The industry has been paying tribute to Bill Price who has died from cancer aged 72, writes Jim Evans. During a long career as both engineer and producer, the unassuming studio maestro built a CV that is more than a little impressive and unlikely to be surpassed, with credits ranging from Tom Jones to the Sex Pistols and the Clash, with Elton John, Queen and numerous other luminaries in the mix.
Price started his career at Plessey Electronics, moving to Decca’s West Hampstead studios in the early Sixties where he cut his engineering teeth with such artists as Eric Clapton, John Mayall, the Moody Blues and Tom Jones.
In 1970, he joined the nascent AIR Studios in Oxford Street where he became chief engineer, was closely involved with the design and was involved in projects by Mott The Hoople, Pink Floyd, Stan Getz, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.
When Chrysalis Records purchased both AIR and Wessex Studios in 1976, Price joined the latter as chief engineer and later, studio manager. There, he forged a working relationship with producer Chris Thomas, for whom he engineered productions by Elton John, Pete Townshend and the Pretenders among others.
Together, Price and Thomas created the Sex Pistols’ landmark release Anarchy in the UK. Speaking this month on Johnny Walker’s Sounds of the Seventies on BBC Radio 2, guitarist Steve Jones observed, “With professionals like Chris Thomas and Bill Price on the case, you just let it happen. You were in safe hands.”
Price’s long-time manager, Joyce Moore, says, “Bill was simply a fantastic person to work with. He combined the ‘old school’, laid-back approach with a serious appreciation of the technology involved. Simply put, all the artists wanted to work with him – and he could handle even the most awkward characters.”
Dave Harries, who worked with Price at AIR, and remained a lifelong friend, told PSNEurope: “I first met Bill in 1970 when he joined Air from Decca. The Air staff were basically a combination of ex EMI and Decca staff plus engineers from Denham Studios on the film side. Bill being very technical immediately contributed his knowledge to assisting in the installation and working procedures in conjunction with Keith Slaughter.
“Bill was George’s engineer of choice and there is no doubt that Bill’s contribution greatly enhanced AIR’s reputation and immediate success. I can honestly say that of all the engineers that I have worked with over the years Bill was probably the greatest. He could get a good sound in a very short time and had the most perfect studio etiquette.
“His technical knowledge was quite exceptional, he showed great confidence and exhibited a quiet generosity with this knowledge which he freely shared with his assistants and other staff. I reckon that Bill engineered almost 400 albums, including the production of 100 during his working life – that’s one album every six weeks! Bill was the best and I was very honoured to know him and extremely fortunate to be able to work alongside him.”
Chris Thomas adds: “Quite simply, Bill was one of the best engineers this country ever produced, which means that he was one of the best in the world. His technical knowledge seemed infinite and I was very fortunate to benefit from that knowledge, as were so many others who learnt from him both at Wessex and at AIR. He was also extremely patient – how he put up with me I will never know.”
Joyce Moore concludes, “Looking back, we had a lot of fun and laughter along the way, even over the past year when he was so ill. We will miss him.”
Bill Price leaves his wife, Denis and son, Billy. His funeral will take place at Haycombe Crematorium, Bath, BA2 2RQ, at 1.45pm on Thursday 26 January. Family have requested that in lieu of sending flowers, any donations should be made to The Dorothy House Hospice, www.dorothyhouse.org.uk.