Gus Dudgeon

Gus’s life and achievements were well summed up by this obituary from the Daily Telegraph, 23 July 2002.

Gus Dudgeon, who died on Sunday aged 59, was an outstandingly talented record producer best known for his phenomenally successful collaboration with the singer Elton John.

During an early stint with Decca, Dudgeon had engineered The Zombies’ ethereal beat ballad She’s Not There (1964) and John Mayall’s classic LP Bluesbreakers – John Mayall with Eric Clapton (1966). After going freelance, he produced David Bowie’s first hit Space Oddity (1969) and was then hired by DJM to produce the second album by a struggling pianist and songwriter who was then doing sessions with The Hollies to make ends meet.

“I was primarily commissioned to do the Elton John album as a sort of glamorous demo,” Dudgeon recalled. “We cut the album in a week and I never stopped grinning from beginning to end because it all fell into place so brilliantly.”

With tracks such as Your Song and Border Song, the album was an outstanding success. Dudgeon went on to produce all of Elton John’s records from 1969 until 1976 and then again after 1986. He thus had a hand in such memorable hits as Rocket Man, Crocodile Rock, Daniel, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart and Nikita.

Elton John had tremendous respect for the talent of his producer, and once he had done what he felt he had to do, which was to play the piano and sing, he tended to leave, giving Dudgeon complete freedom to craft the finished tracks.

Whatever appeared on the record over and above the essential construction of the song was therefore down to Dudgeon and whoever else happened to be working in the studio.

Gus Dudgeon was born on September 30 1942 and educated at Haileybury. He started his career in the early 1960s as a teaboy at the original Olympic Studios, off Baker Street in London, before moving to Decca Records’ studios at West Hampstead.

“I was terrified of ever getting on the console,” he later recalled. “The thing I loved about it was just the volume and actually hearing the real low end! It was like, ‘Bloody Hell! That’s bloody marvellous!’ I just loved the power of the big speaker system. I’d never heard anything like it.”

He got his break during a recording session with The Zombies when the first engineer had to leave midway through; Dudgeon ended up engineering She’s Not There, which went to No 2 in America, and all of The Zombies’ work for Decca thereafter.

After John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Dudgeon helped audition the likes of Tom Jones, Lulu and The Rolling Stones for Decca, before becoming an independent producer in 1968. His first producing job was an album for EMI by Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, a group that featured future members of The Animals and the Police guitarist Andy Summers.

Dudgeon went on to work with such acts as Ralph McTell, The Strawbs and The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, the musical comedy troupe which included Neil Innes and Vivian Stanshall, and for which Dudgeon retained great enthusiasm.

Elton John (1970) was followed by Tumbleweed Connection (1970) and Madman Across the Water (1971), albums which again demonstrated Dudgeon’s ability to bring out the drama in Elton John’s music. Over the next few years, thanks in no small part to Dudgeon, Elton John became a superstar; at one stage between 1972 and 1975 he had seven consecutive number one albums.

By 1972, the singer was making so much money that he began to work offshore for tax purposes, so Dudgeon moved recording to a chateau at Herouville in France; in this grand setting they recorded Honky Chateau (1972), Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player (1973), and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973).

Elton John typically needed just five days to write the music for an album, and he would therefore arrive five days before anyone else and write all the songs. Dudgeon later recalled how Goodbye Yellow Brick Road only became a double album because recording had been started in Jamaica but moved to France when the studio there was deemed inadequate. In the meantime, Elton John had written enough material for another album.

After Dudgeon and Elton John parted company in 1976, Dudgeon at first found himself pigeonholed as someone who worked with piano players. In 1978, however, he was back in the charts with Fool If You Think It’s Over by Chris Rea and Run For Home by Lindisfarne.

He also produced such artists as Joan Armatrading, Elkie Brooks, Jennifer Rush, XTC, Fairport Convention and The Beach Boys. In the 1980s he built the Sol Studios, now owned by Chris Rea, and in 1986 began working with Elton John again.

