We interviewed Phill Brown in issue number [#12] of Tape Op. Over the years he's worked with some of the greatest artists ever, like Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Traffic, Spooky Tooth, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, Robert Palmer, Bob Marley, Steve Winwood, Harry Nilsson, Roxy Music, Stomu Yamash'ta, John Martyn, Little Feat, Atomic Rooster, and Talk Talk. This is another excerpt from his (still!) unpublished book, Are We Still Rolling? Last issue: Phill goes home exhausted. –LC
I received a phone call from Denise Mills, who was Chris Blackwell's personal assistant at Island Records and also looked after Steve Winwood and Bob Marley. "I want to know if you'll do a couple of days with Winwood," she said. "I've no idea what he is up to, but evidently he would like to record a track called 'Walk Me to the Lilies' with a friend of his called Mark Miller-Mundy, a neighbor I think. It's Mark who has suggested this song - he describes it as an 'old country song'. Mark will be there himself, by the way, to help out."
Denise knew Steve Winwood well. He had not worked on his own material for the past three years and she was worried that he might not even show up. "But I'm not paying you those Robert Palmer rates you know" she continued. "I'm not even paying you a daily rate, because I don't know how long this idea might last. I'll pay you by the hour - let's say £6.50 an hour."
I turned up at the Fallout Shelter as instructed on Monday the 11th of October at about 2 pm. Steve and Mark arrived and we set up - piano, Hammond, a guitar amp, and a basic rhythm box. Steve then played around with the song, mainly on piano, for about 8 hours and we packed up at about 11 pm. That accounted for the first day, during which Steve had hardly said a word. I was used to some sessions taking a while to get going and was not surprised at Steve's seeming lack of enthusiasm. The next day passed in more or less the same way, although we did get as far as putting a couple of ideas to tape, and Mark had some comments to make. Mark seemed pleasant enough and had that over-politeness and English camp of the born rich. He asked many questions about the desk and studio equipment and was friendly and flattering. By contrast Steve was very quiet - perhaps he didn't want to be in London, didn't like the studio or was not keen on the song, but he never said. He was, as usual, very shy. Steve tried out Mark's ideas, exhibiting very little personal opinion, and again we finished at about 11 pm. We took a day off, meeting at 3 pm on the 14th to continue. We spent another day trying different arrangements and approaches to "Walk Me to the Lilies" but nothing special appeared and by 11:30 pm the session had ground to a halt. Maybe Denise had been right.
Just before leaving for the night, Steve said quietly, "'Walk Me to the Lilies' isn't really for me, but I do have a bunch of ideas that I've been working on. How do you feel like moving out to my home studio, or to the studio at Chipping Norton to try them out?" Mark and I nodded in agreement with this suggestion and, after a short discussion, decided to use Chipping Norton Studios which, as a residential studio, could provide everything necessary to accommodate any other musicians that might become involved. I had worked there before and liked the layout and sound.
Two weeks later, on the 27th, we were in Chipping Norton, working five-day weeks from 2 pm to 3 am each day with a congenial band consisting of John Susswell on drums, Alan Spenner on bass, Brother James on percussion and Junior Marvin (soon to join Bob Marley) on guitar. I was still being paid by Denise at Island, on an hourly basis. The studio was built in an old school house and had a large rectangular studio area which gave a good live sound. Above, and built parallel to the live room, was a small compact control room and various small rooms and offices. There was a maze of corridors that ran the full length of the building and connected two stairwells and, ultimately, the studio to the control room. At the far end of the building there was a large kitchen where the band and staff would eat in the evenings. Outside there was a group of buildings that had...