TAKE THE EASY ROUTE'
- the recording of 'Rock On'
David Essex made one classic, his first hit was a classic - 'Rock
'Rock On' was a great record.
David Essex kind of semi-spoke his songs. 'Rock On' is spoken
- it's one note, or two if you're lucky.
David and I recorded 'Rock On' and another song around early-
to mid-1972. It didn't come out until August '73.
The stuff that Jeff Wayne did was good production. When you consider
the material was a little light, he made quite a big production
out of not very much raw material. He didn't take the easy route
and do bubblegum for the little kids, he did really serious, crafted
'Rock On' was demonstrated to me in the studio after finishing
the jingle session. And the way David demoed it for me was he
went into the studio, our engineer put on a microphone and David
picked up a trashcan and started banging out this little rhythm,
so there was no instruments. Because there was no instruments,
the engineer put on this sort of repeat echo, and it gave an atmosphere
to it, and that's what I then went away to work on. I went away
and thought about the song and the attractiveness was the hollows,
the absences and the mood in the lyrics as well. And so I had
this idea that there would nothing on it that played a chord,
so that's why there's no keyboards, there's no guitars, there's
nothing that plays a chord.
I was just one of a handful of bass guitar-players that was booked to do recording sessions, and some of us used to add bits on. Like with the 'Rock On' session. Jeff Wayne had an arrangement in his mind, what he wanted, and my job was just to read the part.
I can recall the three musicians on the backing track for 'Rock On' all looking around in a mostly empty Advision Studios, Studio 1, wanting to know when the rest of the band were arriving! I explained there weren't any others for that track, and I was relying on them to understand my idea for the production.
While the drums and percussion parts were written out, it was definitely Herbie that grasped immediately that a bass guitar playing a lead riff could fill a large part of the spatial spectrum and he took my idea and turned some basic notes of mine, into his amazing bass riff. Then to top it off, he suggested playing it again an octave higher. So you get this unusual bass
sound right up front - now it couldn't have been up front if the
arrangement didn't allow the air and the space to be created that
My reward for that was instead of getting twelve pound for doing
a three-hour recording session, I got twenty-four. Because there's
Herbie, by almost any measurement, has played live and in studios with the most diverse of artists, and would be acknowledged as being perhaps the most unique bass player we've ever had coming out of British music.
That thing that Herbie Flowers did for 'Rock On' was amazing.
There was no guitar on that - to my chagrin, because that was
his biggest hit and I wasn't on it.
When David wrote 'Rock On', it was the type of song that from
my point of view as an arranger and producer gave me much more
adventurous ideas, a concept of sound. A ballad is a ballad, whereas
'Rock On' allowed us to be a bit more off-the-wall. It was a gamble
and a bit of a fight to get it through. But both David and I felt
that 'Rock On' was a career-breaking record, whereas a ballad
would give him a shorter-term success, it wouldn't distinguish
from the makers of:
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Hold Me Close
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