Hatching the plot

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When you look back over events in your life you can see a string of mistakes and successes that lead up to a final outcome. In the retelling of my encounters with Giorgio Moroderand the subsequent events that lead to my removal from Europe and banishment to the wilds of Georgia, this story details my first big mistake in the chain. In 1969 Woodstock happened. A giant music festival with half a million people. In 1970, the Isle of Wight drew even more fans, over 600,000, the single largest gathering of humans in history; all there for music, drugs and fun. It was the 70's. Many would be fans of these festivals, including me, were not able to attend because of a previous engagement. We'd been invited to join the armed services and the invitations were rather insistent: the Army or prison. I chose the Army and wound up with a pretty good gig in Germany as a disc jockey. That didn't stop me from being disappointed at missing both festivals and when, in 1972, a new festival to be held in Germany was announced, I was determined to be part of it. The festival would be called The British Rock Meeting and be held in Germersheim Germany. At about the same time, I was getting involved in recording studios, hanging out with local musicians and, as I mentioned, Giorgio Moroder of Musicland Studios. These local musicians wanted to be recorded: making demo tapes they could play for prospective record producers in the hopes of getting a contract. I hadn't yet sealed the deal with Girogio, yet wanted to remain active in the musician's community and decided to go it alone. All I needed to record musicians was a bit of equipment. The radio station where I worked had plenty of microphones and tape decks, even a large studio where we could go to record at night, but nothing to mix multiple channels of music when a live band played. So, being me, I built my own 16 channel mixing console out of parts purchased from local German stores; encased in a custom metal cabinet complete with 16 cool VU meters, slide pots for volume and rotaries for panning left to right. I was Mr. Cool. The mixing console worked well for microphones. It was really nothing more than 16 microphone preamplifiers I bought on the Germany economy, all tied together through a master set of volume controls for the final mixdown and feed to the tape recorder. If the musicians were using electric guitars and bass, I would simply place a microphone in front of their big speakers and record the live sound that came out of it. I had never recorded anything more than local musicians and was itching to do a "real" recording. Then I heard about the upcoming rock festival in Germersheim and knew I wanted to be the one to record that festival for the AFN network. The festival would feature a lot of big name artists including: Pink Floyd, The Doors, Humble Pie, Rory Gallagher, Atomic Rooster, Curved Air, the Kinks, Buddy Miles and many more. What a challenge! These were real musicians. Through my friend, British record produced Pete Bellotti, I got in touch with the organizers and was granted permission to record the entire show for the Armed Forces Radio Network. That agreement based on my little white lie that I already had permission from the network to build a many-hour show to playback the best performances. The organizers had their eye on a repeat festival the next year and jumped at the chance for access to the single largest english speaking radio audience in Europe, AFN, with millions of listeners. The only hitch in the get along was, of course, it wasn't true that I had gotten permission. In fact, I hadn't even asked. But that never stopped me from executing a great idea. AFN was officially run by the military but, in reality, it was actually managed by a group of civilians. The news department was nearly all civilian and the head of many of the network stations around Europe were civilians, including where I worked, AFN Munich. Our station was run by a very likable self-infatuated gentleman named Neil Fontaine; whose one claim to fame at the time was a bit part in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory, filmed in Munich. I knew Neil would agree to anything that raised the stature of his organization in the eyes of the network and so to work I went, explaining that the show organizers of a "major music festival" had asked me to record the event for exclusive playback on the network. Neil hated rock music, hippies, and the sorts of people that would attend an outdoor rock concert, so I only mentioned it was a music festival and conveniently left out what kind of music. "Sorry Paul, we simply don't have the equipment, manpower or resources to record such an event." I knew that all I had to do was get Neil to say yes to some part of the plan. Any part would do. "Mr. Fontaine, IF the resources were made available by the show organizers, would you agree to rebroadcast the events?" "Certainly, it would be a feather in our cap." "Let me ask and see what can be done." It wasn't difficult from that point on: all I had to do was stretch the truth just a little (well, a lot actually) and several days later I announced to Neil the organizers would provide the recording facilities and engineers and all we would have to do is supply the tape. We'd need about 40 10" reels of tape and they would handle the rest. Neil's eyes lit up with visions of accolades from the network. Little did he know he was about to commit AFN to taping the largest drug crazed rock fest in German history, something the conservative heads of the Armed Forces Network would surely never have approved had they known. The plot sickens tomorrow.
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Paul McGowan

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