Wellingborough Beck recording studio pioneer producer book launch sparks musical memories

Derek Tompkins ran Beck Studio in Wellingborough from 1970 to 1984

Monday, 14th June 2021, 10:23 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 4:06 pm

A book chronicling the recording exploits of a legendary Northamptonshire recording studio owner and producer has been launched with a reunion and messages sent from the USA.

Paying tribute at the Wellingborough unveiling of 'C-come an 'ave a listen!' Derek Tompkins - The Beck Studio Story were stars from the county's recording acts associated with his two county-based studios.

World-renowned musicians who started their careers at Beck Studio in Wellingborough sent messages from across the world to the gathering making public their appreciation of the late Beck Studio founder.

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Chris Kinsey, Dave Clemo and Mavis Tompkins

As well as the latest book featuring a glowing foreword from 16 times Grammy winner David Foster, veteran gospel country singer Jerry Arhelger and members of Northampton goth punk pioneers Bauhaus sent messages of support to Derek's widow Mavis and author/musician Dave Clemo.

Dave said: "This has been a labour of love. Derek was such a great pioneer, recording from the 1960s to the mid 1980s - he was so talented.

"This is part two of a three part act. Back Street Genius and C-come an 'ave a listen! tell the story and money raised will go to funding a blue plaque in his honour.

"The books are a way of telling people just how important he is and then we can put up the plaque."

Derek in Beck Studio

C-come an 'ave a listen!, the follow-up to Back Street Genius, tells the story of the Gisburne Road complex using widow Mavis' diaries and souvenirs, memorabilia and recollections of those artists who laid down tracks in Derek's HQ.

Dave co-authored Back Street Genius with the valuable help from Mavis and Ringstead music fan Roger Kinsey, who died unexpectedly in September 2020. His widow Chris wore Roger's trademark hat to the launch.

It was Roger's sudden death that spurred Dave on to complete the follow-up without delay but with libraries closed during lockdown, Dave was unable to continue his research using archive copies of the Evening Telegraph for articles and adverts. Instead, he interviewed people who knew Derek and recorded at his studio.

Mavis said: "Dave has thoroughly researched his subject, and has brought humour and a respect for Derek in this, the second book, about his remarkable life as a recording engineer, and the many musicians, groups and friends who knew and benefitted by his expertise and humanity."

Graham Bentley - Bauhaus mentor and early manager

Acts as diverse as Bauhaus, The Barron Knights, Coast To Coast and The Jets, plus folk, country, punk, rock, reggae, jazz groups and school choirs were recorded by studio owner and engineer Derek using a mix of self-built and second hand studio equipment in the converted factory.

Derek was responsible for a top 10 single for the Barron Knights which earned him two silver discs that he proudly displayed at the studio.

Resident in Broughton, he died in November 2013 after a short illness at the age of 87.

Drawing on the memories of artistes who were recorded by Derek and who knew him as a friend, many musicians with connections to Beck Studio attended the launch.

Mick Austin from Gutz, Hedley Joan and 32/20

Drummer Mick Austin recalls his band Gutz - also known as Hedley Joan - winning a day's recording session in the studio after winning a 1970 Great Doddington music festival talent show.

He said: "We played at the festival but I didn't really want to do it in case it rained. DJ Johnnie Walker and Derek were the judges and chose us as the winners of a week's holiday to Skegness and a recording session.

"When we got there it turned out to be a working holiday. We had to play every night but true to his word we recorded at Beck."

Sixty-year-old Chris Tyrrell was a schoolboy at Victoria Junior School when his school choir was asked to provide the backing vocals on a Beck Studio for Chris Sandford's Friendship. The band included Man About The House star Richard O'Sullivan and his mate Lionel Morton - a BBC TV Playschool presenter.

Chris said: "They were hoping it was going to be a hit. We all knew Richard O'Sullivan. He was playing piano. Chris Sandford had been in Coronation Street and was called the Singing Window Cleaner. Lionel Morton was in Playschool. We walked down from school and we sang the chorus - it was great. Linda Maloney was the best singer in the choir and she did an actual solo - it sounded really good."

In 1970 Corby musician Keith Hancock was inspired to pen a song called Leap Up and Down (Wave Your Knickers In the Air) for his band St Cecilia.

Keith Hancock from St Cecilia

So pleased with the original song they wanted to record it and made a demo for their manager to take to London. It was picked up as a potential hit by music svengali Jonathan King.

The song spent 17 weeks in the chart and climbed to number 11 despite being avoided by radio stations as it was considered 'too risque'.

Keith said: "I just remember that Derek was wonderful to work with. We re-recorded the single but it was no way as good as the one Derek did."

Graham Bentley was an early manager and mentor of goth pioneers Bauhaus made up of Northampton's brothers Kevin Haskins and David Haskins (who used the surname 'J'), Daniel Ash and Wellingborough's Peter Murphy.

They first booked a three-hour session six weeks after they formed at Beck in February 1979, when they cut their breakthrough record Bela Lugosi's Dead. The demo clinched them a recording contract, such was the quality of the performance that had been captured by Derek.

He said: "They really clicked with Derek. They would always come back to record with Derek - he really understood them and they liked him."

Brothers Kevin and David Haskins paid tribute to Derek by sending messages from their USA homes.

Kevin said: "I learnt so much from him. He touched so many lives. I'm really pleased he is getting the accolade he so richly deserves. What a wonderful person he was."

Dave added: "I've got such fond memories of Derek I was a true mentor and an avuncular presence and a beloved friend and I'm sure this book will do him justice and spread the gospel of Derek."

To buy a copy of Come and 'ave a Listen! Derek Tompkins - The Beck Studio Story click here to contact Dave Clemo or call Alex Novak at Spiral Archive on 07974 885450.

Clockwise from top left: Ann and Ray Brett; London Jakk (OK Musky); Clive Smith and Pete Buckby (Canned Rock); Eddie Giacobbe (The Q Men)