Hi, I'm Steve Millie and I was the engineer/co-owner of Pullman Sound
Studios at Knutsford about 15 miles south of Manchester, where Geoff
recorded I May Sing Grace, Psalm Enchanted Evening and a few demos.
I May Sing Grace
I met Geoff through the Chapman Stick/Bass player Keith Gould and
liked him from the moment we said hello and shook hands. Keith had
done a lot of recording here and used to rehearse in the studio if
there wasn't a session on, so we were a natural candidate when Geoff
got the backing to do the album.
After some get togethers in peoples front rooms and so on for the
basics, the band started rehearsing in the studio which at that time
I was totally re-soundproofing and rebuilding. We were in a really
mad place, a station building much too close to a railway line, though
actually the trains weren't much of a problem. Once I'd fully floated
the floor and inner shell only occasional freight trains in the early
hours of the morning meant acoustic guitar takes etc would need redoing.
Fortunately, I don't think that we ever lost "THE" take
of anything the whole time we were there. We actually had a train
time table pinned up near the mixer and used to check if anything
was due before doing a crucial take on a quiet instrument! The name
Pullman was a tongue-in-cheek reference to our rail proximity, but
was supposed to convey a message of "first class" too!
I think that for the first rehearsal Geoff and the guys set up virtually
in the middle of a building site. LOL! Brickpiles, bags of cement,
lots of chipboard and rolls of rockwool. They tightened the arrangements
and the band up as I re-built the studio. Each time they came we were
both a little further on, and Geoff was highly amused at the whole
notion at first, though I think he was getting pretty worried in the
final week! The last day before recording began, I stayed up through
the night to finish up the final wiring and testing.
When the band arrived next day, I crawled out from under the mixing
desk, put the screwdriver back in my toolbox and we started mic'ing
the drums for the first track. I made the deadline - but boy, it was
close. :) I remember too that Geoff was very concerned about me -
both about my own health and whether I was going to be alert enough
for the task. I have a distinct memory that as that first long day
flew by into the small hours, I did indeed fall asleep at the controls
briefly. I think that I nodded off during a long tape rewind and seem
to remember Keith prodding me awake as the tape ran out and flew off
the spool. All tired, we had a final listen to the last take and went
home for the night. We'd spent most of the first day getting everything
set up, mic'ed up and sounding good, listening to the pre-production
demo's from portastudio and getting the basic core of a couple of
tracks on tape.
Geoff was an easy person to work for and a wonderful person to be
with. I spent quite a lot of time talking with him during the rehearsals
and subsequent sessions and felt that we'd hit it off really well.
I think that was an intrinsic part of Geoff’s personality though,
the ability to establish a good rapport quickly with a wide range
of people and we had some long and interesting talks about everything
and nothing. Clever, witty and considerate, he was possessed of an
immense talent and while I can only applaud and admire his dedication
to the service of God, I always feel a tinge of regret too that his
total commitment perhaps kept him from a much wider, more general
audience. Of all the people who passed through the Pullman studio
over the next twelve years, including some small "names,"
he remains foremost in my mind as a true star.
It was a pretty eclectic and diverse group of people that gathered
in Pullman's undersized control room to create or capture Grace. The
Still Owl was bound by other commitments and unsure whether he could
actually be on someone else’s record. Keith was his usual highly-strung
self, even more hyper with the pressure of the situation and firing
off hilarious cynical comments and impersonations as he often does.
After all this time I can't remember track by track detail, just vivid
recollections of certain events. Most of the tracks were put down
as a performance of the live band, with everyone in visual contact
and monitoring on headphones. The only parts always replaced later
were vocals, the one from the live take just used as a guide due to
the leakage of other instruments onto the mic. Later in the week,
the guitarists’ battered Carlsboro combo amplifier developed
a bad intermittent fault and I had to repair it. His Ghastly Green
Les Paul guitar finally killed it off completely by the end and Dave
gave me the smoking remains for spares.
The Still Owl used his Stratocaster and mine, usually through a valve
pre-amp/distortion unit that I had built and I think either a combo
that I had also built or through Keith’s Marshall on one track,
if I remember correctly.
The door slam is the sound of the studio buildings outer door and
the sounds of the passing cars were captured from the road outside
- eventually. It was about 2 am and there wasn't much traffic. I remember
much spoof, giggling and sarcastic comment as we waited to catch a
good sample. The cough is Geoff getting ready to sing on another track
as an intro played through.
I remember that week as a great deal of fun, despite the increasing
pressure as time got a little short towards the end.
The exceptions to the "live" take method were Green Paper
Snow and Slow one. Work on G.P.S. began with getting about 5 minutes
of drum machine on tape and the other parts were all added singly
or two at a time as overdubs. That was one track where there was probably
no clearly defined goal at the start of what the finished thing should
actually sound like. I think we all just followed Geoff’s lead
and went where it took us. Actually, I think that quite a few times
during the week, Geoff himself was just "winging it" and
going with his gut instinct of the moment. I also remember one time
when he was sat writing lyrics as the track went down. I can't remember
which song it was now, but I clearly remember making a quip to him
about getting finished as the other guys were on their way in to listen
to the playback!
