Limousines and Easter Bonnets

This week has given me lots of time for reflection on my life, and how much it has changed over the years.

The past few days have been a mixture of memories including limousines, touring the country in a transit van and reality of my life now attending Easter bonnet parades.

Being a musician and running a record label is a bit like being a farmer; you have to plant in one season to make sure there is some sort of harvest later in the years.

If I’m being honest plans for most of this year are pretty much set up to Christmas.  It was last Autumn, 2023, that we booked a special concert at the Swansea Arena for 3rd Oct. 2024.  With that in place we then worked backwards with the release of a number of singles throughout the year culminating in an album in September. Along the way there has been room for a concert here or an event there just to keep the story going and keeping me ‘match fit’.

Next weekend I’m off to London for a couple of concerts performing with a number of old friends that I haven’t seen, let alone played with, for a number of years. When I say old friends I mean really old.  That became perfectly clear when one of them sent me a photograph from a tour we played on in the early 1980’s.


Having just left university, and finding my own career on hold, I was up for any gigs I could find.  That varied from wine bars on the Edgeware Road, night clubs in Chelsea to playing with some amazing American musicians who needed a ‘pull together’ UK band. One of those was a guitarist named Phil Keaggy.  It was said that during an appearance on the ‘Tonight Show’ Jimi Hendrix declared that Phil Keaggy was the greatest guitarist of all time.

I’ve always thought that trying to judge who is the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) when it comes to the arts is impossible, but I have to say once we got into the rehearsal rooms it was pretty obvious that Jimi might well have been right. 

The tour right across the UK was pretty hardcore but I don’t think we noticed back then.  Sometimes we stayed in hotels. Other times the promoter would put us up at their homes or in the homes of friends.  Getting back in the Transit Van the following morning meant sharing stories of delight or horror as we compared our digs in the cold light of day.

I was already in a contemplative mood when that photo arrived because I had been working on that EP ready for release next year. Last year marked my Golden Jubilee, 50 years since I started making records.  Very kindly Elton John returned all of my songs and recordings and bit by bit I’ve been going through a box of tapes and digitised files.

Along the way I’ve released various items from that collection.  It started last autumn with the release of my very first album ‘Rocket Boy’, In the last month or so I’ve been working a record that we originally recorded in 1979 called ‘Letting You Down’. With the aid of some amazing new audio tools it’s been possible to take what was recorded all those years ago and add new voices, bass, drums…just about anything I could think of to add to the mix.

I always knew there was a special bunch of recordings that I would get around to in time…the Gus Dudgeon Sessions. With the year rushing on it seemed a good time to think past Christmas and into the new year release schedule.

Gus came into my life a year or so into my career at Rocket Records.  I knew all about him as together with Elton John, Bernie Taupin and John Reid he was a director of the record company.  When some people left Rocket Gus decided that he would take over my career.

At the time Gus was the most successful producer in the world.  Now that’s quite a claim but when you think he produced David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ before taking on the producers role for Elton John you get the idea.  He had just finished ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ when he turned his attention to me.

In many ways as well as trying to establish me as an ‘International Recording Artiste’, Gus also used my sessions as the opportunity to try out different combinations of musicians with an eye to future Elton recordings.

Our first sessions were delayed by a few hours as the Marquee Studio on Wardour Street was being upgraded from 16 to 24 track machines and the wiring was taking longer than expected. That didn’t stop the band from getting set up and what a band it was. 

The guitarist was Davey Johnstone, the tall, blond, skinny guy from the Elton John Band.  When I say guitarist I use that term lightly.  Davey arrived with a small articulated truck packed with every stringed instrument you could imagine. 

On Grand Piano and Rhodes was Mike Moran.  Even at this stage Mike had an amazing CV.  When I mentioned to him that for one of the songs I’d written I imagined a Jimmy Helms track called ‘Gonna Make You an Offer’ not only did he know the track, he had played piano and arranged the whole thing.

In the past, when thinking about Mike, I always remember his appearance with Lyndsey De Paul in the 1977 Eurovision Song Contest.  Of course once I started thinking about the Gus sessions I did a bit of googling and found out that Mike had gone on to work with Freddie Mercury on the Barcelona album.  I always knew he was good.

Front page of the Western Mail during the Gus Dudgeon sesssions.

The bass player Freddie Gandy had played with Elton in a band called ‘Bluesology’ and the drummer Roger Pope, (no relation) soon went on to join the Elton John band not long after these sessions.

The sessions were so much fun.  Gus used to tell stories for hours to get the right mood.  He would  then work the band really hard, take after take, to get the song just right.  When the session was over we would be met at the studio door by a limousine and taken back to Gus’s house for a few hours before getting back in the limo to start again the next day.

Listening back to these amazing players has been an emotional rollercoaster.  I’ve been thinking about those amazing days where my session would be interrupted by Gus having to do a quick mix of some live Elton tracks featuring John Lennon which had come in overnight from Madison Square Garden.

With all that going on my sessions this week have also been interrupted by some very important appointments.  On Wednesday it was the Easter Bonnet Parade in my 2 year old grandson’s nursery and yesterday everything stopped for the Easter Bonnet Parade and concert at my granddaughter’s school.

As I say it’s been an interesting time living with the memories but also creating new ones along the way.

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