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Portrait of Eddie Klein, Club Sandwich N°40, Spring 1986:
Although his family were Londoners, Eddie Klein was born in Leicester in 1943— “because my mother was there and I wanted to be near her”: actually, Mrs. Klein was being evacuated away from the German bombs still ravaging London three years after the Battle of Britain. Eddie grew up near Sadlers Wells, home to a very different type of music from that which he would help Paul McCartney produce in later years.
Paul has made use of Eddie’s talents over the years, but especially since he left EMI’s famous Abbey Road recording studios in December 1984 to work full-time putting together Paul’s ideal rural studio, where ‘Spies Like Us” and the new, eagerly-awaited album were recorded. We talked in the Abbey Road canteen while his children Kate and Christopher played quietly in the background — though the former chipped in with “That’s going back too many years!” when I asked Dad about his interests at school. Order restored, I found them to be engineering, woodwork and science: “I learned more from my experiments at home than I did from chemistry at school. I made microphones from carbon rods out of an old battery, but when I poured molten lead into the cold battery shell it spattered my face.” Another narrow shave was when Eddie made chlorine gas from salt water, using electrolysis. “It reminded me of the swimming pool. In fact, it’s highly poisonous, but it didn’t do me any harm.”
But alongside E. Klein, apprentice boffin, strummed E. Klein, would-be skiffler. Inspired, like many, by Lonnie Donegan, he progressed from taking his guitar to a music shop for tuning at 1/6d (now 7 1/2p) a time to playing with a group at weddings, technical colleges etc. His brother Alan wrote “What A Crazy World” — later the title song for a play and a film for Joe Brown, among other hits, and Eddie would sing on his demos, getting to know London’s few recording studios in the process. “I’ve always been intrigued by film and tape. Records I regard as black magic” — good pun, Eddie — “and I was fascinated by chord structures, being much better at the theory of music than I was at the practice.”
Back in the workaday world, MPL’s resident boffin had jobs with a scientific instrument manufacturer (briefly), as a draughtsman and in the British Film Institute’s film library. Then, in summer 1967, Eddie answered an advert for an electro-mechanical engineer at the EMI Recording Studios — not called Abbey Road Studios until a certain album had made the address famous — and ended up in charge of all their tape machines. (“Each new machine had more electronics involved than the one before.”) It was a year before he felt really comfortable there: “I was a backroom boy, one of the white coat brigade — it freaked me out when I saw the Beatles in the canteen. Then I got close to Geoff Emerick” a name familiar to McCartney fans — “and some of the others and became a tape operator to get more involved.”
His next step took Eddie Klein still closer to Paul’s orbit, as the Apple studios’ technical manager, where he got to know more artists and producers. But funnily enough, on his return to Abbey Road some three years later, his first important work was on John and George’s early post-Beatles efforts. Then came a “backroom role” on Wings Wild Life, though Eddie’s first strong involvement was in the mixing of 1978’s London Town; he then helped to mix Back To The Egg the following year. Most of the latter was recorded at Lympne Castle, Kent, but the famous Rockestra session took place at Abbey Road’s no. 2 studio (“Paul’s favourite”) with Eddie in attendance.
“Then came another phone call, asking me to record the 1979 Wings tour.” One consequence is that you don’t mention fan heaters in Mr. Klein’s presence: “It was EMI’s first 24-track mobile recording and I was assured it would be OK to warm up the hired van with a fan heater since the cold machines were affecting the tape. Then there was a power cut onstage at Edinburgh and I got the blame!”
Less dramatically, Eddie provided a 16-track machine for McCartney Il and knocked up a monitor mixer for Paul to hear his efforts in stereo as he worked. Eddie retains fond memories of the album and of “Wonderful Christmas Time”, both of which he edited, though in his words “they’re all memorable in their way”.
Did he go to Montserrat for Tug Of War? “No, to Huddersfield a much better place. I recorded the National Indoor Tug of War Championships for the sound effects at the start of the album.” After some administrative work on Pipes Of Peace, Eddie arranged the tape machine and mixing console for the “Eleanor Rigby” sequence at the Albert Hall in Broad Street.
Why did Paul decide to have his own studio away from London after all this time? “I think previously he didn’t want the encumbrance of a studio which he’d have to use to justify its existence. Then he realised that the studio was intrinsic to his work: Paul doesn’t want to be restricted by technology. It [the new studio] was well received as it’s workmanlike and practical — the decor is all Paul’s, though. I’m glad we hedged our bets between analogue and digital equipment, as it has to be compatible with old stuff recorded in various studios.”
In contrast to Paul’s normal methods, “Spies Like Us” had to be recorded in a hurry. Did this cause Eddie any particular problems? “I was very tense over possible equipment failures, in view of the deadline.” As a well-known perfectionist and a man who knows his way round a studio, was Mr. McCartney demanding to work for? “No. He’s very understanding and appreciative as he knows the trials and tribulations involved.” Eddie Klein’s enthusiasm is surely another reason for Paul’s appreciation.
“Unlike most technical people, I had a strong interest in music. I was thrilled when I heard ‘Ebony And Ivory’ on a builder’s radio in Yorkshire, even though I’d been involved only at the demo stage, and it won’t be any different now: I shall be thrilled to hear the next one.”Club Sandwich N°40, Spring 1986
Last updated on February 29, 2020