Thursday, 8 September 2011

Remembering 9/11

Three months before 9/11, I had taken my first trip to New York. I was there to film an interview for a Headliners & Legends show on Demi Moore that was to be premiered on the MSNBC giant screen in the middle of Times Square that August. As my trip was only a flying visit of two days, and wanting to squeeze in as much sightseeing as I could on the day off I had been given by the production company, I decided the best way to take in some of the the sights would be on one of the hop-on, hop-off double-decker bus tours. The two-hour Downtown Loop sightseeing trip was the perfect way to see some of the oldest and some of the newest neighbourhoods in Manhattan as it it included stops at Greenwich Village, Empire State Building, Union Square, Soho, Chinatown, Little Italy, East Village, Rockefeller Center and the World Trade Centre site. Due to time restrictions, and because I wanted to discover other locations not on the bus tour, like Planet Hollywood, Central Park, New York Library and Grand Central Station, I only hopped off at the smoking stops, where we had enough time to take pictures. Probably one of the most awesome sights of the tour were the Twin Towers.

To see them in real life was a truly magnificent sight, and I feel lucky that I did get to see them in all their splendour before I watched the shocking events of 9/11 destroy them, just three months after I had looked up at them in total awe. To watch them fall to the ground like a deck of cards on live television in  the UK, while people were still inside, was so very heartbreaking.

Like almost everyone, I can vividly remember where I was and what I was doing when the news broke, much the same as when the news broke of Kennedy’s assassination, Elvis’s untimely death and the fatal accident that killed Diana. If you lived in the UK, the first reports of what seemed like a tragic plane accident had begun at around 2pm, British time. In New York, of course, it was already the height of the morning rush hour. I had just finished eating my lunch and was about to go back to my home office, when after the lunchtime edition of Neighbours had finished, we were given a Newsflash that went directly for a live report from New York. When the first live pictures were seen, of smoke bellowing out the north tower, it was incomprehensible to think that a plane had just crashed into it. What a terrible accident.

But then, while I was watching, another plane in the distance, started its descent and turned to head straight for the other tower. It kept turning and kept coming, seemingly picking up speed, and then horror of horrors, it slammed into the other tower with such force, it looked it was going to slice through the tower and come out the other side. As we all now know, when it hit the tower, it exploded into a huge fireball and sent debris flying to the ground. Most of us froze in disbelief, probably unable to move or say anything. The pictures we were watching on our televisions was like watching a scene from a disaster movie, and to think they were happening for real was just totally unbelievable.

Both towers now had huge dark black holes in their sides, where the planes had ploughed into them, with fire and smoke bellowing out. I can’t remember how long after the planes had hit that people could be seen jumping out from just below where the planes had hit, but it seemed only a short while after. Still dealing with the initial shock of two planes crashing into the towers, we now dealt with another sight that none of us ever expected to see, people jumping from a literally unsurvivable height, to escape the fumes and the heat of the disaster. I can still hear the commentator screaming in disbelief. It was truly an awful sight that none of us will ever forget.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Cliff Sessions - 20 Years Old Today!

Ever since my book on Cliff Richard’s recording sessions was written with my Cliff cohort Peter Lewry and published 20 years ago, we have, between us, often been bombarded with questions about how the book came about, how we went about writing and researching it, and most of all, how did we encourage Cliff and EMI Records to co-operate and participate in the book’s preparation. As it is the 20th anniversary of its publication today, I thought it would be fitting to write a post on the story behind the book, to celebrate what Peter and me are still very proud of to this day... and how it led us to become recognised as the Cliff catalogue experts by EMI and also to the publication of another two books on Cliff in 1993 and 1996.

For the purpose of writing this piece, Peter and me have spent the last few weeks looking back at the project so that we could write an article as accurate as possible on the sequence of events that led up to publication from the moment we thought up the idea, which was really inspired by a booklet that Peter had produced for his sister, on Cliff’s recordings. He showed me the finished booklet he had made one evening in December 1989, when we had got together for a few Christmas drinks. That’s really when we came up with the idea to turn Peter’s booklet into a fully fledged book on Cliff’s recording sessions. Or at least we were going to try.

It soon became very clear to both of us, that if we were gonna get a publisher attached, then we would need to obtain the co-operation of Cliff, EMI, Abbey Road and other studios Cliff had recorded at, and to talk with as many of the key personnel that played an important role in Cliff’s recording history! We remember Cliff’s manager in charge of public relations at that time, Bill Latham, asking us how on earth we were going to achieve such a task, as something so complicated as writing a book on Cliff’s recording sessions, and looking back on it, we probably wondered much the same.

At that time, we were both very inexperienced about publishing and researching and writing as we had never done it before apart from a few articles we had written for fan magazines of other artists. We were pretty naive I guess on how we would get access to the informaion we needed, and for a very short time, I can recall how we must of thought of doing the book without any involvment from Cliff or EMI, but that thinking quickly changed!

Our initial idea was to give our book on Cliff’s sessions the same treatment as Mark Lewisohn had given to The Beatles. But as one reviewer pointed out, we had one major drawback, we couldn’t listen to any of the session tapes, so rather than attempt a session by session account of Cliff’s development in the studio, we decided to divide it into 12 stages, wrote an introduction to each era and then presented all the hard information of each session, like where, when and how and who was there and what resulted, and then added a fascinating array of illustrative material throughout to give what we hoped would be an accurate perspective on Cliff’s recordings over the years.