Charlie Peacock circa 1979. Would-be producer gets his first production call.
According to a recent FB message it's been thirty years since my first commercial production, a 7" 45rpm single on the art-punk band Labial Fricative, "Chumps" b/w "Auto-erotica" . Drummer Rick Daprato sent me a message saying: "Time has apparently rendered it worthwhile since copies of the 45 are selling for $30 and a record label wants to reissue it." I checked into the label a bit, SS Records. Their website implies they have offices in a number of places including: Sacramento, Seattle, Zurich, and San Quentin (which is an infamous west coast prison in case you're not up to speed with your Johnny Cash/Merle Haggard lore).
Aspiring producers often ask me: How did you get started? The inspiration to start was a Todd Rundgren album cover and recording, Something/Anything. The actual production beginning was just about friends making music together -- like the story above.
When I was 15 years old, Rick Gibson, a young deejay on my hometown Top 40 station (KOBO/Yuba City, CA) took me for a spin in his El Camino and played Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything for me. The Camino was fitted with JBL speakers which was a big deal at the time. Hearing Todd’s masterpiece at earth-shaking volume and seeing the cover photograph of him at work in his living room studio was life-changing. Made me think I needed to get a living room full of flashing lights. Rick, a drummer and novice recording engineer, offered to help me realize the dream. A few weeks later he invited me to an unkempt ranch-style home hidden within a peach orchard—the “band house” of a local rock group named Whitefire (a decade later, the band’s drummer, Mark Proctor, would become a founding member of the legendary Christian rock group the 77s - a band I would later produce).
Rick was already setup to track Whitefire and kindly squeezed me in for an all-night recording session of the first two finished songs I'd ever written. This would also be my first studio experience. Shortly after that I started buying my own gear - 1/4" reel-to-reel tape decks to do what was then called sound-on-sound, a kind of poor man's multi-track recording. Everything had to be one take; there was no punching in. Ironically, 18 years after the serendipitous ride in Rick’s El Camino, I met Todd Rundgren backstage at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. My friend bassist Larry Tagg introduced me as the co-writer of a song Todd had produced for Larry’s band (Bourgeois Tagg). “Oh yeah, a big hit,” said Todd, raising his eyebrows to emphasize the sarcasm. Coming from a one-time musical hero, this hurt a little, but not too much, considering Todd had just come offstage dressed as a giant condom.
I was never really a bonafide punk and I'm not sure Labial Fricative was either, with the possible exception of the lead singer, Maria, a six footish female body-builder. What did I do with the band? I took an audio picture of them making music together. Not a bad starting place for producing.
Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Something/Anything%3F
Labial Fricative: http://www.nokilli.com/inbred/bands/labial-fricative.htm
Labial Fricative on stage circa 1980. Musicians in photo: Henry Robinett, Jimmy Griego, and Maria. Robinett, cousin of Charles Mingus, is an accomplished jazz recording artist and Sacramento, CA studio owner.