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R.I.P Bill Price
Old 21st January 2017
Here for the gear

R.I.P Bill Price

A few words from my father about Bill Price, a pioneer, consumate gentleman and great family friend, love to his family may he rest in peace;

Bill Price, an appreciation.

Bill Price was one of Britain's most prolific and talented recording engineers and record producers, with an exceptional output that spans six decades. We all know huge hits of which he was an integral part: Tom Jones’s Delilah, Harry Nilsson’s Without You, The Whole of the Moon by the Waterboys, Brass In Pocket by the Pretenders, Live and Let Die by Paul McCartney and the Wings.
He also helped fashion a near-endless list of classic rock albums for everyone from the Sex Pistols and the Clash to Elton John and Guns’N’Roses, having learnt his craft in the sixties as a young Decca Records in-house engineer on less raucous fare, including a number of albums by Kenneth McKellar.

Thirty years ago, I was fortunate to work beside Bill as an assistant engineer in London’s famed Wessex Studios, where he was studio director and resident engineer. I witnessed him conjure magnificent sound with elegant creativity and the minimum of fuss on a daily basis, his brightness seemingly permanently dialled up to 11. His depth of knowledge and understanding of the equipment and music on which we were working, coupled with a natural ability to always put the faders in the right place, was unparalleled. In the present computer age, engineers and producers can return a recording to the exact same state we left it in weeks or months before at the push of a button. It is sobering to remember the number of occasions on which Bill perfectly and painstakingly reconstructed a mix long after it had been struck down from the non-computerised consoles we then worked on, chiefly by using his ears.

Highly supportive of those just starting out, Bill was always open to discuss the recording techniques he either picked up or innovated himself as a young Decca engineer as he worked on hit after sixties hit, starting with the first record he engineered: Tell Me When, a top 10 smash for the Applejacks. Bill naturally told many hilarious stories, the most memorable involving renowned jazz drummer Phil Seamen. Having been ordered by a hapless producer “to bring a little more magic” to his drumming during a Tom Jones session, Seamen could not be prevented from running around his kit screaming “Abra-ca-f***ing-dabra!” Sadder stories attended Sid Vicious, who injected heroin in the studio shadows and was subsequently beaten up outside the nearest local pub. At least Bill's record with Sid, My Way, attained transcendence, also perfectly illustrating Bill’s studio genius. He had merely been presented with Sid's meandering, out-of-time a capella vocal on its own segment of tape. Choosing assorted sounds on other pieces of quarter-inch recording tape, Bill manipulated them into the basis of the track before Simon Jeffes’ orchestration. Bill’s work on My Way confirmed him as a master editor with a terrific sense of music and drama, producing a magnificently subversive and dark version of Frank Sinatra’s hit.

I was always confused by Bill's reluctance to call himself a record producer, always insisting he was more of an engineer. It's a grey area, but from what I witnessed at first hand, Bill was unique in his ability to carry a recording, and then edit it into shape in a highly technical fashion while uncovering its beating heart and without destroying any of its rawness or energy. Aspiring record producers and engineers will do well to take stock of Bill's vast catalogue of works, if only to marvel at its diversity and consistency.

Mark Freegard
Old 22nd January 2017
Lives for gear
JoeyM's Avatar
Old 24th January 2017
Lives for gear
carlheinz's Avatar

Oh man...Wessex and that Neve with Bill at the helm.Priceless...sad pun intended
Old 28th January 2017
Here for the gear

It was a Cadac by then, after Chrysalis bought Wessex, and Bill was Studio manager, that was the desk installed
Old 4th June 2020
Here for the gear

Bill and Wessex

Bill Price was the best boss I ever had and one of the nicest blokes to work with. He wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty, crawling under floors terminating cables and had very high standards and, being trained in electronics, a good understanding of the equipment.
I still remember him cutting a cable in half that I'd quickly made up for him - he sent me back to the workshop to "take my time and make it properly".
If you made a mistake, he would explain what you'd done and how you should have done it. If you made that mistake again he would be understanding. I have a feeling a third time and he would have gone mad - I never did make the same mistake a third time.
I made it to Technical Manager at Wessex under his management (he was really Managing Director by then).

I miss him.

By the way, I met Mark Freegard again recently and had a look at his studio in Glasgow - nice setup and he has good ears. I only new him as an "Old Wessex Boy" (as was Tim Friese-Greene) who came in to Wessex working freelance on a few sessions - he'd left before I started there.
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