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Bob Auger - A Great Recording Engineer

Part I

As Nigel Molesworth, the horrid schoolboy of St. Custard's in those gloriously comic Punch articles, once wrote of his revered School Captain, 'He is Strick, but Fair'. Recalling Bob Auger, for whom I worked for several years at the turn of the 60s and 70s, the same words come into my mind, though perhaps with more emphasis on the 'Fair' and less on the 'Strick'.

Bob Auger was one of the leading British recording engineers of the last 30 or 40 years, and at the time that I worked for him, he ran a self-contained location sound recording unit within the Granada TV company, known as Granada Recordings. He was an ideal boss - cheerful, tolerant, pragmatic and patient, both to his staff, and to the many, often demanding, artists with whom he worked. He led from the front, worked incredibly hard, and demonstrated the highest commitment to quality and service himself, and by these means elicited an equal commitment both to the work, and to Bob himself, from those who worked with him. It is notable, but not surprising to me, that at his funeral, on a grim wet day in South Wales, just before Christmas, all those who had worked for him (and many who had worked with him) over a long period of years, made the effort to be there. Only one member of staff that I recall from the old days was absent - he, being Australian, had probably returned to his country of origin.

Most people will know, but just for the benefit of those who don't, the business of sound recording divides between the producer, who deals with the performance via the artist, and the engineer, who deals with the microphone rigging, recording equipment and its operation, and the recording location or studio, and often works with the producer for the production of the edited mastertape. Certainly the latter was the case in the days of the old 1-inch reel-to-reel tape recording, in the time that I knew him, and Bob had a particularly fine skill with the razorblade at editing sessions. I have known artists - though I prefer not to name them - whose careers were materially aided, at least on record, by Bob's editing skills.

I first came to work for him as a stop-gap job, after leaving Records and Recording (at that time the major record magazine rival to the Gramophone). I'd left after a slight contretemps with the editor - long since made up. I needed a job in a hurry, and Bob, whom I had often met on sessions, needed a secretary (for which position, as a two-finger typist, I was scarcely qualified). It seemed to be a good stop-gap on both our parts. He patiently guided me through the finer details of letter layout (as a writer for R and R I had simply plonked words down on the page from top-left to bottom-right) and I ended up staying three years all told. I enjoyed the verve of his leadership, and the bohemian qualities of location recording. He found in me, I suppose, something useful, if only that I could be left to handle situations, whether in type or on the phone, by myself. It also amused him that I had the same name (though not spelt in the same way) as his wife. (Lunatic phone conversations between her and me would begin 'Hello Monica, this is Monika' - or vice versa.) Bob felt the convenience of this situation, and it became a long-standing joke between us all.

Copyright © Monica McCabe, April 3rd 1999

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