TCM’s Ted Carfrae recounts a very personal story – an example of professionalism.

…..The recent passing of iconic film director Blake Edwards was very sad for me because it has prompted some wonderful personal memories of when I was lucky enough to work with the great man.

I was about 22 years of age when I last worked with him in 1981 when I was an assistant engineer/tape operator at CTS Studios (The Music Centre) in Wembley, North London.

During my tenure at CTS, I worked on lots of film soundtrack recordings, sometimes two or three a week. I was lucky enough to work on three soundtracks with Blake – 10, S.O.B. and Victor Victoria. All films starring his wife, the amazing Julie Andrews.

I say amazing because without doubt, she is the single most talented artist I have ever worked with and watching her work taught me a lot of what I know now about being professional.

She was always well prepared, she was always fun to be around, always serious about her craft and always nailed her vocal in one take, that’s how great she was/is.

The particular day that stands out for me is the day we recorded the music for Victor Victoria. It was a hectic day in early April and I was at the studio at about 8am setting up the studio for my first session in Studio 2 which was recording the demo song for the Bond Film ‘For Your Eyes Only’.

The song was sung by a young Sheena Easton who had had a few big hits and she had just conquered America with her ‘Morning Train’ hit single.

The session was produced by Christopher Neil and we actually recorded two different versions of the song, both written by Mick Leeson and film composer Bill Conti. The demo of the song was very different from the final version, different words, very different production, taking much inspiration from Ultravox’s recent hit, ‘Vienna’.

Sheena had a cold and asked me to run to the shop and get her a packet of ‘Tunes’. When I got back, she was in the studio alone while the guys were in the control room piecing together the arrangements etc. I just sat with Sheena in the studio chatting about her career, how well it was going etc, it was great because we were about the same age and had a real laugh together messing about until we were both called into the control room to begin the session, it was a magical moment for me and really peaceful I remember.

What’s even nicer is that when I met her again in 2001 in Las Vegas, she remembered me straight away.

Anyway back to the story…later after the session finished, Sheena and I were walking up the stairs to the bar/cafeteria to get a coffee or something when we both stopped in our tracks as this gold Rolls Royce stopped outside and Julie Andrews emerged in a full length fox fur coat, looking every part the film superstar she is. I was working on her session as well so I ran to the bar, grabbed a tea and KitKat, said goodbye to Sheena and ran down to Studio 1 where incidentally I had been until 3am that morning setting up the studio for the expected 80 musicians.

I pushed open the door of the control room and the place was packed. There was sound engineer John Richards (my boss), record producer Tony Adams, Blake Edwards, Julie Andrews and the great composer Henry Mancini, as well as several people from the film company so it was busy in there.

It was magical because later we were joined by the films two other stars James Garner and Robert Preston.

Julie was dressed in a white tee-shirt and jeans and she looked incredible, flawless, truly a beautiful woman.

Henry Mancini went downstairs to the studio and started rehearsing with the massive orchestra while John and I got the sounds together. I would run up and down the stairs to the studio to make slight changes with John and when everything was ready to go, Julie was then asked to go down to the vocal booth. I went with her to check the height and position of the microphone, John by then trusted me with mic placement, though just before we started recording, he would usually go down and visually check everything personally.

Henry called the orchestra to attention, the red light went on as I hit record and we were off. Julie was very impressive indeed because she recorded each song in just one take, live with an 80 piece orchestra, now that’s real pressure I can tell you and by the end of the three hour session, Julie had recorded all of her songs perfectly, she then kissed us all goodbye and left with Blake, James and Robert for Shepperton Studios to begin filming.

The control room emptied out and John, Henri and I continued recording the rest of the music well into the evening finishing at about 10pm.

I have been so fortunate in my life to have had some truly memorable and unique experiences and though I was seriously into rock music at the time, Julie Andrews and Sheena Easton still remain at the top of my list of truly great artists because they both taught me about professionalism, preparation and perfection.

Explore posts in the same categories: Music, Recording Artists, Recording Studios, Sound Recording

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  1. Lowell Says:

    Excellent story and a beautiful insight. The comments on what it takes to “be professional” should be the standard by which we are all judged.

    Thanks for sharing!

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