Chris Spedding was born in Sheffield
in 1944 and has spent most of his life playing guitar on other people's records. He is a session guitarist, prized for his solidity and anonymity rather than for his looks or flashy guitar style, although having been hired to play on dozens of successful singles over the last thirty years is testament to his instrumental virtuosity. In his time he has played for the Bay City Rollers
, produced demos by The Sex Pistols
and appeared on Top of the Pops
dressed as a Womble
. He has also released several albums and singles under his own name and that of ad-hoc bands, although of his output only the 1975
' had much of an impact.
Spedding entered his teenage years just as rock and roll was starting up; he was given an electric guitar for his fifteenth birthday and formed his first group the same year. After leaving school at sixteen he moved to London and started work at a music shop, from which he developed a taste for jazz. His first professional gig was in 1964, on a P&O liner to Australia. As the 1960s came to a close he managed to grab several jobs playing bass on records by Dusty Springfield, Alan Price and Paul Jones, ex of Manfred Mann. He ended the 1960s playing with Pete Brown and The Battered Ornaments, notably at the Rolling Stones' Hyde Park concert following the death of Brian Jones.
Spedding entered the 1970s playing with Nucleus, a jazz/rock fusion group, although he was to leave in the middle of 1971, having appeared on the group's first two albums. He also releasing a solo album, 'Backwood Progression', in late 1970 (a second solo album, 'The Only Lick I Know', was released in 1972 to no effect). By this time he was in demand as a sessioner, playing for radio and television commercials, on instrumental 'greatest hits' albums, and also for television pop programmes which, under contemporary musician's union rules, were required to re-record a portion of each song before broadcast. Simply by dint of regularly turning up for sessions on time Spedding set himself apart from his competition. His slightly dated, slicked-hair teddyboy image and anonymous good looks did not hurt his career either; even today he has managed to avoid the kind of middle-aged bloat common to more famous rock stars.
At the end of 1972 Spedding cut down on his session work in favour of a new funk/rock group Sharks, with whom he played lead guitar. He spent most of 1973 and 1974 playing live across the UK, promoting the two albums the group produced during that time. They attracted positive reviews but broke down at the end of 1974. Spedding went back to session work, most notably for David Essex, Roy Harper, The Drifters and John Cale.
In 1975 Spedding got together with Mickie Most, second only to Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman as a source of late-70s/early-80s bubblegum pop. The second fruit of this collaboration was released as a single in September 1975, 'Motorbikin''. Performances on Top of the Pops and Supersonic showcased a biker image with slicked-back hair, something which clicked with the burgeoning punk scene, albeit that Spedding was in his early 30s. The record only reached the top twenty, and wasn't loud enough to be punk, but it was a radio staple and is familiar from television programmes about cars. On the strength of his image he was picked to headline the second day of the 100 Club Punk Festival, playing with The Vibrators, the first day having been headlined by the Sex Pistols. Famously Spedding was asked by Malcolm McLaren to produce the Sex Pistols' demos, a three-song session consisting of 'Problems', 'No Feelings', and 'Pretty Vacant'. These have been extensively bootlegged, although they exist today in a form remixed by the album's co-producer Dave Goodman.
After this Spedding went back to session work, spending the rest of the decade touring with Bryan Ferry and Robert Gordon, a rockabilly revivalist who is all but forgotten nowadays. By 1980 Spedding was living in New York, gigging occasionally with ad-hoc bands. He continued to do sessions - with Paul McCartney, Nina Hagen, John Cale again, Johnny Hallyday in Canada and others - although at a much more relaxed pace than before. At the end of the decade he played on Laurie Anderson's 'Strange Angels', as one of forty-three (!) credited backing musicians.
In the 1990s Spedding moved to LA and recorded a new album with Sharks, again to no commercial effect. He currently has an enviable life gigging occasionally and playing on records by some of the many contacts he made during the 1970s, most commonly Mike Batt (he still has a yen for tat, though, playing guitars on the French equivalent of Fame Academy). He is currently touring Australia and England with Bryan Ferry, having played on Roxy Music's 2001 comeback tour.
Spedding has also played on Jeff Wayne's 'War of the Worlds', Tom Waits' 'Rain Dogs', Bryan Ferry's 'Let's Stick Together', Brian Eno's 'Here Come The Warm Jets' and assorted records by Elton John, Roy Harper, The Goodies, Joan Armatrading and many others. He has a detailed website at http://www.chrisspedding.com/ and inspires wet dreams amongst the kind of people who read Record Collector.