welcome to the “audio companion” page for the dave stafford / pureambient blog. this
page will be much more than just audio files that reflect the historical music described
in the blog’s “journey through the past” series (an ongoing history of the earliest
musical experiences of dave stafford and the various collaborations and groups and
projects dave has been involved with) - it will also be a scrapbook, with photographs,
scans of cassette labels, set lists, additional information about the players, the
sessions, the circumstances, and the experience of the music presented.
in february 2012, the “cassette restoration project” was begun to support the “journey
through the past” series currently being presented on the blog, and in turn, those
recordings, once they have been catalogued and restored properly, will begin to appear
on this page to provide an audio representation of some of the bands, recording sessions
and performances described in the “journey through the past series” on the blog.
so it is here we begin, to tell the story of a boy who really wanted to be a beatle,
whose lifelong guitar hero was george harrison, who started out very young to try
and teach himself guitar, so he could realise his dreams of being a guitarist. this
is how it all started....
all content on this site is copyright Ó 1995 - 2012 - the world
all rights reserved - no unauthorised reproduction of any content from this web site
is permitted under any circumstances
“this is the story so far...” (derek dick aka fish)
coming soon: more from two different progressive rock improv bands featuring holding,
stafford and either one or two drummers (rick corriere & jennings morgan) - there
are some excellent prog jams on those tapes; in-studio work, both original and covers,
by dave stafford, solo, including piano and hammond work; work by the legendary gearfabbeat
band (dave stafford & guitarist/lap steel guitarist jim whitaker) and so, so much
more - stay tuned - there is so much more to come...
five-year old dave stafford begins to pick out melodies on the family piano, and
in a somewhat uncanny move for such a young child, hears the “theme from exodus”
played, and then walks to the piano and “picks out” the melody by ear.
nine-year old dave stafford asks for and receives his first guitar: an inexpensive
steel string acoustic. more importantly perhaps, during this year, he obtains his
first four full-length beatles albums. he tries to teach himself how to play, learns
a little but eventually sets the instrument aside to be pretty much forgotten. this
was also the year his family moved to uganda for their four-year stay in east africa.
twelve-year old dave stafford asks for and receives his first electric guitar: a
bright red inexpensive semi-hollow body copy and a tiny, used tube amp. he begins
to take the instrument more seriously, teaching himself chords and other rudimentary
items, and by age 13, has actually learned to play several chords and the very occasional
thirteen-year old dave stafford returns from africa to san diego, california, his
place of birth, and begins to work with other musicians, forming his first band with
la mesa junior high school drummer friend brian monaco and acoustic guitarist rick
snodgrass. later that year, the band plays their first gig, recorded for posterity
by older brother john stafford on an agfa 120 minute cassette. being the oldest
known cassette of dave stafford playing guitar, this tape was the first to be restored
as part of the brand new “cassette restoration project” here on the dave stafford
/ pureambient blog audio companion. it is possible that earlier tapes were made of
dave playing, in africa, but those would be on reel to reel tapes (the next project,
currently scheduled for 2014) - so for the moment, this cassette, from 1971, is the
current oldest piece of stafford audio. approximately 58 minutes of this “first recorded
the stafford / monaco band
(from left to right)
rhythm guitar: rick snodgrass
drums / lead vocals: brian monaco
lead guitar / lead vocals: dave stafford (standing)
second lead guitar: tommy (kneeling)
artist venue location date track title duration
very little is known about this concert, remarkably, 23 tracks spanning over 58 minutes
have miraculously survived a 41-year wait, deftly escaping almost certain oxide death,
to finally be converted from audio cassette to digital, making this (currently) the
oldest-known surviving dave stafford live performance recording in existence. recorded
by john stafford on an agfa 120 cassette for posterity sometime during 1971; the
preparation of the tapes is still under way, but we begin with a selection of vocal
and instrumental tracks from this very first dave stafford concert. when listening
to these tracks, or indeed any of the early tracks on the audio companion page, of
course you have to take into consideration the average age of the players - in this
particular case, just 13 years old, so a lot may need to be forgiven in terms of
performance, tuning and even...musical ability. we all have to start somewhere...this
is where I started. from humble beginnings...
featured concert: the stafford / monaco band live at johnson’s, la mesa, california
a classic rocker from the beatles’ “white album” featuring a conspicuously absent
guitar solo (some of these arrangements reflect the players’ inexperience) - this
track features brian monaco on drums & lead vocal
as the set progresses, the band starts to really warm up and stretch out, and this
cover of the then very-popular creedence clearwater revival song features dave stafford
on an extended lead guitar solo
new guitarist tommy (or was it rick?) takes centre stage on this number on lead guitar,
another instrumental version of a song originally made very, very popular by glen
campbell - this one was considered to be very uncool, even in 1971...
