Memories of Boulders

Nick Webb - co engineer at Abbey Road

Nick Webb was one of the engineers that worked on Roy Wood's 'Boulders' album at Abbey Road
I recently asked him what memories he had from that time .

Being such a multi-instrumentalist, it rather surprised me Roy didn't appear keen to lay/try out keyboard parts. I didn't question him about it though and I remember John Kurlander (JK) and I were pleased to be asked to help out. John's harmonium efforts worked to Roy's liking but my piano part (can't remember which song) didn't fit with what Roy wanted. We had a laugh about it with him saying what I did reminded him of the song 'When the red red robin comes bob bob bobbing along' (lol)

John Kurlander and I were good mates, discovering we both had a passion for the Beach Boys music. John had joined Abbey Road some months before me. At lunch times we would sometimes walk down to his Triumph Herald and sit and listen to his Beach Boy cassettes.

Alan Parsons joined Abbey Road after having come from EMI's factory site at Hayes, Middlesex. I think he worked in the cassette tape duplication department. Being a very ambitious chap he would jump into project that was in offer and did very well. As well as working on Boulders he also later worked on Wings and Pink Floyd session. The rest is history. I only heard later on that Alan had been involved later on with Roy's Boulders album. I had holiday time booked as I was heading north for an extended road trip with my then girlfriend to Scotland in my newly acquired Mini Cooper and thus became out of the loop regarding the rest of the album.

(I mentioned to Nick about my favourite track on the album 'Dear Elaine')

I vaguely remember having to physically turn a 16 track tape upside down to record something backwards and having a concern that I'd selected the right track to record on. I think this was the first time we'd done this to a multi track 2" tape. Again, can't remember the song or what we were recording be it a vocal or instrument.

(And Roy using a bucket of water for the song 'Wake Up')

I don't recall using a bucket of water but during this album, however I do remember us recording outside No.3 studio in an alleyway that led down to No.1 studio, Roy wanting the sound of footsteps. Not sure if we used this though.

(I asked Nick if he was in awe of Roy or was it just another job)

Being in 'awe' of Roy wouldn't be the right word. He did however impress me greatly with his 'thinking outside the box' and approach to certain things.

I do remember one such incident. Roy was working in the control room, we were direct injecting his bass into the desk. He finished doing his bass part and after listening back to it he said, OK let's put another one on. I was surprised, especially when he started to flatten the pitch of his bass slightly, I was taken aback. But of course this worked fantastically, really fattening up the sound of the bass. A trick learnt, thank you Roy. This was of course before the days flange pedals etc were widely available.

Right back from "Night of Fear" I was very keen on The Move and Roy's great song writing. So for me, perhaps less for JK who was an out and out Beach Boys fan, working with him was really enjoyable. So no, for me it definitely was not just another job, not just another set of sessions.

(Was Roy easy to get on with and did you socialise with him?)

Strewth, you couldn't have asked for a nicer, easy to get on with guy. I can honestly say I didn't see any moodiness and was wasn't at all big headed either, coming over as a genuine and modest guy, there certainly weren't any personality issues going on. Always easy and relaxed.

We used to go around to a pub, The Heroes of Alma for an evening break, having a few beers and a snack. All very pleasant. Later time he would turn up at our Abbey Road Christmas lunch, walking in and playing the bagpipes.

Although Roy was very focused on getting the job done and not wasting time, he always had time for a laugh and on one occasion we were laughing so much we couldn't talk, it was when we played him an acetate of what sounded like a school orchestra that JK had picked up somewhere along the way. These two songs were so badly played it was hilarious and of course Roy loved it. Ended up making a copy for him which he seemed to really appreciate.

Another time Roy and I spent a little too long trying to work out the chords to 'One Note Samba' or was it 'Girl from Ipanema' after I asked if he knew the chords. Again just shows what a lovely guy he was.

Another thing I remember was him coming in and asking if we'd like to hear his latest Move single. Of course it was YES.

It was 'Chinatown' and it blew me away. When it came to the end I asked if we could play it again and at that he seemed genuinely chuffed. Again that modesty coming out.

When we first met, Roy asked what I'd been involved with at the studios. I told him I'd worked with the Beatles etc but when I mentioned being assistant engineer on Procol Harum's 'Salty Dog' album he took that pretty seriously and said what a good album he thought it was. I don't know for sure but perhaps that helped to give me some credibility in his eyes.

After Boulders and before that I'd worked a huge amount with Roy Harper. It was on Harpers 'Life mask' album that I recorded Jimmy Page. Also worked with Norman 'Hurricane' Smith, an American guitarist Joe Jammer and Babe Ruth and other artists.

I'd always hang around in Chris Blair's disc cutting room when I had down time and he hadn't got clients. We were good friends and it was Chris who reignited my interest in disc cutting/mastering after the initial time I'd spent in cutting rooms during my apprentice/training time at Abbey Road. So it was no surprise that I ended up when the opportunity arose going 'upstairs' and having my own cutting room. And I loved it!

Initially it was an album's cutting/mastering room (that's how it was back then at AR) but I soon ended up working on singles as well as albums, that shift had began to happen and I found myself working with Queen, Paul McCartney (Wings), Cliff Richard, The Shadows and many others including Reggae artists. I won't name drop any further but my career as a mastering engineer spanned thirty three years or more and was fortunate enough to work with all kinds of artists and music including working again at Abbey Road with Roy Wood at a later period, late 80's/90's.

 

 

 

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