More recently, Dudgeon had worked on Somewhere Someone’s Falling In Love by the Danish country singer Henning Staerk, featuring the master guitarist Jerry Donahue, and a tribute album to The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, with performances by George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

An exceptionally charming and funny man, Dudgeon was a flamboyant dresser, favouring wide-striped suits, winkle-pickers, tight Levis, brooches and coloured sunglasses.

His work earned him a considerable fortune – although much was mishandled by a reckless accountant – but Dudgeon never rested on his laurels, forever visiting clubs in search of new bands for him to produce.

He married, in 1959, Sheila Bailey, who died with him in the same car crash. There were no children.

Reproduced with permission. Copyright © Telegraph Group Limited (2002)

Discography

2013 Timeless Flight The Moody Blues Engineer
2012 5 Classic Albums (1970-1973) Elton John Producer
2012 Good Morning to the Night Pnau Original Recording Producer, Producer
2012 Greatest Ever! Sad Songs Producer
2012 Greatest Ever!: Soft Rock: The Definitive Collection Producer
2012 Now That’s What I Call Christmas Producer
2012 Of a Time The Strawbs Producer
2012 The Very Best of Gilbert O’Sullivan: A Singer & His Songs Gilbert O’Sullivan Remixing
2011 A Dog’s Life (The Albums 1967-1972) The Bonzo Dog Band Producer
2011 Songs for Japan Producer
2010 Jackie: Love Songs Producer
2010 Jackie: The Party Album Producer
2010 Now That’s What I Call Xmas [2010] Producer
2009 Dad Rocks! Producer
2009 Jackie: Summer Special Producer
2009 Refugees: A Charisma Records Anthology 1969-1978 Producer
2009 The Best Sixties Album in the World…Ever! [2009] Producer
2009 The Best of Kiki Dee Kiki Dee Producer
2009 Ultimate Blues [Decca] Engineer
2008 101 Power Ballads Producer
2008 Just Like Belgium: The Definitive Hits Elton John Producer
2007 101 60’s Hits Producer
2007 Anthology Lindisfarne Audio Production, Producer
2007 Cavern: The Most Famous Club in the World Producer
2007 Classic Rock Number 1s Audio Production, Producer
2007 Diary of a Band, Vol. 1 and 2 John Mayall Engineer
2007 Gold: Soft Rock Producer
2007 Number 1’s: ’70s Pop Producer
2007 Real Karaoke: Love Songs, Vol. 1 Producer
2007 Real Life Permanent Dreams: A Cornucopia of British Psychedlia 1965-1970 Composer
2007 Rocket Man: Number Ones Elton John Audio Production, Producer
2007 Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits Elton John Producer
2007 The Collection [Sony] Barbara Dickson Producer
2006 ’70s: Gold Producer
2006 Box Set Ralph McTell Producer
2006 Complete Blue Horizon Sessions Eddie Boyd Engineer
2006 Fabriclive.27 DJ Format Producer
2006 Instant Christmas Party Producer
2006 Intersections 1985-2005 Bruce Hornsby Producer
2006 Taste of Strawbs The Strawbs Producer
2006 The Platinum Collection David Bowie Producer
2006 The Ultimate Collection Solution Producer
2006 Two’s Company: The Duets Cliff Richard Mixing, Producer
2005 Acoustic Rock [Crimson] Producer
2005 Chronicles Elton John Audio Production, Liner Notes, Producer
2005 Classic Rock Gold Producer
2005 Drive Time [Universal/WB] Producer
2005 Electricity [UK CD #2] Elton John Producer
2005 I Luv Mum: For the Best Mum in the World Ever Producer
2005 Rainmaker/Fully Qualified Survivor Michael Chapman Audio Production, Producer, Scraper
2005 Scorched Earth Scorched Earth Producer
2005 Shake Down/Getting to the Point Savoy Brown Audio Engineer, Engineer
2005 The Blues of Otis Spann/Cracked Spanner Head Otis Spann Engineer
2004 Bob the Builder: The Album Bob the Builder Vocals
