Tony Hatch has to be one of the quintessential Lounge Music composers and arrangers: his tenure as a producer at Pye Records at the start of the sixties pop era evolved hit after hit for artists ranging from all the way from The Searchers to Scott Walker, not to mention his string of international million-sellers for Petula Clark. During his time at Pye, Tony himself released a string of albums that moved from Latin to Funky Lounge as the sixties wore on, culminating in his magnificent and hugely sought-after Sounds of the 70’s LP.
The title track from this LP is instantly recognisable to all ages, having been extensively sampled by Pepe Deluxe for their ‘Woman in Blue’ track and subsequently used for a world-wide Levis advertising campaign in 2002. LSD008: ‘Sounds of the 70’s’ sees the first ever vinyl re-issue of this track, coupled with the fluid grooves of ‘Herbin’ from the same LP.
In 1970 Tony left Pye to work independently on music for stage, film, TV and record, and later earned himself the reputation of resident ‘hatchet man’ on the long running ATV talent show New Faces. After the years of popular infamy, Tony relocated to Dublin and worked extensively on TV projects for the national broadcaster RTE, before residing for a decade in Sydney until the mid-90’s, where he continued working on increasingly eminent projects as well as composing the theme tune to Neighbours with his then-wife Jackie Trent. Now a resident of Menorca, Tony kindly agreed to grant us a brief insight into the heady recording years of the 60’s and 70’s in between his continuing work on a new instrumental album and a forthcoming musical.
Licorice Soul: Do you have any particular theme in mind when you first approached the compositions and arrangements for the Sounds of the 70’s album?
Tony Hatch: It all started with a track on the album called ‘Codename’. I wrote and recorded this as a main theme for a TV spy series before recording the album -the original sleeve doesn't mention it's a TV theme. I had heard a few American big-band albums that used four horns and a tuba instead of the standard five saxes (Marty Paich was one, I think) so I used that line-up for the TV recording. I liked the sound we achieved and decided to record an entire album with that line-up with a variety of songs and instrumentals.
LS: The ‘Sounds of the 70’s’ track has a very spacey feel to it – was this the imagery that you were trying to convey?
TH: Definitely. Only a year before, man had just walked for the first time on the moon.
LS: Where did the idea for the addition of the moonshot dialogue come from?
TH: I followed the progress of the first human moon landing with great interest so it was almost certainly me.
LS: The addition of electric bass appears to be a key feature of the LP – did you have a conscious change of feel in mind?
TH: This album was recorded in 1970. By then, apart from jazz, the string bass had largely given way to the bass guitar on records. It was much easier to record than string bass and, of course, it could produce a wide range of different sounds and, in the hands of someone like Herbie Flowers, incredible runs and licks.
LS: Herbie Flowers gets a special credit on ‘Herbin’ – was this track prepared with him in mind?
TH: The track was written for him - that's why it's called ‘Herbin'. I was one of the first people to use Herbie on a regular basis. He had an incredible technique. I used to call his improvisations 'doin' some herbin'.
LS: That must be Roger Coulham on the organ - despite the misprint on the LP sleeve
TH: I regularly used organ, played by Roger or Alan Hawkshaw, on record productions and Roger can be heard on my 1967 album Beautiful In The Rain - on which album, incidentally, his name is also spelt 'Coulin'. I find it hard to believe I got it wrong twice - especially three years apart.
LS: How did you choose the cover versions for the album?
TH: You mean the sleeve or the content? The Pye sleeve department came up with this image that looks like the inside of the bell on a brass instrument. I liked it! Regarding the content I just happened to like the songs and thought they would work well with the line-up.
LS: Did you have any favourite players that you insisted on obtaining for the recording sessions?
TH: Like all record producers and musical directors I had my favourites, often different ones for different kinds of productions. This album features great musicians who regularly did sessions for me.
LS: Do you have any recollection of the sessions for the album?
TH: I only remember they were great fun and some of the easiest I've ever produced.
LS: How did you usually interact with the players and engineers during the recording process?
TH: You'll note that Bob Leaper was my Musical Associate. I would do a run through of each item with the orchestra myself, check notes etc, get the feel right, then Bob would take over when I went to the control room. I had worked with Balance Engineer Ray Prickett so many times by then he knew exactly what I wanted, anyway. I've always had a great rapport with musicians and studio personnel so the job becomes an enjoyable team effort.
