Elvis Costello, or should I have called him Declan (McManus) – it feels a bit odd calling anyone “Elvis” – seemed not half as bad and aggressive as all the Olympic studio engineers had warned. Bobby Tench one time singer with The Jeff Beck band and guitarist with Alan Price, had stood there with a huge mischievous grin on his mush nodding towards the door of studio two.
“Go on, he’s in there, that’s him playing the piano” Tenchy had the demeanour of a school kid, nodding towards the headmaster’s office, attempting to get another unsuspecting innocent kid (me) into deep shit for barging into somewhere he wasn’t welcome. “Is he in the middle of recording a session?”
I asked Tenchy, The man with the baseball cap glued to his scalp. “No he’s just hanging around waiting of Nick Lowe to arrive and mix his track”
I wandered towards the half open door of studio two and glanced over my shoulder to see Tenchy and sound engineer Dougie Bennett, standing watching me as if I were approaching the lion’s den wearing a sandwich board advertising myself as lunch. I thought “sod this for a lark” – I was rocking and rolling long before Mr. Costello had even began treading the boards as a rude and quirky rock singer of the 1970’s punk era.
I had played all the gigs alongside the Animals in Newcastle’s Club Agogo, I was good mates with the man who discovered Jimi Hendrix for god’s sake; I had backed The Nice and all manner of late 60’s progressive rock bands at just about every university knees-up under the sun. Why should I be afraid to approach the man who wrote “Watching the Detectives”? After all, tomorrow I was on my way to Tittenhurst Park in Sunningdale, Ascot to meet, greet and start a production session with a f**king Beatle.
Peering around the four inch thick door, “Hello Anybody there?” I enquired with all the gusto of a dormouse. Sitting tinkling on an upright piano was Elvis Costello looking rather aggravated and pissed off with his lot.
“Hi! I’m Charles Foskett – We spoke on the phone” I muttered. “Hello! Come in – You’re the EMI band aid producer guy who wants to record a song yes?” enquired Elvis. “Well I’ve got a couple of ideas but haven’t had much time to do any writing of any substance yet” “maybe we could do a kinda bluesy Ray Charles thing like ….”
As he rattled away at a blues on the piano I remembered someone had told me of his escapades on one American tour where he’d had his success severely dented, by calling Ray Charles a “blind, ignorant nigger”. This was during an argument with Bonnie Bramlett in an Ohio bar (the comment being particularly odd, since Elvis worked extensively in Britain’s “Rock against Racism” campaign both before and after). In a contrite fashion he had apologized at a press conference, claiming that he had been drunk, and had said it only to annoy Bramlett, who had just punched him in the face.
“I think if we can get a strong lyrical message happening over this type of chord sequence we’ll be onto something” exclaimed Mr Costello. “I’m mixing some tracks here at the moment but maybe we can get together next week “– “here is my home number, just disregard the outgoing message on the answer machine – you’ll hear a silly voice chattering on about little umbrellas – just leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I pick up ok?”
The first thing that struck me was that he was extremely driven and I was quickly beginning to see the measure of the man. He obviously wasn’t the type to suffer fools and didn’t have time to waste on small talk; I found him actually quite likeable and wondered why Bobby Tench and Dougie Bennett were standing outside the door of studio two making the sign of the cross and reciting Hail Mary’s.
Probably built in Victorian times, Olympic recording studios had originally been fitted out by sound engineer Keith Grant in 1960; The Rolling Stones were the first rock band to record there followed by Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Eagles and many many others, it reminded me of an old school with its wide old stone stairs and tiled walls. Only the night before I had been in a late mixing session and at around 2.am decided that both my engineer and I had just about gone deaf and had enough for one day.
While fumbling around under the mixing console looking for the “off switch” we discovered a pile of two inch master tapes which read “Eric Clapton / Cocaine;” not being able to help ourselves we instantly fished them out and put them onto the multi track tape machine to find that they were the actual master recordings of “Cocaine” originally produced by record producer extraordinaire Glynn Johns.
As we pushed all the faders up on the old Raindirk mixing console we suddenly heard the world famous guitar riffs of Clapton performing “Cocaine” and also the astounding work of master craftsman Glynn Johns. It sounded just like the finished record without having to adjust the mix in any small way – it was fantastic – there were also out-takes of Eric spitting and farting away while rehearsing an acoustic blues tune which we couldn’t help ourselves remixing and sampling.
At around 4am we staggered past the sleeping night porter and left Olympic studios armed with a copy of our bootleg Eric Clapton remix sounding not unlike a cross between Dr. Who’s Daleks battling Sonny Boy Williamson in a Tyneside shipyard.
The following morning I listened to a cassette of our Eric Clapton “Cocaine” remix while driving to Ascot, I giggled without shame at our total bastardisation of Eric’s twanging and our interjection of the audio samples of him spitting at the end of every four bars – very naughty.
Tittenhurst Park is located on the A329 in Sunningdale, Ascot, Berkshire. The estate was sold by Ringo in 1988 to the now late Zayed al-Nahyan President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi. The rough value for the property when writing this was £30 million – heaven knows what it is worth today?