the obvious passion that this band had for the music of the beatles becomes patently
clear on this track, and the power of the drum fills, the build up of volume on the
choruses, is surprisingly powerful and effective - this one really rocks!
perhaps carl perkin’s most famous tune (because of course, the beatles covered it),
another instrumental rendition from the band - including some uncertainty regarding
when to change to the ab chord - but, a good effort nonetheless.
another track made famous by the beatles; another unusual arrangement of “verses
only”; the trademark three-part harmony is conspicuous in it’s absence - but - this
rocks hard, and monaco on drums & lead vocal is a real powerhouse.
made popular by santana, a track from their first album, the arrangement is again
quite creative - no organ, no organ solo - so you do what you can with three guitars
and drums - still good as a two-chord jam - and, some primitive attempts at santana-like
lead guitar are just barely audible from stafford...
now age 16 and living in the single most amazing year that progressive rock ever
had - so inspiration was in the air - that was the year for prog: “the lamb lies
down on broadway” from genesis, “red” from king crimson, “the power and the glory”
from gentle giant... I was spending a lot of my spare time at my friend ted holding’s
house, ted had a room full of PA equipment in the big downstairs room at his parents’
house - and - his upright piano, the hammond organ, and later, the “new” string synthesizer,
the arp omni - and that was where we played, jammed, and recorded - and pretty much
lived. ted’s place was awesome for playing music - some amazing jam sessions went
down in that downstairs room...
to be sixteen, a guitarist, and to be hanging out with your best pal ted, playing
for the sheer joy of it, laughing, joking around, learning songs, singing harmony,
- it was so, so much fun, but we really took the music seriously. both ted and I
played the piano, so we had that in common - although ted was light-years beyond
me skill and talent-wise, but we learned together, and we had a blast making music
in that room. we’d played together in bands since we were 13, and we worked really
well together - ted on piano and lead vocal, myself, on guitar and harmony vocals
- and later on, we also had an instrumental/jamming prog rock trio/quartet, where
we did our best to “out-genesis” genesis themselves. this was an exciting year,
and my own skill and both guitar and piano skyrocketed. at the beginning, we played
pop - we did covers of the beatles, chicago, the allman brothers, elton john - and
by the end of ‘74, it was - all change - “anyway”, “lilywhite lilith” and “take a
the first of three takes of a brand new song composed by ted and myself, an instrumental,
featuring a persistent riff played with a red arbiter fuzz face, and a really cool
“revolving” fuzz guitar and piano riff at the end - written and performed “live in
the studio” - and the first take captures the essence of the song - none of the takes
are perfect, as we are both recording the piece, and simultaneously learning it.
a slightly quicker tempo this time, I really like the way the piece develops during
the session, with ted improvising and improving the arrangement as we go. you can
tell we are still learning the song, because we do keep making minor changes to the
structure of the piece...in particular, we attack that final “revolving riff” each
time with vigour, it’s not easy to play, we both miss notes, but the feel of the
piece is really light, and it was a lot of fun to play...we were having a blast!
featured session: ted holding & dave stafford in studio circa 1974
this session was recorded live to cassette sometime in 1974, in ted’s studio: featuring
ted holding, piano & vocal; and dave stafford, guitar & vocal. the purpose of recording
that day was to try and capture a new composition, a piece that ted and I wrote together,
with the strange title “froggy’s holiday”, so we recorded three versions in short
order - and then just started jamming, and without any plan to do so, we played and
jammed on songs by the beatles, the allman brothers, steely dan - and also played
a few fragments of the music of the day...and the tape just kept rolling, until at
the beginning of the second verse of “rikki don’t lose that number” - sadly, the
tape just runs out.
after the first three “official” takes, it’s all unplanned, loose, and imperfect
- the three serious takes are just that, good, valid attempts to nail a new song,
but the rest of the tape - well, it was never really meant to be released, since
it was just a jam session - however, I feel now, after 38 years of being stored away
in a plastic box, that it provides a really interesting glimpse into a very special
time. we’re having fun, just running through songs that we like, we each take solos,
we’re really enjoying it - both the planned and the unplanned.
this is also the world premiere of both “froggy’s holiday” and the work of holding
& stafford - and this is the very first of many holding & stafford recordings to
come (and their prog/jamming trio/quartet too!). there is a wealth of music here,
captured on fragile cassettes, featuring the very, very talented ted holding - and
the transformation from pop to prog that we both underwent - an amazing musical experience
for both of us, and we’ll be presenting that music here over the coming months.
