Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Anecdote # 28

My First Studio Recording.

Eno is a nice name. even nicer backwards. One.
on three occasions I've worked with eno in the role of producer.
laurie anderson's big red
and talking heads' remain in light.
but the very first record I made with eno was
david bowie's lodger.
it happened to be my first studio record ever*.
eno was producing along with Tony Visconti
and david was...well, being brilliant.
but before I get into the making of lodger I should give you a colorful background of where the deed was done.

in Lake Geneva, Switzerland there was a popular lakeside casino which sometimes featured name bands in concert. one such event was Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention. long before I worked with frank, they played a show at the casino. as the story goes, someone with a flare gun shot a flare into the ceiling while frank was playing, the ceiling caught on fire, and the casino burnt to the ground.
frank told me after they evacuated the building he and his band walked around the lake to their hotel where they sat and watched the place burn down with all their gear and instruments inside. the next day there was nothing left. even the cymbals had melted.
this is of course the story which prompted the song smoke on the water by Deep Purple. the casino was re-built and expanded to include a recording studio. it's where the Montreux Jazz Festival is held each year**.

at the newly-built studio we recorded lodger in late 1978.
we stayed in a nice big swiss hotel right on the lake.
my room had a large canopy bed with thick wooden posts.
it was the most comfortable bed I'd ever slept in.
a set of french doors opened out onto a small balcony
overlooking beautiful lake geneva with the mountains in the background
and the real 12th century Chillon Castle down the end of the lake.
looked like a postcard.

Tony Visconti was married at the time to the irish folk singer Mary Hopkin.
she had a hit song called those were the days produced by Sir Paul.
mary was visiting while I was there. tony and mary's room was next door to mine.
mary had a habit of singing in the morning, exercising her voice I suppose.
she would sing these lovely old folk songs and I could hear them.
they would wake me up.
the hotel served the most delicious hot chocolate I've ever had.
so I'd wake up in the morning,
order a pot of hot chocolate from room service,
and drink it on my balcony overlooking lake geneva
while mary hopkins serenaded.
I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

now to the making of the record:
the new studio/casino was built out of thick concrete.
it looked like a world war II bunker.
no more fires.
the strangest feature of the studio was this:
the control room was on the first floor and the recording room
was up the stairs on the second floor above it.
usually you can see the producer, engineer, etc.
through a glass window but in this case you could not see them,
but they could see you through a closed circuit tv screen.

by the time I was brought in there were supposedly 20 tracks to work on.
I was very anxious to hear them but david and eno
patiently explained their concept.
the record was to be called planned accidents and so they wanted
to capture my accidental responses to the songs by not allowing me
to hear them beforehand!
so I would go upstairs into the recording room, put on my headphones,
look into the closed circuit camera and say,
"what key would this one be in?"
I'd hear a disconnected voice,
"don't worry about the key, when you hear the count off
just start playing something."

I would be allowed perhaps 3 tries and then we'd move on.
just about the time I knew the key.
later david, eno, and tony would "piece together" their favorite
bits from whatever I'd managed to play.
that's how we did I am a DJ, boys keep swingin', and red sails
to name a few of my favorites.

years later david told me boys keep swingin' was written with me in mind.

*my first record ever was frank zappa's sheik yerbouti, but my parts were all recorded live, not in the studio.
**a few years ago king crimson played at the same place for the Montreux Jazz Festival.


  1. Wow! What a concept! Just start playing whatever. How did you decide what to play and how did you adjust your playing as you heard the music? Were the vocals done? It sounds nuts but, I bet some magical things would happen in ways that wouldn't happen given time to think about the part, even for a moment. Now I've got to go back and re-listen to some Bowie.

  2. I absolutely love Lodger. It's one of my Desert Island Discs. (I love that Bowie period: Low, Heroes, Lodger, and Scary Monsters.)

    A Crimson album* and a Belew album* are also on my list of Desert Island Discs.

    * I won't tell you which ones unless you ask. ;-)


  3. I am surprised all the Beatles geeks haven't written in to gently correct our wonderful storyteller.....It is
    "Hopkin" actually,without an "s"--- did she sing "goodbye"? that is a lovely song....

  4. I don't know if you've ever taken the time to go through Chateau de Chillon (did you know Byron was locked up there for a time?). I was lucky enough to be there for Easter.

    Here are some links to a couple of pictures:
    A tower overlooking the water
    Along the side of the castle
    View from one of the towers
    on the way out

  5. I seem to remember reading that a similar 'planned accidents' approach was used during the Remain In Light sessions. Something along the lines of David would be in one room singing lyrics and Eno would be in another foom, only partially able to hear David, and he would transcribe what he thought he heard David singing, and that became the final lyric. Could the Belewbeloid or any other folks confirm and/or straighten out this memory???

  6. I recall reading of yet another 'planned accidents' approach from one of your Guitar Player interviews (I think it was), where Eno would cut you in and out of the mix at unplanned times (or I guess more accurately, cut the mix out of your 'phones at unplanned times), but at the same time expecting you to keep playing.
    If I recall correctly, your response to this was to wire up a switch of your own, and take yourself out instead, but while still playing into the room.
    I remember thinking how brilliant that was on everyone's part.

  7. In Red Sails, you're playing key changes! You sure learn fast.

  8. Great story Adrian. Thanks for sharing it.
    Not your average "first studio recording", I would think. Heh.
    Man... when I think about the beginning of your career... jeez... playing with all of my heroes. It must have been awfully exciting.
    Eno sure had some good approaches to coming up with unexpected music.
    I love your playing on Lodger... even if some of it was cut-and-pasted a bit. The solo at the end of Red Sails blows me away. It sounds like you felt giddy when you played it. Boys Keep Swinging is a great song too. Actually the whole album is great.
    I would love to hear something about your recording with David Byrne on The Catherine Wheel album someday. I love your playing on that one a lot. It sounds like you had some exprimental fun on that one.


