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Last Updated:
Aug 24, 2008

Monday, September 01, 2008


Dave remembers 'No Thugs in Our House'

Song of the Week

This week we feature Mr. Dave Gregory's memories of last week's song, "No Thugs in Our House," from 1982's English Settlement.

The version we've posted this week -- originally recorded 14 January 1982 at BBC Studios, produced by John Sparrow and engineered by Mike Robinson -- was first broadcast 25 January 1982 on the David Jensen Show. It's the first track on Disc 2 of Transistor Blast, a compendium of live and studio cuts made for the BBC.

DG: English Settlement is often described as a "pastoral" record, perhaps because of the abundance of acoustic guitar-laden tracks, so "No Thugs in Our House" provides a little heavy-handed relief from all those plangent, shimmering tones that characterise much of the album. For the introduction, Andy was anxious to copy the rocking acoustic sound of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues," prompting Hugh Padgham to insist we first found an instrument equal to the task. As documented previously, I took the day off to travel to London, returning with a nice Martin D-35, and that evening we started work on the basic track.

I'd recently purchased a second-hand Marshall 50-watt bass amplifier. Obviously designed for bass, it nonetheless had a big, powerful sound that was great for guitar. The problem was that it was too big and powerful -- though rated at a modest 50 watts, it was simply too loud to be of much practical use outside of a studio. I'd come up with a grinding, brutal riff to complement the vocal; the perfect opportunity, then, to set up the Marshall in The Manor's stone room and crank it up. Hugh had installed a pair if [AKG] C414s at the back of the room above the balcony area, to pick up as much room ambience as possible while recording Terry's drum tracks. I put the amp and a 4"x12" cabinet at the other end of the room, while Hugh placed a U 47 three feet in front of it. I plugged in the ol' Strat, lit the blue touch-paper and retired immediately...

Jeezuss Kerrriistt!! It was unbearably loud. The sound was leaking out of the glass doors, and the local villagers must have gotten a rude awakening, too. By setting the volume control at 4 --on a scale of 10 ... not 11! -- we were able to get the tough sound we wanted, but it was still not possible to stand in the same room as that amplifier while we were tracking. Having just heard the song for the first time in ages, I'm surprised now at how tame it sounds. Buried there in the mix, you'd never know how massive that guitar track really is.

And in case we were in danger of showing rather too much of our rock undergarments, I tweaked up a calliope-like patch on the Prophet-5 as a sweet contrast for the middle-eight section of the song. I used to enjoy performing this on stage, coming off the synth and back into that thuggish riff -- it always went down very well as a live number. The cross-fade into "Yacht Dance" was another inspired idea, and one of my favourite moments on the album.

In common with most of the Settlement songs, this was recorded quite quickly -- basic track completed in the evening of 14th October 1981, acoustic guitar nailed the next morning, and vocals done on 29th October (together with "Senses"). I did my synth overdub the same day. This completed the track, which was mixed on Saturday, 14th November.

2:47 AM

©2008 by Todd Bernhardt and Dave Gregory. All Rights Reserved.