Nick Magnus: The Making of ‘Songs of Love & War’

Labour of Love

Duncan Browne

Duncan Browne

The Making of Duncan Browne’s ‘Songs of Love & War’

by Nick Magnus

The untimely death of musician Duncan Browne part-way through an album project spurred keyboardist Nick Magnus on to complete the recordings. Here Nick tells the inside story of how he accomplished it.

Whilst probably best remembered for his 1972 hit “Journey”, songwriter, guitarist and singer Duncan Browne also produced a series of nine albums both under his own name and that of the band Metro. His writing partnership with Peter Godwin in Metro also produced the song “Criminal World”, made famous by David Bowie on the album “Let’s Dance”. Always keen to diversify, Duncan also wrote the music to numerous television productions such as BBC1’s series “Travelling Man”, BBC2’s period drama series “Shadow of the Noose”, and numerous other TV, film and documentary productions.

May 1993 saw the tragic loss of this fine and talented musician and composer, after a three year battle against cancer. At the time of his death, we had been working on his next solo album, some of which had reached demo stage, and some of which had yet to be written. Thus I undertook to complete the album, albeit in the absence of the principal artist. This was both a technically and emotionally challenging task. Much of the original work had been started on “old tech” equipment, most of which I no longer own, and the greatest problem presented was that of re-synchronizing the tracks to accommodate my present setup. As for the remainder of the album, it was decided to include a selection of previously unreleased tracks, chosen to highlight the diversity of Duncan’s musicianship. These were also to undergo some “tweaking” to bring them in line with the sound and feel of the whole album.

The experience was not without its humorous side, however. Duncan was a man of high ideals and scrupulously good taste; this meant that certain artistic decisions had to be considered most carefully. The curious thing was that whenever I had serious doubts about a particular course of action, the piece of equipment involved in the decision almost invariably broke down or crashed as if in response. Somehow I knew I was not alone!

Each track brought its own set of problems to solve, so they are grouped here by type, with brief descriptions.


Love Leads You

Both tracks are well suited to the guest golden larynx of Colin Blunstone on lead vocals, being similar in mood to songs of the Alan Parsons genre. “Love Leads You” particularly demonstrates Duncan’s wonderful feel for electric as well as acoustic guitar with a brief but beautiful solo that still gets the back of my neck tingling.

The treatment applied to these tracks was fairly straightforward. Since no multitracks existed, the original demo ¼” stereo masters were used, transferred to DAT. These were fortunately recorded to an acceptably high standard, so the only processing used was courtesy of an SPL vitalizer. Compared to current listener expectations, the top end was relatively dull, and vocal diction suffered slightly. Using the vitalizer to accentuate the high mids at around 2.5KHz, and the harmonics control to restore missing sibilants, lyrics regained clarity and backing vocals which were hitherto almost lost became quite audible. This process also revealed hidden details in the drum parts. Subtle bass end enhancement was also employed to restore the balance between the two ends of the audio spectrum. Finally, the stereo width enhancement was set at about twelve o’clock to separate the instruments and remove any remaining muddiness. Comparison with the untreated original was extremely gratifying, and the result was copied across (via analog) to a second DAT.


High Windows

“Rainer” is a song inspired by the great German film director, Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Getting off to an atmospheric start, and sporting some rather Brian Wilson-esque backing vocals, it develops into an anthemic chorus lavish with billowing Mellotron.

“High Windows” has intensely filmic lyrics, putting one in mind of unrequited love in deserted, rain-soaked Eastern European streets. Musically, however, it is warm and reflective. Duncan sings lead vocal on both tunes.

In common with various other tracks on the album, these songs were originated on a Fostex A8 8-track. Since I had long since sold the A8 and replaced it with a Fostex R8, the first spanner in the works had arrived. Tapes recorded on my A8 turned out to be quite incompatible with the R8. Even though the A8 and R8 are biased and lined up for Ampex 406 and 456 respectively, Fostex inform me that tapes should be compatible across the entire 8-track range. Evidently, my attempts to re-align the A8 as it grew older had caused it to drift into another universe; possibly through ignorance on my part. The problem was solved by the great kindness of stalwart SOS contributor Gordon Reid, who lent me his Fostex M80 for the duration. Fortuitously, the tapes seemed to sound even better on the M80 than my memory of them on the A8.