A few years ago when writing this I stopped my family four x four on the opposite side of the road outside the horribly ostentatious gold plated gates of Tittenhurst – I wanted to show my kids where Daddy worked in a recording studio with Beatle Ringo Starr and partied in the biggest marquee in the world with Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones and everyone else at Zak Starkey’s twenty first birthday bash. “Who is Ringo Starr” said my seven year old daughter India “and why do you call him a Beatle?” At this juncture two heavy looking guys dressed in black with big military type portable phones marched aggressively across the road to move us swiftly on our way – how life has changed since those heady days of back then!

It was here that John Lennon played the piano in his moving Imagine video in his white drawing room. He recorded his Imagine album in the very recording studio that I was on my way to work in. In 1969 Lennon bought the house for just £145,000.

John Lennon sold Tittenhurst Park to Ringo Starr in 1971 who then sold it to the current owners in 1988 for £5 million. It is set in 76 acres of beautiful parkland and gardens and was also the setting for The Beatles’ final photo session.

As I pulled up to the main gate of Tittenhurst Park I was met with a sound not dissimilar to “The Hounds of the Baskervilles”. I tried to see over a tall wooden gate by jumping into the air like Basil Fawlty and catching a few subliminal clips of two huge German shepherds with sharp snapping teeth. “F**k that for a lark” I thought, “How on earth was I going to get past those with my arse intact?” I rang the whole selection of bells at the gate but nobody materialised except the snarling and barking bastards only some six inches away from me through heavy old pine.
Eventually I heard a voice shouting at the dogs; it was that of Zak Starkey, Ringo’s son and very exceptional drumming person himself. “Who is it?” shouted Zak. “It’s me Charley Foskett – I’m here to discuss some productions with you and your dad!” Just at that moment another car pulled up over the gravel, it was Martin Adam, a recording studio engineer that had originally made the introduction to the very nice Mr. Starr for me on my behalf.
Ringo had rang me on several occasions while I was in the middle of sessions in other studios with other clients, it was a great ego buzz getting incoming calls from a Beatle while in someone else’s recording session; They would instantly look upon me in a new light, probably wondering if I was going to slyly remix their heavy rock tracks into remakes of “Octopus’s Garden” and “Yellow Submarine”.
“Hi Zak!” shouted Martin over the gate which creaked open, I took several steps back and let Martin lead the way – hate Alsatians! “Allo mate!” exclaimed Zak as we wandered into the grounds of Tittenhurst Park. I shook hands with the very friendly young lad who looked nothing like his father.
A couple of gardeners dumped assorted flora into a large wheel barrow as Zak led us past a row of cottages where John Lennon in September 1969 put up the Swami Bhaktivedanta and a bunch of his disciples.
The Swami who later became known to the world as Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the Hari Krishna movement arrived as a house guest, no doubt to capitalise on the Beatles public profile. Three to four times a week the Swami gave public lectures in a tall, stately building at the northern end of the property about fifty yards from the main house, in which John and Yoko then lived.
The building had been formerly used as a hall for chamber music recitals until several of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples installed a small Deity altar and a podium for Srila Prabhupada. The building never really had a name, but after Srila Prabhupada’s arrival, everyone called it “the Temple”.
Three months before this recent episode in Montreal, some of the Hare Krishna devotees had sung with John and Yoko during the recording of “Give Peace a Chance.” And now they were his lodgers bringing the Hare Krishna mantra to the West.
George Harrison, a well known life long Krishna devotee, later gave the Hari Krishna movement his big manor house in Radlett, Hertfordshire, which is still their base and place of worship to this present day.It is truly amazing what one can be given for skipping around in a skirt, ringing a bell and wearing pigeon shit on your forehead. (“But don’t tell any body that I told you that!”).
As I followed Zak and Martin into the recording studio at the back of the main house I suddenly became aware that I had just set foot into one of the most important music rooms in British rock and roll history.

