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Gus, Charlie and Roger 

Originally posted by George Matlock

01 July 2002

It was in July of 2002 that the music world lost a renowned producer and his wife, Gus and Sheila Dudgeon.

So our Archive of the Month looks back at an interview which Gus took part in. He talked about the challenges a producer faces and shared his thoughts about remastering the 17-11-70 album.

There’s also a bit with drummer Roger Pope and his partner, Sue.

Here we bring you a section of an interview involving a lot of interaction and productive debate between the helmsman and his musicians. Producer Gus Dudgeon and drummers Charlie Morgan and Roger Pope talk about working with Elton’s music during the London banquet dinner organised by the Ultimate Elton John Tour.

If you were on the Tour in June 2002, this will serve as a nice memento of what was said. If you were not, here’s part of what you missed, and why you might want to come along to the next Tour we organise!

About 30 people packed the London Banquet Dinner on June 1, 2002, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience with the experts. This is the second half of the debate, which saw enlightening and lively discussion between fans and celebrities and between celebrities.

Part 1 of the interview

Razor Face

A fan asks Gus about the making of the Classic Years remasters:

Gus Dudgeon: I would always look to make cuts. They were all terrible cassette tape copies and just rubbish. I just took a razor blade and chopped them all up. We were delighted, because they had more shelf space as a result!

Audience: Ha!

Gus: Honestly, it was all wall-to-wall tapes of rubbish. And that’s what they made some of the CD masters out of. I thought ‘this is madness’. So what they wound up with is what they should have had. Which is exactly the right tapes. Apart from Rock of the Westies, where the master copy is lost. So that master was done from a 15 IPS low-level copy which I have in my loft. Out of all the tapes which existed the best quality tape was in my loft. And Empty Sky, the master, was lost years ago. It was sent to India by Stephen James, who is an idiot!

Audience: Ha!

Gus: I mean, as if Indian sales are going to be worth getting excited about in nineteen hundred and frozen to death!

Roger (amazed): So there’s no Empty Sky and no Rock of the Westies? Stephen James, if I ever see that ***** again I’ll kill him!

Gus: He’s always on holiday. Permanently on holiday!

Sue [Roger’s partner]: Is the vinyl of Rock of the Westies from the original tapes [master]?

Gus: Oh yes, but it is the master that has since been lost. Which is unbelievable.

Tour organiser Alan MacCormick: I want to ask a supplementary question. When you did the remastering of 17-11-70 you only added one extra track. There are another six. Why?

Gus: Good spotting. Well I don’t like them.

Audience: Ha!

Alan: Well there are a lot of people in this room who do.

Gus: Well, that’s their problem! I’m sure you’ve got it on bootleg somewhere, haven’t you?

Audience: Ha!

George Matlock: Ladies and gentlemen, Gus Dudgeon speaks for piracy!

Gus signs for the fansGus: There are two crappy parts about being a producer. Number one is that every now and again you find yourself in a situation where the band want you to side with them against the record company and the record company want you to side with them against the band. Which forces you to sit on the fence, which I hate to do. I like to jump down clearly on one side or the other. Secondly, you sometimes you have to decide what goes on an album and what doesn’t. But that is only the same as if someone plays a solo they’re happy with and you don’t like it, you have to then say ‘I want to try it again’ and they have to say ‘ok, fair enough’. You cannot get uptight. The same thing applies to songs that go on an album. If you don’t think a song is up to scratch. My job is to make an album that’s going to sell the greatest number of units. That’s the pure fact. Putting aside the fans want extras, twiddly bits and live action. You have to make that decision. That’s your gig. It’s a bit of a drag sometimes and you have to go with decisions that are against your own wishes.

Can’t get you out of my mix

Sue: In your professional opinion, because something has to sell, it is against your personal feelings.

Gus: You are always trying to balance your personal opinion of something against what other people may like. If someone had brought me that Kylie Minogue song that came out recently [Can’t Get You Out of my Head] and said ‘this is going to be one of the biggest singles of the year and you can have any artist in the world to record it with and it will make you a fortune’ I would say ‘take it away, take it away’. I’d get half way through this demo and say it’s crap. It’s not pride. You cannot work on something you think is shit. So I’d rather give the song to someone who says ‘God this is the greatest thing in the world’ and then they put their heart and soul into it, and deliver. It’s that simple. And why very often the wrong producer has been put together with the wrong artist. They are not really in tandem. And that’s why albums which could have turned out great, aren’t great. And the public never know why and just say ‘well it wasn’t one of his best albums’.

Sue: That’s where it’s all gone wrong in the music business!

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