Synchronization was the next hurdle encountered. The backing tracks had been sequenced on my trusty MC500 (which I still use in preference to a software sequencer.) Clearly it would be better to run the tracks live wherever possible, rather than use the 8-track versions, thus presenting the opportunity to make improvements in both sounds and performances. Problem was, the code on tape was FSK code (frequency shift key) which contains no song position data. This was obviously unsatisfactory; I had no intention of starting from the top of the song just to check out something at the end! To solve this, the SRC/AT SMPTE to MIDI synchronizer was used. This unit has the wonderful ability to “learn” a tempo map, via MIDI, to 1,000th of a BPM accuracy. First off, the FSK code (which also contains tempo changes) was played from tape into the MC500, which in turn generated MIDI clock information which was sent to and “learned” by the SRC. Next, SMPTE code was striped onto a spare tape track …never erase your original code! Finally, to find the correct SMPTE start time offset, the SRC once again had the solution. A single cowbell beat, placed at the start of the sequence, was patched to the audio input of the SRC. The FSK code was once again sent to the MC500, whilst simultaneously sending the SMPTE code from tape to the SMPTE input of the SRC. When the FSK set the MC500 running, the cowbell beat marked the start of the song while referenced to the incoming SMPTE code. Phew! The new improved sequences now ran in perfect sync with the tape.

Further treatments involved EQ’ing the lead and backing vocals; these had been recorded with a Bathroom Tile, otherwise known as a Tandy PZM microphone. Whilst not lacking in sibilance, they needed a little extra warmth and breathiness, so a touch of 350Hz and 4KHz on the Studiomaster Gold mixer did the trick. The arpeggio electric guitar on “High Windows” was sent through an Energy Technology VKP1 valve preamp and then to a Dynacord CLS222 Leslie simulator to get that George Harrison sound. As with all the reworked tracks, the sequenced parts needed to be edited and in some instances re-performed to suit the new sound sources being used.

Scull Twins

Suddenly Last Summer

“Scull Twins”, although a rock song, has veiled South American undertones. Duncan also plays some very tasteful electric guitar, getting a great sound from the much underrated Roland GP8.

“Suddenly Last Summer” was enormous fun to do. Based on the eponymous Tennessee Williams play, this interpretation is both quirky and sinister. Dialogue and effects sampled from the film play an important role, and the lighthearted outset of the piece becomes progressively darker with the introduction of Moroccan reeds, doomy Mellotron strings and thundering Taurus pedals (…actually a Super Jupiter.) Duncan is lead vocalist on these tracks.

The multitracks for these songs no longer exist (a fact for which I constantly chastise myself,) so consequently these two tracks are the original demos, mixed onto a Sony EV-S700UB Video 8 recorder. These machines, which predate DAT, utilized 8-bit digital stereo PCM audio tracks. This technology, while being preferable to your average cassette deck, does suffer from audible artifacts, notably the occasional distortion of exposed high frequency program material. For this reason, I wrestled with the dilemma of whether to vitalize the mixes or not, and finally decided the advantages of Vitalization outweighed the negative aspects. Since the vitalizer didn’t blow up in my face, I guessed Duncan would have been in agreement. “Suddenly Last Summer”, in particular, benefits from the process; amongst the key features of the song are the chilling, angst-ridden low grade samples of Elizabeth Taylor which are now clearly audible through an otherwise dense mix.

Journey ’93

This song is an up-to-date reworking of Duncan’s hit single “Journey”, a sprightly song carried by a very infectious acoustic guitar figure. The original was produced by Mickey Most in 1972. This new version, actually recorded in 1992, is an altogether more energetic, rocky arrangement than its ancestor, and needed only a re-mix to freshen it up. Vocals and nylon guitar were recorded using an AKG C1000S microphone, with a slight EQ reduction at around 150Hz on the vocal to improve clarity.


