"No, you cannot mix the tape. You have to go to bed. It's past your
This was me talking. Talking to the
16-year-old rock 'n' roll child prodigy Mark Radice. It was well past my bedtime
too, these being the early morning hours on a cold winter's night in North Brookfield,
Massachusetts. I was tired,
and had had enough for one day.
"No way," young Mark spoke back. "Your mix is all wrong.
Bottom, mainly. You still can't get the foot together with the bass the
way it's supposed to be. Too much boom; not tight enough. Why don't you
just go to bed, and I'll fool around down here."
I forget what the resolution of that dispute was that night.
Maybe it was me who went to bed. But I wasn't happy about it, I can tell you
Things happened in funny ways in the music business in the
1970s. Not always straight up. Not always up front. Listen, for example, to this
telephone conversation which occurred, I'll bet you anything, only a few days
earlier somewhere in the bowels of the New York City music industry.
"Who, me? You're fuckin' crazy. I'm a music attorney, not King
Midas. Put that kid in the Hit Factory at a hundred and fifty dollars an hour
and you'll go broke in a week. For a tape of fuckin' demos? You're crazy.
"Listen, you know the studio business, right? Here's what you
do. You get a young and up-and-coming recording studio... no, a studio that
hasn't even opened its doors yet, and you call them, see, and you say that
you've got a young Mozart on your hands who's going turn the pop scene upside
down and who's going to make a lot of money for everybody involved
particularly the guys on the ground floor who helped when the help was needed.
Particularly the guys who made the demo tape. You hype the kid, you hype the
Donovan connection, you hype the kid's old man who's the best recording engineer
in the city. You tell them that the kid plays all the instruments, and can play
engineer himself. It's a great story."
"Yeah Sid, but what can we pay this place I'm supposed to find?"
"Pay? We pay them nothing. We pay them futures! No
here in the city, though. That won't work. Out of town somewhere. One of those
residential studios where the kid can stay for a month or two. Like Bearsville.
Or a place out in the boondocks like Caribou Ranch, in Colorado. Only here, on the East
Coast. That'll work for
sure. Go get a cup of coffee and get on the phone."
rang while I was sweeping up sawdust. The place was almost finished. A rock 'n'
roll recording studio in the countryside of Massachusetts. The farmhouse has
been gutted, and built back with deep carpets and glass and stainless steel. The
shiny new Aengus recording console was in place, all lit up with its 24 VU
meters and those little red lights that people called "leds," and there was a 3M
16-track recording machine in place, and a Scully two-track tape machine to make
mixes on. Vintage Pultec equalizers were wired into the walls, and an acoustic echo
chamber had been carved out of the foundation of the barn a hundred yards away,
ready to make anything sent over there on the wires sound better on the way back. What a
project! What a great job done by this dozen or so devoted people, all thinking
positive thoughts and ready for what came next. All positives, except for the
bank balance of course, which was strongly negative. And except for the
prospects for paying business, which, despite the glittering gear and deep
carpets and stainless steel, were nil. No business in sight. Some people thought
that I had lost my mind.
"Hey, Gil!" the guy on the other end of the phone shouted.
"Ernie here, in Sid Martin's office. You know Sid, don't you? The music
attorney? Well, Sid and I were sitting with Clive and Bob just the other day, and
Clive, he tells us about the terrific job you're doing up there with that
recording studio of yours. Just the sort of place the industry needs, Clive
says, and Sid looks at me and he tells me to give you a call."
"Well thanks, Ernie," I muster. "You're just the sort of guys we
need to be speaking with now, now that the place is all tuned up and ready to
"Hey, hey! That's why I'm on the phone to you. Figured this
would be the time to give you a leg up on things. Sid, Clive both of them
they want to get you off your ten-yard line with something special. You wanna
"You bet, Ernie," I said, contemplating the heap of sawdust at
my feet, and thinking about the bank balances.
"Well, you heard about Mozart, right? Child prodigy? Went on to
do big things and change the music industry around? Well, we got a Mozart for
you. A young Mozart. Kid's incredible. Just off a tour with
Donovan. Fifteen years old, maybe sixteen. Written two hundred songs before he
had hairs under his arms. His old man is Gene Radice, maybe the best engineer in the city.
Worked in all sorts of studios Scepter, Mirasound, Olmsted you name it.
All the kid needs
now is a new demo, and we want you to do it. Perfect gig for your new place. Perfect
opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something big. Make the demo, let
us run with it, and you'll do the album for big bucks. Whattya' say?
The pile of sawdust at my feet was now looking bigger. I had to
call the guy at the bank the next morning, and had not yet figured out what I
was going to tell him about business in the studio, or the lack thereof, and
about a repayment schedule for all that money. So I said "Yes" to Ernie, and figured that I would hope for the best.
"Just one thing, Gil. This kid plays all the instruments. All of
them. That's good for you, 'cause you won't need any session musicians to back
him up, but the instruments? You're going to have all the instruments there for
him to play. Piano, of course. A Fender bass guitar, and a bunch of the noisier
ones, plus amps. Synthesizers. Go for one of those mini-Moogs. He needs a
ten-string acoustic too. Big drum kit, otherwise he'll be banging on the kitchen
pans. Hey, you've got the time to get it together; we can't send him up there
until tomorrow sometime."
"How's he arriving, Ernie?"
