MILESAGO - Industry - Producers & Engineers
Roger Savage
A rare glimpse of the man behind the desk. Roger Savage (right) is pictured here during the mixing of the landmark Australian film MAD MAX. With him are the film's director George Miller (centre) and producer, the late Byron Kennedy (left).

One of Australia's most respected and distinguished producers and recording engineers, Roger Savage is universally regarded by his peers as one of the very best in the business. His career began in the early Sixties and it's still going strong and hitting new highs. The Sixties and Seventies were dominated by work in the pop industry, but from the late Seventies onwards Roger concentrated increasingly on sound production for film, and he is now recognised worldwide as one of the leaders in this field.

Regrettably, there is little easily accessible information about Roger's pop career. What we know so far is that he began his career in London in the early 1960s. Just prior to coming to Australia he worked with Dusty Springfield and he famously engineered The Rolling Stones debut single, a cover of Chuck Berry's Come On. Fortunately some of that story has been recorded in Andrew Loog Oldham's recent memoir Stoned.

Andrew Loog Oldham: The IBC deal was done, the Stones signed with 'us' and it was time to go to work on getting recorded and released. Their job was to pick the five songs out of their entire repertoire that were the most commercial; I left them to it. They were supposed to know their part. That Thursday afternoon at a Wetherby Arms rehearsal, I was happy to inform the Stones that we'd booked time at Olympic Studios for Friday I0 May. Nobody discussed how the sessions were actually going to he produced, we just sort of mumbled our way through that one - less said the better, till D-Day. We eventually chose three songs to record, one being an obscure Chuck Berry number, 'Come On', which had never been out in the UK.

Roger Savage, engineer: I heard about the Rollin' Stones at the Station Hotel in Richmond. I went down to see what they were like, with a view maybe to contacting them and recording them. When I was down there I bumped into Andrew - very sharp and interesting - who was there basically for the same reason. I said to him, 'Well, if you want to do anything, let me know.' Oh, I was absolutely knocked out when I heard them, they were doing that Bo Diddley song ... It was something quite extraordinary. I don't know whether they would have done anything with me or not. I assume they would have, if it didn't cost 'em anything. Andrew contacted me a couple of weeks later and I agreed to record them one night without payment, because he didn't have any money, so we sorta crept into Olympic late one night. It was sorta an illicit session, really just a favour to Andrew without any strings attached. It was one of my first real recordings. At that time there were only really four places to go seriously: Abbey Road, IBC, Olympic and Lansdowne.

ALO: I picked Olympic, got Eric to book it: Eric telling me how little money we had; Keith Grant, the studio head at Olympic, recommending 'young' Roger Savage as being suitable for the Stones; and us trying to get as much as we could done in three hours on forty quid. I hadn't checked out the place. The control room was upstairs, and I didn't like that because it's like a machine-gun turret - one is literally talking down at the act. The session was cold.

Roger Savage: Mick Jagger arrived with an armful of books, I think he'd just come from college. We set up and did four songs quite quickly. The main thing I remember was that Andrew told me to turn lan Stewart's piano microphone off, he obviously didn't want him in the band because he didn't look the part. I was a bit embarrassed about doing it, but that was Andrew. When they came up the stairs to the control room to play back there was no piano! Nobody said anything. I felt a bit strange about doing that. Brian was the one who was the most vocal, he was the one who was suggesting things more than the others. The sound on 'Come On' was pretty conventional. It was a clean recording compared to the later recordings which they did at Regent Sound. Their own sound was more of a mess, looser, with less separation between the instruments. Andrew couldn't really get his head round the mixing, from four tracks down to one track, he didn't really understand how that was gonna occur. None of them had any experience of recording, so basically they sort of left it up to me. We would have overdubbed something, tambourine and I think vocals; there would have been overdubs. So I would be controlling the mix, telling them what was going on or what was happening with the process. At the time four-track was pretty unusual, we used a big Ampex machine that stood as tall as a person.

ALO: It was 'time's up', five minutes to six. I thought we were done and Roger Savage asked me, 'What about mixing it?' I said, 'What's that?' He explained that the basic recording had been made on four channels and we now had to reduce them to stereo and mono for public consumption. I said, 'Oh, you do that. I'll come back in the morning for it.' Because I figured if I wasn't there I wouldn't have to pay for it. I also floated the idea that I thought the electric guitars would be plugged straight into the studio wall, so that nobody would ask me to pay for an amp. A year later I was an expert and nobody was going to stop me divining exactly how four channels would he pared down for public consumption.