2004 Caricature: The Box Gilbert O’Sullivan Producer, Remixing
2004 Cherrystones: Hidden Charms David Holmes Producer
2004 Lost & Found The Bryon Band Producer
2004 Will & Grace: Let the Music Out! Producer
2004 Window/Wrecked Again Michael Chapman Producer
2003 Best of British Blues, Vol. 1 [Hip-O] Producer
2003 Best of British Blues, Vol. 2 [Hip-O] Producer
2003 Best of Shooting Star, Vol. 2 Shooting Star Producer
2003 Gotta Love the Holidays Producer
2003 Now That’s What I Call Christmas!, Vol. 2: The Signature Collection Producer
2003 Remixed [EP] Elton John Producer
2003 The Psychedelic Sixties [Varese] Composer
2003 The Ultimate Chick Flick Love Songs Producer
2003 Zigzag: 20 Junkshop Soft Rock Singles 1970-1974 Producer
2002 A Coat of Many Cupboards XTC Producer
2002 Acoustic Folk Box Producer
2002 Best of Bowie David Bowie Producer
2002 Byggmester Bob Audio Engineer
2002 Listen Learn Read On Deep Purple Producer
2002 Pre-Purple People Composer
2002 Tears and Pavan: An Introduction The Strawbs Producer
2002 The Anthology 1967-1971 [Hip-O] Ten Years After Engineer, Producer
2002 The Decca Stereo Anthology The Zombies Engineer
2002 The Greatest Hits 1970-2002 Elton John Producer, Remastering
2002 Within Sound Shirley Collins Engineer
2001 London Times Elton John Producer
2001 Springtime for Hitler Legs Larry Smith Producer
2001 Steppin’ Out: An Introduction to John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers John Mayall Engineer
2001 The Best of Shooting Star Shooting Star Producer
2001 West Coast Songs Elton John Producer
2000 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The 70s Producer
2000 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Joan Armatrading Joan Armatrading Producer
2000 The Power of Love: The Best of Jennifer Rush Jennifer Rush Producer
2000 The Singles Collection 1 David Bowie Producer
2000 The Vol. 2: The Outro The Bonzo Dog Band Producer
2000 Vol. 1: The Intro The Bonzo Dog Band Producer
1999 Drop Dead Gorgeous [Original Soundtrack] Producer
1998 All by Myself [Crimson] Producer
1998 Celebrate the Season: T.J. Martell Christmas Album Producer
1998 Fantastic 70’s Producer
1998 One and Only Love Album Producer
1998 Psychedelia at Abbey Road: 1965-1969 Producer
1998 Run for Home: Lindisfarne Collected Lindisfarne Producer
1998 Sliding Doors Producer
1998 The Best Christmas Ever [1998] Producer
1998 The Best of Elkie Brooks [Karussel] Elkie Brooks Arranger, Producer
1998 The Definitive Transatlantic Collection Ralph McTell Producer
1997 Anthology Shooting Star Audio Production, Producer
1997 Halcyon Days: The A&M Years The Strawbs Producer
1997 Love and Affection Joan Armatrading Producer
1997 Sounds of the Season [Sony 1997] Producer
1997 The Best of David Bowie 1969-1974 David Bowie Producer
1997 The Deram Anthology 1966-1968 David Bowie Engineer
1996 For Our Children Too Producer
1996 Greatest Hits Joan Armatrading Producer
1996 Love Songs [1996] Elton John Producer
1996 The Grand Parade The Frank and Walters Mixing
1995 Blessed Elton John Producer, Remastering
1995 Hearts Desire: 18 Classic Love Songs Producer
1995 Jewel in the Crown Fairport Convention Mixing
1995 Love Songs [1995] Elton John Producer
1995 Made in England [Single] Elton John Producer
1995 The Very Best of Chris Rea Chris Rea Producer
1995 Troubadours of British Folk, Vol. 2: Folk into Rock Producer
1994 That Loving Feeling, Vol. 7 Producer
1994 The Cliff Richard Collection (1976-1994) Cliff Richard Producer
1994 Time Traveller The Moody Blues Engineer
1993 Classic Rock, Vol. 3 [MCA] Producer
1993 Stars of British Blues, Vol. 2 Composer
1993 The Famous Charisma Box Producer
1993 The Singles: 1969-1993 David Bowie Producer
1992 Classic Rock Box: WNEW-FM 25th Anniversary Box Producer
1992 Disappointed [#1] XTC Producer
1992 Disappointed [#2] XTC Producer
1992 Greatest Hits 1976-1986 Elton John Arranger, Horn Arrangements, Producer
1992 Nonsuch XTC Arranger, End Chorus, Percussion, Producer, Talking, Tambourine, Trumpet, Unknown Contributor Role, Vocals (Background), Voices
1992 Rare Masters Elton John Producer
1992 Rock of the 70’s, Vol. 2 Producer
1992 Rock of the 70’s, Vol. 4 Mixing, Producer
1992 Rock of the 70’s, Vol. 5 Producer
1992 The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead [#2] XTC Producer
1992 The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead [#3] XTC Producer
1992 The Bonzo Dog Band [Box Set] The Bonzo Dog Band Producer
1992 The One Elton John Digital Remastering
1991 Shooting Star/Hang on for Your Life Shooting Star Producer
1991 The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead [#1] XTC Producer
1991 Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin Mixing, Producer, Remixing
1990 Changesbowie David Bowie Producer
1990 The Very Best of Elton John [Polygram Germany] Elton John Producer
1990 The Very Best of Elton John [Polygram Japan/Australia/UK] Elton John Producer
1990 To Be Continued… Elton John Producer, Simmons Drums
1989 Classics, Vol. 21 Joan Armatrading Producer
1989 Sleeping with the Past Elton John Digital Mastering
1988 Best of 1969-1971 Michael Chapman Producer
1988 Reg Strikes Back Elton John Digital Remastering
1988 Tokoloshe Man John Kongos Producer
1987 Greatest Hits, Vol. 3 (1979-1987) Elton John Producer
1987 Heart Over Mind Jennifer Rush Producer
1987 Live in Australia Elton John Engineer, Mixing, Producer
1987 Prelude The Moody Blues Engineer
1987 The Secret Policeman’s Third Ball: The Music Producer
1986 Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 [Polygram] Elton John Producer
1986 Leather Jackets Elton John Percussion, Producer, Programming
1985 Ice on Fire Elton John Editing, Engineer, Mixing, Producer, Vocals, Whistle (Human)
1984 The Best of Steeleye Span Steeleye Span Producer
1983 Play On John Miles Producer, Tambourine
1983 Too Low for Zero Elton John Digital Remastering
1982 King Brilliant Howard Werth & the Moonbeams Percussion, Producer
1981 Pet Rock The Sinceros Producer
1981 Pet Rock/2nd Debut The Sinceros Producer, Remixing
1980 Act of Love Voyager Main Personnel, Producer
1980 Dealing with the Devil: Immediate Blues Story, Vol. 2 Composer
1980 Lady Samantha Elton John Producer
1980 Off Centre Gilbert O’Sullivan Brass Arrangement, Producer
1980 Sails of Silver Steeleye Span Producer
1979 Deltics Chris Rea Percussion, Producer
1979 Halfway Hotel Voyager Producer
1979 Shooting Star Shooting Star Additional Personnel, Audio Production, Producer, Tambourine
1978 A Single Man Elton John Digital Remastering
1978 Back and Fourth Lindisfarne Producer
1978 London & New York Elton John Producer
1978 Magic in the Air Lindisfarne Producer
1978 Whatever Happened to Benny Santini? Chris Rea Percussion, Producer, Tambourine
1977 Fully Interlocking Solution Producer
1977 Reelin’ in the Years, Vol. 5 Producer
1976 Blue Moves Elton John Engineer, Liner Notes, Producer, Remixing
1976 Here and There Elton John Engineer, Producer
1975 Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy Elton John Audio Production, Producer, Remixing
1975 Cordon Bleu Solution Producer
1975 Rock of the Westies Elton John Producer, Remixing
1975 Tommy [Original Soundtrack] Producer
1974 Caribou Elton John Producer, Tambourine
1974 Greatest Hits Elton John Brass Arrangement, Digital Remastering, Producer
1973 Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player Elton John Brass Arrangement, Producer
1973 Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Elton John Audio Production, Liner Notes, Original Album Producer, Producer
1973 Smiling Face Davey Johnstone Percussion, Producer
1972 Grave New World The Strawbs Producer
1972 Honky Chateau Elton John Audio Production, Brass Arrangement, Main Personnel, Producer, Vocals, Vocals (Background), Whistle, Whistle (Human), Whistle (Instrument)
1972 Lunch Audience Percussion, Producer
1972 Whatever’s for Us Joan Armatrading Producer
1971 11-17-70 Elton John Liner Notes, Producer
1971 Friends Elton John Producer
1971 Kongos John Kongos Audio Production, Percussion, Producer
1971 Madman Across the Water Elton John Audio Production, Liner Notes, Producer
1971 Songs from Wasties Orchard Magna Carta Audio Production, Producer, Unknown Contributor Role
1971 Spring Spring Liner Notes, Producer
1971 Taupin Bernie Taupin Producer
1971 The House on the Hill Audience Director, Percussion, Producer
1971 Thru the Years John Mayall Engineer
1971 Wrecked Again Michael Chapman Producer
1971 You Well-Meaning Brought Me Here Ralph McTell Producer, Vocals (Background)
1970 Elton John Elton John Audio Production, Liner Notes, Producer
1970 Fully Qualified Survivor Michael Chapman Producer, Scraper
1970 Picnic Producer
1970 Seasons Magna Carta Producer
1970 The Beast of the Bonzos The Bonzo Dog Band Producer
1970 Tumbleweed Connection Elton John Audio Production, Liner Notes, Producer
1969 An Asylum for the Musically Insane Tea & Symphony Clarinet
1969 Bakerloo Bakerloo Producer
1969 Empty Sky Elton John Liner Notes
1969 Man of Words/Man of Music David Bowie Producer
1969 Rainmaker Michael Chapman Producer
1969 Space Oddity David Bowie Audio Production, Producer
1969 Spiral Staircase Ralph McTell Producer
1969 Strawbs The Strawbs Audio Production, Producer
1969 Tadpoles The Bonzo Dog Band Audio Production, Producer
1969 Urban Spaceman The Bonzo Dog Band Producer
1969 We Are Everything You See Locomotive Producer
1968 Diary of a Band, Vol. 1 John Mayall Engineer
1968 Diary of a Band, Vol. 2 John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers Engineer
1968 Large as Life & Twice as Natural Davy Graham Engineer
1968 Out of the Frying Pan Wynder K. Frog Producer
1968 The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse The Bonzo Dog Band Producer
1967 A Hard Road The Bluesbreakers Engineer
1967 Crusade The Bluesbreakers Engineer
1967 David Bowie David Bowie Engineer
1967 Eddie Boyd and His Blues Band Eddie Boyd & His Blues Band Audio Engineer, Engineer
1967 Nicola Bert Jansch Engineer
1967 Raw Blues Eric Clapton Engineer
1967 Ten Years After Ten Years After Audio Engineer, Composer, Engineer, Percussion, Producer, Tambourine
1967 The Blues Alone John Mayall Engineer
1966 Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton John Mayall Audio Engineer, Engineer
1966 Live at Klook’s Kleek Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band Liner Notes
1966 Midnight Man Davy Graham Engineer
1966 North Country Maid Marianne Faithfull Engineer
1965 John Mayall Plays John Mayall John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers Engineer
1965 Marianne Faithfull Marianne Faithfull Engineer
1964 Folk Roots, New Routes Shirley Collins Engineer
1964 Folk, Blues & Beyond… Davy Graham Engineer
Burberry Acoustic: The Collection For London Fashion Week Producer
Heads Together Producer
Jackie: The Annual 2010 Producer
Love Songs [Rocket] Elton John Producer
LovePower and Peace Robin George Producer
The Best Rock Anthems …Ever! Producer
Vertigo Annual: 1970 Producer

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