Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Steve Nieve - Life On Mars

A few notes of farewell to a great artist and fellow musician. Your work will never cease to inspire us all.
In the 80’s before computers made it possible for everyone to be a keyboard player, I had constant work with Clive Langer and Alain Whinstanley. Clive and Alain produced the soundtrack for Absolute Beginners, and I was involved on several tracks, including  playing the string synthesisers on David’s title song  "Absolute Beginners". My Royal College of Music mate Rick Wakeman added the final piano flourishes.  At the same moment in time, the huge concert Live Aid took place, Elvis was asked to appear solo, but thankfully I was involved  by playing on Bowie and Jagger’s “Dancing in the Street”. For this session I played bass piano on the backing track, which was an incredibly exciting studio moment.  Jagger arrived unexpectedly early in the recording room as we were running down the track, and began dancing around us, whipping the music up several notches in the process. The song was played round and round to his dancing, many many times before the record button went red, by which time the vibe was truly red hot. After this there was a killer scene in the control room with Bowie and Jagger, out starring each other, and me, all the musicians on the track, Clive and Alain, listening back. They overdubbed their voices two takes each. We all stood listening back takes  A+B of David’s vocal and the best lines were compiled. Then Mick took the the chair beside Clive listening line by line. Each time the room was asked A or B? If the concensus was for take A, Mick insisted on take B. This went down for the entire song. “It sounds pretty wonderful now” says David to the whole room, “does  anyone have any ideas for overdubs?”.  Although the quiet one in situations like this, I said instantaneously  “Yeah I have a vox organ here, I can bring it in, it would add a cool flavour”. “Go get it then” said David, and I headed out through the door.  As I headed by Mick I heard him quip  “That’s the sound I hate the most in the whole world”… I immediately looked at Bowie thinking to myself “what a catastrophe" but David smiled at me and I will never forget this smile that we all love so much.  Needless to say the Vox Organ never made it to the mix.  But I will always remember how David made everyone feel at ease and brought out the best in people, even the contrary Mr Jagger.  Quickly a final mix was played back, I recall Bowie actually leaping over the mixing desk. He was standing behind the desk between the back and the control room window and in one seemingly effortless and elegant kick of his leg he just seemed to fly over the desk and landed right beside Clive and I.  Later we all went down to Docklands to watch Bowie and Jagger shoot the video, once again, two megastars determined to out dance the other. Brilliant.

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