At 19, muso Alan Parsons landed himself a job at London’s iconic Abbey Road.
It was the start of an illustrious career in the music industry as a sound engineer and producer working with bands like The Beatles, The Hollies and Pink Floyd.
He’s on the line-up for this weekend’s Gibbston Valley Winery Summer Concert, alongside Welsh songstress Bonnie Tyler and Aussie chart-toppers Icehouse.
For a time, Parsons benched his own guitar, realising his role lay in production. He tells Mountain Scene his days at Abbey Road shaped his musical career and made him the artist he is today.
“There was this incredible mystique about Abbey Road, mostly because of The Beatles, it was where they recorded all their stuff. I was absolutely in heaven.
“I was doing the best job in the world and had the opportunity, after just a few months at the studio, to actually be put on a session with The Beatles for the Let It Be album. No one could say that being there to watch The Beatles make their last two albums wasn’t special — it really was.”
It has been 30 years since he visited New Zealand on a promo tour but he never performed here.
In the ‘70s the Alan Parsons Live Project was more of a recording outfit. Alongside band member Eric Woolfson, who passed away a few years ago, he created a catalogue of hits including Eye In The Sky, Games People Play and Damned If I Do.
“We were a good partnership. He did all the business and most of the songwriting and I was given free rein in the studio to make the arrangements come together, all the production stuff and the musician lists. It was an evenly-matched function.
“The Alan Parsons Project was unusual in that it was really a studio band. We just believed we would never become anything other than recording artists.
“We spared no expense and made no compromises in terms of the way things were recorded. Our feeling at the time was that it would never get played live. We had large orchestrations, large choral arrangements, guitars, vocals and so on.”
The variety of singers on each record also meant it was logistically more difficult to tour.
This weekend he will be joined on stage by an eight-piece band including PJ Olsson on vocals, Manny Foccarazzo on keyboards, Guy Erez on bass, Alastair Greene on guitar, Danny Thompson on drums, and Todd Cooper on sax, percussion and vocals.
While travelling can get tedious he still gets a buzz out of touring and performing in front of a live audience. He hopes the crowd will get into the set.
“We’ll build them up into a frenzy towards the end of the show. A festival audience is a little different — we will try to keep them awake. The joy of being on stage and [being] applauded, it is a great feeling. To feel you can deliver something to an audience that they want to hear.”
He doesn’t rule out playing new tracks but reckons fans want to hear the back catalogue they already know.
This is the first time the Gibbston concert has sold out and all 16,000 tickets have been snapped up.
Gibbston Valley Winery Summer Concert, Saturday. Gates open 11am. Bonnie Tyler, 1pm, Alan Parsons Live Project, 3pm, Icehouse, 5pm. Sold out.