Ritchie and Zak – 1986

In May 1971 Phil Spector had helped John Lennon and Yoko Ono produce the recordings of “Imagine” here. I looked around a cluttered space filled with assorted drums, drum cases, guitars and amplifiers, an upright piano in a corner by the door of the control room and an old Hammond organ that looked like it hadn’t been dusted in centuries; this was the live room where Alan White, Klaus Voormann, Nicky Hopkins and one John Barham playing harmonium recorded their accompaniment for those magical simplistic piano chords to the song that stopped the western world, made people not only cry but also stop to think for a brief moment in ongoing troubled times.
Not having been a great Beatles fan I had to admit that John Lennon’s “Imagine” album and title song had had exactly the same effect on me as every other mortal in the early 1970’s.
Walking next door into that control room which had previously bore witness to the making of some of the centuries best loved pop music with Zak Starr now playing electric guitar riffs in the background just gave me a real high.
Martin Adam who was already familiar with Ringo’s control room started switching the equipment on . “I can’t help getting a blast every time I set foot in here – it’s just amazing really” exclaimed Martin.
We stretched microphone cables out of the studio over the gravel path to the Temple where both Ringo and Zak had drum kits set up for recording; the acoustics in the Temple were very ambient and gave a natural reverberation which added extra dimensions to the recorded sound, unlike the dull and dampened cardboard box like sound of the 1970’s recordings. Zak sound checked the kit as Martin and I tweaked the equalisation on the mixing console back in the studio control room, communicating with him through talk back via his headphones we balanced out the volume of the individual drums and cymbals.

John at his mixing board in his Tittenhurst Park studio

I sat down on an old battered chesterfield on a riser slightly higher than the main floor area; as I was contemplating just how much Beatle action this old couch had seen over the years a door to my left opened from the main house kitchen and in walked Ringo Starr. “Hi Ritchie!” said Martin momentarily glancing up from the mixer. Ringo came over and shook my hand exclaiming “You must be Charley Foskett then! Nice to meet you – Okay Doky! Would any body like a cup of coffee or tea?” Now at that moment in time you could have blown me over with a feather being personally served tea, coffee and a slice of toast by a Beatle – I became an instant fan!

‘So have you got a band to take this gig out on the road?’ asked Ringo – ‘Well I have a collection of session guys who are available from time to time to record for me but I haven’t contemplated doing live gigs with it’ I replied, feeling like I may have missed a trick here. ‘I’ll play drums for you’ said Zak – ‘You couldn’t find a better player’ said Ringo of his son. ‘How about both of you playing?’ I cheekily enquired. ‘I’ll be very happy to do what I can – Barbara and I are going off to the States on holiday soon so I’ll see if I can fit in somewhere when I get back’.

I now couldn’t stop myself thinking about the possibility of playing bass in a band with both Ringo Starr and Zak playing drums – how many bass players worldwide dreamed of playing alongside a Beatle in their band. Life’s twists and turns never fail to surprise and there were to be many more surprises in the way of music sessions, with both Zak and his father, my new beat maker and Beatle friend.