Ronnie Johnson Give them enough Rope

ROPEOur first album production on Bridge recordings was the solo album for Ronnie Johnson, ‘Give them enough rope’  recorded in a one week session at the Mill Studios in Cookham.

The Mill was a well established professional recording studio used around that time by Elton John, Jimmy Page and Chris Rea.  It had a top of the range Neve VR desk and a second smaller room with an EMI desk. Price wise, the Mill was at the upper end of the Studio market running at £1,000 per day. Quite expensive at that time, especially in the context of a guitar instrumental album.

Preparation of the tracks for the album occurred as the first Iraqi war was looming and socially this was an influencing factor in the direction of the songs. The title track “Give them enough Rope” articulates that feeling vividly. I particularly enjoyed the distraction of working with Ronnie to the constant battering of mindless pro-war propaganda presented through the rolling news networks.

The engineer for this album, introduced to me by Charlie, was John Etchells who it soon transpired, is simply a fabulous person as well as an exceptional sound engineer. This was to be the first of many albums we worked on together.

John Edwards took time off his day job with Status Quo to provide the bass and Charlie Morgan, who was at that time touring with Elton John, played drums.

All the tracks on the album represent first or second takes. A studio live approach aimed at getting the ‘groove’ in the timing between bass and drums. The three players had all played together regularly since teenage years and had a good telepathy with regard to timing. A ‘White English’ timing thing.

The cover photograph was taken by world famous photographer John Graham in his Wimbledon Studio and has been published in its own right as a guitar advertisement.

Faced for the first time with the challenge of coming up with album artwork, I found myself in the New Malden home of Sku Richards, who owned one of the first Macs capable of running Quark Express, and she put together the booklet.

The CD was mastered by Simon Heyworth at Chop em Out, which provided me with a great day out in Ladbroke Grove. At that time CD manufacturing was a thriving business and Disctronics were one of the largest CD pressing plants. I had a 1,000 first run made, which was exceptionally optimistic.

We then faced the challenge of releasing GIVE THEM ENOUGH ROPE. I met a small independent distributor who took one hundred copies and never paid for them, providing me with a valuable introduction to the ways of the music business.  I traveled to the Midem show in Cannes and sold 100 copies to a South African dealer, Terry Fairweather. Later the album was included in a distribution deal with ‘Grapevine distribution’. The track ‘Little People’ was played extensively on Melody Radio on Zoot Money’s show. Several dozen copies were sent out to press for review. Neville Marten in Guitarist magazine proclaimed the album as ‘a work of considerable merit.’
Radio in Japan has played the track ‘BBHC’ which led to some mail order sales to Japan.

In its first release the album sold almost 2 000 copies, achieved mostly by becoming (almost certainly) the first album to be sold via that barely emerging phenomenon in the UK, the internet

In 1992 I started selling Bridge Recordings albums through Terry Days ‘Music Maker Publications’ – Guitarist magazine etc, and we collaborated on many Internet projects at a time when the Internet was just beginning to emerge. Terry was one of the first to invest in a T1 line and set up a dedicated server for web publishing through which I was able to launch a Bridge Recordings web site and sell CD’s directly in a way that had never existed before. It all seems so obvious now, but it wasn’t then.

The first sale of any CD through this medium was Give them enough rope, which can lay claim to being the first Internet sale of a CD in the UK.

Despite not being a commercial success ‘ROPE’ has now become something of a cult album, where the quality of the performances along with the high production values have helped everyone involved in some way.
Shortly after the release of the album Ronnie started working with Van Morrison and told me of numerous occasions whilst on tours around the world with Van where fans would bring their copy of ‘ROPE’ for signing in places as diverse as Monaco, San Francisco and Brazil.

Tracks that made the album are: Give them enough rope, Gary Shaw, Francine, Burundi Brothers, Mill Valley days, BBHC, Livin, Sofa, Little People, No middle man


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