Khan : a history (Part 4)

Whatever the exact cause for Dick Heninghem’s departure (with his and Steve Hillage’s recollections at loggerheads – the former insisting he was asked to leave while Hillage remembers that Heninghem had “decided to leave”), Khan found themselves without a keyboard player on the eve of beginning recording their début album. With too little time available to audition and train a replacement, Hillage thought of an appealing alternative :

At the 11th hour I decided to ask my old mate Dave Stewart to play keyboards on the album as only he could produce the kind of sound I wanted for the music.

Indeed, not only had Hillage and Stewart been bandmates in the past, Stewart knew at least three of the six songs planned for the album, having played on Hillage’s original demo. Of course there was newer material too (“it took months to put the band together and throughout this time, I carried on writing lots of material”, explains Hillage), but this seemed by far the best available option.
At any other time in the preceding months, Stewart would surely have welcomed the request with open arms, but in this instance the timing was less than perfect, with Egg enjoying by far their busiest gigging schedule to date. The trio now shared management with The Groundhogs, a popular live attraction at the time, and were booked for a joint nationwide tour throughout the first half of December. However, despite his limited availability, Stewart came to the rescue. Remembers Hillage :

If my poor memory serves me well, Dave played a couple of gigs in the Autumn of 1971 as a replacement for Dick. We then asked him to play on the album and did a couple more gigs to help rehearse the material with him for the upcoming recording sessions.

Adds Peachey :

He was very busy. We were very lucky that he managed to do it. He fitted it in, and put in an awful lot of work, as you can imagine. We’d been rehearsing this thing for months and playing it live, and he came in… and did an awesome job.

We seemed to have established that the Lyceum gig on October 14th was likely Heninghem’s last with Khan, but it is possible that Heninghem in fact left later. Indeed there are at least two instances (November 13th and December 17th) where Egg and Khan both had gigs booked in distinct locations. Who played keyboards on those remains a mystery – it seems late for Heninghem (then again maybe not), early for Val Stevens and simply impossible for Dave Stewart. And of course performing as a trio was not an option.

Steve Hillage performing with Kevin Ayers & Decadece in Nanterre, France, December 1972.

According to the liner notes in the latest reissue of Space Shanty, recording began at Command Studios in December 1971, continued at Olympic Studios, with “overdubs and final mixes” taking place at Decca’s Tollington Park Studios. As you will see below, there are discrepancies in the memories of those involved as to the order in which these various studios were visited.

Steve Gannon, a roadie for Khan at the time, remembered :

I was there for all the recording of the album and remember Steve being a perfectionist in terms of tones etc. Also the many overdubs he required. I think we started at Tollington Park, then moved to Command briefly, then back to Tollington Park. I  think there may have been a third studio involved but can’t remember what it was.

Producer Neil Slaven

Peachey remembers :

It was recorded over a number of weeks, mainly at Decca, Tollington Park. It was a very complex recording process. There was very little editing, in fact – given the length of some of the tracks, they were done fairly ‘live’. But Steve layered so much of the guitar… I remember Neil Slaven, at one stage, had to go and lie out in the corridor, virtually having a nervous breakdown. I forget how many tracks we were using, but we didn’t have as many as you’ve got now. It was the days of splicing tape together with sellotape –

pretty basic stuff !

Neil Slaven himself reminisced, in an interview with Mark Powell :

The sessions were quite an experience for me. Steve would come into the studio with hand-drawn charts that were intended to convey the atmosphere he wanted to achieve on each song. I remember we had some problems trying to add some psychedelic phasing to the guitar parts on the album. As a result of this, the sessions overran.

Hillage has a slightly different view of his alleged perfectionism :

Funnily enough I don’t remember the recording taking an inordinate amount of time. One problem was that some of the first sessions, at Olympic, just didn’t sound right, so we had to re-record some tunes  – I don’t remember which ones. Neil Slaven was certainly somewhat “highly strung” – but as I recall his biggest problem was a clash with Nick.

The latter may have had to do with an occasion remembered by Steve Gannon :

I remember one session where Nick thought some brandy or whiskey might help him with his vocals, and it actually had the opposite effect, which must have been frustrating to Neil and probably everyone else !

Peachey had difficulties of his own during the sessions :

Part of the difficulty for me was my lack of familiarity with the studio. I found the studio quite an intimidating environment – playing in a booth, away from the other players… And engineers were not particularly sympathetic to drummers. I was always fighting to get a good ‘live’ sound from the kit. I found it hard work.

Again trusting the liner notes to the 2004 reissue, Space Shanty was completed on March 29th 1972 at Tollington Park Studios, by which time Khan had resumed regular gigging and were getting ready to play abroad for the first time, with new organist Val Stevens, who will be the focus of the next episode.


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