Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Creation - the Billboard-Russia interview...

In February 2007, I did an email interview about "Creation" with Billboard-Russia. They wanted to run a feature on the album for the first issue of their magazine.

If your Russian's up to speed, you can check out a pdf of the full article here. If not, the following is a shortened version of the email conversation I had with Alexandra Buts, their Associate Editor.

Billboard Russia - Lost Masterpieces

“CREATION” by Beau (1971)

- description of the recording session process itself - how was it being held, who was participating, which studio was it held at, what equipment was used, what instruments, how long did it take, were there any special events or moments that you still remember during the recording process

“Creation” was recorded over three days in 1971 at the Hollick & Taylor studios in Birmingham, England. Musicians involved were myself (Beau), with Steve Clayton and Jim Milne of The Way We Live (later Tractor).

John Brierley – The Way We Live’s recording engineer and producer – was in the control room, together with the studio owner/chief engineer, John Taylor.

I played my Harmony Sovereign H-1270 12-String guitar on all the tracks; also the clavioline on “April Meteor”. Jim Milne played all other guitar and bass parts, and Steve Clayton played all drums and percussion. If I remember rightly, Jim was playing a Gibson SG as his main electric instrument, and a home-built bass! Steve used his own Ludwig kit.

- what was the role of Mr. John Peel in the process of album making?

John Peel wasn’t directly involved in the recording sessions, though he was at the mixing session which took place later at the Marquee Studios in London. The mixing engineer at the Marquee was Phil Dunne.

- who is the artist, who made the record-cover art-work? were there any special moments about it?

The sleeve was created by Forehead Designs, London, under the supervision of John Peel’s business partner (and Dandelion co-owner), Clive Selwood. Forehead went on to design several covers for later Dandelion albums.

Original photographs were taken by Ken Willcock, a photography student in Leeds. The picture on the back was taken in a park in Leeds called The Hollies.

There is however a story behind the cover design.

Originally, a totally different sleeve was planned. Created by Nick Cudworth (of the band Siren), John Jones and Boris Brook, the sleeve was even printed, and is now an ultra-rare collectors’ item. But the concept of this first cover was thought to be too dark and forbidding, so the new, more optimistic “sunrise” sleeve was produced.

In retrospect, I think this was the right decision!

- who was the cut-engineer of the record and which factory did the production

The record would have been cut at the CBS factory in Aylesbury, but I’m afraid no–one knows who engineered the cutting!

- what was the circulation number of the record and where was it distributed?

If I remember rightly, “Creation” sold around 7000 copies in the first three months after release. After that, I’m sorry, I don’t recall! It was only officially released in the UK, though I know it had wide distribution abroad (particularly Europe) as an export.

- were there any reissues of the record?

“Creation” was reissued as a CD along with the original “Beau” album in 1995 on the See For Miles label (SEECD 421).

- do you monitor the contemporary prices of this record (record stores, e-Bay)?

Yeah, occasionally. I’m fascinated to see how much the original record now brings on the collectors’ market. I’ve just checked on MusicStack – they presently have four copies of “Creation” selling for between £19 and £32 each. That said, MusicStack are also selling copies of the original “Beau” album at between £37 and £54. Incredible!

- separately, we would like to ask you kindly to give us brief comments on every song of the record: what is it about and what was did you want to tell with it.

When I wrote the songs for “Creation”, my mind was in a strange place. The subtitle of the album – “as creation destroys so destruction creates…” – sort of sums up a rather anarchistic mindset at the time.

Also, I’d been listening to a lot of avant-garde music – Karlheinz Stockhausen (“Stimmung”, “Gesang der Jünglinge” etc.), Lukas Foss and others – plus Béla Bartók and Stravinsky.

On several tracks, I was trying to make the arrangement analogous to the lyric. By that, I don’t mean I just wanted the music to complement the writing – any decent songwriter would want that. I wanted the music to say the same thing as the words.

Best examples are “Creation” itself, and of course “Silence Returns”.

The swirling sounds on “Creation”, with its repeated guitar figure and that inexorable doomy bass, tell the same story as the whispered lyric. Even if you can’t pick up on all the words, you know what the song is about; right down to the rumbling explosion at the end (“For here, Creation’s only fault its own destruction bought”).


“Silence Returns” is a cruel, cruel song. It’s about the violence of silence. It’s about the withholding of help when help can be given. And it’s about the choice “…to make or to break the innocent spirit of somebody’s hope…”

In the first part, the lyric tells the story up to the point where a choice has been made, and silence returns. Then… the music tells the same, sick tale…

“Silence Returns” was recorded in a single take, with just the one lead guitar overdub by Jim Milne.

