morning I come to amongst the carnage at home and have this horrible realisation that I'd agreed to go to Scorpio Sound for this bloody Talk Talk session; I think we'd said early afternoon bearing in mind they knew I'd had to play with MO at Wembley the night before and it was likely to have been a late night. Firstly … Thank God it was only round the corner; literally the closest recording studio to my place at the time, 5-6 minutes walk. Secondly … I could stop on the way and have a couple of pints first (there were TWO pubs exactly en route) to straighten me out a bit before arriving there. It was quite 'normal' for me to do that, hungover or not but on this particular day it was an absolute necessity !!! 

Listening back to 'The Last Time' now it appears to be such a simple track I can't imagine why I had to play it all afternoon and evening for them. Tim Friese-Green was behind the desk and was obviously the conduit for Mark Hollis's feelings about the proceedings, he (Mark) sitting back in the shadows and not saying very much at all. Maybe it took me ages to get going ??? I mean … I did have a hangover sent by the devil himself and, with hindsight, I can't imagine I'd have been that sharp to start with BUT I'd always been able to play in various states and levels of intoxication so by the same token I couldn't have been that bad. I do remember feeling frustrated and getting bored playing the same thing for hours and hours. I think these guys were used to going over and over arrangements and overdubs so much that it was just their way of working which, as a pro, unfortunately you have to accept. Having said that I've played the same track all day working with Trevor Horn and it's been incredible fun and we've always had a good laugh too. Different personalities ??? Different human group dynamics ??? I don't know … There wasn't much laughing around the studio with these guys that's for sure … Ho hum … 

The bass playing itself is pretty much standard 'me' as far as sound is concerned; my black Fender Precision played with a plectrum except that it's all incredibly straight and tight and, for me, lacks the edge and danger that I'd usually inject into anything I'm allowed to really get my teeth into. That's an obvious result of playing the same thing over and over again which, when it's happened, has always seemed like purgatory for me.  But for better or worse it's there for posterity and I'm proud, after all these years, to say that I got to record something with another truly legendary and enigmatic band. You can't argue with 'It's My Life' … a true modern classic and I feel very honoured to be on this record.

Here's a thought from my friend Ian Curnow who, as I said earlier, got me on the session:
“I wasn’t there at the session, but I’m familiar with Phil’s playing and I have no doubt he performed exceptionally well on the day, despite it being the morning after the night before.  The recording process he describes is exactly what we all went through.  We always had to go all around the houses to get next door, just in case there was anything that turned up on the other side - but as Phil says, by then the enthusiasm in the playing would largely have evaporated.  I can completely understand it in the pursuit of excellence, but I think it ultimately proved counter productive sometimes.  Still, great records and magic times.”

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