Chris Thomas (record producer)

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Christopher P Thomas (born 13 January 1947 in Brentford, Middlesex[1]) is an English record producer who has worked extensively with The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Queen, Procol Harum, Roxy Music, Badfinger, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, Pulp and The Pretenders. He has also produced breakthrough albums for The Sex Pistols and INXS.

Early life[edit]

Thomas was classically trained on the violin and piano as a child. He began playing bass in London pop bands, turning down at one point the opportunity to play with Jimi Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell before Hendrix had struck fame.[2]

After several years, Thomas decided that he had little interest in making a career as a performing musician. In a 1998 interview, he stated "I realized that being in a band you were dependent on all these other people, and I also knew that if I'd ever been successful in a band, I would've wanted to stay in the studio and just make the records; I wasn't that interested in playing live."[2]

Recording sessions with The Beatles[edit]

Looking to break into production, Thomas wrote to Beatles producer George Martin seeking work and in 1967 was employed as an assistant by AIR, an independent production company which had been founded by Martin and three other EMI producers. Thomas was allowed to attend sessions at EMI with the Hollies and, in 1968, The Beatles during their sessions for the White Album.

Midway through the sessions, Martin decided to take a vacation, and he proposed that Thomas assume his duties as producer. "I had just come back from holiday myself, and when I came in there was a little letter on the desk that said, "Dear Chris, Hope you had a nice holiday. I'm off on mine now. Make yourself available to The Beatles. Neil and Mal know you're coming down."

Thomas stated that he played keyboards on five songs: "Happiness Is a Warm Gun", mellotron on "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill", piano on "Long, Long, Long" and "Savoy Truffle", and harpsichord on "Piggies". The 6 March 1993 edition of Billboard states that Musicians Union records show that Thomas was paid for playing on four songs: Harpsichord on "Piggies" and "Not Guilty", Mellotron on "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill", and Piano on "Long, Long, Long".[3]

As the album does not include song-by-song musician credits (and both the Beatles and producer George Martin frequently played keyboards on songs)-- and the mixes for the mono and stereo versions differ, it is not possible to definitely state which of Thomas's performances were included on the final mixes. Most scholars would credit Thomas for three songs.[4]

Early production credits[edit]

Thomas was not credited as producer or co-producer on "The Beatles", although his name appears as co-producer on some of the original session sheets. By the end of 1968, he had received his first solo credit: The Climax Chicago Blues Band by the Climax Blues Band.

Procol Harum would be the first band with which Thomas would enjoy a steady working relationship, producing their albums Home, Broken Barricades and Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra during 1970-71. Thomas subsequently travelled to Los Angeles to produce Christopher Milk's 1972 album Some People Will Drink Anything (Warner Bros / Reprise), and met John Cale, who invited Thomas to produce his Paris 1919 album at the AIR Studios.

At the sessions with Cale, Thomas met Roxy Music singer-songwriter Bryan Ferry, who asked him to produce the band's second album, For Your Pleasure. The collaboration continued for the next four albums (Stranded, Country Life, Siren and Viva!).

Recording sessions with Pink Floyd[edit]

In 1973, as Thomas' work continued to attract interest, he took on mixing duties with Pink Floyd for their The Dark Side of the Moon album. In his Mix interview, Thomas claimed he would finish work on the Pink Floyd album at midnight and drive to AIR Studios to do more work on Procol Harum's Grand Hotel album until 5 AM.

In a February 1993 interview, guitarist David Gilmour described Thomas' role on The Dark Side of the Moon as a referee for arguments between himself and bassist Roger Waters, stating that they "argued so much that it was suggested we get a third opinion. We were going to leave Chris to mix it on his own, with Alan Parsons engineering. And of course on the first day I found out that Roger sneaked in there. So the second day I sneaked in there. And from then on, we both sat right at Chris's shoulder, interfering. But luckily, Chris was more sympathetic to my point of view than he was to Roger's."[5]

Recording sessions with Badfinger[edit]

Thomas produced a trio of albums for power pop group Badfinger on the tail end of their career, beginning with 1973's Ass, and 1974's Badfinger and Wish You Were Here albums. Ass was originally recorded with Badfinger producing, but the group later admitted they were incapable of producing themselves. Members Pete Ham and Tom Evans solicited Thomas' help in cleaning up existing recordings and laying down new tracks. Although the succeeding album Badfinger retained Thomas from the outset and was considered by critics to be an improvement in production, neither album was successful in the marketplace. For their third project together, Thomas held a meeting with the group and pleaded that they all concentrate on making the best record they could muster. It turned out that Wish You Were Here garnered the most positive critical response from periodicals, including Rolling Stone magazine.

Recording sessions with the Sex Pistols[edit]

In 1976, he was asked by Malcolm McLaren to produce the debut single by the Sex Pistols. Thomas’ colleagues in the recording industry were horrified by his involvement with the Sex Pistols, particularly when he found himself producing the band at the same time as he was working with Paul McCartney. His work with the band also led to one of his most curious album credits. Co-producer Bill Price explained

During 2007, Thomas produced a brand new studio recording of Pretty Vacant for use in the new video game Skate. John Lydon, Steve Jones and Paul Cook all play on this new version, which was recorded in Los Angeles in July 2007, with only Glen Matlock absent.

Work with other artists[edit]

Thomas also plays Moog synthesiser on the song "Son of My Father" by Chicory Tip with its drum phasing very similar to that of Itchycoo Park by The Small Faces. This was the first ever UK No. 1 song to feature a synthesiser and Brian Jarvis's Stylophone which was also used on David Bowie's "Space Oddity".

In 1985, Thomas played a critical part in achieving a worldwide breakthrough for Australian band INXS. INXS keyboardist and main songwriter Andrew Farriss stated that the band had "already finished the Listen Like Thieves album but Chris Thomas told us there was still no "hit". We left the studio that night knowing we had one day left and we had to deliver "a hit". Talk about pressure." Thomas recalls he was worried that the standard of songs the band had laid down was not as strong as he wished.

Thomas helped guide Chrissie Hynde into a recording career, producing The Pretenders' first (self-titled) album; his work on 1984's Learning to Crawl earned him the sobriquet on the liner notes as the "fifth Pretender".

He regards Pulp's Different Class as one of the best records he has made, and admits: "I love working with writers. That's the person I always respond to most in a band.'’

Production credits[edit]

Albums produced or mixed by Thomas include:

References[edit]

External links[edit]