Barry’s Lament

Both of these tracks are recent recordings, and were left untreated. “Berceuse” (French for “Lullaby”), is a solo nylon guitar instrumental, and was recorded in one take directly to DAT using the AKG C1000S and a dash of Medium Room 8 from a Peavey Multifex. Even if I had the means of removing the creaking chair and breathing noises, I would not have done so.

“Barry’s Lament”, which Duncan recorded with Chris Cozens of Project D fame, demonstrates how a beautifully sculpted, atmospheric piece of music can completely transcend the factory presets used to create it; in this case simply D50 Glass Voices and VFX Zirconium.

I Fall Again

This is a vocal version of the theme Duncan wrote for the BBC drama series “Travelling Man”, with Colin Blunstone guesting again on lead voice.

Technically, this was definitely a tricky one; the track existed only on ¼” stereo, but the challenge here was to add extra instruments to the arrangement, even though there was no code of any kind – not even FSK. This stereo master was bounced to four tracks of the R8; two tracks each for the left and right channels. Why? Well, ostensibly to increase the total track width, thereby allowing more level on tape, and thus achieve a better signal to noise ratio. Whether this is totally fallacious or not, I don’t know. (Any comments, Paul?) Well, I felt better for doing it, anyway. SMPTE was then striped onto track 8…. and then the difficult part began; creating a tempo map in the SRC. Using its audio input, I initially tried tapping out the tempo in time to the track. This proved to be quite insane. Cheated of a new toaster by the lack of one coupon, I tried another approach. Since the tempo of the track is fairly constant, I programmed a regular, quantized cowbell beat into the MC500. The tempo of this was matched as closely as possible to the track and then played into the SRC (in audio trigger learn mode) as the track ran while making minute manual adjustments to the tempo whenever it seemed to drift slightly. The SMPTE offset was then set as described earlier, and the new instruments (12 string guitar, 6 string guitar and pad, all from a JV880) were running in sync. Finally, the stereo track was Vitalized to bring out the vocals and a gentle 4:1 soft knee compression applied with an Alesis 3630 to tame the occasional “hot” bass notes.

The Small Hours

A distinct Eastern European influence is evident here; a subject which always fascinated us both. Belonging to that musical genre of 60s spy thriller themes synonymous with John Barry, it is an entirely keyboard generated instrumental, programmed on the MC500. After making improvements to sounds and tweaking parts to suit, the whole thing was run live to DAT.


Romantic Comedy

“Sarabande” is a very classical sounding acoustic guitar and orchestra instrumental, reminiscent partly of an Albinoni Adagio, partly of a study by Roderigo.

“Romantic Comedy”, also an instrumental, has a warm, whimsical character.

These tracks feature Duncan’s nylon guitar (known as “the Spaniard”) recorded on the A8. Once again, the M80 came to the rescue. Synchronizing these FSK coded tracks was now no longer a problem (see Rainer and High Windows). However, the guitar on “Sarabande” had been recorded in sections, and the tuning varied from bar to bar. To remedy this, all the individual guitar phrases were sampled into the Roland S770, and assigned their own keys. Each sample was tuned correctly, but with some, the inevitable happened; the timing went astray. The S770’s Timestretch, together with some cut-and-splice editing and a dollop of intuitive guesswork, provided the necessary adjustments. Each phrase was then placed into approximate position within the MC500 sequence. To preserve the feel and timing of the original performance, these phrases were compared with the off-tape performance while listening in sync with the MC500, and then re-positioned precisely, one by one.

“Romantic Comedy” had no tuning problems, but the guitar track ended abruptly, and rather too soon. Remember, these started out as demo takes, and we had no idea they would eventually have to be used for real. The task here was to extend the piece, which of course is no problem if it involves only MIDI instruments. Basically, the final theme needed to be repeated, which meant writing a modulation to get back to the correct key. This done, the relevant section of guitar was sampled into the S770 and spun in on top of the new ending. The final result sounds quite natural. Final treatments to the guitar on both tracks were a touch of 250-300Hz and a little 6KHz to warm and brighten the sound of the PZM mic, and some fairly severe hard knee compression to bring out the body of the guitar sound. Medium Room 8 on the Peavey Multifex again provided the guitar reverb. All the MIDI instruments for both tracks ran live.