the fastest and possibly most energetic version of the piece, we really pick up the
pace on this third and final version of this quaintly-named song, but really, the
music does have a “holiday” feel to it, so the title makes sense to me. I am actually
quite proud of this piece, for a song written by two 16-year old boys, and performed
live on piano and electric guitar - it’s really quite a mature composition, and while
none of the three takes is perfect, I’m glad that by accident, the cassette that
we sort of “forgot we were recording” survived, so that “froggy’s holiday” could
finally, finally see the light of day. and - here and now, thirty-eight years later
- it finally has. dedicated with love, to my best friend ted holding, who passed
away in 2005.
with our takes of “froggy’s holiday” in the can, we just dive into jamming, and the
first track we try is one of george harrison’s most famous compositions, “while my
guitar gently weeps”. I’m on guitar and lead vocal on this track, with ted on piano.
Neither of us knew the song well, but you can hear our obvious respect and passion
for the work of the beatles - and, in 1974, this song was only six years old - so
for us, a recent track by a just-departed legend. this take also demonstrates how
difficult it is to sing as well as george harrison does - I do OK, but it’s a stretch
- and then I take a long solo, and for me, it’s interesting to hear the level of
competence I had achieved by age 16 - after just three years of playing - but that
is testament to how many bands I’d been in, and the influence of the musicians, and
the music, that was all around me...
the second excerpt of “while my guitar gently weeps” starts out with a delicate piano-led
interlude from ted holding, and then I pick up the rhythm guitar again, and I’m away
back into the verse, singing with so much conviction and seriousness - and then suddenly,
it’s over - with a respectably decent outro/mini-burnout ending on lead guitar -
not bad at all for someone with just three years’ playing experience.
The influence of the allman brothers band on both ted and I can’t be understated,
they were one of the best bands around, and their cover of “stormy Monday”, the t-bone
walker classic, from “live at the fillmore east”, the allmans’ finest moment, was
an inspiration to all of us, so even through we don’t know it too well, we have a
go anyway. Starting out with a fairly mature bit of blues lead guitar, and then
moving on through that famous chord progression - ted then begins to really jazz
things up in the piano department, playing some quasi-solos during the chord progression,
then moving to a bass note motif, allowing me to take the next guitar solo. a great
song to jam on, a blues classic - which both of us went on to play in the various
bands we were in over the next few years.
this excerpt begins with me playing a fairly unorthodox, trebly lead guitar solo
that isn’t quite traditional blues, but more the electric white-boy blues made popular
by people like eric clapton, the only blues I really knew was the blues of cream,
so applying that to a t-bone walker song - well, let’s just say, I wouldn’t make
that choice now. even stranger, I then turn on my echoplex (yes, the tape kind!)
for some even weirder soloing - so this is a very, uh, non-traditional rendering
of “stormy monday” - ted then starts to really comp it up during my strange echoplex
bit, stealing the show completely - but, no objections from me - his skill at improvising
on piano, or hammond, was unparalleled.
I’ve included this fragment just to show that ted, even in a casual, unplanned setting,
could really come up with the goods - creating a great little piece of solo piano
while I am away getting my guitar sound together. then, he breaks into “bennie &
the jets” by elton john, probably just to annoy me, since I was not a great fan of
elton - but I join in, and actually manage to pull the guitar riff out of nowhere
- which ted then “trumps” with a perfect, final elton john chord.
another tiny fragment, I’d heard this song on the radio, I didn’t know the group,
I didn’t know the song (although later, I collected all of the 10cc albums and became
a huge admirer) - I just liked the sound of the riff - in C minor, and the lyric
- and I literally figured out this fragment from hearing the song on the radio -
and played it here because I liked it. It’s interesting to hear the music of the
day being played live by ted and myself - he plays elton john, I play 10cc - then
we move on to both playing a steely dan classic...
this is actually two excerpts blended into one - first, a guitar led intro from a
first attempt at the piece, which was aborted - and then, a more piano led intro
from ted on the main body of the excerpt. I wanted to preserve the first intro which
I felt was pretty good, so I just edited the two together, thus creating an overall
longer intro for the song proper. but what’s important to me about this take, is
ted’s vocal - when we get to the first verse, neither of us take the vocal (I’d been
singing lead vocal throughout the session for some unknown reason) and then suddenly,
a bit late, we both do. then I (wisely) let ted take over the lead vocal, and his
voice - hearing it now, it was just such a brilliant instrument. as the verse progresses,
we tentatively try out some harmonies - some that work, some that don’t. please
note, too, at 0:45, a perfectly-executed steely dan piano part - played by a 16 year
old boy...then ted goes on to “play” a virtual drum part with his voice; we start
the second verse - on which I take the lead vocal - and then, the tape suddenly ends.
there are no other recordings of us playing this song, so unfortunately, this incomplete
fragment is all there is - but I’m glad of it, because I get to hear ted sing, and
to hear myself harmonising with him - we loved to sing, and sometimes, when I was
really on - it was wonderful. so when that tape runs out - well, I have no idea what
happens after that, it’s really sort of a heartbreaking moment; because that’s all
there is - a typical day playing in ted’s studio - not perfect by a long shot, but
a really, truly enjoyable experience.