  9. Adrian,
    This is off topic, but me thinks you should know about this:


    Seems some one else is going around as Bears. Grrrrr

  10. well---this story is another great
    "my intro to adrian belew"--at least--the musician adrian--or "guitar god"ADRIAN BELEW--i-very much like-mr belew--was at first--introduced to the beatles-
    in 63-64-and proceded to put a guitar-on my "christmas" list--
    got a horrible folk guitar--with
    action like a dobro--as i grew older--followed with an electric axe-amp--whilst i grew up --had a "trio"-like CREAM/JIMI--but--my lessons-on guitar--were cut short-at six months--by a music store-that also--turned out to be a "HOUSE OF ILL REPUTE"-as reported by local paper-so gary-from that point was self taught-
    as time went by--met robin-married young-she was 18-myself 19-basically-lost contact with former band mates//but continued playing gitbox-weekends kinda like--get whacked--plug the axe in-play along with records--to keep-my chops---well----time marched --our
    musical tastes changed with the times-prog/rock--prog/jazz--then came--------"punk"/new age-but philly has always been an "english rock"-town--so mr bowie--was a big act when he/band would come to town-LIVE BOWIE AT THE TOWER--before ade joined--was an all week
    affair here in town--needless to say--following recordings from david--were purchased/enjoyed--but
    one sunday--gary plugs in--trying to play along---"WHO THE HELL-IS THAT--OR WHAT THE HELL--IS THAT A GUITAR"?--were comments coming out of my mouth--lodger was what i had put on---and my mind was BLOWN-now
    i--like ade--was fortunate enough-
    (BY THE WAY ERIC'S MIDDLE NAME)--another story there---but i had no friggin idea what-you were doin-with a guitar--it was "other worldly"--and remains--same--i remember looking at the 12"record sleeve--and there it was--ADRIAN BELEW-GUITAR--WHO/WHAT/WOW--IS ALL I CAN REMEMBER-where does he get that sound!---album ended--i think i put on "tom petty"--or somebody-
    i could figure out--basic rock stuff--anyway--27 years go by--and i'll still have no idea HOW/WHAT-
    you do whatever it is--"MR GUITAR GOD"-well one things for sure--
    i am fortunate enough--to have the pleasure--of having julie/eric -as your bandmates--and one of my "GUITAR GODS"---as a friend--and great story teller--to boot--
    at a later time--i'll blurb--some early-meetings-with you here in "THE BLOG"--LOVE YOU //MISS YOU-AND MARTHA--AND THE CREW--HOPE ALL'S WELL--GARY-

  11. gary:
    yesterday about 5 o'clock a viral miscreant crawled through my defenses, shut down my power, turned up the fever heat and cold chills and threw a healthy-size headache on me. I've been sick all night. martha is visiting her brother so at some point I had to get up to check for some important e-mails I'm expecting (including one about eric's new silver sparkle kit I'm ordering). that's when I read yours.
    thanks buddy, it really lifted me up to know my work effects someone. I'm still going right back to bed to wrestle this demon, but you've made me feel better.
    as far as my thoughts go: every minute I've known you (and robin and eric and julie) has been a joy for me.


  12. Get well Adrian!! I always love these stories. I hope you tell us tales of "Remain in Light" sometime.

    Peaceful rest to you...

  13. I just got over that, Adrian. Still in Indy, as of now. Ask your doctor for a "Z" pack or the generic equivalent. That disease is WICKED.

  14. found this last week. Just finished reading it all and am now caught up and... Adrian's sick. :(

    Get well and write some more! What am I going to do at work during my breaks now? j/k

    Seriously, tho, am very much impressed with your resume and inspired by your music. I, like many others before me, had no idea that I was even listening to you all these years. Just knew you from KC. Glad to have my eyes (and ears) opened and can't wait to go across the street and buy Sides 2 and 3.

    Great stories, great music, great person.

    It's all certainly help feed the Crimson addiction that I've been suffering from the last few weeks. Actually, it's been 20 years almost, but it's been really bad the last few weeks.

    Get well!

  15. ADE--loved your reply--hope you get well soon--probably some kind of "asian flu"--ha--seems like all the summer--we-slicks--have passed weird demon diseases----one of the
    points i forgot to make was--when
    "THE POWER TRIO"-hit bad doberan-last summer--and you had to brave-
    playing sans--"the monster pedals/johnson amps"-and you played straight thru--marshall stack-with that one loop pedal only---well i know the guys/-eric/julie--and good old kenny--
    and i--were worried--how it was gonna go---well my friend--the last time i saw a show //a guitar player--do what you did that day-was that may--1970--TEMPLE STADIUM-
    CD--FROM LAST YEAR-has 4 tracks--
    you have to understand that the band was a month old-and i'm predjudiced to a point/but as i stood on the side filming---i couldn't stand still--had a hard time keeping the camera from shaking--YOU ARE AMAZING-!!--

  16. Gary needs a tripod!

    Hope you feel better Adrian. Drink lots of water.

  17. Cool to hear about Tony Visconti, I have a copy of he and Kristeen Young doing "Boys Keep Swinging" in St Louis a few years back, makes me even happier to have it knowing it was initially inspired by you! If you haven't heard of Kristeen Young, I'm not surprised, but you should check her out. I think she's touring with Morrisey right now...