The mixing session at the Marquee was perhaps more important on this song than any of the others. To achieve maximum effect, it was vital that Jim’s lead guitar kicked in at just the right moment.

Because the song has a rather uneven time figure, Phil Dunne (the mixing engineer) had some difficulty triggering the lead guitar channel at just the right time. So it fell to me to throw the switch!

And the result was what one reviewer described as “… one of the most shocking moments in rock!” I couldn’t have put it better myself!


But let’s go back to the start -

The album opens with “Nine Minutes”, the story of a fictional train wreck.

I say fictional, but there were several incidences around the time of vandals targeting the railway system. Some did indeed put obstructions in the way of speeding trains; others dropped chunks of concrete and wood from bridges as trains were passing underneath. Nasty!

I think the song took four takes to get right. To simulate the sound and feel of a train, Steve Clayton thought of rubbing together two pieces of sandpaper. My main memory of the recording is of the small pile of sand slowly accumulating round Steve’s feet!


In his book, “Electric Children”, Jacques Vassal said of “There Once Was A Time”, “…(it) is a painfully accurate portrayal of a decaying beauty queen”.

Others have seen it less romantically as a side-swipe at vanity! Put these two together, and you get pretty close to what I was intending.


“Spider” is an interesting track that has at its heart the sort of philosophical contradiction that underpins the album itself.

The album is subtitled “as creation destroys, so destruction creates…”: “Spider” could be subtitled “…in perfection lies death…”

Because remember that, despite the beauty of her fragile, deadly creation, even the spider comes to an end – when “…nature takes the net away”.


Writing in “Time Out”, Al Clark said of “April Meteor”, “…(it is ) a Moog-haunted picture of death seen as travel through time and space.” Yeah well, nice one, Al!

One night in April 1970, I was standing outside my home in Leeds when I saw a bright light flash across the sky from east to west. The following day, all the newspapers carried the story of a meteorite that had flown in low across the north of England, crossed the sea and come to earth in a bog in Ireland.

What struck me was the irony that a piece of rock which had probably been hurtling round the universe since the dawn of time, should end its billions of years of travel in an Irish bog! So I wrote “April Meteor”.

Oh, no Moog either, I’m afraid; just that little clavioline…


“Is This Your Day” is a simple song that says even the most mundane day can turn into something special.

Nothing very profound. I guess most of us have had days where our lives have unexpectedly changed – hopefully, more for better than for worse…


Side 2 opens with “Blind Faith”.

I’ve never understood Faith – what the dictionary describes as “…the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another”.

It makes no sense to me to accept “the truth of what is declared by another” just because he declares it.

I have no problem with moral codes or personal convictions. But I have real difficulty with blind faith – hence this song.


In the 1960s throughout the UK, in every city and town, vast numbers of old houses and streets were torn down.

In many ways, this was a good thing – much of the housing was old and sub-standard. Problem was, the high-rise buildings and concrete estates that were built to replace the old homes were poorly designed and conceived, and communities that had flourished and supported each other for decades were destroyed forever. “Ferris Street” tells of the destruction of one such neighbourhood.

The bass intro was shamelessly copied from Elvis’s “Baby, I Don’t Care”, but Jim Milne’s wah-wah guitar is wholly original, and fits the mood of the song perfectly!


When I wrote “Release”, I hadn’t heard “Pirate Jenny” from Brecht & Weill’s “The Threepenny Opera”. But “Release” tells a very similar story.

Here, we also have someone daydreaming about settling a score.

I once worked for a man who would say nice things to your face, but then do everything he could to undermine and destroy you. “Behind the charity charade, there lies the gleaming silver blade…”

There was nothing I could do. I was just a kid; he was a man of power. But I could dream…


“A Reason To Be” really takes over where “Blind Faith” left off. It tells of someone searching for a reason for his existence, but ultimately finding there is none.

It’s not a bleak song; just one that confronts reality. Which, I appreciate, to many is bleak…


I tried to do many things when I recorded “Creation”. Not everything worked as I’d hoped it would, but a lot of things did. I’m glad so many people still enjoy the record.

And I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t startled the first time they heard “Silence Returns”!

1 comment:

  1. A fascinating, obviously thoughtful and thus erudite interview that illuminates further a classic album. Another pleasure as I play the album again on my walkman (!!) in Warsaw, looking forward to the new one!
    Best regards to and yours