“you could have a change of heart...”
a scan of the original manuscript of the chord progression of “froggy’s holiday”,
handwritten in pencil by dave stafford at age 16, in 1974. this would have been
the actual piece of music that ted and I referred to as we played the takes you hear
it is remarkable indeed that not only did three versions of this unique piece of
stafford/holding music survive the journey through time, avoiding oxide death, but
the only written copy of the chords did as well - thirty eight years.
click on the thumbnail of the manuscript at left, to view the full size scan.
photo: rick’s rehearsal room circa 1971
the actual tape used to capture the concert
click the thumbnail at right to view the full-size image
as young musicians, from age 13 through 16, we tended to play mostly covers, and
we didn’t really write or record our own songs that much. but, as time passed, that
changed, and while we still loved to play covers, we did begin writing as well.
now both age 17, ted in particular began writing pop songs (where I was already writing
strange instrumentals, such as “froggy’s holiday” from the 1974 section above) -
and in this section, I am proud to present two of those original ted holding works,
in a remarkable series of recordings made in this seminal year. 17 is a good age
to be, you are starting to grow up, but you still have all the power of your youth,
and ted’s power was twofold - he could play piano better than anyone I met, and on
top of that incredible talent and ear for music - he had an amazing voice. these
recordings were made at different times - the cover of the chicago song is clearly
the earliest, while the two ted holding songs came later, but these three tracks
represent a huge leap forward in our abilities as players, singers, producers and
arrangers. multi-track recording appeared in the form of a teac 3340-s reel to reel
deck (identical to one I owned and recorded on not too far in the future) and we
made extremely good use of that tool, as you will hear in this section.
as we move away from the covers into the world of arranging, performing and recording
original music, the determination and power with which we play multiplies and grows
at an almost alarming rate - we are serious about these songs, but along with that
seriousness, there is an absolutely undeniable joy in those precious, precious moments
of musical creation.
1975 was a great year for us, and it culminated in a remarkable set of live performances,
now with an expanded lineup, the “ted holding band” - and happily, one of those live
performances has survived.
featured session: ted holding & dave stafford in studio circa 1975
these sessions took place sometime in 1975, in ted’s studio. each one has a slightly
different lineage, and each was recorded in a unique way which I will detail along
with the standard track information. ted & I, at this point, had been playing together
as musical partners for more than four years, and we had each grown as players -
and we also had developed what I would call “simpatico” - we anticipated each other,
and we often would play things instinctively (this is demonstrated clearly by some
of the forthcoming live takes made in 1977, where we would, for example, both choose
the same random end note in an unplanned ending sequence) - and this sympathy made
it possible for us to work really well together to get sounds down on the tape quickly,
but also accurately, and arranged the way we heard it in our heads. I’ve written
about the remarkable institution that holding & stafford were in the studio on my
blog, it’s these tapes, from 1975, that probably demonstrate that we were a team,
and in particular, the fully-produced studio tracks show the care and professional
execution that we insisted on when working on serious material. these songs mattered
to us, and you can hear that on the tapes - they were the soundtrack of our lives,
and we did an amazing job of capturing that soundtrack.
this is a mix of the multi track master, featuring:
ted holding: lead vocal and upright piano – live take
dave stafford: rhythm guitar – live take
that was the standard live arrangement, so that would have been the first part recorded
ted holding: double-tracked lead vocal and farfisa organ – overdub
probably done one at a time, and repeatedly bounced to a stereo pair
ted holding: double-speed piano solo
ted holding: double-speed farfisa organ solo
so what started as a normal cover of a song we knew and had played many, many times
before - suddenly became more of a fun experiment, because of course we had hit on
the same trick george martin used of the dual piano solo in “in my life” – playing
the backing track at half-speed, playing the solo at normal speed, and then when
you speed up the tape, the solo plays back at double speed – and is an octave higher.