The other exception was Slow one. We didn't put this down until near
the end of the session and Geoff and his wobbly guitar were the starting
point, recorded together, just the man and his music. We tried a couple
of lines to get levels balanced and so on, then I said OK, Ready and
Geoff performed. I had not heard the track at all up to that point
and was stunned. That first take of the song was in my opinion the
one that we should have used. Geoff's performance reduced me to tears
and I was sobbing like a baby when he came back into the control room
for the playback. Geoff was deeply touched and his eyes filled up
too. He quietly said to me afterwards that it was the best compliment
he'd ever been paid. Despite my desperate pleas, he felt he could
do better and had another couple of goes at it. Eventually that first
take was erased and recorded over, but my opinion then and now was
that the first take was the definitive one, complete and finished
in itself with just Geoff's heartfelt singing and wobbly guitar and
capturing an indefinable magic that was missing from the released
version. Ah well.... we'll never know now... Even so, it's still probably
my favourite track. It has a direct sincerity somehow that always
The Still Owl read dots and had his part for Slow One all written
out so that he could play it in reverse. We swapped the spools round
on the recorder and ran the tape backwards while he put the guitar
down. Played back the correct way round later, it gives that unearthly
sound to the guitar.
I engineered, problem solved and contributed a couple of ideas. The
overall production was a band collaboration although Geoff obviously
had the major influence and final say.
With more time, more money and perhaps more skill from myself, the
finished product might have been "better." In retrospect,
I think that what we needed most was a professional producer- someone
to say when enough was enough and to be able to take control of the
project and give it more of a gloss.
In the way of those days, Grace had been recorded on mutitrack tape,
mixed down to a stereo tape master and a cut to vinyl had been arranged
at CBS in London. I went down with Geoff and Keith, mainly because
the engineer wanted to minimise variations during the transfer by
using the machine it was recorded with as I had used the DBX noise
reduction on it. Geoff drove us and the machine down in a hire car
and it was a long day.
The journey gave us the chance to pick up some of the chats we'd had
during the session when Geoff told me about his faith and his desire
to join the ministry. I was still surprised at how conservative a
view he had of the church, given his background and the era that he
had grown up in. We discussed the adventures and mistakes of our youth
and found much common ground during our teens.
There were a few minutes panic when we arrived at CBS too, as our
machine wouldn't link up to the professional gear properly and it
took a while for someone to uncover an adapter box that would overcome
the problem. I remember a desperate drive through the rush-hour traffic
too, as Geoff strove to get the master discs to the plant before closing
time. If I remember correctly he had to stop and telephone to persuade
them to hang on for just a few minutes after closing until we got
Like most things, more time and more money would have improved the
finished album, but it is perfectly listenable, was enjoyable to make
and preserves a unique slice of Geoff's talent.
Psalm Enchanted Evening.
This was a different kettle of fish entirely.
Geoff hired a Linn-Drum machine and the recently available Emu Emulator.
It's harder to remember or tell details about this album. It was done
in less overall time with less money and more pressure due in part
to the expensive hire rates of some of the gear.
One of my clearest memories from that session concern a particular drum sound, for two reasons.
First, I thought one track, I can't remember which now but it might have been Dance, was crying out for
a big "bish" snare drum on the offbeat, but Geoff thought
it was too clichéd and was adamant that he wouldn't do it.
So convinced was I that we should, that I stayed after everyone else
had gone home and did an alternative mix of the track with a fat snare
on it convinced that once he'd heard it, he would prefer it and change
his mind. It didn't work though; He insisted that he preferred it
without, so next day we went back to the original mix.
The other problem was the bass on Dance. The part just wasn't working, in spite
of several people having a go at it. Asked what I thought, I said
that they were being far too clever and should just have a simple
line, playing a few bars to show the general idea. Everyone thought
that it was finally sounding right so Geoff said why didn't I just
put the it on myself, so I did.
The coda to that little tale comes from my last ever conversation
with Geoff. We met by chance and exchanged a few pleasantries about
life in general and his progress towards the priesthood. It was a
brief exchange and we soon set off again on our separate ways. As
he was saying his goodbyes, Geoff suddenly said "Oh yeah ....
you were right about that snare drum ..... we should
have used it." :)
Over the coming years, the expanding capabilities
of home recording started strangling the small studios, the pre-programming
aspect was becoming more and more dominant and was not much to my
taste and I felt that my precious years were passing me by. Eventually
I quit the studio business and after a brief European tour as front
of house engineer with a band, I set up a group of my own and gigged
round the club circuit playing covers. Recently I suddenly lost interest
in the guitar altogether and after nearly forty years of almost obsession,
these days I rarely even pick it up.
I regret that I never did get to see
Geoff perform live before an audience. I was immersed in trying to
keep my studio running and kept putting it off until "next gig."
It is a great shame that more of the world did not see, hear and experience
Geoff, but I am glad to see his musical legacy still thriving and
hope that his music continues to bring enjoyment and understanding
to people for a long time to come.