The Wild Places

This track is the odd one out, as it was previously released as a single and as the title track on Duncan’s 1978 album “The Wild Places”, produced by Ray Hendriks. Featuring Tony Hymas on keys, John Giblin on bass and Simon (Mr. Double Bass Drum) Phillips on, er….drums, it became a hit in Europe and the U.S, and was covered by people as diverse as Patti Smith and (allegedly) Barry Manilow! Since this slinky rocker is generally regarded as a seminal Duncan Browne track, its inclusion seemed justified. Tweaking of this track was restricted solely to some Vitalizing of the top end (to reveal hidden details and to bring it in line with the rest of the tracks) and some bass end enhancement from the same unit using the “tight” setting. Oh, and a touch of stereo width enhancement.

The finished album, available on CD, has been released on the Zomart label. I’m both pleased and honoured to have had the trust of Duncan Browne, his family, friends and publisher to complete the project.

The album is available through retail outlets or by mail order from Zomart Records, PO Box 345, London, WC1H 8HN.
Equipment List
Recording & Mixing

Fostex R8 8-track
Fostex M80 8-track
Studiomaster Gold 24:8:2
Sony DTC55 DAT
Technics SV260 DAT
AKG C1000 S Mic
Tandy PZM Mic
AR 18LS monitoring
Revox A77

Alesis 3630 x2
Quadraverb Plus x2
Peavey Multifex
Roland SRV2000
Roland GP8
Energy VKP1
SPL Vitalizer
Dynacord CLS222
MIDI Devices/Sequencing

Roland MC500 Mk2
Roland A50 Keyboard
Roland Pad 8 Octapads
Yamaha KX5 Remote
MIDI Sounds

Roland S770 (16Mb)
Roland D550
Roland R8M
Roland JV880 (Pop)
Roland JV880 (Orchestral)
Roland U220
Roland P330
Roland Super Jupiter
Roland Planet MKS30
Korg Wavestation A/D
Hammond XB2
Yamaha TX802
Ensoniq VFX
Kawai K5M
SCSI Drive Sony 600 Mb optical

Give Me Take You
(Immediate, 1968)

Duncan Browne
(RAK, 1973)

(Transatlantic, 1976)

The Wild Places
(Logo, 1978)

Streets Of Fire
(Logo, 1979)

Travelling Man
(soundtrack album, Towerbell, 1985. CD Reissue on Prestige )

Salva Me
(Theme to Shadow of the Noose, BBC compilation,1989)

Songs of Love and War
(Zomart, 1994)

On The Bombsite / Alfred Bell (Immediate, 1968)

Resurrection Joe / The Final Asylum
(Bell, 1970)

Journey / In a Mist
(RAK, 1972)

Send Me the Bill for your Friendship / My Only Son (RAK, 1973)

The Wild Places / Camino Real (Logo, 1978)

Travelling Man
(Towerbell, 1985)

(featured on Street Band’s “Toast” EP, Logo 1993)

About the Author

Nick Magnus

Nick Magnus started his career in music in 1976 with the cult symphonic rock ensemble, The Enid. Since then he has worked with ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, touring the world and recording a total of seven albums in the course of this eleven year association. The Korgis have also benefited from Nick’ expertise, as did China Crisis (on their most successful album Flaunt The Imperfection produced by Steely Dan’s Walter Becker). Nick also produced Karel Fialka’s hit single Hey Matthew which reached No.7 in the charts.

Productions in 1994 included albums for Duncan Browne (Songs of Love And War) and Shirley Roden (The Path Of Daring,) as well as a self-composed album entitled Straight On Till Morning. This instrumental outing concentrates on themes, strong dynamics and cinematic soundscapes; qualities very much in demand within the world of film and television music.

