Selected production commenataries

This whole site evolved from the collapse of the conventional music-making business, and the need of one person to keep scratching the itch to make music.

Mike Thorne's encounters with showbiz began as a tea boy/assistant engineer in 1970. His 'hired gun' production career stretched from 1976 to 1994, after which he moved on to work more loosely with closer collaborators and on his own words and music, in a changed environment.

In these pages, Thorne comments candidly about many of his productions and other musical involvements: stellar, famous, cult, unknown and utterly forgotten.
The only reason for writing is to tell a good story.
Even if it's embarrassing to the author ...

Read Thorne's entry in the
Billboard Encyclopedia Of Record Producers

Marc Almond : Fantastic Star  
1994, UK album
What was to become Marc Almond’s Fantastic Star CD was one of the most disappointing results of my whole commercial record production career, which it concluded. Its particular story seems to reflect the whole self-destructive malaise of the non-creative side of the business...
Laurie Anderson: Strange Angels 
1988, US album
When I first saw Laurie perform, at the Ritz (which is now Webster Hall) on 11th Street in New York in perhaps 1982, I thought I had seen the future of rock+roll.  I even used the phrase in polite conversation.  Here was this person who could create a compelling and singular musical/theatrical event by rolling around.....
BETTY: Hello BETTY!
1991, US album
I don’t remember much about their music, except that it was delivered on the tiny stage by three raucous women singers supported by a drummer and a guitarist. One was a statuesquely tall bass player, one had the quickest stage wit I’d heard in years, and the other, also voluble, played various things including timbales which fell off the stage at.....
BETTY: Carnival 
2000, US album
The millennium is approaching. Don’t just stand there, do something, dammit. BETTY had already started the process by writing Millennium Man, a song not about the new year dawning but about a slightly suspect character who would be around next year. It had started, as many do, as a jam, a couplet (‘Here he come, Millennium Man’) then completed by a.....
BETTY: Jungle Jane Remixes 
2000, US MP3 remixes
The downloadable MP3 is the new single. Since the Stereo Society is both studio and online record company (among other things), we can create a piece of music and make it available the day it is finished. The deadline is not as final as when you have to master and manufacture. So, we decided to do two club mixes ourselves.....
Bronski Beat: Age of Consent 
1984, UK album
After the flying start of Bronski Beat’s recording with Smalltown Boy in England, the studio action had shifted to New York for the majority of Why? before finishing in a Julian Mendelsohn mixing room at the Town House studios in London. Why? had been exhausting, ultimately taking over two days to mix, but such are the pressures of .....
Bronski Beat: Smalltown Boy 
1984, UK single
Gay is cool. Thus declared London’s Time Out magazine without a trace of irony after Jimmy Somerville, Steve Bronski and Larry Steinbachek as Bronski Beat had delivered the most unlikely British hit of 1984. The media was struggling to catch up with and assimilate these confusingly affable gay activists.
Bronski Beat: Why? 
1984, UK single
Everyone has a novel in them. And everyone has a song. So they say. They who say so may have noticed something more. In record-making, it’s an old cliché. You spend the first many years of your life getting ready for your first, and it contains all your good ideas from that period from the year dot to your present age.
Bronski Beat: Hundreds and Thousands 
1985 UK album
The collection of tracks which eventually coalesced into the CD of Hundred And Thousands started off as a couple of interim singles to be released before the eventual second album which was not to happen. The recordings started with Jimmy on board, continued after his departure, and concluded with a virtual reappearance thanks to fresh new.....
John Cale: Honi Soit 
1980, US album
John Cale has one of the most ferocious presences of recent pop music.  Casually demolishing the popular myth that out-there intensity is incompatible with musical technique and proficiency, he has delivered over 30 years' worth of  albums which manage to combine skewering.....
Carmel: Bad Day
1982, UK single

Carmel, who called it quits (for the first time) in 1997, was a vibrant, pioneering trio, the heart of what was usually a much larger performing ensemble. The eponymous singer, Carmel McCourt, has an extraordinary voice, whose pure R&B sound
........
Carmel: The Drum Is Everything
1983, UK album

The tension was far too good to last. With Bad Day, Carmel the group and I had delivered an unlikely hit single and were now required to proceed to the next stage of the standard business model. Success begets success, they say, but you do have to work at it. Carmel’s recording for London Records had already started as a project which tested the rules of process. We couldn’t continue with a basic Bad Day method? Far too easy........
Carmel: It's All In The Game
1987, UK single

