Spotlight on .... Richard Moore
First of all, many of you must be thinking ‘Who?’
Well I wouldn’t blame you for that! Although some of you may have caught my name before in the sleeve notes and credits of ‘The Rare Monro’ and ‘From Matt Monro With Love’.
I’m what could be described as a Sound Archaeologist! - Someone who digs out recordings from under layers of hiss and crackle, cleans them off and tries to get them in good enough condition for public display. In other words I specialise in Audio Restoration, which is the service I’ve performed for the Monro family and EMI over the last 12 months or so.
OK then, I hear you say, that’s what you do. But why?
First, a bit of history:
I was born in Leicester in 1972. From an early age (so I‘m told) I showed a good musical ability, which led me to join first, Leicester Cathedral and then Hereford Cathedral Choirs. I also showed a major interest in sound recording from as soon as I understood what it meant. I had an obsession with records (and still have!) from about the age of two and once I discovered what a tape machine could do there was no stopping me.
By age seven or eight I had worked out a method of making Les Paul’s style, sound on sound tape recordings, using two cassette machines (although I didn’t play the guitar - I sang all the harmonies instead). By about eleven I had my first multi-track tape machine and started recording everything in sight (or should that be earshot!)
By the time I left Hereford (My voice broke the week before a visit to the Cathedral by Charles and Diana – I was ordered to mime!) there was nothing else I wanted to do more than become a sound engineer. I was by then a Beatle maniac too. My hero though was not John, Paul, George or Ringo it was George Martin (Matt Monro Connection No.1). I had even visited an exhibition at Abbey Road Studios in 1983 and been more interested in the vintage recording equipment than Paul McCartney’s Hoffner Violin Bass.
Abbey Road 1983
At School I ended up as sound engineer for all the productions, including some quite complicated things for a School Production of The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy (in which I also played Marvin – it’s not easy you know doing sound whilst wearing a robot costume!)
Whilst still at school I became Head of Sound at Leicester Little Theatre (although an amateur society it was run like a professional rep company) and by eighteen I was studying at The School of Audio Engineering in London. In 1991 I undertook further studies at the newly formed ‘Alchemea’ College in Islington, from whence I began my career as a jobbing sound engineer. I worked in all sorts of places, until just before I got married, when I decided I needed a steadier job.
This came in the shape of Blackpool Winter Gardens, where I worked for five years. The variety of events I worked on was incredible. Concerts, Plays, Conferences, Masonic lodge meetings, The George Formby Society, Political Party Conferences and Pantomimes (although some may say the last two are one and the same) to name just a few.
I finally saw sense in 2000 when I left the Winter Gardens and started what has become a sort of three-pronged career. The first two prongs are my work for Blackpool LEA - for an Arts College in Blackpool and for Blackpool Music Service. The third prong is my freelance work.
But why Audio Restoration? Recording history has always fascinated me. Just think how wonderful it is that we can still hear the voices of Arthur Sullivan, Florence Nightingale and even the real sound of a First World War Battle. These things affect me more than faded photographs or silent film. So restoring such things is a labour of love – like touching up a painting by an old master.
The computer age had brought many advantages in this direction and although there is software that would allow many to “clean up” material for themselves, making a good job of it is an art in itself (Just listen to the awful re-mastering on the - thankfully now deleted - ‘Impossible Dream’ CD from a couple of years back to hear how bad it can be!). Restoration is just one side of the work I do. I engineer and produce new recordings too, Video Editing & DVD Authoring, Tape Vault research and Sleeve Notes (such as those provided for a forthcoming Flanders and Swann rarities set) are among some of the many and varied things I have been called on to do.
(If you’d like to know more visit www.mint-audio-restoration.co.uk for further details)
But where does the Monro Connection come in:
I first contacted Michele in late 2005, having been a lifelong fan of her fathers. I told her what I did and offered my services. ‘Funny you should say that’, she said ‘I just happen to have a few tapes that I’d like you to look at.’ The timing of my call was quite fortuitous, as some irreplaceable cassettes had just snapped. As you can imagine, she was mortified that these recordings would be lost forever.
Having assured her that this wasn’t a problem, that I could transfer the tapes without any further damage and also repair those that had broken, I received a large package that contained the only surviving copies of several private and live recordings.
The tapes were around 20 years old, but the recordings had originally come from reel to reel tapes transferred by EMI in the mid 1980’s. Unfortunately the original reels had disappeared and these cassettes were all that remained. So my mission (should I choose to accept it) was to try and pull these songs into something that might be worthy of release. Thankfully the tapes did not self-destruct in 30 seconds but were in very good condition. For people who may be interested, an account of some of the restoration work can be found here
This was the start of a partnership that has not only brought 11 tracks to ‘The Rare Monro’ but also ‘Historia De Amour’ on the ‘From Matt Monro With Love’ album (rescued from a rare Spanish LP as no master tape could be located) and one of the discs on the forthcoming Spanish 2 on 1 CD.
Whilst this may not seem much, this is only what the public has seen. I have been privileged to transfer and restore the whole of the Monro Estate tape archive (a process that is still on going!)
Some of The Monro Archive tapes
Not only sound recordings though, I have also been converting what remains of the video archive to DVD as well – although much of this had taken place before my involvement with the estate.
I mention this because as an archivist and researcher (another one of my hats!) my curiosity got the better of me. I started to wonder just what TV and Radio material still exist in the archives. This is quite an interesting question and one I’ll answer in a future article, but suffice to say I turned into a bit of a detective
In the middle of the last year I finally tracked down one of the extremely elusive “Camay” adverts. These had been missing for years, and by pure chance I happened to find one. This spurred Michele and me on to further discoveries, but you’ll have to wait to hear more about that too!
We have become very much partners in crime over the whole ‘archive material’ issue, and I’d like to think good friends as well. I hope that this becomes a long and fruitful partnership and helps bring more and more interesting recordings your way in the future.
Of course I’m always interested in your opinions of my work too, so feel free to drop me a line via my website or the Matt Monro message board and let me know what you think.
I first heard the voice of Matt Monro back in about 1980. My mother had just been given a copy of ‘Heartbreakers’ for her birthday (I may have even bought it for her – but I was only 8 at the time so I can’t remember!). I’ve always been a sucker for a decent song and a good singer. I’d already caught on to several, such as Nat ‘King’ Cole, Sinatra and Mel Tormé by this stage and the quality of Matt’s voice appealed to me straight away - I was hooked. Especially when I found his link to two of my other obsessions (of whom I have many!) George Martin and Peter Sellers. Little did I know that some 25 years later I would be working with his family. And what a pleasure it is too!
Sammy Davis Jr.