David Bowie puts his head around the door of Studio One, “I need one of you for some hand claps on a new song”.
I’m doing some programming for Madness who are working on their new album in Studio Two. He sees me and says, “Hey, Tom Morley, Scritti Politti, I heard you were coming in. Are you up for it?”
Well, I’m just a drummer but I’ll give it a go.
Lets reel back a year. It’s a sunny day and I’m sitting by the canal in Camden Town. I’ve been recording some songs off my own back at home and I’m taking a break. Mark Bedford, the Madness bass player, goes by on his bike then comes back in a deft canal-side manoeuvre.
“Tom, we’ve just finished building our new studio and we’re looking for people to try it”.
Madness offer to record me there. I don’t have a band so they play on the songs themselves, to test the acoustics. They’ve just started their own Zarjazz label. Let me give you a tip. If you want to get a record deal get the people who own the label to play on your demos. I meet their manager and they sign me up the following week.
David Bowie and I do a practice run with the hand claps then do a take. Picture this. The two of us around a central mic, both wearing headphones but with one headphone off, like every piece of rockstar studio footage you’ve ever seen. “Perfect, if I need any more I’ll let you know. We’re going out later, are you free tonight?”
I was planning to wash my hair but, you know, go with the flow.
The following night I’m queuing to get into ‘Le Beat Route’ club on Charlotte Street and I bump into John Peel. “Ah, you can get me in!” we say in unison. We skip to the front with our arms around each others shoulders, like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. The bespangled woman with the guest list clipboard recognises the pose.
“You can come in but not through the door, you two have to go through the looking glass”, she smiles.
That’s OK with me. It’s the 80s and I appear to have a season ticket to Wonderland.