By Brian Fifield

Whilst searching for employment, I spotted an ad in my local Fulham Chronicle for a porter/studio setter in a north London recording studio. I applied and couldn’t believe my luck when I realised it was actually EMI Studios Abbey Road NW8.

After an interview and a quick look around with John Skinner (he was in charge of the portering staff), I followed up my interview by calling Mr Skinner 3 or 4 times as the weeks went by. I was determined to get the job. My persistence worked and I was employed in January 1978 by the then Manager of the studios Ken Townsend.

I was part of a small team of porters or as we were then renamed “Studio Setters”.

John Skinner (the head man), Terry Condon, Stan Doran, a crazy irishman named Gerry Driscoll (Dark Side of the Moon fame) and me. There was another chap but I cannot recall his name… he was once found lying down on the floor of studio 2 directly in front of The Hollies while they were trying to record. He didn’t last long.

Anyway, I think it was around my second year there, which would have been some time in the latter half of 1979. Ken Townsend decided that the corridors and rooms in the studios were looking quite untidy/messy with unused technical equipment lying around and props from the effects cupboard in No2. He ordered John Skinner to clear the decks and take it all down to EMI’s Elstree film Studios where we had the use of some storage space.

When I realised that one of my favourite instruments to play on in my breaks, was unwanted and being dumped down at Elstree, I asked my boss John Skinner please could have it. Not realising at the time that it was what Paul played on Strawberry Fields! (Because then there was no such thing as memorabilia) Yes it was the Mellotron.

John Skinner said he would have to ask Ken but thought, if I was able arrange to get it home somehow he doesn’t see why I can’t have it. I straight away got to work and asked the EMI Manchester Square van driver Ron Hill if he and Stan Doran would be kind enough to help me get it home to my house in Fulham if I give them a couple of quid. They said yes. So just as soon as it was confirmed that I could have it, that’s what we did.

I think I must have had it for almost a year. I so enjoyed playing it every day. My eight year old son Larry used to practice on it playing the chords I had taught him on our old piano. We truly loved it but unfortunately my wife Denise was definitely not so enthusiastic. In fact she constantly complained about how big and bulky it was and why can’t I get rid of it or take it back to EMI. Sadly, eventually I succumbed. I had to persuade my colleagues Ron and Stan to help me finally take it to the Elstree burial ground.

I didn’t think I would ever see it again but in October 1980 Ken Townsend came up with the magical idea of making money out of all the valuable Abbey Road assets that were once discarded but were now, suddenly quite desirable.

The Sale of The Century was born!

Furthermore, with the invaluable help of my very good friend Abbey Road Audio Mastering and Re-Mastering Engineer Terry Burch, I learnt the technical aspects of analogue and then digital transfer mastering. Spending the rest of my very happy 27 years at the Studios as a Transfer and Pre-Mastering Engineer myself. It’s comforting to know my dear old Mellotron has now finally found its true home.