THE GAME'S UP

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"Second album by this intellectual minded English ensemble is filled with the same kind of quality music that graced its debut last year. Writer / guitarist / vocalist / painter Paul Roberts is at the forefront, writing songs that are both heady in content and poignantly melodic. His songs have an eerie kind of esoteric quality to them, touching upon subjects identifiable to a mass audience. Guitars play a dominant role in forging the group sound with some riffs still reminiscent of Dire Straits. Yet the band manages to carve out a unique fusion of rock, folk and pop."

BILLBOARD'S TOP ALBUM PICKS, week ending 6/14/80

THE MUSICIANS

Paul Roberts - vocals, rhythm guitar
Loz Netto - guitars, backing vocals
Mick Dyche - guitars, backing vocals
Mike Taylor - keyboards
Nick South - bass
Noel McCalla - backing vocals
Paul Robinson - drums & percussion
Richard Bailey - drums
Richard Marcangelo - drums

PRODUCED by Steve Lipson

 

Fickle Heart was recorded in 1977 and released a year later. So it wasn't until late into '79, after our American Tour, that we went into Rockfield Studios in Monmouthshire to record The Game's Up. The second Sniff album was delayed for the usual reasons following the success of the first. The band tours and promotes on the back of its success and then is expected to come up with a new batch of great songs. Realistically the new songs should be even better than the first lot which may have been culled from years of songwriting. On top of this the stakes are increased and the world is your friend, everyone wants a piece of you, and expert advice arrives from all directions, not all of it welcome.

We had followed the new manager Bud Prager's advice on the US tour, he had felt it was better to play to a lot of people who might not be your natural audience, than to a small number who were. We now had to decide on whether we took his advice on how to follow up Fickle Heart. To Bud the all important factor was the producer. In those days there was a belief in the record industry that producers created hit records, that artists could not be left to their own devices. The fact that we had made the first album without one seemed irrelevant. There are undoubtedly great producers out there but a wrong choice could be disastrous. I wanted to give the job to Steve Lipson who was keen to make the step up from engineering, Bud wanted the guy who was later to have huge success producing Bon Jovi. Bud felt that a big glossy rock sound with big choruses was what was required. It didn't occur to him that poodle rock might not be our natural constituency. For Bud there was only one way to do it and that was the way Foreigner had done it. There were other bands from England that did not fit the tenplate. I remember him saying "The Police will never make it in the States because Americans don't like reggae". We held out for Steve Lipson.

Rockfield is a residential studio and part of a working farm. We certainly used the combination of the cowshed and the shotgun to create the explosions at the beginning of Rodeo Drive. History was being made while we were there. Adam Ant was making Ant music in the next studio. We had a lot of fun making the album, which I still think is the correct criteria for making music. Creativity is about exploration and the thrill of discovery. Working by rote, which some highly thought of producers do, is not my cup of tea. Mike Taylor the new keyboard player we had pinched from the Roy Hill Band was working out really well as was Nick South, the bass player who had by now toured Germany and America with us.
The Game's Up - line up

We used three different drummers, Paul Robinson from the tour, Richard Bailey the drummer from Gonzales who played a combination of funk and reggae with superb touch and feel, and Richard Marcangelo. Steve and I elected to mix in Paris to circumvent anxious musicians worrying about their parts. We took the band's live sound man Nick Tomory to help out. By the end of the two weeks mixing we hadn't seen much of Paris but we had a record which I for one was pretty excited about.

Chiswick Records threw a bash to launch the album inviting the main European licensees to a playback in the recording studio, followed by a meal in a restaurant. At the studio the reaction to the album was fantastic and certain light-headed feelings of vindication were beginning to set in. Until Bud Prager took me to one side in the restaurant. He said, "enjoy this evening Paul while you can, everybody is telling you you made a great album, but I've got to tell you it's a disaster. There is no hit single, no Driver's Seat". According to Bud you didn't need one hit single you needed at least two if not more. He went on to say he would work towards the next one but for him this one was dead in the water. Steve Lipson, as he had already told me, was no producer and next time we would do it his way. So as I soaked up the ecstatic praise of the German record company guy and just about everybody else I was left wondering, what price America? What price anything? The Game's Up is still my favourite album from that era. For me it has the magic of music made on a high, it still sounds fresh.

For the American release I changed the sleeve as it was too controversial for the Americans. The use of my paintings for the sleeves has always been considered a good marketing ploy. I had reservations, in that the paintings I was doing could create the wrong image for us, or at the very least act as a distraction from what really mattered which was the music. The German record company Metronome had been very enthusiastic about the painting which was chosen and as Germany was our biggest European market Chiswick thought it politic to keep them sweet so we went with it. EMI launched a big campaign to promote the album and we were up to our necks in controversy. One idiot journalist went as far as to say that he loved the album until he saw the sleeve, etc etc. What had started out as an ironic pastiche of a dime store detective novel illustration was seen by the po-faced guardians of political correctness as a rapist's fantasy. Which I think says more about their problems than mine. Anyway I was happy to provide Atlantic with a less controversial image. (run pointer over image at top of page)

Although I think Bud did, in the end, try to some extent to get Atlantic behind the album, there was no single released in the USA and no tour. Over the water in Europe things were more positive with One Love and Poison Pen Mail picking up good play, some great reviews and our position consolidated.

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