I assume what happened here is that parts 1 and 2 were bounced to one stereo pair;
resulting in a basic stereo track of piano, farfisa, rhythm guitar, and double-tracked
vocal, and then onto that, on two separate channels, first the piano solo, and then
amazingly, doubling the same solo on the farfisa on the one remaining empty track.
because double-speed piano was on one channel and double-speed organ on another,
ted was also then able to mess about with the stereo imaging, creating a fantastical
sound – a piano and organ racing along at impossible speed – a great solo, completely
invented by ted (it certainly doesn’t feature on the chicago version!) – all I could
do is sit back and admire the creativity, the talent, that allowed ted to envision,
record and double-speed that solo – a hugely creative and successful idea.
this is very probably the first multi track recording we ever made together, and
given the very limited technology available to us, it’s really quite mature and well
thought out – for two 17 year old musicians. I particularly love the way ted arranged
his dual keyboard solo, including some great stereo imaging on the fly during the
mix down. we couldn’t believe the final result, a piano and organ duet that “plays
back” at superhuman speed, unreal, sure, but enormously fun to do!
this is a mix of the multi track master, featuring:
of all of the tracks from this session, “we’ll shine” is the most fully produced
– and it demonstrates just how good holding and stafford could be, given time in
a studio situation.
the track features:
ted holding: lead vocals and fender rhodes electric piano – live take
dave stafford: rhythm and lead guitar – live take
that’s probably what the first pass was, because this was recorded in a series of
three stereo passes.
ted holding: harmony vocal 1 and hammond organ - overdub
dave stafford: facsimile bass – overdub
I am extrapolating this from the way I believe we would have done this, in conjunction
with my failing memory of the session – it’s a long, long time ago now!
ted holding: harmony vocal 2 – high harmony - arp omni string synthesizer – overdub
dave stafford: harmony vocal 1 – low harmony
we both worked on the arrangement, and in particular, the vocal harmonies which were
expertly mixed in stereo by ted – I love the stereo separation in this mix, and the
backing vocals just sound so, so good to me, even now – we worked on that for ages
and ages, and then when you add in the stereo placement – you get pop vocal heaven.
ted’s one-take lead vocal is perfectly framed by three harmony vocals done as overdubs
– ted doing all but one of them himself. I am honoured to have been allowed to sing
on this track, I really am, since my voice is no match for ted’s!
the first time the background vocals come in, every time I hear it, it just sends
a shiver down my spine, it’s so perfectly, so beautiful – probably the best single
vocal harmony I’ve ever been involved in. of course, that is mostly down to the
fact that it’s 85 percent ted’s voice - you can barely hear my two low notes of harmony
it’s possible that there are four rather than three harmony vocals, depending if
I possibly “sang as I played” on part 1 or part 2, but I can’t tell – there are certainly
three at a minimum, but even so, it sounds incredibly full and rich – really stunning
background vocals, that take this song to a whole new level.
music & lyrics by ted holding
ted holding: lead vocal, multi tracked harmony vocals, fender rhodes piano, hammond
organ, arp omni string synthesizer, vocal arrangement.
dave stafford: rhythm guitar, lead guitar, facsimile bass, harmony vocal.
produced, arranged, engineered and mixed by ted holding, assisted by dave stafford.
featured session: ted holding & dave stafford - ted holding band live - circa 1975
recorded live at the helix high school gymnasium in la mesa, california in 1975,
this track features an expanded line up: the ted holding band - ted on piano and
lead vocal; myself on rhythm and lead guitar; jeff on bass and harmony vocal; a drummer
whose name I do not recall; and strangely, the helix high school choir director on
extra harmony vocal – and, he adds in some very strange and wonderful harmonies during
the end section of the song – and, in the special “surprise” additional coda that
we played on this occasion only – we arranged this just before the show, that we
would count in the track again and play just the chorus one last time – and, we didn’t
tell the choir director, so he was taken completely off guard – but, he just jumped
straight in and did a beautiful job of rounding out the piece, including a very risky
high harmony that worked perfectly.
the excitement that this extra bit of performance created is palpable, the drummer
starts really jamming and plays a great fill, the audience reaction is audible during
and after the extra chorus completes - extending the song with the additional section
was an inspired idea.
we played this piece either two nights running or three, I don’t remember which,
and on the earlier nights, we just played the song “straight” – but on the third
night, since the piece was going down really well with the audience (based on the
first two nights’ experience) we made the decision to have this secret, surprise
extra ending – and I am so, so glad that the one recording of this song happens to
be the one with the extra coda – that’s a real stroke of luck. I’m slightly hopeful
that somewhere, on a reel to reel tape, that there might be other versions of “you’ve
gone away” – but if that hope is in vain, then I am quite, quite happy with this
one lone version – it’s a heartbreaker.
a word now about my guitar solo, if you listen carefully, there is a strange “clunk”
sound just before the first note I play, which was me plugging my guitar back in
- the jack had a problem, and amazingly, in the tiny space between the end of where
I play the chords, and the beginning of the solo, I became conscious that the cable
had started to slip out of the jack, so in one motion, I plug the guitar in and hit
the first note of the solo (which would have been silence if I had not noticed!!)
