The Magic Highway


An Interview with Godfrey Claff, the composer of the Outer Limits' first single, When The Work Is Thru.
(Interviewed by Ray Chan)

Godfrey ClaffIN 1966 I was very involved with the Students' Union Rag and was also entertainments secretary. By that time I had already written a number of songs, a couple of which were later recorded - one by a girl called Little Frankie and the other by The Pirates (of Johnnie Kidd and the Pirates) - with some very minor success, both getting into the lower end of the top 50.
    As part of the RAG (Raise and Give) activities we decided to try and record a single and sell it for RAG proceeds. The Outer Limits were a well-known Leeds group who regularly appeared at the Union so we approached them and they agreed to do the record for free.
    The next problem was to find a song that did not attract royalties. We wrote to Carter-Lewis (of The Flower Pot Men fame), prolific songwriters of the time, and asked them for something. They gave us a song which we used for the B-side.
    I decided to see if I could come up with something useable for the A side. When the Work Is Thru was written in about an hour in a room in the University Union. The simple idea behind the song was to reflect the condition of many men of the time who had boring, repetitive jobs, not that well-paid. A guy is thinking about going home at the end of another tedious day and making love to the love of his life. The original song was in a slow-beat, bluesy, soul style.
    Myself and a friend from University met the Limits in a church hall one evening for their first rehearsal of the song. It did not go well. The song lacked life and we could not see it working. My friend and I decided to retire to the pub and leave the Limits to work on it. We left the pub after about 45 minutes feeling pretty depressed about getting the single done. As we approached the church hall a really different up-beat sound came out with tight vocal harmonies. Jeff Christie had completely re-arranged it and it had worked.
    I got free time from a London recording studio and I got Mike Smith, who produced the Moody Blues, to produce it; no special contacts - I just wrote and asked. Unfortunately, on the day Mike was late and the studio wanted us to get done and go as they had another recording session coming in. So I was asked to produce it. In fact all I did was to let the engineer twiddle the knobs and I just sat there and said "Fine". Mike turned up towards the end, said he thought it was OK and went to produce the B-side.
    My influences in music were varied but undoubtedly the main influence on my songwriting came from my association through 1964-1967 with a Manchester band called the Whirlwinds and a spin-off from them called the Mockingbirds. I grew up with the members of those bands and was road manager (unpaid!) for a few years. The Mockingbirds became 10cc when another of my teenage friends, Lol Creme, joined Graham Gouldman and Kevin Godley. During my time with the Whirlwinds and the Mockingbirds, Graham was writing some of his early material which had immediate success, producing No 1s for the Yardbirds (three in fact), the Hollies and Herman's Hermits. Being so close to Graham was the biggest influence on my own writing at that time.
    And that was the end of my song-writing career. I left University and took up what was really my main passion, youth work and later community development, which is how I have spent my whole career, the last 10 years of which were working in eastern europe. I retired a year ago but am still active as a local councillor.