The Magic Highway


An extensive article from Worcester Magazine, published in July 2007, on Gil Markle's Long View Farm and the array of stars who recorded there, including of course, Jeff Christie. There are some full-length versions of Jeff's songs available on Gil's site.


By Chet Williamson

AEROSMITH, Cat Stevens, Deep Purple, Graham Nash, The J Geils Band, Arlo Guthrie, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder. The sounds of a generation. If you missed them the first time around, they're coming at you again. And this time, it's for free.
   GilIn his 18 years at Long View Farm recording studios, owner and founder Gil Markle amassed a recorded library of music that literally captured a generation. Between the years 1973 and 1991, he hosted the above-listed artists and a cast of thousands more — all in the unlikely bucolic setting of North Brookfield.
>>For Christie aficionados, these include several pieces by Jeff Christie as well as Carmen, the flamenco group featuring Paul Fenton on drums.<<
   More recently — driven by some combination of personal nostalgia and respect for the material itself — Markle has taken on the task of preserving the recordings, rescuing them from oxidation in the hope of maintaining their original integrity. And now he's presenting them to the public — bringing them to a personal computer near you.
   Now 67, Markle recently announced the launching of his Media Library, where, for the price of a trip to an e-mail address you can log on and dive into the mix. The site offers both audio and video files of exceptionally high quality, and they can be played in real time (streamed) using Flash technology, which already exists on most computers.
   Another outrageous wonder of the site is that the files may be downloaded in iPod format for personal use.
   For Markle, who lost control of Long View in 1991 and has had no involvement since, the project is both a labor of love and legacy. The Media Library is actually a page on his more extensive website, which also presents a lengthy autobiographical account of his exceptional life and times. While listening to the more than 600 tracks that have been uploaded so far, you can peruse his Diary of a Studio Owner, where you can read all about how Markle parted company with his beloved recording studio, how he trekked around India with George Harrison in search of living gods, and how he played host to The Rolling Stones themselves.
   Markle's background bio reads something like this: he was a Jersey kid; his father was an audio engineer for NBC and his mother was a jazz singer; he is a former Fulbright Scholar with doctorates from the University of Paris and Yale University. In 1973, he left a tenured position as a philosophy professor at Clark University to pursue what he now calls "laboratory experiments in virtual reality".
   Long ViewHe renovated the historic Stoddard farmhouse in North Brookfield to create Long View Farm Studio, which served him famously for 18 years, until his student travel business crashed and burned, taking his ownership of the studio with it.
   Today, he has re-invented himself as CEO and owner of Passports Educational Travel, a Spencer-based company, which sponsors the overseas travel of several thousand American students each year.
>>Several promotional videos for this business feature the music of Jeff Christie.<<
   The Keith Richards recordings are among the most rare and precious in the Media Library collection. What's so special about them is the fact that they were not recorded for commercial purposes. The tape just happened to be rolling when Keith sat at the piano in all his boozy glory singing some of his favorite songs — documenting a unique musical event that stands out in Markle's mind to this day.
   "I found it fascinating to hear this guy singing and playing the piano, and not the guitar, and doing so in a controlled environment. It was, in that sense, a very special event. I was thrilled that I had captured it on magnetic tape."
   Among the tunes Richards played are Fats Domino's Blue Monday, Jerry Lee Lewis' Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On and The Hoagy Charmichael standard, The Nearness of You.
   Click on a selection and you will see information about the track and, right next to it, two buttons. One allows you to download it. The other will take you to text material about the subject written by Markle, who is a colorful and erudite writer with a clear-eyed memory of things past.
   Fire up the Media Library page and you will find a menu that lists the name of the selection, the media format (video or audio clip), length of the piece, the artist, the album, the genre and the year it was recorded.
   The pieces are listed alphabetically by the first name of the artist, but can be re-indexed any way you want. There's also a "search" function. It looks just like iTunes.