"Greyhound bus," Ernie said. "Have someone down there in
Worcester to pick him up."
My subsequent experience with Mark Radice in the recording
studio was a bit difficult for me to handle. Here I was, a successful business
entrepreneur, with a terrific new venture on my hands, and with a strong
confidence in my ability to hear sounds, and to create out of them recordings on
magnetic tape which, unless I was very wrong, would make me all the more
successful still. I was full of myself in those days. Enter Mark Radice.
Mark was not just 16 years old, he was diminutive besides. He
was the picture of wariness, seeming to expect the worst out of any new
circumstances. Even when things were going well, or when there was some good
news to celebrate, his response would be one of mild surprise. He was quiet. Spoke in short sentences. He smoked cigarettes
all kinds of cigarettes. Unlike the then future President of the United
States, Bill Clinton, Mark Radice inhaled. He inhaled his cigarettes, and,
asking to be excused if he was at the table, stumbled back around his chair and
pushed open the lead-lined heavy door leading into the studio and would sit
quietly by himself at the Baldwin piano. You could see him through the tinted
glass windows. He would sit quietly at the piano while the dishes were being
cleared. Then, as though on signal, Mark Radice would begin to play
the piano, furiously. Heads would rotate around the dinner table, over the
coffee which had just arrived. Questions would be asked of Jesse Henderson, our
Chief Engineer. Was this something new we were hearing? Jesse both knew and feared the
worst. Yes, this was something new, and he would have to take his coffee back
into the control room, and start up the big tape machine. Mark Radice had
conceptualized a new song, and we would have to get the piano track while it was
That of course was only the beginning. When Mark Radice
conceptualized a new song, he had not come up with just a piano track and a
melody and some lyrics to sing he had also and simultaneously conceptualized
the roles to be played by a half a dozen other instruments as well, and
background vocals, and the changes in volume which would appear in the eventual
"mix" of these elements. He did it all at once, in service of a finished image
of the final musical product which he, for the time being at least, enjoyed
all by himself, alone. Forget Jesse Henderson, the recording engineer. Forget his occasional
assistant, Stuart Ervin. Forget Gil Markle, the studio owner and project producer.
Mark Radice would conceive the new song entirely unaided, as though in one fell
swoop, leaving the rest of us struggling along behind him, having to forget
altogether about ourselves and our putative roles in this venture. We were in
these circumstances working for a likable but extremely demanding child prodigy
named Mark Radice, and Mark was in a hurry.
"Piano track is fine" Mark announces as he pushes out of the control room and
back into the studio area, heading for the drum kit. Mikes on the drum kit
haven't been checked since last night, nor has the snare drum been tightened and
the tom-toms tuned. Jesse Henderson, who prides himself on his drum sound,
rushes out behind Mark, frantically re-positioning the black AKG mikes over the
cymbals. Too late. Mark is already snapping his foot against the bass drum, and
calling for playback of the track in his headphones.
Geoff Myers has contributed his Fender bass guitar, and is checking its tune
in the kitchen. Mark will play this next. John Farrell has forgotten about the cappuccinos and the
and has run to get his Stratocaster guitar from his apartment, which will come
after the bass guitar. The keyboard synthesizer is in my way as I plump into my seat at the
recording console, but I tolerate this, fearing the consequences if it becomes
disconnected from its little blue box, and produces no sounds a few moments from
now, when Mark starts playing it.
"Whattya' mean Gil wants to play the tambourine?" Mark asks.
"I'll play the tambourine."
Mark plays the tambourine, and is now back in the control room,
fooling around with the sliding faders which raise and lower the sound levels of the
elements of this new song. He is now moving more than one of them at a time, and
twisting on the little knobs which assign reverb.
"No, you cannot mix the tape. You have to go to bed. It's past your
That wasn't the reason, of course. It was because I wanted to mix the tape
myself. After all, I knew all about dynamic range the
vertical acoustic space between the quietest and the loudest sounds, and how to
shock and animate the listener by displaying these one after the other in a
manner perhaps unanticipated. That's what I knew about. But, about the rest, and
I say this now some thirty years later, I knew much less than Mark Radice. Mark
knew how to fill these vertical spaces with musical sounds, and with melody
the stuff that memorable songs are made of. Mark Radice was perhaps the most
talented composer of popular songs who ever worked at my recording studio in
North Brookfield, Massachusetts. I learned a lot from him.
Thinking back on it now, I should have perhaps let him mix those
songs. He might have done better still.
As for Sid, things didn't go so well between me and him. I had to sue him for
the money he owed me. Lost the lawsuit. Made the mistake of hiring an Irish attorney
named O'Malley. You don't hire an Irish attorney if you're in a music business dispute in New York City.
The following songs music and lyrics alike were written
and recorded by Mark Radice in 1974. In the instance of Julie, and
Down in Tobago, there was a measure of collaboration with Gary Wright and
Gil Markle, respectively.
With the exception of an occasional tambourine track, Mark
played all the instruments, and sang all the vocals. Jesse Henderson got all the
sounds up as the recording engineer; Gil Markle did the re-mix. Thirty-one years
later, Toby Mountain digitized the tapes, which had been found by accident in an
abandoned packing container.
Down in Tobago
Nothing Like Rock 'n' Roll Music
That's the Way Love Goes
Waiting For the Music to Come