- and it totally unnerved me - I can hear in my first three or four notes that it
threw me a little, but I recover like a pro and sail through the rest of it - spurred
on by that amazing piano from mr. holding.
t to have this secret, surprise extra ending – and I am so, so glad that the one
recording of this song happens to be the one with the extra coda – that’s a real
stroke of luck. I’m slightly hopeful that somewhere, on a reel to reel tape, that
there might be other versions of “you’ve gone away” – but ithis is also one of ted’s
most heartfelt pieces, with a poignant, moving lyric - and the basic beauty of the
song absolutely shines through this very carefully rehearsed performance, in ted’s
clear, tuneful vocal, both precise and at the same time, emotional - yet joyful,
the joy of singing from the heart - and whenever I hear this track, what I hear is
ted - his voice so, so “on” - his piano, absolutely flawless - and the defining moment
on the piano occurs during my guitar solo - I reach a long bend, and suddenly, out
of nowhere, ted appears with a super-speed, perfect up-then-down arpeggio, and lands
squarely back on the “one” without missing a beat - that just frosts my socks hearing
it now, it’s so, so beautiful, so unexpected, an absolutely daring, incredibly risky
move in a live situation (and of course, he pulls it off as if it were nothing) -
and it totally, totally steals the show from my solo!
between the impossible piano, the perfect vocal, the miraculous re-plugging-in of
the guitar, and the surprise coda including unrehearsed, unplanned, new vocal harmonies
- this is a piece of music that defies the odds, it has a charmed life - and it is
one of the most significant pieces of music from my teenage years, and one that I
am most, most proud of.hope is in vain, then I am quite, quite happy with this one
lone version – it’s a
you’ve gone away
music & lyrics by ted holding
the ted holding band, live at helix high school gymnasium 1975:
ted holding: lead vocal, grand piano, vocal arrangement.
dave stafford: rhythm guitar, lead guitar, guitar solo.
jeff slater: bass guitar, harmony vocal
mark: harmony vocals
produced, arranged, engineered and mixed by ted holding, assisted by dave stafford.
the third and final track from 1975 is a completely different and very unique performance,
recorded live with a full band, on the last night of a short run of performances
at the helix high school gymnasium in la mesa, california.
so far, we have not identified any recording that are known to have been specifically
made in 1976, although recordings may indeed appear later on. nevertheless, this
was an important year for us, progressive rock was beginning to change, perhaps,
somehow, it knew that punk was just around the corner, waiting to smash it a good
one - this was the year of “a trick of the tail” and getting used to a genesis without
peter gabriel - I remember specifically that we all really loved “trick”, and we
used to set it up on the big pa speakers in ted’s downstairs studio, on the big speakers,
pumping it with ted’s 600 watt power amp, so we could enjoy the full visceral experience
of michael rutherford’s remarkable bass line in “los endos” - jeff slater, our bass
played, was particularly in love with that sound, and ted and jeff and rick and I
would play “los endos” over and over and over again at full volume to get the full
it’s also been very difficult to actually determine the actual age of some of these
tapes, so it’s entirely possible that tapes we’ve assigned to 1977, for example,
might actually have been made in 1976 - we just don’t know.
as more information becomes available, we will update the pages with anything else
we learn, but for now, we will just move straight ahead to 1977, and the recordings
we believe were made during that year. there are factors that allow us to “date”
the recordings when there is no actual date on the tape, the presence of certain
instruments, the presence of certain musicians, and so on, and we’ve done the best
we can with the information that we do have - but 1976 was a great year, full of
great music - in 1974, we’d had the best of progressive rock, and just a few years
later, you can hear that in the style of music played by holding, stafford, corriere
and morgan - it’s clearly prog - 1977 style.
now childhood has definitely passed, and we were young men - at this point, ted and
I were both 19 years old, and both heavily influenced by the progressive rock we
had listened to and loved in the first half of the seventies, in this year we had
finally got our instruments together, and our playing together, and our recording
equipment together, to the point where we could have a go at playing prog ourselves
- so we did. of course, we still worked on our own material, and this year begins
with an interesting remake of an earlier ted holding original, a very special live
in the studio recording featuring guest musicians.
on, the prog rock improvisations of both holding, stafford and corriere and holding,
stafford, corriere and morgan - two of the great unknowns of home made instrumental
prog rock hold sway, we would spend hours setting up the studio, miking up the two
drum sets, getting the sound just right - and then, sit down, and just jam our hearts
away - what a fantastic time!
