‘We’ve spent more time together than we have with our wives’ (Alan)
The working relationship of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley has endured over four decades producing top ten hits and number one’s on both sides of the Atlantic for artists as diverse as Madness, Bush, Elvis Costello, Dexys Midnight Runners, Morrissey, Hothouse Flowers Catatonia, David Bowie and Mick Jagger. Clive;
‘We had hits, we survived and dreams came true’
The staggering achievement of the production partnership embraces Clive Langer’s musical abilities as both a songwriter and arranger and the engineering, studio prowess of Alan Winstanley.
Born on 2nd November 1952 in Fulham, West London, Winstanley’s musical ears were soon developing to the rhythms of soul and The Beatles;
‘‘The Odeon Hammersmith, The Beatles Christmas show, I was 13, that was the night when I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up’
Bearing the scars of accidents from playing with electrical recording equipment at an early age, Winstanley became fascinated by the records of Phil Spector and questioned why some records sounded louder than others. Graduating to the role of engineer at the newly established TW Studios in Fulham, Alan earned his stripes enabling sessions for acts such as The Buzzcocks, Generation X and a rostra of Stiff Records artists including Wreckless Eric, Lena Lovich and Rachel Sweet, before eventually producing The Stranglers.
After a year and a half rehearsing, Clive Langer’s cult, Art College band -Deaf School - won a Melody Maker competition, signed to Warner Brothers and toured England and America. Whilst recording some demos at TW Studios, Langer and Winstanley’s paths crossed; Martin Rushent was meant to produce the session but didn’t show up, Alan filled the vacant position and a partnership was found.
Born 19th June 1954 in Hampstead, Clive Langer lived in North London until he was sixteen.
Clive, obsessed with music bought his first instrument - a Spanish acoustic - inspired by the guitar sound of the Shadows. Later, Langer was briefly a member of The Portsmouth Sinfonia, notable for another former member Brian Eno. The orchestra required members were either non-musicians or playing an instrument that was entirely new to them, the experience inspired an important pre-punk ethic for Clive;
‘You didn’t have to be a great musician to be in a band’
After releasing three albums in successive years, Deaf School disbanded in 1978 enabling Langer to form The Boxes as frontman and guitarist. A year later he produced his first record for Madness;
‘They were the best dressed kids from North London and they were Deaf School fans. I offered my services to aid their recording career’
‘The Prince’ was the first in an uninterrupted flow of twenty top twenty singles for the Ska/R’n’B influenced seven piece, which included the number one ‘House of Fun’ and the Grammy nominated ‘Our House’. Langer and Winstanley also produced seven hit albums enabling Madness to spend more weeks on the charts in the 1980s than any other group. Clive;
‘By the time of the third album, I thought ‘blimey I’m a record producer’, I always wanted to be a record producer but I didn’t think that’s what I was, I thought I was in a band helping somebody make a record.’
During this impressive stream of hits, Langer and Winstanley also produced and steered Dexys Midnight Runners to unprecedented heights (‘Too Rye-Aye’, ‘Come on Eileen’), shaped Elvis Costello’s first major American success (‘Every Day I Write The Book’) and fashioned David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s duet on the Live Aid British number one ‘Dancing in the Street’. Overseas success came in 1995 with Langer and Winstanley’s unlikely production of Bush’s ‘Sixteen Stone’, which achieved huge recognition and sales in the United States whilst racking up over eight million worldwide sales.
Throughout their long and varied career the duo have passed on working with Madonna, recorded jazz legend Chet Baker and contributed to several film scores including ‘Absolute Beginners’ (1986), Still Crazy’ (1998) and ‘Brothers of The Head’ (2005).
Explaining their phenomenal success, the pair point to their differing and complimentary studio skills; Alan working closely at the desk, editing and technically creating ideas, Clive employing his songwriting and people skills to explore the song and it’s players.
Langer and Winstanley are currently producing ‘The Liberty of Norton Folgate’ their ninth studio album with Madness.
©2009 Daniel Rachel. Edited extract from the forthcoming book ‘Producers on Producing; 50 Years of Iconic British Records and Artists’.