Few studio specialists had a more wide-ranging resumé than Bill Price, whose career stretched over fully 50 years and embraced blues, pop, classic rock, new wave and more besides. The much-respected and widely-experienced engineer and producer died of cancer on 22 December 2016 at the age of 72.
Among those to benefit from his experience were John Mayall, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Elton John, the Sex Pistols, Pete Townshend and countless others. He was also a trusted ally of the late Sir George Martin, as one of the launch team of his AIR Studios facility. (Photo right: Barry Marsden).
Price’s greatest hits as a studio authority, either as engineer or producer, make impressive reading. Beginning his career at first Plessey Electronics and then Decca Records in 1962, he was in at the label when the fledgling Beatles‘ unsuccessful audition tape for the label sat, unloved, in the tape room for an extended period.
Bill was as much at home on sessions in the 1960s from Mayall to the Moody Blues, Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck as on pop hits such as Marmalade’s ‘Reflections Of My Life’ and Nilsson’s 1972 smash ‘Without You,’ or Martin’s production of McCartney and Wings‘ 1973 Bond movie theme Live And Let Die.
His album credits read like an inventory of key new wave and cool rock releases. He was co-producer, with Chris Thomas, of the Pistols’ seminal Never Mind The Bollocks…Here’s The Sex Pistols and mixed Mott The Hoople’s Mott and The Hoople LPs, Roxy Music‘s For Your Pleasure, The Clash’s self-titled 1977 debut as well as their London Calling and Sandinista and The Pretenders’ Pretenders and Pretenders II.
Of the Pistols’ sessions, Price told Sound On Sound in 2004 that manager Malcolm McLaren “hired Chris [Thomas] to produce the singles ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘God Save the Queen,’ and during the course of that, we tried recording songs that ultimately ended up being album tracks, while during the course of me recording the album Malcolm heard songs that he wanted Chris to rework into singles. So, when it came to putting the album together, we had duplicate versions of some of the material produced either by Chris or myself.”
In the later 1980s, Price worked with Townshend, John, Rod Stewart, INXS and others, and the ’90s saw him mixing three key Guns N’ Roses albums, Use Your Illusion I, Use Your Illusion II and The Spaghetti Incident albums.
He then produced the Waterboys and mixed the Stone Roses, and was still in demand in recent years with such cutting-edge rock bands as the Libertines and Babyshambles. In 2013, he remastered and remixed all of The Clash’s studio releases for Sony’s The Complete Studio Albums set.
Chris Thomas said of Price: “Quite simply, Bill was one of the best engineers [the UK] ever produced, which means that he was one of the best in the world.”