LS: Mixing and overdub sessions are usually notoriously absent from these types of recordings – did you have that kind of luxury?
TH: The tracks were all recorded on 24-track Ampex tape machines and mixed down a few days after the final recording session. There was no overdubbing on this album. It just wasn't necessary.
LS: Do you have an idea about how many copies of the original album were pressed and sold?
TH: Not a clue!
LS: How do you feel about the sampling and re-working of ‘Sounds of the 70’s’ that was a big hit for Pepe Deluxe as a result of the Levis advert a few years ago?
TH: I thought it was great. A very welcome surprise.
LS: Moving on to some other aspects of your musical career; the Guitar Workshop album with Johnny Harris was really ahead of its time – a playful indulgence or visionary insight?
TH: I really thought that album was a great idea and sounded good. Pity it didn't sell better.
LS: The sleeve of your ‘Cool Latin Sound’ album is quite something, with you enjoying a B&H and a pot of tea in Latin finery – what was that all about?
TH: Just a bit of fun. The Pye sleeve department conceived it and I just went along with it.
LS: You did a lot of work on TV themes – was this generated through Pye’s connections with ATV?
TH: ‘Crossroads’ definitely came through the ATV connection and, perhaps, a couple of others. I have written a lot of themes, of course, for BBC TV and many independent companies such as Anglia, Yorkshire, Granada, Border etc. Far more, in fact, than for ATV.
LS: Soap opera themes appear to have been a particular forte of yours – are you happy to associated with those, rather than other aspects of your body of work?
TH: I'm proud of every aspect of my work and happy to be associated with whatever individual people can remember.
LS: ‘Sportsnight’ must be one of your punchiest themes – where did the idea for the infamous staccato introduction come from?
TH: I was asked for a pacey, punchy, theme for a sports report programme. The staccato intro is like news headlines.
LS: Your Hit The Road To Themeland album has another great cover – which particular stretch of dual carriageway was that captured at?
TH: A21 near Orpington.
LS: How did you come to be involved in New Faces?
TH: I knew Producer Les Cocks who had been at Pye Records with me for many years. He left to produce New faces. He asked me to do the pilot and I stayed for the whole series.
LS: You were something of a TV personality at the time – what was it like being the Simon Cowell of the 70’s?
TH: I enjoyed it. I never set out to be controversial, though. I just spoke my mind. (Wish I'd made the kind of money that Simon makes now.)
LS: Of all of the pop acts you produced, do you recall any particularly eventful or disastrous sessions?
TH: Only two acts spring to mind that were particularly difficult to work with. The Everly Brothers and Chubby Checker. I guess that both of them couldn't fathom out why they'd been sent to England by their US record companies to record with me.
LS: You released several albums on the Pye 4D imprint, although only a few of this series are actually quadraphonic – do you have any insight as to what the strategy was with those releases?
TH: Anything labelled Quad should have been four dimensional. Originally Quad was only recommended for classical music especially symphony orchestras where a big natural spacious effect could be achieved. Then the industry decided to include lighter 'pop' albums. I had great problems mixing down to quad compatible stereo. All to do with phasing! Individual sounds could be cancelled out so, whilst the quad mix was OK, in stereo you could have too much reverb, say, on the strings because the primary signal had disappeared. Do another mix and monitor in stereo then the quad effect would be lost. I'm glad the whole idea was finally 'phased out'.
LS: A little mystery surrounds your Love Sounds album, as it first appeared in the US as Ebb Tide and a full two years later and with extra tracks in the UK – is there a story behind this?
TH: Pye (USA) released ‘Ebb Tide’ as a test single. It picked up lots of airplay and became a hit in the 'lounge' clubs - only they weren't called lounge clubs then. It was inevitable, then, that when Pye (USA) released the album they would call it 'Ebb Tide'.
LS: Did you go under any pseudonyms?
TH: Only as a composer. 'Mark Anthony' between 1960 and 1963. Pye records thought that as I was a record producer I should hide my identity as composer. This soon became a waste of time. Then 'Fred Nightingale' – for one song only - 'Sugar and Spice' for the Searchers because I didn't want them to know that I'd written it. (They guessed, anyway.)