| ELTON JOHN NEWS ARCHIVE: July 2002
|Gus - A Brief Bio
Wednesday, July 31 2002
Written by Reggie Zippo.
Best known for his collaborative ties to Elton John, Gus Dudgeon was among the most successful music producers of the twentieth century. Getting his start at Decca Records in the early '60s, Gus was given the rare opportunity to work closely with such now legendary recording artists as the Zombies, John Mayall, Eric Clapton, Tom Jones, Lulu, David Bowie, and The Rolling Stones to name just a few. After a 5 and a half year career as a Decca studio engineer, Gus stepped out on his own to pursue a career as a freelance producer. With such hits as David Bowie's 'Space Oddity' and John Kongos' 'He's Going To Step On You Again', it was soon evident that this career move was a step in the right direction. The very fiber of his reputation, though, was to be discovered within the creative partnership that he established with Elton John in 1969-70. In later years, this team would be a comparable match to George Martin and The Beatles.
In reflecting on his work with Elton over the years, Gus had said that many of the song tracks he produced for Elton were solely based around live studio takes with Elton playing piano right alongside a drummer, bassist, and the other band members. He felt that it was clearly the only way to capture the feel of a band performance. Gus had also revealed that every mix he did was in trying to get the whole song in one shot, knowing full well that the chance of getting it absolutely right all the way through was fairly slim. It would usually take about 8 to 10 mixes then combining all of the best elements before he was completely satisfied.
In the early part of the '70s, Gus, Elton, and a few close business partners joined forces to establish Rocket Records, LTD., a record label that reintroduced Neil Sedaka, Kiki Dee, and Cliff Richard to the music world. This partnership, however, ended in 1976 with the release of Elton's 'Blue Moves' album, with "creative differences" noted as the main cause. Although Gus reemerged in Elton's camp in the mid '80s to produce the 'Leather Jackets', 'Ice On Fire', and 'Live In Australia' albums, the magic it seemed had waned and record sales took a plummet. It wasn't until the late '90s that Gus was given yet another chance to work on Elton's material. This came in the way of an offer to handle the ardent task of remastering all of Elton's back catalogue for CD release. The albums had been the victims of a shoddy original transfer to the digital domain and Gus was very passionate about putting the albums back on the right track.
Another fine distinction that Gus held in life was being listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the recognized pioneer of sampled music for his work on John Kongos' 'He's Going To Step On You Again'. The whole song was built around a loop of music lifted from an African tribal dance recording. Even though he was not a fan of most modern sample-based music, he was quite proud to be listed in the record book as the first person to utilize the art of sampling.
Gus had always made it clear that he was not a prima donna or a control-freak producer because being at the top of his profession never meant that he would inevitably choose big, high-profile projects rather than working with new talent or in project studios. "This industry has provided me with a bloody good income. I'm not worried about making money. What I'm more concerned about is working and enjoying it!"
In recent years, Gus had worked with an eclectic selection of artists which included the likes of XTC, The Frank and Walters, Fairpoint Convention, and Menswear. He had also been busy remixing an old single by Bonzo Dog Band drummer "Legs" Larry Smith, who provided the tap dancing sequence on Elton's song 'I Think I'm Going To Kill Myself' from the Honky Chateau album. Two other current projects of Gus' had been as producer of a live album recorded at a tribute concert for Burt Bacharach and as a manager of a new band called Slinki Malinki.
At the time of his death, Gus and his wife resided in an immaculate sixteenth century Surrey house in the UK. He was an active member of the Music Producers Guild and was on the panel for the guild's "Making Music" lecture tour. His absence will be sorely missed.
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|Party In The Park (The Queen's Jubilee Concert)
Thursday, July 4 2002
A VH1 Telecast in the USA: June 9, 2002. Written by Reggie Zippo.
Sharon Osbourne, wife of Heavy Metal Rocker Ozzy Osbourne, hosted the "Party In The Park (The Queen's Jubilee Concert)" for VH1, an MTV owned music cable network, which was telecast to American viewers on June 9, 2002. The actual concert unfolded 6 days earlier on June 3, 2002 but it was still fresh for those who had not been able to attend this star-studded event, which took place in the shadows of Buckingham Palace in London. Considering the "classic rock/easy listening" group of people who watch VH1 on a regular basis, it did seem in rather poor judgment to enlist the talents of Mrs. Osbourne to host such a Royal event for that particular network. Her brash personality, vulgar language, and inappropriate comments were best suited for the parent company (MTV).
Additionally, her constant revelations that she regularly urinates at the drop of a hat put quite a sour note on this otherwise fun filled TV event. Nevertheless, throngs of worldwide fans jammed the grounds of Buckingham Palace for this once in a lifetime extravaganza and even the Royal family was in attendance to a certain extent. Prince Charles and his sons were seated at the beginning of the festivities, but Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip did not make an appearance until much later in the program.
The roster of musical talent scheduled to perform that evening read like a who's who of the entertainment world with such notable legends as Elton John, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Phil Collins, Paul McCartney, Queen, Cliff Richard, Rod Stewart, Brian Wilson, Steve Winwood, and of course Ozzy Osbourne. There were far more entertainers present than are listed here, but VH1 chose to edit the concert down to a select number of acts in order to fit within a restricted time frame. It would have been nice for the USA fans to see the concert in its entirety, but for the sake of the obsession we all share, there was only one interesting portion of the concert that we needed to focus on. Namely, Elton John's involvement.
Queen kicked off this glorious occasion with their rendition of "God Save The Queen", but the first real eye opener for Elton fans was the dominate presence of Ray Cooper as percussionist for nearly ever performer that evening. Sadly, Elton and Ray were not able to connect this time around since Elton's contribution was prerecorded. But, we fans can only hope that Elton took enough notice to contemplate asking Ray back into his band for future projects. They have always worked well together and we relish the chance to see them side by side once again. Hopefully, in the very near future.
When it came time for Mrs. Osbourne to introduce Elton to the television audience, she made the following comment to the American viewers:
"Elton, I'd like to apologize to you. Do you remember when we used to be neighbors and I used to come visit you sometimes? Well, one time when I was up there (at Elton's home) you were showing me this museum piece, like an embroidered sofa, and nobody was allowed to sit on it. But, I sat on it and I was laughing and I think I wet myself on that sofa. And, I humbly apologize."
This was more information than I needed to be privy to. With that said, however, Elton's prerecorded solo performance of "I Want Love" was inserted into the TV program at that point. Although a full music bed was included, Elton's voice and piano were definitely live for the taping. Cast against the backdrop of The Music Room inside of Buckingham Palace, the single moving camera shot of Elton sitting at his trademark black Grand Piano was reminiscent of Robert Downey's original performance in the music video. The camera flowed in and around Elton with such ease to reveal that Elton was indeed alone in this room, except for the unseen video personnel who were obviously operating what appeared to be a wireless camera. Dressed in a sequin studded black suit with white shirt and matching black tie, Elton was true to form as in all other performances he has done of that particular song. The choice of song, though, was questionable. He had already completed the promotion of this CD single quite a few months prior and was in fact currently showcasing his third offering, "Original Sin", from the album for the talk show and concert circuit. This led me to believe that this segment was either video taped in between the release of "I Want Love" and "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore", or it was such a huge hit over the other two songs that Elton did not feel comfortable enough in choosing either subsequent singles for the Queen's Jubilee Concert. At any rate, Elton shined in this elaborate setting. This marked the first time that a pop singer has been allowed to perform inside of the palace, which was quite an accomplishment for Elton. He did us proud!
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