Jacob's Ladder: People...You Are The Reason I Am...
Legendary Abbey Road engineer Chris Blair has died
Born in 1951, "Vinyl" Blair joined Abbey Road in 1969 as a tape operator. He worked on many sessions, including The Beatles’ Abbey Road album at the age of 17. He soon moved across the studio to become a cutting engineer, quickly rising to the top of the discipline.
In 1975 he mastered 12 UK number one singles, including Queen’s massive number one, Bohemian Rhapsody, which pushed the boundaries of the available technology.
Throughout his Abbey Road career Blair worked with an incredible range of artists from Pink Floyd to the Arctic Monkeys, as well as mastering most of the Now! compilations. When asked his favourite people to work with in a recent interview in the Abbey Road magazine Playback, Blair cited Radiohead and Travis, who he called "very nice guys", as well as Christian rock group Delerious.
He is survived by his wife Catherine and their son, Oliver. A memorial service will be held at 11.30am on Friday November 18th at St Peter-Le-Poer Church at the corner of Colney Hatch and Albion Avenue, London, N10.
Donations to the East Anglian Air Ambulance Team can be made through Leverton & Sons, 1 Denmark Terrace, Fortis Green, N2 9HG.
I first met Chris when I started working for EMI in 1975. Until that time I had always thought that the recording studio was the place where records were made. I soon came to realise that this was not so and, with Chris’s expert knowledge & judgement, I was able to add that little bit extra to finished recordings, making them stand out from the crowd. Perhaps that’s why the Capitol label had such a successful time during that period. Apart from hits with Dr Hook, Natalie Cole and Glen Campbell we also ‘revitalised’ old recordings, giving them a new lease of life. Among these were singles from the Steve Miller Band & Eric Carmen.
Perhaps Blair’s greatest triumph for me was 'It Only Takes A Minute' by Tavares. Having serviced the record to radio stations, including Radio 1, I was getting little feedback hence I took the record to Paul Williams who produced David Hamilton at the time. I clearly remember Paul putting the record onto his standard issue turntable and thinking how awfully slow & dreary the song sounded. I took the master tape over to Abbey Road & explained the situation to Chris. We fiddled, sped the master up a fraction of a second & added some top end to pick up the cymbals. Within the hour we both agreed that we had a hit record on our hands & time proved this to be correct.
I always went to Chris if I had a problem; he always cheered me up. He also contributed to many of the albums we released at the time. The one that stands out for me was Kraftwerk’s ‘Radioactivity’, he managed to capture frequencies that were not on the master tape, as far as I could hear! His work on offerings from Babe Ruth, Earl Slick & Leo Kottke also made the difference as far as I was concerned.
His industry made him a star in his own right.
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