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was shaped like a violin!"
One can deduce from this that Julian Mendelsohn, in good company with millions of other Aussics, was an original Beatles fan, although being only ten at the time he missed seeing them when they played in Melbourne in 1964. But he has one specific memory of their visit nonetheless. "A friend of my mother's who owned one of the posh restaurants in the city was very proud of herself because she managed to get hold of some used Beatles sheets off the beds at the Southern Cross Hotel and auctioned them off. That's what I remember most about their trip to Melbourne: the sheets being auctioned!"
Julian arrived in England in 1972, determined to get a job in the music industry, despite a distinct downturn in business that was closing down once-thriving studios with alarming speed. His initial efforts thwarted, the aspiring engineer instead eked out a living by cutting turf and driving a baker's van. But his patience was eventually rewarded first with a job for an audio-visual presentations company, and then at a tiny demo studio in the Chelsea area of London, his first duty as apprentice engineer being to record a Linda Lewis rehearsal session. From there he moved to Sarm East studio in the East End, jumping to 48-track and working on hits like 'Pass The Dutchic' by Musical Youth and 'Relax' by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, all the while studying the production methods of mentors like Peter Collins and Trevor Horn. Upon graduating to producer himself, Julian scored his first hit with the Pet Shop Boys' single 'Suburbia'.
One of the principal aims in making Off The Ground a "band" album - Paul's first since Back To The Egg in 1979 - was to make it a record suitable for taking out on the road. "And we achieved that aim," declares Julian. "All of the songs can be played on stage. Some were completed on less than 24 tracks of tape, others used two machines and probably 30-40 tracks, but the band has already proven very good at playing them on just six instruments.
"The really great thing about this album is that it all sounds like the same record, even though every track is completely different.
"The band was augmented by some outside musicians, though. George Martin did a big string arrangement for 'C'mon People', Carl Davis 'arranged' one sustained string note and oboe/flute on a track, and brass on another, 'Mistress And Maid', and we also had some Latin percussionists come in for 'Hope Of Deliverance'. It's a beauty, that song. None of us could really play Latin percussion so we got some young kids in to play it for us. At first we thought it was a bit rough at the edges but actually it's nice for that little roughness. I tried to keep a little bit of rough edge on the album anyway, and not have everything absolutely pristine perfect, because I think Paul's work sounds better when, m the nicest sense, it's got a bit of 'untogetherness' about it."
Despite putting on a stone in weight while working on the album (it's scarcely possible to walk around Paul's studio building without going past the kitchen), it was an experience thoroughly enjoyed by Julian Mendelsohn. "Most of the time it was fantastic. I always try to keep a good atmosphere in the studio anyway, that's just the way I work, on the proviso that if you've got to do something then you have to get down to it. And co-producing with Paul was a very democratic process: I wouldn't make a decision without him, and he wouldn't make a decision without me, and we rarely disagreed over anything."
If, as is rumoured, Paul's world tour visits Australia in March, Julian will be there, getting back to where he once belonged. But, as he explains, he'll be going there anyway. ''Whenever I've had a number one record I've been m Australia," he remarks. "'It's very bizarre. It happened with 'Pass The Dutchie' and again with 'Relax', both of which I mixed. At one point when I was in Australia I had the top three UK singles. So I'm certainly going to be in Australia when Paul's single is out!"
If this makes you think that Julian Mendelsohn, co-producer of Paul's Off The Ground, is a mite superstitious, how's this for a bizarre coincidence. Last year Paul unveiled his Liverpool Oratorio. Once upon a long ago, in 1836, another oratorio called - ironically - St Paul was composed by a certain Mr Mendelssohn.
Now that's what one might call cosmically conscious!