Who we are and some of our history.
The Hammond Hire Company took over Alpha Entek in 2002. We had been working together, in one way or another, since we first met on Bill Dunn's doorstep way back in 1973.
Our chief engineer Ron Lebar, music industry experience starts in 1963 at Vox and that is 46 years ago. So altogether we have 82 years experience. The less said on this subject the better. We both grew up with the development of what are now known as classic keys, Hammond organs, Rhodes, synthesisers etc.
Ron was splitting Hammond organs in the mid-to-late 1960s and had one of the first-ever Mini Moog synths in for servicing. Robert Moog used to call the workshop just to talk.
I was playing and hiring Hammond Organs and Fender Rhodes etc.
I was also being asked to source good Fender Rhodes and setting them up to sound like the hire stock. This was when you could go and buy them new or order them. I never ever saw a UK B3 in a Hammond shop.
Fender Stereo Rhodes where items to be dreamt about as they where so expensive.
London was full of recording studios and Christmas day was the only day free to relax .We slept when we could and were having the time of our lives.
On the touring front we looked after a lot of the old-school promoters bringing acts over from the USA. My first tour was with the Temptations and Junior Walker and the Allstars. We where spoilt for talent and always enjoyed the show once again little sleep was had and grabbed food when we could.
Octave Hire was the first Hire Company to have on its hire list many famous pieces of kit: Pro 5. OBX . Linn Drum 1. Linn Drum 2. Fairlight 1.11 and 3. In fact we had 5 Fairlight CMIs altogether.
One of our adverts said "From a pair of Cymbals to a pair of Fairlight's"
"WE NEVER CLOSE."
We where never scared of the new technology - in fact we embraced it and introduced it to many artists in our own programming suite - all 6,000 sq ft of it. Mixing the new kit with the old.
All the time synthesisers and computer-based items were becoming the norm, we continually hired out our Hammond Organs Rhodes pianos Wurlitzer pianos, Hohner Clav D6 etc. when all the other hire companies had sold theirs.
THE HAMMONDHIRE COMPANY was a section of OCTAVE CLASSIC. Eventually to just simplify things, we just called it THE HAMMONDHIRE COMPANY, but the same ethos, which we started in 1973 stays with us today.
We love what we do and it's what we have always done. We never stop learning about the instruments we have and care for.
We count ourselves lucky to have worked with some of the most talented artists though some have passed away.
It's a pleasure we don't take lightly
Synth Britannia: the 1980s
The recent BBC program Synth Britannia reminded us of a decade many seem to forget when talking about music, a period usually remembered for poor music and bad Barnets, but it’s not true or fair as one can never generalise about Music or try to pigeonhole a type or period.
In the programme someone described London in the late 1970 as cold, grey and desolate when people in the same street were having so much fun: same place, different age, different music, different opinion. Synths arrived long before this period yet the old school wanted to be shown how to programme and the new generation were trying to learn to write and numbering their keyboards, both chasing that lost chord. The new breed of producer shaping the whole thing often even playing the bands' parts once they had left the studio or been sent to the pub. Drummers complaining about the Linn Drum and writers praising its virtues.
We as usual were working on the outside delivering The Latest Technology be it a synth, sequencer or the first Linn drum available for hire, delivered to John's studio, “THE GARDEN STUDIO ” in that so-called cold desolate London, not realising the significance of such a simple act. While watching the BBC program it reminded us of sessions long forgotten and recording studios long gone. Images of our kit on Top of the Pops. Two CMI Fairlights on TV for the fist time. Three Prophet 5 Synths and a bass Marimba for Japan. We recollected each band and which rig they would have from us and what where their favourites. Some went from kids on TOTP with fluffy toys on their synths to eventually touring the States gaining credibility as a hard working Rock and Roll band. All making it up as they went. And still doing so. REMEMBER THERE ARE NO RULES IN ROCK AND ROLL.
A memorable cup of tea
Over the years we have been fortunate to be involved in thousands of recording sessions, promotional videos and gigs. We have kept most of the old hire agreements, which has been useful for jogging our memories. Youtube has helped us to find the artists' videos and thrown up a few surprises when they have filmed the recordings, or interviews at the artists' home studios.
The list is vast and covers over 40 years so where does one start without upsetting someone?
I choose a memorable evening in Sussex and like a lot of our involvement, it all starts with a phone call. "We know it's a bit late but can we have that fabulous Hammond of yours, Tiny? We promise you a cup of tea when you get here and a surprise." Truck loaded, we set off for Ridge Farm Studios.
Neil the producer opens the doors and as we set up the 1968 A100, I enquire "Who is the artist?” and in walks Little Richard. "Ah, and who is playing?"" Neil answers my question with just two words "Billy is" and Billy Preston walks up from the back of the studio, says "Hi!" and starts to play the Hammond.
His left hand starts, then his right hand stabs the upper manual and the room is filled with a groove that just rolls, and you feel it deep inside. So few can do this. It’s a gift - a natural gift. Many can practise for years but just don't have it. I walk to the side to listen, Neil smiling. Little Richard announces, as only he can, “I hear you like your tea. I am going to make you a cup of tea just like the English like it.” And so he did. He talked about the album, work and the pace of his life "I'm rushing here and rushing there life’s so full so so busy" I drank my tea and said "It’s your life you take control of it" his reply "I only said that to Liza Minnelli last week". We left pinching ourselves. Dave who was helping me said "did that all actually happen". It happens all the time: great tea.
The album was 'Lifetime Friend'. A few months later, I received a signed proof copy of his book 'The Quasar of Rock and Roll'. It was a great night and one of many and a good place to start.