Saturday, June 18, 2016

Partridge on Skylarking

In a recent interview with Uncut magazine, Andy Partridge was asked about Skylarking

"Virgin were desperate for something to happen in the States so they gave me a list of American producers and asked me to pick someone on that list. And I hadn't heard of any of them – it was all like Randy Dinkleferber III: the sort of names that Groucho Marx would have made up. They sent me another list and Todd Rundgren was at the bottom of it. I mentioned it to Dave Gregory and he was an ultra-fan so he said: 'We should do this, it'll be great.' Ironically, he made us sound more English than we ever sounded.

"Virgin basically told me to shut up and be produced, 'because you'll only ruin it and make it weird.' Todd wanted to process us through as quickly as possible, and we'd be fighting about the quality of takes. I hate sarcasm and he's extremely sarcastic. 
It took quite a few years to realise he did a fantastic job. His people skills are like Hermann Goering's.

Me and Colin sent him [Rundgren] the demos and he called me one night just to introduce himself and he said: 'I’ve got the running order.' I was a bit surprised because you don't usually have that until you've recorded everything. He had this idea that it was all happening morning to night, like a summer's day, or like the order of someone’s life. At one point during the recording, he leaned over the mixing desk and said: 'I've drawn your cover for you,' and I thought, God, this man's arrogance has no end.' He’d drawn two railway tickets, and he said these are two railway tickets and the album should be called Day Passes."

About the censored "cock and pussy" cover, Partridge said, "I thought the record had a kind of pagan outdoorsiness, and I wanted a Lady Chatterley’s Lover thing of like meadow flowers woven through male and female pubic hair." The original cover finally was used in the 2014 "Corrected Polarity" remaster. In 2010, Partridge took the LP to mastering genius John Dent, who noticed something that had never previously been spotted. Somehow the sound polarity had been reversed. Not a reversal of the left/right channel that puts a stereo mix out of phase (imagine a train effect coming from the right channel but then leaving from that same side), but a much more difficult to pin down sound triggered by something as simple as a badly wired plug.

From the hazy Kevin Ayers meets Augustus Pablo feel of "Summer's Cauldron," to the chilly as outer space "Another Satellite," each song has a beautifully cultivated atmosphere. Partridge and Moulding wrote a feast of fantastic songs, but Rundgren deserves a lot of credit for the way he turns them into Technicolor productions. Partridge admits he had no idea how to give 'The Man Who..' the Vegas-cum-spy theme vibe he was after, but Rundgren knew exactly what to do and the results are fantastic. Bottom line: bad blood continues to this day, but fuck it, Paul and John hated one another by Abbey Road, so? The reissue with the polarity mix-up corrected and the new mix makes this AM9 into an AM10, just that much more sold.