Diary site

   Among the live recordings are those of Taj Mahal and James Taylor at Clark, BB King at Worcester State and The Stones at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., in 1981, fresh from their rehearsals at Long View.
   If that's not enough, you will also find intriguing audio interviews with such legends as John Belushi, Frank Zappa, John Lennon, Little Richard, Yoko Ono and Steven Tyler — many of them provided by former WBCN DJ, Mark Parenteau.
   And then there's the video of the legendary 1976 North Brookfield press party announcing Stevie Wonder's monumental album Songs in the Key of Life. Wonder hadn't actually recorded the album at Long View, but he did stage a mammoth press party there, flying in some 200 reporters from Los Angeles and New York to Worcester via a chartered DC-8 jet.
   The Media Library also features a promotional clip for the release of Gary Wright's Dream Weaver and a video from the Spooky Tooth reunion tour in 2004 also featuring Wright, who was a boyhood pal of Markle's.
   Assisting Markle in the process was his son David, a graduate of WPI with a master's degree in computer science and Chris Breault, a local musician who assists David with the maintenance of the travel company's computers and websites.
   The Markles had a fair amount of the recordings already in their possession — in the process of oxidizing, to be sure — but not the complete output of Gil's tenure at Long View. Since building the website, however, they have put the call out for material; and, to their surprise, it's being heard.
   "Tapes have come in from odd sources," David Markle says. "People we didn't know had 2-track masters of things. They heard about what we were doing and Gil would find a package on his doorstep with a reel-to-reel tape in it. It's interesting; a lot of people have contributed, wanting to get their stuff up there."
   One might think that presenting material of such magnitude would pose a myriad of legal issues, but Markle explains that for educational, archival purposes there are "fair use" allowances contemplated by copyright law.
   When it is pointed out that offering the service free of charge is highly unusual, both Markles chime in on the subject.
   "Candidly, we are talking about archival material and none of it is new," David Markle explains. "However, some of it is very meaningful and important — Keith Richards, for example. However, it's not for sale .... that's certainly the trend elsewhere, but it didn't seem in keeping with the project to us. This is for fun — for the history."
   So it appears. isn't selling anything — no cassettes, posters, CDs or T-shirts. Nor does it accept advertising, or commissions from businesses such as hardware manufacturers or recording studios.
   " was never conceived as a money-making proposition," Gil Markle says. "It has no revenues. We don't charge people for listening to or downloading the music. We let them do so for free. This stuff is meant to be heard. A lot of it we have in effect brought back from the dead and given a very long, new life."
   Log in and enjoy the ride.

A SAD POSTCRIPT: Gill died in 2015. Jeff penned this tribute:

I met Gil early 1975 when I and the group Carmen were ensconced at Longview Farm Recording Studios in N. Brookfield, Massachusetts, they to record their third album and myself to record a solo album after Christie had broken up after a final tour of Mexico at the end of 1974.
   Steve Elson was also with us in Mexico as we all were under the same management of Brian Longley and he was on board to produce Carmen.
   Gil was the owner of the gaff, charismatic, good looking, fiercely intelligent and in love with recording musicians in his studio at the farm which was his pride and joy. Many hit albums by various musicians were recorded there.
   Gil originally came from an academic background, a Fulbright scholar and Professor of Philosophy and I believe his love of recording came later.
   His enthusiasm and energy were boundless, as was his readiness to get inside musicians' mindsets in order to get the best out of them in the studio.
   The farm became a kind of haven for us all with gourmet chefs from New York, stables and horses, and for me, wonderful countryside to explore on horseback or foot between sessions.
   In many ways a musician's paradise. It housed other various personnel who worked and lived on site to contribute to the smooth running of it all. Many of these people became our friends during that period and I have many wonderful memories from there as it was something of a watershed for me.
   After Christie broke up at the end of '74 I moved to LA to pursue writing and recording new material that would be different to the country rock/pop of Christie and more in tune with a more introspective style.
   Because they had nicked my drummer Paul Fenton, manager and sound man, I found myself often hanging out with Carmen, as Paul and I were long time friends, and John Glascock their bass player and I hit it off immediately and became also very close.
   Eventually we all washed up at Longview Farm and started work on our respective albums occasionally guesting on each other's tracks vocally and instrumentally. Throughout this process Gil and Jesse Henderson helmed production and engineering with wit, charm and stamina as some of the sessions would last into the early hours.
   Gil and I continued to work together for some time after Carmen had left and we both enjoyed and respected each other's respective talents a lot which resulted in work I was proud of and still am to this day.
   Studio work can get tedious and exhausting mentally and physically unless you have a good rapport and personality mix with those you are working with. This was our modus operandi and it worked really well! Some good songs emerged and although the album I embarked upon was not completed, these few songs eventually surfaced over 30 years later on the Angel Air retrospective albums, Floored Masters and No Turn Unstoned.
   In my life I have been fortunate to have crossed paths, befriended and been befriended by a few outstanding, unforgettable and special human beings who have enriched my life experience and who in the space of knowing them have alternatively inspired and influenced me and left me with the warmest of memories that are more easier felt than explained.
   Gil Markle was one.