Eddy Offord loved making records in the '70s. The producer and engineer, whose work with progressive rock pioneers Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer landed both bands at the top of international pop charts, recalls the time period as one that yielded unrivaled exploration and creativity.
"We had a lot of freedom in the '70s as far as interference from record company people," he says. "They would come by occasionally, but they didn’t say anything about the songs or what we were doing. The record companies got what they were given, and that was that."
The nightlife, too, wasn't bad. Swinging London still had some swing, and at the end of a session, Offord and various band members would hit the clubs. "There would be Mick Jagger or Pete Townshend," he says. "Everybody was friendly – ‘Hey, what are you working on?’ It was fun. It might have been competitive, but there was also a joyous spirit in the air."
During much of the '70s, Offord was practically a lodger at London's Advision Studios. The facility was originally built for recording voiceovers and TV jingles, but its expansive rooms, one of which was able to house a 60-piece orchestra, proved welcoming to keyboardists such as Keith Emerson, whose Moog synthesizers and Leslie cabinets were often stacked up to the ceiling.
"It was a really good studio, and the equipment was first-rate," says Offord. "I found the acoustics in the recording room to be a little dead for my liking. I experimented with sheets of plywood and livened it up. It was a comfortable place to work."
The critical response to progressive rock ("We didn't use that term; we called it 'classical rock'") was violent, and by mid-decade punk rockers took direct aim at groups like ELP and Yes. Offord claims that the barbs and brickbats were ignored in the studio. "The bands were very successful, so they didn’t pay attention," he says. "Millions of fans enjoyed the journey of a 20-minute piece of music. The people buying the records weren’t critics anyway."
In the late '70s, Offord relocated to the US, spending considerable time working in Woodstock, New York; Atlanta, Georgia; and Los Angeles. By 1994, however, after completing 311's album Grassroots, he decided he had enough and set about cruising the world in a sailboat with his wife. He considered himself happily retired, but two years ago his son Sam invited him to check out a group called The Midnight Moan. Impressed, Offord remained on dry ground and produced the band's debut album at Pyramid Studios in New York City.
Pyramind could become the new Advision in Offord's life: in recent months, he's been ensconced behind the studio's board producing tracks for singers Sophia Urista and Allie Hill. "I guess I’m back in the game," he says with a chuckle. "I’ve gotten a taste for producing again, although I have to be honest – I do miss my boat.”
On the following pages, Offord looks back at some of the more notable artists from his recording career, including such non-proggers as John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Billy Squier (a collaboration that yielded the most-sampled track in music history) and rock-rappers 311.