In 1995, Nick again enjoyed Top Ten chart success as a member and co-producer of Free The Spirit’s platinum album Pan Pipe Moods, which reached number two in the National Charts, selling 2,000,000 copies worldwide. Pan Pipe Moods 2 was released later in the year, followed by Pan Pipe Moods in Paradise in 1996.

(This article originally appeared in the May 1995 issue of Sound On Sound. Special thanks to Nick Magnus for putting it in our hands, not to mention making a great album!)

Nick Magnus: The Dig Magazine Interview

Nick Magnus

The Dig Magazine Interview
with Paul Kitchen

“Hi – is anyone out there?”

“Hope I’m not transmitting into the ether yet again!”

These were the first rumblings of Nick Magnus. He contacted me in November 1996, shortly after the debut of the Duncan Browne Tribute website, wondering whether I might be interested in his ‘Making of Songs of Love & War’ article which had run in ‘Sound on Sound’ magazine in England. Of course I was interested, and thus began a dialogue between us which shows no sign of slowing down (though the email delivery system of the UK-AOL has done it’s best to halt our conversation altogether).

The interview that follows was culled from Nick’s response to actual interview questions, as well as random email musings that took place over several months. For those of us around the world who happened upon ‘Songs of Love & War’, only to have the liner notes leave us bewildered (I personally had not seen or read a thing about Duncan in the U.S. since the release of ‘Streets of Fire’ in 1979), this interview definitely clears a lot of things up. …….PK 5/97

PK: Hi Nick. Due to the fact that we are indeed transmitting into the ether, how do you think Duncan would have felt about the net, and more specifically, this website.

NICK: I’m delighted Dunc has his own website, and I only wish he was still around to enjoy and take advantage of this great technology. He’d have loved to contribute and generally take part, and everyone could have also had the benefit of his totally offbeat sense of humour. Dunc’s humour always figured prominently, often leaving us finding it impossible to get down to any serious work because we’d be playing ridiculous improvised Kurt Weil-esque duets on the piano, usually in tears of laughter, or spending hours thinking up nonsensical names for groups (my favourite was Rotweillers Eat My Lipstick!). It was an indication of Dunc’s courage that this sense of humour was with him constantly, in full force, right up to his last days.

PK: By the way, how did you meet Duncan? and when did you start working together.

NICK: We might have met sooner – it was kind of a long process. In 1982 I was sharing a flat with a singer and friend of mine, Debi Doss. She was good friends with Colin Blunstone, so I knew Colin then and we had subsequently done some musical bits and pieces together. Debi was also friends with Lin (who was yet to meet Duncan) so the “mutual friend” network existed that far back. In 1984 we moved to another house, and I had a basic studio in the front room there. One day in 1986, Lin came round with her new man – Duncan. Colin and Dunc had known each other for years, and had also shared a flat together for a while, and they were currently working on demos for a band project called Camino. Dunc and I started discussing music, and within 30 seconds we were firm friends – one of those instant kindred spirit friendships that happens occasionally. We immediately decided we must work together, and the rest is history.

PK: What was the nature of Duncan’s illness? And how long was he sick?

NICK: Duncan was diagnosed with cancer of the colon in 1989. After a partial colonectomy, things seemed OK until a further test some months later showed the cancer had moved to his liver. Despite an operation attempting to remove the offending bit, and subsequent chemotherapy treatment, he died from cancer of the liver on 28th May, 1993.

PK: Duncan’s illness was apparently a big secret for everyone involved.

NICK: This was true – one of the major reasons being that he felt that it was a private thing, and he also felt it might compromise his work if it were commonly known.

PK: Can you tell us a little about your ‘Labour of Love’ article, which details the making of ‘Songs of Love & War’.

NICK: It originally went out in Sound on Sound magazine (hence the technical content) but hopefully readers will be interested in that side of the making of the album too… It was not an easy project to complete, trying to cope with integrating old and new technologies seamlessly, while simultaneously dealing with the emotional side of things *and* making sure that everything musically followed the original course we’d had planned for it. At every stage, you could feel Dunc’s presence in the room, giving his seal of approval (and sometimes disapproval as you’ll see in the article!).

