At times it can be difficult to believe that someone like Giorgio Gomelsky actually exists. For almost fifty years he has been at the center of so many significant cultural events and initiated so many things we take for granted, it seems that he must be a fictional composite of dozens of people. But no, he's for real - a flesh and blood man almost painfully committed to the highest ideals of art and its communication. One could call him a producer - and, indeed he has been - he produced records by John McLaughlin, Julie Driscoll, the Spontaneous Music Ensemble (with Derek Bailey), Vangelis, Magma and many others. But he also is/has been a manager, a club owner, an impresario, a raconteur, a facilitator, festival organizer and astute political theorist. However, unlike almost every other person in the music business, he has usually been seen running away from the money rather than towards it. If there is an underlying thread to his life story, it is that whenever things started getting too close to the mainstream, Gomelsky lost interest and moved on to another uncompromising situation. For this article, the focus is on what many people feel is his most important contribution to the world of music - his association with the seminal British rock band, The Yardbirds.

The first album by The Yardbirds [Five Live Yardbirds] was a live recording. What was the decision process that went into this?

Very simple - in England we didn't have the recording business that was so established and dominant as here [the USA], you know. So bands really had to gather an audience by playing live. This was something they could do. Most English bands were very good live bands.

They were all club bands.

In England the club idea was not like here. It wasn't as there was a physical place and that was it. It was evenings run by promoters in the back of pubs who had little rooms where music happened, and people used to go and dance. The English music scene from skiffle onwards - even before that, traditional jazz and stuff - really took place in the back of pubs, and those were "clubs."

You're talking about the young British bands?

The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds. There were a couple of blues bands outside of London. This wasn't rock n' roll - this was the blues. The rock n' roll thing came in afterwards. It's very interesting how the possibility of recording happened. The first time that Sonny Boy Williamson came to England he stayed with me. I took him in my car and we went to all these places where there were blues bands. In the South End there were The Paramounts that [later] became known as the Procol Harum. In Birmingham there was the Spencer Davis [Group] where Steve [Winwood] was like, fourteen and playing the organ. In Newcastle there was a band called the Alan Price Kansas Blues Quintet, later known as The Animals. I ended up there and found a guy, Phillip Wood, who had a portable Ampex machine - mono. He had done demos for The Animals - a kind of straight, innocent character, but he had this equipment. I think it must have been the only Ampex one inch (whatever it was at the time) portable recording device. When I saw this I went, "Wow! Let's drag this into the club." And we recorded Sonny Boy with The Animals the first time that Sonny Boy went up there. I convinced Phillip to come to the next venue. I did a big thing on February 28th (which was my birthday) in 1964, in Birmingham. It was my first edition of a British blues festival - Sonny Boy, Rod Stewart and Long John Baldry - anybody that could play a couple of blues numbers would be on this, and that's how we convinced the Marquee to let us have a go at recording the live stuff.

What do you think caused this seeming explosion of bands at that point?

What creates real phenomenal turn-arounds in civilizational culture is the love of something. The love of the blues became very important. Either it grabbed you or it didn't, but the ones that got grabbed by it soon became musicians because they loved it so much they wanted to play it. Rock n' roll had a period of success in England, but it was based on the kind of commercial rock n' roll you had here. You had the Elvis Presley imitations like Marty Wilde and Billy Fury. A very significant development was the opening of the Marquee Club - owned by jazz musician Chris Barber. At one point it was suggested that [British blues legend] Alexis Korner would get his own night at the club - a blues night. This became the magnet for all the young blues players. The blues and skiffle thing were more [for] student types. The commercial type thing gave way to people like Cliff Richards and The Shadows. It had nothing to do with blues. When The Yardbirds came to the point of making some kind of a statement, making a live album was the answer. We were playing to a thousand people in the Marquee and the atmosphere was unbelievable. That was the thing that I started off doing at the Crawdaddy Club with The [Rolling] Stones - just do forty-five minute sets - they had to stick! They had to have a catharsis of some kind. Fundamentally, all of that was based on the Bo Diddley beat.

Because it could go on forever.

It could go on forever. The last song of the bands would be twenty minutes of a Bo Diddley-type of thing. That's why I called my club Crawdaddy, because it was a reference to "Crawdad" by Bo Diddley.

The first thing that occurs to me when I listen to the live album is what an incredible band they were. How loud was it?

It couldn't have been that loud - they were twenty-five watt amps.

Still, there was such a power to it.

Yes. Often ...

 

The rest of this article is only available to our subscribers!

Tape Op is a free magazine devoted exclusively to recording music.

Read It Digital!

Log in or subscribe to purchase download and/or viewing access for this and all our issues.

Buy Tape Op magazine!
 

Current and back issues of Tape Op can be ordered online through our distributor, Hal Leonard.

Buy Tape Op magazine!
 

We've been publishing articles about creative music recording since 1996. Check out all of our issues here.

 
 More Interviews 
Alex Maiolo · July 15, 2010
After taking a break for more than a decade, Polvo released In Prism on Merge Records at the end of 2009. Working with Brain Paulson at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, NC, they recorded an album...
Larry Crane · Jan. 7, 2004
I've been sitting on this interview so long that a new CD, attagirl, has already been released. Check out any of their albums to hear the best band in The Netherlands!Is Log 22 the first record you...
Fletcher · Jan. 7, 2001
Here are some helpful hints on how to reduce the prospect of your gear getting stolen. In the event it is stolen, here are a couple of ideas on how to affect a swifter recovery.Stencil Everything! The...
A. B. Daniels · Sept. 24, 2008
Soon after finishing a technical engineering degree, Tom Bugs completed and sold his first batch of Weevils. While working out how to give life to what would become BugBrand, Tom helped out at the...
Vijith Assar · May 15, 2007
Sharon Jones may be the reigning matriarch of revivalist funk, but when I first interviewed her a year and a half ago, she was very clear about her role: she's the face and voice of the operation but...
Jeremiah Cymerman · Jan. 6, 2004
Back in the golden days of Sun Studios and Gold Star, when recording was still a new enterprise, in order to be a recording engineer you had to actually be an engineer. Before you...
Allen Farmelo · Sept. 15, 2011
It's not an exaggeration to say that most non-Icelandic people come to know of this tiny island country through the records Valgeir Sigurðsson made with Björk, and there's no denying that...
Philip Von Zweck · Jan. 1, 2003
Housed in a former bakery in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood is the Experimental Sound Studio. ESS has been a staple of Chicago's art and music scene for nearly 16 years with a unique purpose. It...
Greg Sullivan · Nov. 30, 2006
About one hour from Christchurch, New Zealand, the small village of Mount Somers is located just before the steep and pristine beginnings of the beautiful Southern Alps. A green, mostly...
  • Start A Discussion

Sat, Oct 25, 2014 - 7:39AM
Get a dialogue going below:
:
:
:
:
: