Gus Dudgeon, 1942-2002
Oct 1, 2002 12:00 PM, BY RICK CLARK
On July 21, 2002, the music world lost one of its finest production talents when Gus Dudgeon and his wife Sheila died in a road accident in England. Best known for producing many of Elton John’s most critically and commercially successful albums, Dudgeon had also produced David Bowie, XTC, Ten Years After, Joan Armatrading, Audience and the Bonzo Dog Band, among many others.
Dudgeon came up through the ranks, starting out at the renowned Olympic Studios on Baker Street in London in the early ’60s, and later joining Decca Studios in West Hampstead as a staff engineer. While at Decca, Dudgeon engineered The Zombies “She’s Not There,” worked with the Moody Blues and Marianne Faithfull, and recorded the legendary John Mayall’s Blues Breakers album with Eric Clapton. At the urging of producers Denny Cordell and Andrew Loog Oldham, Dudgeon decided to get into production, and by 1968, he had become an independent producer for his own Tuesday Productions company.
From that point on, Dudgeon produced a number of distinctive and now classic recordings. With David Bowie’s first major hit, “Space Oddity,” Dudgeon took what could’ve been a rather noveltyish tune and turned it into a transcendent pop moment. His extensive work with Elton John covered everything from the larger-than-life orchestral sweep of “Tiny Dancer” and “Levon,” to hard-as-nails, hook-filled rockers like “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and “The Bitch Is Back,” to more reflective numbers like “Daniel” and “Country Comfort.”
Elton John trusted Dudgeon’s production instincts to the point that the artist basically left the studio after the piano and vocal tracks were laid down, leaving Dudgeon to create that unique synthesis of orchestral pop and Americana that defined many of John’s best recordings.