SunPalace History

SunPalace Artwork for Record Sleeve

The first professional recording that I ever made, back in May 1981, was an instrumental workout with my keyboard-player partner of the time, Keith O’Connell.

We had made an 8-track demo a few weeks before this with a simple chorus vocal, “It’s In The Music”, the main feature of which was a spine-chilling synthesizer solo played on a Prophet synthesiser through a delay effect. The plan was to make this our first studio recording as a duo and to use this as a showcase for our musical and studio production talents. We also came up with the name “Rude Note Productions” and registered this as a trading name around that time with the idea that we would call our duo “Rude Note” which was a phrase that Keith regularly used at that time to describe the bluesy, bent notes that I would play on guitar or a synthesizer player would mimic using a pitchbend wheel – as Keith had done to such great effect on this synthesizer solo!

The invoice for equipment, hire dated 13/3/81, lists a Tascam 80-8 8-track recorder with a Tascam Model 5 mixer and a Delta Lab DL-4 delay! We also borrowed a Prophet 5 synthesiser…

I played my Fender Stratocaster guitar and Fender Precision bass and put together a simple drum beat using the world’s first programmable drum-machine – the Roland CR78. Keith play a repetitive, infectious groove using the Fender Rhodes electric piano and the aforementioned Prophet 5 synthesizer solo. Keith also sang the chorus vocals on the demo.

At the beginning of May 1981, I booked some time at Utopia Studios in Primrose Hill, London, which was a state-of-the-art studio complex owned by successful music producer Phil Wainman. This was equipped with the very latest Neve mixing consoles, Studer tape machine and EMT echo plates.

We hired a Prophet synthesizer and a Fender Suitcase 88 electric piano for the first recording session, which took place on 8/5/1981.Music Bank Hire - Suitcase 88

Although the invoice below refers to a Prophet 10 hired for Utopia Studios on May 1st 1981, my memory is that we tried this out a few days before the session, then decided to get a Prophet 5 instead for the actual session – although I cannot be 100% sure about this after such a long time has passed!

Keyboard Hire - Prophet 10

What I do remember is the bill for the studio time: we started recording at 7PM on Friday May 8, and carried on until 4AM, a total of 8 hours, which came to the handsome sum of £441.48.

Utopia Invoice for first Rude Movements/Winning session

This was a lot of money back in those days! It did include the cost of the 2″ multi-track tape and a cassette to make a copy of the rough mix of the day’s work so we could listen to this in the car or on a portable cassette player. Because there were only two of us playing instruments, and we recorded these separately as overdubs, we worked in the Remix room at Utopia which had a very small recording area – basically a vocal booth if I remember correctly.

Interestingly, the recording engineer, Peter Walsh, or possibly his assistant, Pete Smith, wrote on the invoice that the tape was lined up using a reference level of “+5 above 200” onto a “24T 30ips” tape machine, yet on the actual multitrack tape box, it states that the level was “Elevated 3 dB above 200 NWB” and there is a question mark as to whether Dolby noise reduction was used! The tape box also reveals that Keith O’Connell and myself were both the Artist(s) and Producer(s) and that originally there was no agreed title, but that subsequently the title “Winning” had been chosen.

Winning Multitrack

At the first session, we recorded the drum-machine, the electric piano, the electric guitar and the synthesizer.

Utopia Booking May 14

We went back into the studio to do more work on the recording on May 14 – guitar overdubs if I remember correctly – and we made a rough mix of what we had recorded so far. Although the studio engineer still wrote “No Title” on this box, I had come up with the title “Rude Movements” for what we had decided would be the long instrumental mix and Keith wrote this on the box in green ink at the time.

Rude Movements Master Mix

At a later date we hired a session musician, Fiona Hibbert, to play pedal harp, and Keith hired a Wave PPG synthesiser to record a bass line and some bells for the intro. I overdubbed a few notes on bass guitar to form an intro with the bells.  On May 28, 1981 we made the instrumental mix, titled “Winning”, that included all these extra musical parts.

Winning Master Mix

The “It’s in the music” chorus had been discarded because Keith had written some new lyrics for a song called “Winning” and in June 1981, we recorded vocals for this, along with a spoken word section that featured Peter Walsh, the recording engineer, and Suzy O’List, the studio receptionist with some typewriter and office background sound effects that we had rented on tapes from a sound effects library next door to Utopia Studios.

Much later, we wiped the lead vocals and overdubbed some piano and other instruments, as can be seen from the final track sheet that remains with the multitrack tape.

Track Sheet

Despite spending what added up to nearly £4,000 by the time we had finished all the overdubs, vocal recordings, and many mixes, including several using the first commercially-available mixing desk automation system on the Neve console, we were unable to find a record label to release “Winning” at that time. Two years later, we finally signed a deal with a small label called 101 Records in the summer of 1983, but this label was having second thoughts about releasing the record. Luckily, I had met Ann Plaxton from Passion Records out at Midem earlier that year, and she decided that Passion were interested to release the recording – with the early instrumental mix of “Winning” on the A-side and with the original rough mix that I had entitled “Rude Movements” on the B-side. Somewhere along the way, either 101 Records or Passion records had come up with the idea of calling the band ‘SunPalace’, so, relieved that the record would at last be released, we went along with this idea.

Winning

Finally, around November 1983 if I remember correctly, Winning/Rude Movements was released on 12″ vinyl by Passion Records. Over the next few months it sold about 10,000 copies – without any promotion by us or the record label – just by word of mouth with the van drivers who distributed Passion Records recommending it to the record shops!

And the most amazing thing is that it has remained popular to this day – and most people prefer the “Rude Movements” mix to the “Winning” mix, which just goes to show that this mix could not have been as ‘rough’ as we thought it was at the time!

Later in 1987, Nigel Wright, one of the owners of Passion Records, remixed Winning, adding some electronic percussion, a jazzy piano solo, and some sexy (tacky-sounding)  heavy breathing… we were told that this was for ‘the Swedish market’! Released on 21/03/1988 on the Debut label with catalogue number DEBTX3045, barcode 501399304562, this version sold a few thousand additional copies and is, apparently, greatly appreciated among the ‘gay’ community!

At some point in 1998, Passion was persuaded to re-press 5,000 copies of “Winning/Rude Movements” to fulfil an order from Mr. Bongo Records who had been asked to supply 5,000 copies to a Japanese client – yet more ‘healthy’ sales of the vinyl pressing!

Since that time, there have been various releases on various compilation albums, and at least one ‘bootleg’ re-press of the vinyl single (in 2012 or thereabouts).

For more information about these recordings, click here to take a look at this page on my old website which I put together in 2007.

Mike Collins © 2013