29 September, 1980
The Hammersmith Palais had been part of popular music history since 1920 when The Original Dixieland Jazz Band played there and introduced jazz to Britain. And on September 29, 1980, it was once more making the headlines as Toots And The Maytals, sought to place their name in the Guinness Book of Records by having a concert recorded, pressed and distributed to the shops within 24 hours.
Neil Storey, then one of the press officers at Toots’ label Island Records, recalls that the project came together as the result of a wisecrack made at a marketing meeting. “Something along the lines of… why don’t we do this?, before proffering a totally mad idea. After which someone else added, ‘We could do that… why not?’ And the logistics were then put together. Island was a lot like that in those days.”
Come the night of Toots’ appearance at the Palais, the Basing Street mobile was wheeled into place outside the dance hall, with sound engineer Godwin Logie and Compass Point producer Alex Sadkin, who had shaped albums for such as Bob Marley and Grace Jones, at the controls. Storey remembers, “a large spliff smoldered on the edge of the desk, the air fetid with the reek of high quality grass. Marianne Faithfull and her then husband Ben Brierly from The Vibrators hovered in the background, while Richard ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, sound engineer for the Jess Roden Band, meandered between a desk in the hall and the truck, always checking and double-checking.”
A Cauldron Of Noise, Heat And Anticipation...
Onstage, support The Bodysnatchers had finished and at 9pm Toots and The Maytals bounded into action, hitting the high-energy button with Pressure Drop and playing a set that included Funky Kingston, Time Tough, 54-46 That’s My Number, Sweet And Dandy and Monkey Man. Storey recalls, “a cauldron of noise, heat and anticipation… the crowd, numbering around 3,000 predictably going nuts as Toots grasped every outstretched hand that reached from the audience.”
Eventually the music was all committed to reels of two-inch 24-track analog tape. What were deemed to be lesser performances were edited, though the key songs all made the grade. With the crowd noise edited and song sequence selected, everything was reduced those all-important, final, stereo mixes.
It was at this point that Trevor Wyatt made his move to become the hero of the evening. Wyatt was an A&R man and manager at Island’s St Peters Square studio, but he’d initially driven the label’s record delivery van. That September night he was back to driving duty once again, taking the tapes and other component parts to their various destinations. Also in the car was Sadkin, who’d taken from 11 pm to 2 am to mix the tapes. Masters were then cut by engineer John Dent at Hammersmith’s Sound Clinic between 3 to 4am before Wyatt moved off once more, this time heading North.
“I then drove to the Gedmel factory near Leicester, where after contacting someone, whom I believe was Polish, the lacquers were converted into stampers,” he recalls. “These were then delivered to Statetune in Wellingborough, where the albums were pressed.”
“I don’t recall that I ever managed to sleep at any point!”
trevor wyatt, A&R Island records
In the meantime, once a running order had been confirmed, the label artwork was completed and sent to the printers, bypassing the normal colour-checking process. Wyatt, by this time, was heavy-eyed; “I don’t recall that I ever managed to sleep at any point!”
But with the records completed, he had one more task to perform. The albums had to be delivered to shops in Coventry, 44 miles away, where Toots and band were due to appear to play a gig later that day. 1,000 copies of the album, Toots Live, (TOOTS 1) were pressed, hand-sleeved and delivered that night, each of them individually numbered. “After that, I collapsed for a long time,” says Wyatt. “But somehow I ended up getting so much publicity – even more than Toots himself.”
It’s Trojan and Island Records stalwart Rob Bell who provides the final comments. “The plan was to sell them at Maytals shows for the rest of the tour,” he recalls. “Some went into stores but the majority were for the upcoming shows. Because the jackets were printed before the Hammersmith show, the limited edition copies had no songs listed on the back.”
This was fine for collectors, but Island’s plot for global recognition ultimately went somewhat awry. As Bell explains: “Unfortunately the record was NOT included in the Guinness Book because they required prior notification that the event was about to take place, and no one at Island informed them of the project!”