Phil Brown - Engineer on TWW1 album
Island Studios Basing Street 1970
....Once I started to engineer on sessions, events happened very quickly. My first session at Basing Street was with Third World War, produced by John Fenton. John was about 5' 10" in height, 28 years old, and was bright, speedy, and anti-establishment. He had a skin-head hair cut - a style that was extremely unfashionable in the music scene of 1970. He had made money, both from his involvement with Seltaeb (the Beatles merchandising company of the mid '60s), and from Eran Schroeder Publishing. Third World War had been formed in 1968, at the height of 'flower-power', with Fenton eager to work on something he himself described as ‘new, positive and aggressive’. On day one of the recording sessions, with a joint in his hand, he looked me straight in the eye and announced "I'm fed up with all that love and peace shit and then having them massacre four at Kent State University. Look at the deaths of Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Otis Redding and Hendrix; it's all the Rock 'n Roll/ CIA/ Johnson/ Vietnam conspiracy. I want a no-bullshit, working class band - I've had enough of all this pseudo peace crap".
I thought 'Ah, here's a calm, reasonable fellow who has a definite opinion, smokes dope, is left-field and obviously likes to control situations. This could be fun'. I liked John immediately and we got on very well.
The band set up in Studio 2 with instruments all over the place. I used a selection of mics that I was familiar with from Canada. These included AKG D12, AKG 224, Neumann U87 and Shure 57 microphones. John did not believe in
screening people off, so they just set up wherever they felt comfortable. The band consisted of Fred Smith - drums, Jim Avery - bass, Terry Stamp - singer and 'chopper' guitar, and Mick Lieber - lead guitar. In addition there were some heavyweight session musicians including Jim Price and BobbyKeys - brass, Tony Ashton - piano, and 'Speedy' - percussion. Terry, the singer and band leader, was a 15-stone lorry driver. He played the guitar by smashing the strings with his fist. The music was raw, noisy and uncomfortable to listen to, but at the same time I found it strangely addictive. The band were a real bunch of characters, dedicated to having a good time. They also, whenever possible, liked to shock. The songs they recorded had such titles as 'Preaching Violence', 'Shepherds Bush Cowboy', 'Toe-Rag', 'Ascension Day' and 'Teddy Teeth Goes Sailing'. With hindsight, Third World War were probably the first 'Punk' band - unfortunately six years too soon - but with more melody, coherent lyrics and musicianship than would have been required in the Punk era.
I got into the sessions easily - I loved the material and John's attitude. There was a large amount of drink and drugs around and the sessions went on all night. We would start at 2pm and often work through till 6 or 7 in the morning. I would take a cab home to Hammersmith and play mono copies on my Brennel tape recorder to my girlfriend while she got ready for work at Olympic. I then slept and returned to the studio for 2pm. The tape assistant, Clive Franks, fell asleep at the wheel of his car while driving home one morning and crashed. Fortunately he was unhurt, and was back at work by 2pm - what a trooper. In a matter of days, we had cut all the backing tracks for the whole album. It had a great atmosphere. The whole approach was extremely live - talking and mistakes were left in and, with the raw sound and the content of the lyrics, the overall effect was complete anarchy. With references to queens, poofters, the Monarchyís arse, unions and violence, the songs were in complete contradiction to the ethos of the times. Twenty years later they would have been described as 'politically incorrect' - in the extreme.
Some mornings I would go back to John's home in Knightsbridge. He rented a large flat on the second floor of an old apartment block near Harrods. There were three bedrooms and two large reception rooms all full of belongings - books, boxes, amplifiers, papers, tapes and mattresses. A long winding hallway provided access to all the rooms. This hallway was papered from floor to ceiling with news cuttings, headlines and photographs - including a set of Keith Moon and Vivien Stanshall dressed as Hitler and Goring. Reminding me of a set from some -60s movie, it was a wonderful flat, and we would sit and discuss ideas for overdubs and mixing late into the night. John wanted to put a low frequency (7 cycles) on the record that would destroy the stylus at the end of the album, or make people feel nauseous or shit themselves. Unfortunately, although the theory was good, all these ideas were impossible on vinyl and probably illegal anyway.
We had recorded most of the lead vocals live at the same time as the backing tracks. For this reason there was very little overdubbing which mostly consisted of brass and string arrangements. By the middle of August the album was overdubbed, mixed and finished, all within two weeks. At the time we all thought it would be massively successful, but unfortunately it received little or no airplay and the press didn't like it. John had a press cutting (an article by Roy Hollinworth in the Melody Maker) blown up for poster-sized adverts, but nevertheless the album all but disappeared. .....
Extract from "ARE WE STILL ROLLING?" - (C) Phill Brown - 1997