Reading the latest issue of Record Collector, I was surprised to find the excerpt below in the midst of their very large Sex Pistols feature. The interviews, by Johnny Sharp – with Jones, Cook and Matlock as a group and with Lydon unsurprisingly on his own – are a very good read anyway, but this brief bit of back story really got me thinking. If, in 1976, the Pistols’ 20-year-old drummer had enough awareness of Bill’s first production roles on BBD albums and was enough of a BBD/Bill fan to suggest him as a suitable producer for the Anarchy single – and beyond? – what does this say about how Bill was viewed amongst fellow musicians (rather than just by the ‘music industry’)? This is at very least a link I wouldn’t have imagined.
Whenever we get to see the surprising number of photos of Bill with the big names of the seventies and eighties – almost always the kind of people that brought some thought and depth to their mega-success (Annie Lennox, Japan, etc.) – I wonder what their view was (and is) of Bill. Am I wrong in thinking that quite a few of them (Billy MacKenzie is a fair example) were not just finding Bill to be good company but actually looking up to him? Clearly, that’s what Paul Cook was doing when he made his suggestions to the Pistols. He clearly indicates that he wanted a ‘proper’ producer, unlike the way other ‘punk’ contemporaries were going.
Is the Sex Pistols ‘almost-link’ something that Bill was aware of? What a weird career twist that would have been!
Here’s the piece from Record Collector…
When you made the Anarchy single, how much did Chris Thomas’ production bring to the band in the studio?
Steve Jones: Prior to that we had our sound guy, Dave Goodman, and it all went to his head when we got a deal with EMI. …. He was smoking way too much weed. I’m not kidding – 100 takes and it still wasn’t good enough. …. Then Chris Thomas came along and- boom! We had it in three takes. Because he knew what he was doing.
Glen Matlock: It didn’t work with Dave Goodman because Malcolm was in the studio with him, and Dave wasn’t in a position to tell him to shut the f*** up. … And we kind of went on strike. We said, look it’s not working out. We’ve got to find another way. And Paul (Cook) came up with a couple of suggestions: Bill Nelson from Be Bop Deluxe and Chris Thomas. I didn’t even know what a record producer was at that time.
Paul Cook: It was such a great stroke getting Chris involved because at that time …. bands [were just] getting their mates in to engineer like The Clash did with their soundman, Mickey Foote.