Conversation Piece (album)
"Conversation Piece" is an album credited to Allan Holdsworth, Gordon Beck, Jeff Clyne, John Stevens, although John Stevens is the de facto leader, as he was responsible for the release of this album.
This was recorded in 1977 on a separate session from “Touching On” and with a different lineup. Gordon Beck has a somewhat more soulful style on side 2 than Jeff Young had on “Touching On”, but still it’s fairly challenging listening, and not always so rewarding.
What other unauthorized releases are out there?
Oh, there’s tons of them, tons of them. There was one that was a live radio broadcast—it was just a broadcast. It wasn’t supposed to be a record! They made that into a record. We did one album as a group with John Stevens, Jeff Kline and Jeff Young and it wasn’t very good. But everyone agreed and said "Okay, use those tracks." But what happened is that guy went back again and took everything else we had done that day, including everything nobody wanted, and released that as well. It’s almost like you can’t leave anything around for anyone man, or they’ll use it!
What was that called?
It was called Touching On I think.
And that was released as an album under your name?
Yeah, it started out as a group. But now the same album has my name on top. So, I’d have to say that is the most frustrating thing of all. To be in a position where you’re trying to survive and keep some quality and be true to what you believe is good and try to get record deals and then to have people do that kind of stuff is pretty low. Unfortunately, they take advantage of the fact that there are people out there that will buy it and they know we’re so small we can’t do anything about it to stop them. Nobody can do that to Madonna or Michael Jackson, because the record company would just crucify whoever it was. There would be no way they could ever do that. But when you’re in a little Mickey Mouse situation like we are, you don’t make enough money to stop people from stealing stuff from you.
I didn’t realize the extent you were affected by things like this.
It’s my biggest nightmare, yeah.
It has always struck me as astonishing that Holdsworth’s work with UK, a real prototype supergroup of the Asia variety, could exist so closely chronologically alongside the John Stevens albums involving him from the same era. The records which appeared under John Stevens’ name (‘Touching On’ and ‘Retouch’) are challenging, unstructured blurs of instrumentation, but for all that, not without appeal. But, when I asked Allan about what he could remember about the free work with Stevens, he had this to say:
"The only thing I remember about John Stevens is that he was a bit of an asshole! Because he ripped everyone off. What we did was we went into the studio and recorded a completely spontaneous record with Ron Matthewson, Jeff Young and myself. And because it was all spontaneous music we all got together at the end and decided which tracks, which parts of those spontaneous pieces were useless - because it was a Spontaneous Music record. So we did that so that was fine and that was ‘Touching On’. I don’t particularly like it but that’s what it was. That’s what happened.
But then John Stevens went on to license all the other crap, all the outtakes, and quite frankly I hope I don’t run into him! Because I think that’s a really terrible thing to do. He didn’t ask anybody - he didn’t contact any of the other musicians as far as know, he just did a deal. He probably got paid for it. Nobody saw any money for it, not that it would have mattered, because if he’d asked me I would have said no, because they were outtakes. To me that’s what outtakes mean - not useable.
"So I’m as disgusted with John Stevens as I am with a lot of the record companies, who are doing the same thing to a lot of the people who pass on, like Jaco Pastorious. I think it’s completely degrading what they’ll do to people after they’ve gone. I think if the musician wanted them to be part of his thing they would have already been out."