Wednesday, September 2, 2015

'The Pain Never Goes Away'

You know when you get the news that somebody has passed unexpectedly. That empty feeling with your innards suddenly becoming a huge vacuum. Soul and heart absent with leave. 

Multiply that 10 times when I heard Guy Babylon had passed 6 years ago today. Only a few weeka earlier I'd seen him on stage in Limerick and as per usual gave a masterclass in perfection. Thankfully all the great moments in the studio and on stage have been preserved forever. Time may diminish the body but it can never destroy the legacy.

A few weeks ago a discussion about Guy appeared and somebody asked about the working relationship between Elton and guy. How did they got along? Elton trusted Guy with everything. From the studio to the stage. People would be amazed if they knew the amount of after hours work Guy spent on all the albums he played on. The sheer volume of parts he added to each and every song that were sometimes used and mostly weren't is mind boggling. Whether they got lost in the mix was irrelevant to him. Like any perfectionist in any field, as long as he knew they were there that was all that mattered. By not having done so he'd have felt his job wasn't complete. That attention to detail only comes from someone who felt the music and that was to become clear in the live work. Nothing he ever put down was unnecessary, all the parts were carefully constructed layers that even when hidden still mattered. When he started out playing with Elton he was at the cutting edge of synth technology, he gave the albums a contemporary sound whilst at the same time never forgetting the basics of his keyboard heritage. So much so by the time of his last album appearance he got right back to the early days of synthesized keyboard sounds by adding Mellotron on CATK. The last sound we heard him play on an Elton album.

Right from '88 onwards you can hear him take Elton's live sound apart and rebuild it into something solid and with deep foundations. If you listen to the Elton live sound today that all stems from Guy. He reined in all the orchestral arrangements that appeared on disc, everyone from Buckmaster to Newton Howard to his own; created and arranged the programming in such a way that when he played them every night on tour it came across sympathetically and accurate. His synth work was given equal care, Funeral For A Friend sounded better live than it did on disc for example. Simple pauses and slight emphasis on certain lines gave it a bigger, more panoramic sound. The three dimensional sounding intro's he created for Bennie and Pinball Wizard were to become an integral part of The Red Piano show. The montage segments that he did for The One and Made In England tour's to open the sets each night again showed his flair in creativity and at the same time reinventing Elton's music for the extended crossover point of 20th into 21st centuries. He could be flashy when he wanted and be restrained as needs be. That sums up Elton's music also.

By having somebody in the studio who was capable of taking the soundscapes that were created in that environment for disc and be able to take them out on the road and put them across with no deterioration in sound quality or means of delivery was truly blessing. He may have left us in 2009 but the fact that his same rig and setup is still used by Kim Bullard half way through the 2010's says it all. Time may diminish the body but it can never destroy the legacy.

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