PK: What were Duncan’s plans for ‘Songs of Love & War’. Did he intend to include the instrumental tracks. Were there plans for any band tracks, or was a sequenced album your goal from the outset?

NICK: Quite simply, the idea was to have written a whole lot more new songs, and to do fresh recordings of some of Dunc’s existing backlog of material. Some of the tracks had their beginnings as TV music – themes or quite often bits of incidental music that lent themselves to expansion into a song or instrumental. For example, Scull Twins was to have been the theme for a crime drama series. The job ultimately went to someone else, but we liked the tune so much it became a song. Sarabande was another example. Basically, anything we did was up for consideration, including instrumentals.

As far as I recall, the intention was always to have made the album a two-man, MIDI based job (like Scull, Windows, Suddenly, etc), with no plans for band tracks as such. Budget (or lack of it) was a major consideration in this decision!

PK: When did you become involved with the album. Were you producing from the start?

NICK: With the exception of the original Camino demos (a band project with Colin Blunstone), I was involved right from the start. When we started working together it was on TV stuff, and the first complete song we did was Windows. The plan for an album kind of started from there. We’d originally thought about the possibility of doing it in a “grown-up-long-trousers” studio, and drew up several budgets, but as my studio gradually improved, we dropped that idea – especially when we looked at the cost of even a cheap studio!

PK: SOLAW has a lot of great material on it. My favorites are Scull Twins, Suddenly Last Summer, Rainer, and High Windows. I especially like the bass lines and string washes in ‘Twins’, it’s a very sultry groove you concocted.

NICK: So glad you like those, they’re my favourites too. The string wash in Twins is a D50, and the patch is the result of a fortuitous accident with the randomizer on the Steinberg D50 editor when I was at a friend’s studio one day. You didn’t used to get many usable sounds that way, but that particular pad has been a favourite ever since!

PK: Are there Duncan vocal versions of the songs that Blunstone performed?

NICK: Of the songs on SOLAW? Not to my knowledge, but I could be wrong. Various copies of demos exist – I have some, Nic Potter has some and I’m sure Lin and Seb have some. I copied mine from Eaton Music’s Duncan portfolio (which may not have been the whole story), and of those only two have Dunc singing. They are tracks called “No Name Girl” and “The Toys”. The reason for that is that most of the tracks were demos for Camino, of which Colin was the featured vocalist.

PK: Why were there 2 versions of songs like ‘High Windows’, with Duncan singing the lead vocal, as well as a version with Blunstone handling the vocal. Did Duncan plan on this? Was Blunstone brought in while Duncan was still alive?

NICK: As above, many of the earlier versions were “stage one” demos for Camino. There are actually four (!) versions of High Windows. They were all done at different times for different reasons. There may even be more. Of the ones I’m acquainted with, the first version was the one Nic liked — that was a Camino demo; possibly done before I knew Dunc. The next version was created as an entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. It had a guy called Ian Linn on keys, and featured a singer by the name of Neil Lockwood (recently of the Electric Light Orchestra). Don’t know who did drums and bass. The third version was the Eurovision backing track with Neil removed and Colin singing in his place (as another Camino demo). Version four was the final one that Dunc & I did together. It was to be part of the putative D.B. solo album; at that time we were just beginning to stockpile material.

PK: Were DB’s vocals recorded at your place?

NICK: All of Dunc’s vocals (excepting Wild Places) were done at my place using only a Radio Shack PZM “bathroom tile” mic. At 26 pounds, one of the best value for money mics going!

PK: Where did the basic track demos come from. Did Duncan have a home studio?

NICK: It varied, but it wasn’t at Dunc’s. No-one can remember clearly (and I wasn’t around when those first demos were done). Opinions vary between Lillie Yard (Hans Zimmer’s place), The Factory (Dave Mackay’s place), The Chapel (Florian Pilkington-Miksah’s place) and various other locations.

