Chapter 3: A Trip to Wessex
A musician friend of Iain’s heard the band were looking for a replacement Hammond player and mentioned he knew someone who might be interested. Peter Jennings was invited to audition at the Roebuck in Chiswick. Peter’s musical experience had included blues gigs, playing 12-string guitar in tandem with ex-Paramounts pianist Andy Staines, and (in 1968-69) White Rabbit with future Blodwyn Pig drummer Ron Berg and guitarist Andy Rickell (who played with Arthur Brown under the alias Android Funnel).
At the audition it quickly became clear Peter was an outstanding talent and the band immediately invited him to join.
Peter: “I was auditioned at a pub in Chiswick, a place Cressida sometimes used for rehearsals. I imagine we ran through a 12-bar or two and possibly they tried me out on one of the numbers from their set, but anyway they liked the way I fitted in and I joined them that day.”
Iain: “Peter’s arrival added a new dimension to the band. He was a very fine pianist but it was his solo work on the Hammond that became a feature of our live performances.”
With Peter’s appointment in September 1969, the Cressida line-up was complete, and they went straight off to Germany for a return stint at the Star Club in Hamburg, where they performed with East of Eden and Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum.
On their return to London in October 1969 Ossie Byrne took the band into Wessex Studios in Highbury to start work on their first album. This former Gothic church hall, built in 1881, formerly housed a “charm school” for budding film stars until it was bought in 1965 by the songwriter Les Reed and George Martin, legendary producer of The Beatles.
Ossie Byrne chose Wessex Studios as it was renowned for its state-of-the-art facilities. At that time, it was one of the only studios in London offering 16-track recording facilities, a large room and advanced equipment. This was very exciting for the band, whose prior sessions had taken place in small demo studios. Having performed the material many times, they made good use of the new technology and multi-tracking facilities offered at Wessex, spending many nights laying down tracks and overdubs to capture the character and spirit of the band.
Angus: “We had been playing the material live already, so it didn’t take long to record. We weren’t writing stuff in the studio.”
Most of the first album was recorded “live” in the studio, very different from today’s recording practice. It was widely rumoured that the band had a Mellotron (the keyboard used extensively by the Moody Blues’ keyboardist Mike Pinder on their 1967 album Days of Future Passed) and featured it on the record.
Angus: “It’s a myth that we had a Mellotron, but there happened to be one sitting in a corner of the studio. We’d never seen one before, and Peter ended up using it on a couple of tracks. From then on, people started saying ‘Oh, Cressida are like the Moody Blues.”
Kevin: “I remember a time during these sessions when we all stood around one microphone to sing harmonies, recording our backing vocals that way for the first time.”
The recording sessions took place over several weeks and the band often went into the studios late at night having just finished gigging in town.
Note: Wessex Studios became a part of rock history and over a period of 40 years it was used by a long list of great bands and artists including the Rolling Stones, The Who, King Crimson, The Moody Blues, Kylie Minogue, Nick Cave, Coldplay, REM, David Bowie, Sex Pistols, The Clash and Queen.