it’s very interesting to hear this material now after so, so long, and to hear the
direction we were taking, away from pop, away from covers of popular music, and instead,
we were beginning to find our own musical identities. I think some of the work of
the prog rock trio or quartet holds up very well indeed, especially when you consider
the age and experience of the players, and ted holding in particular is light years
ahead of us with his approach to playing - especially on the hammond, where he really,
featured session: ted holding & dave stafford
ted holding band - live in the studio - circa 1977
this was a specially set up “live in the studio” recording of ted’s song, “we’ll
shine”, I don’t quite recall how the whole thing came about, but it was a very serious
and very intricate session, featuring a new arrangement of the song to include an
additional solo from guest guitarist jim whitaker (of gearfabbeat band fame) and
when I first heard this take, I thought it was some kind of overdub session, until
I realised it was completely, entirely, 100% live.
we rehearsed the piece repeatedly, I remember that much, and then made some number
of takes of it, of which, this one is the only surviving one that I am aware of at
the moment - there may be others.
it’s interesting to me too, because I worked with a lot of different musicians, and
my work with jim whitaker had, up until this session, always been completely separate
from my work with ted, so it’s great to see those two worlds coming together, and
I am so pleased that jim is featured on one of ted’s songs. it is also particularly
good that rick corriere is on this track, because outside of the prog rock improvisations
that will appear later on, this is the only time that ted, dave and rick actually
seem to appear on any recordings together. rick was always our drummer, he was always
around, but not often when a tape was running - so this exception is particularly
pleasant - we managed to actually get him on tape. it should probably also be noted
that ted, myself and rick were all friends from junior high school, which at this
point, was a very long six years in the past, so the three of us were the oldest
and best of friends.
so with friends both old and new, we set up this “super session” to have a go at
recording a remake, a new “version”, of a ted holding classic, “we’ll shine”
music & lyrics by ted holding
ted holding: lead vocal, fender rhodes electric piano, hammond organ, arp omni string
ensemble (all at once)
dave stafford: rhythm and lead guitar, first guitar solo, harmony vocal
jim whitaker: rhythm and lead guitar, second guitar solo
jeff slater: bass guitar, harmony vocal
rick corriere: congas
produced, arranged, engineered and mixed by ted holding, assisted by dave stafford.
featured session: ted holding & dave stafford live in studio circa 1977
we return now to what was the most common instrumental arrangement for holding and
stafford - ted on piano and vocal, myself on guitar - except this time, I am playing
bass - but this late session is possibly one of the last examples of how we worked
out songs together - we were basically doing live demos of a new piece of ted’s,
and trying to work out how the song went with the simplest instrumentation possible.
this session is particularly interesting to me, because ted’s voice is not quite
the angelic, perfect instrument it was in 1975, he sounds really human, and really
real, as he strains to hit some of the notes in this new piece, but, the song meant
a lot to him, and I wanted to support him, so I was more than happy to play bass
along with the emerging composition.
none of these were ever meant to be released, they are demos, and should be judged
accordingly. none of them are perfect - but some of the playing, particularly the
piano is absolutely first class, you can hear ted getting better and better and better
at piano, and all keyboards, as we move through the past as represented by these
also particularly moving for me are the endings of takes 2 and 3, particularly, take
3, where I have left the studio chatter on at the end - where you can hear ted say
that “there were mistakes, but we both went for the same note at the end” - and that
note, shivers, that note is one of those happy, amazing accidents that sometimes
happen between musicians, where you truly are simpatico, and you just both do the
same thing at the same instant - and the ending of take 3 in particular I find to
be a fascinating example of just how well things can go when the muse is sitting
on both of your shoulders.
for me, working chronologically forwards from my earliest, faltering recordings made
when I was as young as 13, we now reach the part of the story that I really enjoy,
when I’ve reached a decent level of proficiency on my instrument - I can play both
lead and rhythm guitar as well as any prog-rock influenced 19-year old guitarist
living in the day - 1977 - and it is within the next few sessions that we are going
to present here, beginning with this one, that we start to see not just myself, but
all of us, reaching out for a more musically mature range of expression.
when I hear this particular session - I hear and remember so many things: I hear
rick joyfully smacking the absolute shit out of his drum kit, or hear him laughing
at the end of a particularly interesting take - or I hear the inventive things that
ted does with his keyboards - ted definitely had the most complex set up - three
keyboards, which he moved between almost effortlessly throughout the proceedings
- I am particularly impressed with his ability to coax a lot of good, useful sounds
out of what now seems like a very backwards piece of tech - the arp omni string machine
- certainly, an instrument with a limited palette of sounds, but in ted’s capable
hands, it becomes an integral and important part of the songs - impressive.