Records and the music they convey should always be personal. That’s an ideal, and we know that most efforts don’t even think of subscribing, commercial entertainment now having its eye more on the bottom line than driven by passion. But recordings and performances should always be a window into the soul of the artist, a view of someone’s naked feelings opened as widely as possible. Some records are more connected to events........
Communards 
1986, UK album
The mid-eighties was a nasty, bitter time in the UK. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the unions were going toe-to-toe over her insistence on dismantling the workers’ collective right to a summary strike. Each side was shouting past the other, and the collision between the government’s autocratic attitude and the union leaders.....
Deep Purple: Fireball air conditioning 
1971 UK album
I had enjoyed the singular sound that the air conditioning made in the string section mics when it was turned on after a take. (Such was the racket when it was running that sounds smaller than Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar’s Marshall stack were not recordable without turning it off.) Yet it came to be that this AC unit was perhaps the most appreciated in recording history......
Flowerpot Men: Walk On Gilded Splinters 
1985 UK single
There are some recordings which just demand to be made. Once you have yielded to the inevitable, you’ll often find yourself in the grip of a process that you don’t quite control, but you know that to flow on with it to the natural end is the only chance of seeing something new. Death and glory are the only possibilities when you immerse yourself in such anarchy.
Charles Ives: Universe Symphony  
2005 album
Many times, we all asked ourselves whether we would do it all over again.  It’s hard to imagine a project on a similar scale.  In the early stages, part of the terror for me was the unknown, possibly unsatisfactory entity that we would only hear clearly at the end of this radical recording, and my only comfort could be from the demonstrated consummate skill of both Charles Ives and Johnny Reinhard: four generations apart, these two.  What kept me going was...
Johnny Reinhard Raven(ing remix
2001 US mp3 remix

Johnny Reinhard’s Raven could not have been delivered without acknowledging the importance of feel: up to seven musicians would be stuck in a tiny room, although with no separating screens. They were in the same space, without earnest acoustic separation. The CD Raven stands tall, and the proposal to remix and shoehorn it into another style sounds suicidal......
Sex Pistols: Anarchy In the UK 
1976, UK single
In 2002, it’s now 26 years since London’s 1976 summer of punk, a season with one of the most severe water shortages the city has ever experienced. The Sex Pistols were the flag-bearers for the new punk action, which quickly woke me up and provoked my third childhood (the second was in the late sixties). Recently, things don’t seem to have changed so quickly and as radically.
Sex Pistols: Jubilee box set
2002, UK 3CD set
Eventually, I was to be a lone throwback to the house producer when offered the job in 1977, a year in which I would produce five albums including my first top 20 and first gold disk. However, the previous year was spent diligently pursuing an A&R career with no thought to further progress. In the process, I recorded several demonstration tracks with the Sex Pistols just after they signed with EMI........
The Shirts 
1978, UK/US album
We all know about the Ramones, the Talking Heads, Blondie, Television…..the seventies list goes as far as you care. Later, when CBGB’s became establishment, more and even bigger names would grace its tiny stage (bathrooms to the left, downstairs). But in the seventies’ Golden Age there was another lively layer, of bands that, for various reasons, didn’t make the household-name grade.
The Shirts: Street Light Shine 
1979, UK/US album
The Shirts now sounded a different band altogether. The had developed a long way, and, better still, they now found themselves on home ground. From the first (effected) piano chords of Laugh And Walk Away you hear a confident, steady combo, a rich vocal sound from Annie in her best range, as you now do throughout the album. Another Dutch hit, another well-received US release. More European acclaim. More indifference in the US.....
Siouxsie and the Banshees 
1987, UK single
Not all records are made in heaven. This one certainly wasn’t. It’s sometimes worth looking at a failure to see what can go wrong. Sometimes, Murphy’s Law is inescapable with a given collection of characters. In retrospect, we didn’t have a chance to connect and make a song in this world, let alone bring one from the edge of it, but.......
Soft Cell: Tainted Love
1981, UK single
This song, a hit for Gloria Jones in the sixties, was clearly a strong one in some people's minds, since she re-recorded it in 1975, on her EMI album Vixen, co-produced with Marc Bolan just before the late-night car accident on Barnes Common, in West London, that killed him.  By the late seventies, it had became a club staple on the English 'northern soul' circuit.....
Soft Cell: Non Stop Erotic Cabaret
1982, UK album
With the world going mad around and about us, it was time to record the follow-up to Tainted Love.  That first major-label single from the group would go on be the biggest-selling single in the UK of 1981, eventually topping charts around the world and even making #8 in the US Billboard Hot 100 in a national market defiantly resistant to new sounds......
Soft Cell: Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing
1982, UK album
We had scored three consecutive top-five singles in the UK, and Tainted Love was so in demand and so over-used that some New York club Djs would be playing the UK 45rpm single at 33 1/3 in a desperate attempt to find a new angle.  (US extended 12” singles were generally cut at 33, UK at 45, so this probably first happened as an enlightened mistake.....
Soft Cell: Torch
1982, UK single
In a pleasantly unguarded moment many years later, while working on Fantastic Star, Marc Almond and I would agree that Torch was the best single of the many tracks we made together in the intense and creatively productive period that included Soft Cell's first two albums. The dominant A side of what was intended to be a double-A side, brings together.....

