You may not know that name at first, but Big Boy Pete, or Peter Miller is a rock and roll legend in San Francisco. His old studio underneath a cottage house behind a duplex on Union Street was THE place for the punk scene and early metal scene bands of San Francisco to record. I can’t exactly remember how I met him, but my then drummer had met him, maybe recorded there and invited me over one day.
We hit it off and I became his go to guy when he had computer problems. I still am as a matter of fact. I was also studying audio recording so having a new friend with a then 16 track studio was a good thing to have.
Peter is a member of the rock and roll hall of fame who started his career with a band in England called the Offbeats in the late 50’s. They recorded one EP and then he was offered a job by the band Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers. Unfortunately since there were three band members named Pete already he was given the name “Buzz”. Being the lead guitarist for the Jaywalkers really started to bolster his career. You’ve heard of 6°’s of separation, right? Knowing Pete has turned that into about 3° of separation for me. In the many days I spent over at Peter’s studio I was amazed at who he called friends. The Jaywalkers played the Cavern Club opening for the Beatles and the Stones. David Bowie was his roomate in London. The Beatles liked the Jaywalkers so much that they were asked to be the opening act on the Beatles Beatlemania tour. At first I wasn’t sure I could believe him or if this was just some crap he concocted to impress me. Then he pointed out something on his wall that he still has framed there today.
Holy Sh*t! He and Keith Richards [long before Keith started snorting his dad’s ashes] were interviewed about what guitars they liked. He really wasn’t kidding. He even had pictures of him in the cavern club so this guy was for real.
I spent many years hanging out at his studio watching him work and learning how to do it. I was taught by John Barsotti at SFSU, who is also a great engineer in his own right, but getting another person’s way of doing things was even better. Peter’s studio had some very vintage equipment that I had heard of, but never got a chance to touch.
Pretty soon I had impressed him enough that he let me actually touch the equipment and I was able to do a couple of recordings at his studio. I was sitting in on Attitude Adjustment recording their first album and Peter had to take care of something and asked me to take over. Leaving me alone in a studio for the first time was nerve wracking, but I pulled it off. That gave me confidence enough to suggest to the band I was managing at the time, Sick Minded to record their demo there. This time I was in full control and their demo got them to the point where labels where starting to take interest in them. These were the days prior to digital recording so we had to use very expensive fat 2″ analog tape running at 30ips so for $200 you get about 15 minutes of recording. Pete knew I didn’t have a lot of cash so he’d always lend me a 2″ tape as long as I bought the 1/4″ tape for the mix down. Peter also was working on a home study course for people like me who wanted to learn, but didn’t have the bucks to afford to do it right. He had almost everything together and then boom! MIDI came along which meant computers were involved and me being on top of MIDI, Peter turned to me and asked me to help him out with the MIDI section of his course.
When a member of the rock and roll hall of fame and the founder of British psychedelia asked you to be a part of their work you think I’m going to say no? I jumped at the chance in a heartbeat and helped him with the written part and then added my own voiceover to the accompanied CD.
Let’s just say that Peter is a few years older than me, but being a good friend he’s taught me a lot. The first thing is never give up on rock and roll. The second is never sell your music rights. The third and most important is never compromise by letting someone else tell you what to do.
That’s part of the reason he’s here in the US today. He was being pressured by his record company to be someone he wasn’t and didn’t want to be so basically told Polydor his record label to stuff it with the song Nasty Nazi. Keep in mind this song was written in the mid 60’s and those aren’t radio oriented lyrics in the song. The Union Street studio is gone now and he’s moved to a bigger place with a nicer studio [fully stocked bar in the control room…bonus points!]
If you’ve found a bit of inspiration from this and want more you can visit him at www.bigboypete.com or if you’re interested in learning about the proper way to record music and want to take his course visit www.audioinstitute.com.
OK Pete, time to cue the outro music: Baby I’ve Got News For You