At that time none of us knew a thing about recording. The entire process was a new, mysterious experience for everyone. The recorded results fell somewhere in that flawed middle ground between what the Stones wanted and what I wanted. Quite simply it would do. It wasn't Willie Dixon and it wasn't The Ronettes. Now we had to get the product out, get a record company. The most logical place was Decca: after all they'd turned the Beatles down, Maybe they'd panic and sign us. I didn't believe in knocking on ten doors. I believed in picking one and kicking it down. Decca was it. The Rolling Stones didn't have to perform to get a record contract; Eric and I did.

Some time later, Roger was also involved in the recording of an ill-fated single for another of Oldham's protégés, singer George Bean (who later appeared, with his group The Bean Runners, in the 1967 film PRIVILEGE, starring Paul Jones and Jean Shrimpton).

Andy Wickham: Andrew's Ivor Court office was a magnet for no-hopers who hoped that a little of the magic would rub off on them. sunken-eyed James Phelge who might have been a road manager or could have been a dealer. There was a Mick Jagger lookalike called Doug Gibbons who couldn't sing and never made it into the studio. There was a plump, smart, well-spoken boy called George Bean whose group was called the Runners and who put out a couple of singles on Decca. Bobby Jameson was a blond double for Paul McCartney, a boy of few words and an almost girlish beauty, who always wore black and was accompanied everywhere by a polite but sinister young Italian-American manager. You would find them at the Ad Lib or the Scotch, always quietly on the fringe of the Stones' circles, eclipsed by all the fame and glory. He never happened but he made some great records, notably a song called 'All I want Is My Baby', written for him by Andrew with Keith and produced by Andrew in the vein of 'Rag Doll' as a sort of homage to Bob Crewe.

ALO: George Bean was a friend of Chrissic Shrimpton, and with all due respect to the late Mr Bean, I would have recorded just about anything. But George was one of the good guys and game. Mr Bean, mark I, had his own group, but I wanted to experiment in the studio with musicians, arrangers and arrangements, and George signed with Andes Sound as a solo artist. I booked Olympic Studios and hired engineer Roger Savage and arranger Charles Blackwell for the session. We happily recorded a slightly R'n'B- flavoured version of the old Doris Day standard, 'Secret Love'. The song sounded terrible. I had no idea how to pick the right key for the singer and no idea whether the song was even in George Bean's range, for that matter. Too late, I found out it wasn't.

Roger Savage: Andrew must have conned someone. He was in no position to have underwritten the session. I do remember it being quite a big session, it wasn't just a group; I'm sure it had strings on it and everything. It was a Phil Spector attempt. It may have been the time he was wearing his black cape with red lining. Knowing him at the time, he was pretty sharp, he would have got around that small problem of not having any money.

Although he would no doubt have carved out a very distinguished career at home, Roger decided to emigrate to Australia in 1964, settling in Melbourne. Shortly after his arrival he became one of the founding staff at Bill Armstrong's legendary studio at 100 Albert Park Rd, South Melbourne. Two of the first Australian recordings he worked on were Bobby & Laurie's historic hit I Belong With You, and The Easybeats' breakthrough hit She's So Fine, for which Roger produced the backing track. It was recorded at Armstrong's on the Easy's first trip to Melbourne in March 1965.

Over the next seven years or so Roger worked at Armstrong's engineering some of the most important recordings of the period, including classic tracks by The Twilights, MPD Ltd, Eighteenth Century Quartet, The Masters Apprentices, Spectrum and many others. As our research progresses, we hope that we can present a more complete 'sessionography' of Roger's pop-rock production work during this period.

Roger's work in film began at Armstrong's. Renamed AAV, in the Seventies it became Australia's leading audio post-production facility for film and TV. One of Roger's earliest recorded film credits was as an audio engineer on Tim Burstall's recently rediscovered surf documentary GETTING GACK TO NOTHING (1970).

Roger's first big feature film project was mixing Bruce Rowland's soundtrack music for THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER in the late seventies.This marked the beginning of his association with director George Miller and producer Byron Kennedy. This was followed by his work mixing Brian May's score and the soundtrack for Kennedy-Miller's internationally successful MAD MAX.

The project was on a very tight budget, so to save money Roger devised a method of using AAV's videotape timecode synchronisation facilities to mix the soundtrack on multitrack and then to resynch it back onto sprocketed tape. Apparently this was the very first film in the world to be mixed in this way, using the timecode system that is now the industry standard. Roger later mixed the sequel, MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR, which was also Australia's first feature film recorded in Dolby Stereo. With Dolby still in its infancy in 1981, this feature drew international attention to Roger's work, eventually leading to his departure from AAV to freelance in Hollywood on such prestige projects as RETURN OF THE JEDI.

