Clayton Tapes 1981

Background to the Sessions

Pressure Drop was nearing the end of its working life in mid-1981. Bill Mitchell decided to head to the United Kingdom and booked studio time to record a number of songs, some of which had never been played live. The band spent two nights in a small studio in Clayton, Melbourne which had fairly basic equipment. Pressure Drop often used it as a rehearsal studio. All of the songs available here were single takes with some overdubbing on the second night. Some of the material was created on the night from basic structures and melodies.

The core of the band at that stage was Kelvin Speldewinde (vocals), Bill Mitchell (guitar), Des McKenna (drums and vocals) and Peter Leerson (bass and vocals). While the band was still performing with a saxophonist he did not play on these tapes.

Guest performers included Jerome Speldewinde (backing vocals and lead vocals on Too good to be true), the late Chris X, and Jim Niven who guested on keyboards (previously with the Sports). Jim had never heard the material before the sessions.

All songs were written by Bill Mitchell except Too good to be true which was a Robert Palmer composition.

There are 9 tracks. Babylon is Burning, Chile and Too good to be true were all from the live Pressure Drop set. The other tracks were never part of the live set and were played by the band for the first time at the recording session. In some cases, the songs are incomplete. The purpose of the sessions was to save this material for some future time.

The tapes while rough give some guide to the experimental nature of the band by this time after being together for several years. The band was moving into acid-type sounds which at the time was called dub and was combining strong harmony with some very percussive bottom end playing. In retrospect, it would have been good to see where this combination would have taken the band.

Sound Processing

Bill notes that he only heard the results of these sessions once which was on the night the band finished the recording. The studio technician gave the band some cassette tapes dubbed from the master tape. The studio owner never gave the band the master. Bill loaned his cassette to someone and left for the UK. He has never been able to locate the master or any of the cassette copies presuming them lost. Recently, Kelvin found the tapes and sent them to Bill and the downloadable songs below are the result of converting the analogue cassette tape recordings into digital format.

Audacity was used to make the conversion on an IBM ThinkPad T40p notebook directly wired to a cassette deck. It was very difficult to control the recording volume and to reduce the noise from the tape. After recording each track the digital audio was compressed to take out a lot of the spikes but there is still some remaining distortion present. The quality of the tape was also poor and so the volume fluctuates at times and is muffled at other times. There was only some minimal mixing done on the second night and some sparse guitar parts were also overdubbed on the second night for melodies. Overall, the balance and mix is poor.


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