Soft Cell: The Art Of Falling Apart
1983, UK album
Not knowing exactly when the phrase was coined, I’d guess that the title of the double album probably wasn’t invented until late in the recordings.  But Soft Cell continued their uncanny knack of delivering songs and sounds which mirrored their current mental and psychological state.  Unfortunately....

Soft Machine: Alive And Well In Paris 
1977, UK album
In the sixties, you had to be either for the Rolling Stones or the Beatles.  A less noted polarity was between Pink Floyd and Soft Machine, two groups emerging from London's psychedelic jungle.  Although the balance of power between them was even as their first two albums came out, Soft Machine went on to pursue.....
Symphony Of Saxes: White Cliffs Of Dover
1976, UK single
The London Saxophone Quartet had been friends since the very early 1970s.   1976 they were the hosts and organizers of the World Saxophone Congress, held at the Royal College of Music in London.  One typical idea that had been formulated several pints into one very pleasant London pub evening was that they might.....
Téléphone: Anna.
1977, French album
Someone coined the expression ‘pop will eat itself’. Punk did, and has become just another genre. Play fast, turn up the distortion and off you go. Adoption of an attitude has become a style in itself, and a bad attitude something nice to wear on a Saturday night, attractive to a particular crowd, but without the challenge and confrontation......
The Roxy London WC2 (Jan-Apr 77)
1977, UK album
The current heat wave being suffered by New York in July 1999 is nothing in comparative terms to that of London in 1976.  The heat traditionally drives people into losing it and doing crazy things.  The summer of punk now looks inevitable.....
The The: Uncertain Smile
1982, UK single
There are some projects which turn out immaculately and whose recording and production feels effortless, as if the participants were just following a pre-ordained path down the mountain with the stone tablets. Free will seems suspended. Even better, some of these records gain popular recognition...
Thorne: The Contessa's Party
2006, US album
In the eighties, we would go out to dance and to check out new music. Simultaneously. Over the succeeding years, I watched the originating music and the dance floor diverge. I wondered if it was possible to put them together again, to make a party record with music that changed and developed...
Til Tuesday: Voices Carry
1984, US album
Boston has always sustained a rock+roll scene which is both creative and intelligent.  The club scene there, even now, is actively ahead of the national average when it comes to enjoying a plain, unpretentious, down-home good time.  Posers need not apply.  Til Tuesday came as a big surprise to many when they.....
Wire: Pink Flag
1977, UK album
It's difficult to write about a classic record.  While not quite the Sergeant Pepper of the new wave, since Pink Flag's release in 1977 it has featured in so many personal-best lists and its contents have been subjected to much curious analysis and speculation.  The album is Wire at the point of metamorphosing from assimilated punks.....
Wire: I Am The Fly
1978, UK single
After Pink Flag, which shocked us all by the ferocity of the favorable reviews, we had to make an interim single before embarking on what was to be Chairs Missing.  Suddenly, the group was on the precarious edge of commercial viability, despite the limited response to the first single from that.....
Wire: Chairs Missing
1978, UK album
On the release of their second album, Wire were dubbed 'the Pink Floyd of the New Wave'.  It could have been the ultimately flattering phrase but it made everybody jumpy.  Pink Floyd were establishment, potentially dinosaurs, and Wire didn't want to be that.  Even so, the two groups have much in common: their albums all persist.....
Wire: Outdoor Miner
1978, UK single
This single was never going to Louie Louie or Born In The USA.  The music was written by Colin after Graham had given him the lyrics relating to the domestic problem of the serpentine miner, an insect which lives in a leaf and eats chlorophyll.  In our slightly hermetic Wire bubble, this didn't seem particularly unreasonable......
Wire: 154
1979, UK album
These were fraught sessions.  Perhaps we'd all been living together too long, although the experimental mood on the album was served by the conversational shorthand you develop over a long time, when fewer words are necessary to explain.  After a few quick demos to test and for the five of us just to settle in again, we went off to.....


Mike Thorne: Selected Production commentaries