PK: Were many songs started that did not make the cut, or ones that you did not attempt to complete?

NICK: As mentioned above, TV music had been the starting point for a lot of things, so the answer could be a theoretical yes. It has been suggested that if this stuff is around, it should be made into an album. However, I think most people would appreciate that because the work is mostly incomplete, expanding upon it would make it no longer the original artist’s work, and maybe not even his intention. The idea would require very careful consideration, for many reasons.

PK: How did Duncan keep busy in the ’80’s and early ’90’s. Was he something of a house composer for Granada and the BBC, or was it all piece/contract work?

NICK: Mainly through the TV work. That whole area of the music industry tends to be on a who-you-know basis, and Dunc was in the good position of having a number of producers/directors (of which Seb was one) that regularly came to him for music.

PK: Nic Potter has been quoted as saying that Duncan played his last notes ever on Nic’s solo record ‘New Europe/Rainbow Colours’.

NICK: Nic told me he’d said that too, but in actual fact, the last stuff Dunc did (three weeks before he died) was to record (at my place) a very difficult solo acoustic tune. The various out-takes are still here on a DAT. Now I have a hard disk recorder, I thought I might attempt at some point to edit it all together. He was very ill at that point, and got tired very quickly, so couldn’t complete it to his satisfaction. I may still be able to compile what there is – I must look into it soon.

PK: What is the BBC record you list in your Duncan Browne discography?

NICK: It’s a CD compilation of BBC TV themes, called “The World Of BBC TV Themes” surprisingly enough. The catalogue number is BBC CD 705. The track Duncan wrote is an absolutely beautiful piece called “Salva Me” (pronounced Salver May) which we recorded for a BBC 2 TV drama series called “Shadow of the Noose”. While the rest of the CD may not be to everyone’s taste, it’s worth having just for that one track!

© 2001 InSync Design & Publishing. All rights reserved.
No material may be reprinted without written permission from the publisher.

Lin Browne: The Dig Magazine Interview

Lin Browne

The Dig Magazine Interview
with Paul Kitchen

In November of 1996, a couple of months after the debut of the Duncan Browne Tribute site, I received a short little email from Lin Browne requesting a copy of anything that I might publish about her late husband, Duncan. Since then we have communicated regularly, and the idea of a short interview via email presented itself. The interview was completed in February 1997.

Prior to meeting Duncan, Ms. Browne worked for a few years as an actress and a model. She later worked as Assistant to the Head of Casting at Granada Television in London. She currently lives with her Persian cat Fifi, and swears that she is kind to children. As you will hear, Ms. Browne has a lot to share about her late husband.

Hi Lin. Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions about Duncan. Why don’t we start in the beginning. How did you and Duncan meet?

Lin: We met in 1984 when Duncan was writing the theme & incidental music for the TV series “TRAVELLING MAN” for Granada Television (currently being shown here again on Satellite).

What were you doing at Granada TV at the time?

Lin: I was working as Assistant to the Head of Casting at Granada TV.

In my mind, Duncan made his two best albums in 1978 & 1979 with ‘The Wild Places’ & ‘Streets of Fire’. It was also the only time in his career that he made back to back albums. What happened to stop his momentum, and ultimately redirect his attention to film in 1984?

Lin: In 1984 he didn’t have a record deal. He’d been writing music for theatre productions and was offered the “Travelling Man” TV series and from then on work for television just kept on rolling in.

From 1984 on, he was writing music for film and television – oh, and radio (a couple of his themes for the BBC World Service are still being transmitted every day – one is a news theme). He wanted to work on another album but he was too busy doing TV work. He continued writing songs when he had time and was planning to record a Spanish guitar album of his own compositions.

Is there a complete list of all of Duncan’s soundtrack work available?

Lin: I expect so … via his publisher, Eaton Music, I guess. I can let you have a CV, but there’s loads of work I don’t know about, when he played on other peoples’ albums (before I knew him). He did some session work early in his career but never really enjoyed it, so later on he guested only on albums for friends … e.g. Nic Potter, Colin Blunstone, etc.