but nothing quite matches ted’s facility on the hammond organ (the only thing that
does, is his undeniable proficiency on acoustic piano - which is demonstrated elsewhere
on these pages) - and you hear that here, in these remarkable, improvised pieces,
many, many times - in his choice of different hammond voices; in his inspired use
of the third harmonic for those “harder”-sounding solos; in his inspired use of reverb
- or, turning the power off and on to achieve that amazing, detuned effect (point
of reference, the studio version of genesis “twilight alehouse” - the final section
where the organ goes very strange - that’s tony banks, turning the power off and
on as he plays) - every hammond trick that his peers had tried, every clever idea
than an emerson or a banks came up with - ted re-used but - reinvented it in his
very own ted holding style - and, in a very, very musical way, too.
the session itself is an absolute corker, it’s not perfect, in fact, I make far more
“errors” than ted or rick ever do, even though I have become a decent player, I am
still only a teenager, untrained, imperfect - but I will tell you what - most of
it sounds far more together than you would expect for three 19 year old “boys” -
and that’s because we weren’t really boys anymore, we were young men making our way
into the world of prog, learning as we went, and this session shows that we at least
were paying attention. I feel that my own playing is a bit hampered by a lack of
any of the effects arsenals that most prog guitarists had - I had just two effects
- an old, old fuzz box, and, routing my guitar through my ¼ reel to reel deck (a
sony - this was my first deck - before I owned the teac 3340S) because it had a “sound-on-sound”
button - which I had bastardised to use as my own personal delay!! (a real delay
was way out of my price range at this point in time) so when you hear my guitar
begin to have delay, that means I have started the reel to reel, which had to be
set up with a tape in it so I could put it into record, sound-on-sound mode, which
gave me a live delay effect. to shut it back off, I had to stop the tape - WHILE
I was playing the guitar!
so for those younger listeners, who will just think “oh, he just switched on his
boss delay stomp box, with his foot” - I never had such luxuries, not for years,
not until I was in my early 20s, did I actually start to be able to afford proper
effects - but, I think it was an incredibly clever idea to use my tape deck as an
impromptu delay unit - and when you hear how it sounds in these sessions, it was
such a good idea - that’s the best effect here in terms of the guitar playing. now,
I couldn’t imagine having to start and stop a tape just to get delay, but that was
how it worked!
that’s really how it happens when you are a young player wanting to sound really,
really good but you have no money - you just improvise, and ted was one of the best
at this - taking whatever instruments we had on hand, and finding creative and inventive
ways to make them sound - good! it’s very possibly his influence that made me think
“hey, wait a minute, maybe I can play my guitar through my tape deck and get the
delay - wow”...and the rest, as they say, is history.
the style of these pieces, the feel of them - the clear, uninhibited joy of the players,
the risks we took - some of which paid off, others, did not - but these songs, this
set of six songs, means an awful lot to me - this was the music that we loved, we
wanted to be better than genesis, more interesting than ELP - we wanted to rock,
we wanted to jam, we wanted to improvise, and the “friday night sessions” produced
more than one remarkable live session - but this one might be my personal favourite,
because on this night - we were all playing quite well, and obviously having a fantastic
time doing so. happy memories indeed!
track five, in true prog style, is a 17:16 progressive rock extravaganza, complete
with mysterious, quiet organ section, wildly changing dynamics, and if you listen
carefully around the six and a half minute mark, you can hear ted playing the exact
same chord changes that form the basis of his song “you’ve gone away” - only, transformed
into a progressive rock improv! I only realised that for the first time, since I
mastered “you’ve gone away” just a few weeks back, and then last night, it struck
me - ted is playing this beautiful song right there in the middle of this seventeen
minute plus musical adventure - so, the unofficial title for track 05 really should
be “resolution (including an excerpt from “you’ve gone away” by ted holding)”.
I think that was an incredibly clever idea - we’d reached a break point in the song,
and ted came back in playing this theme - in a different key from the first six minutes
of “resolution” - and rick and I just fell in with it and jammed our hearts out to
ted’s incredible chord sequence from “you’ve gone away” - and for the past thirty-five
years, I thought it was just an improv - but now it’s an improv with a musical and
very personal message from ted; hidden away in the middle of the improv - and I find
that to be quite remarkable.
I present to you then, now, without further ado - the world debut/premiere of holding
stafford & corriere - if you can, please listen to the entire session, from track
one through track six, for the full effect - it just gets better and better as it
goes along, and is best experienced in it’s entirety - please feel free to download
all the tracks and listen at your leisure.