On returning to Melbourne in 1984, Roger set up in business form himself. His new company, Soundfirm, began its life in a fairly modest facility in South Melbourne. Now located in Port Melbourne, the company and its facilities have continued to expand. In 1986 Soundfirm opened a small Sydney operation under the management of Ian Mc Loughlin, who remains its manager and senior mixer. The Sydney operation has continued to grow and in 1998 was relocated to the new Fox Studios complex in Moore Park.

Soundfirm's is best known for its work as a sound postproduction house for feature films, but has always included picture post. Today its facilities encompass non-linear vision and sound editing, mixing, and ADR and Foley production. The range of productions passing through the facilities includes feature films, documentaries, television programmes, mini-series and cinema commercials. Facility hire options available vary from by-the-hour hire of any of the facilities to studios with operations staff, full post-production management or a packaged, completed soundtrack.

We are still in the process of researching Roger's production and engineering credits in poular music, and we would appreciate any additional information that our readers can contribute. His film work is somewhat better recorded and many of Roger's most prominent credits in film sound production are listed below.

In 2001 Roger's work was recognised at the highest international level when he and his team were nominated for both an Oscar and a BAFTA award for Best Sound, for their work on Baz Luhrmann's MOULIN ROUGE.


Known recording credits


(under construction)

Bobby & Laurie
I Belong With You
Feb(?) '65
believed to be Roger's first major production after arriving in Australia
The Easybeats
She's So Fine (backing track)
March '65
Final track [p] Ted Albert
various tracks including
Little Boy Sad, Lonely Boy
Exact production/engineering credits for this group yet to be confirmed
The Eighteenth Century Quartet

Rachael / Distant Relative
Am I A Lover? / Drawing Room

late '66
[p] Peter Robinson
The Masters Apprentices
Living In A Child's Dream
July? '67
*The official Astor house producer was Dick Heming but Jim Keays maintains that the credit actually belongs to Roger, who engineered the session.
The Twilights
The Twilights
Columbia 330SX

[e] co-credit with David Woodley-Page
[p] David McKay

The Twilights
Once Upon A Twilight Columbia SECO 7870

[e] co-credit with Alan Hay, Phillip Webster
[p] David McKay

The Masters Apprentices
Columbia SCXO1915
[p] Howard Gable
[e] co credit with John Sayers
Spectrum Part One
July? '70

[p] Howard Gable
[e] (co-credit with Ernie Rose)




Moulin Rouge! (2001) (sound supervisor)
The Dish (2000) (sound)
Snow Falling on Cedars (1999) (sound mixer)
Babe: Pig in the City (1998) (sound re-recording mixer)
Africa's Elephant Kingdom (1998) (sound)
Dead Letter Office (1998) (sound mixer)
Jackie Chan's Who Am I? (1998) (sound mixer)
Mr. Nice Guy (1997) (sound mixer)
Jackie Chan's First Strike (1996) (sound mixer)
Mr. Reliable (1996) (sound mixer)
Romeo + Juliet (1996) (sound supervisor)
Shine (1996) (sound re-recording mixer)
Brilliant Lies (1996) (sound mixer)
Rumble in the Bronx (1995) (sound mixer)
Kid in King Arthur's Court, A (1995) (sound mixer)
Hotel Sorrento (1995) (foley mixer)
Dangerous Touch (1994) (dubbing mixer)
Private Eye Blues, The (1994) (sound mixer)
Muriel's Wedding (1994) (sound)
Lucky Break (1994) (sound mixer)
Say a Little Prayer (1993) (sound mixer)
Temptation of a Monk (1993) (sound mixer)
Stark (1993) (TV) (sound mixer)
Heartbreak Kid, The (1993) (sound mixer)
Strictly Ballroom (1992) (sound mixer)
Women of the Sun (1992) (TV) (dubbing mixer)
Lorenzo's Oil (1992) (post-production sound mixer)
Mikey (1992) (sound re-recording mixer)
Romper Stomper (1992) (sound mixer)
Kid (1991/I) (dubbing mixer)
Proof (1991) (sound mixer)
Darlings of the Gods (1989) (TV) (sound mixer)
Dead Calm (1989) (sound mixer)
Malcolm (1986) (sound mixer)
More Things Change..., The (1986) (sound supervisor)
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) (sound mixer) (sound supervisor) (1985)
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) (sound re-recording mixer)
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) (sound mixer)
Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981) (music recordist)
Thirst (1979) (music recordist)
Mad Max (1979) (post-production sound)

Source: IMDb

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References / Links

Internet Movie Database,+Roger

Mad Max - The New Print

Andrew Loog Oldham
Stoned: A memoir of London in the 1960s
(Secker & Warburg, 2000)


Prosound News Asia


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