‘Metro’, the album Duncan made with Peter Godwin & Sean Lyons in 1976 was a critical success. What prompted his departure?

Lin: The advent of punk music. And his working relationship with Godwin, although very productive, was never totally satisfactory.

Did he stay in contact with Peter Godwin after the breakup? Rumour has it there was a little ill will there.

Lin: Not really. A bit.

Who were Duncan’s musical cohorts during the years ‘84 till ‘93?

Lin: Nick Magnus, Nic Potter, Colin Blunstone, Sebastian Graham-Jones, Barry Husband, Simon Philips, John Giblin, Florian Pilkington-Mikhsa (of “Curved Air”) and others I can’t remember off the top of my head. Oh, and he kept in touch with Andrew Loog-Oldham & Patrick Lacey, his past managers, but not with Micky Most, who gave him his first record deal.

Can you tell us about Duncan’s relationship with Colin Blunstone?

Lin: They shared a flat together in the early days and kept in touch over the years. They formed a band called CAMINO around 1986 (???). The band was only at the demo-recording stage when Colin got another solo deal which he wanted to concentrate on. (Two of those demos are on SONGS OF LOVE & WAR, the ones Colin sings.)

Was Duncan writing and demoing songs during these years?

Lin: Yes. And playing a lot of classical stuff on his Spanish guitar.

Did Duncan put music on the back burner once he became a father?

Lin: No, never. Music was his life.

Was ‘Songs of Love & War’ the record Duncan wanted to make?

Lin: Probably not . SONGS OF LOVE & WAR was a tribute to Duncan from me, Magnus, Sebastian & Eaton Music, made possible by some technical wizardry by Magnus and a lot of hard work by John Boughtwood at Eaton Music.

Duncan had wanted to use that name for his next album so I decided we should go ahead and use it. He was writing and demoing songs towards releasing an album, but in reality few of the songs were complete when he died. He probably would not have been pleased with the finished result because he was such a perfectionist.

When did Duncan fall ill, and what was the nature of his illness?

Lin: 1988. Bowel Cancer. Then cancer metastasized in his liver a few years later.

I’ve heard that you have been involved with efforts for continuing cancer research.

I recently appeared with the footballer Bobby Moore’s wife on a television documentary programme about bowel cancer, to raise public awareness about the disease. I found it quite difficult to do, and it made me very sad because they played Duncan’s composition of “SALVE ME”, a piece he wrote for the soprano Isobel Buchanan, throughout the programme.

The liner notes to ‘Songs of Love & War’ refer to Duncan’s instructions. Was there a point when he realized he could no longer contribute to the album?

Lin: He wasn’t seriously working on the album because no deal was in place. He was busy writing for television up until a few weeks before he died. The album at that time was still very much a ‘future project’.

How did Duncan feel about his career. Had he achieved what he wanted. If not, what were his ambitions?

Lin: After he’d died, I found a piece of paper on which he’d written “things to do before extermination”. I think he’d managed about 2 of the items on it!!

You’ve spoken to me about Duncan’s beloved Spanish guitar, and the haunting acoustic pieces he composed. How much of Duncan’s music remains unreleased?

Lin: Bits & bobs. Classical stuff mainly, some songs.

Are there plans for a career spanning retrospective, hopefully with some of his unreleased material?

Lin: Not to my knowledge. Although a special limited edition of SONGS OF LOVE & WAR is about to be re-released in Japan with an additional 2 previously unreleased songs on it.

Who owns the rights to his material. Are you in charge of CD licensing and future reissues?

Lin: I think I have the copyright. But Duncan’s publisher, Mandy Oates of Eaton Music handles everything for me – she’s a good friend.

What do you think Duncan might think of his new-found Internet presence?

Lin: He was terribly old-fashioned in many ways and might have hated the Internet – but who knows, he was totally unpredictable.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share with us about Duncan, and his place in music history?

Lin: He was a unique and incredibly creative person, his terms of reference were immense and diffuse. He was a complex and often difficult person, but he was never dull and never predictable. He filled my life with love and music.

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