Metropolis

Cultural commentator Paul Morley explores a history of popular music through some of the iconic recording studios in which classic albums were created.

Without them music as we know it would simply not exist. At its most basic, there’d be no technology to capture the sounds envisaged by the musicians and created and enhanced by the engineers and producers… and there’d be no music for the record companies to market and distribute. But more than that, the studios actually played a crucial part in the structure and fabric of the music recorded there – the sounds enhanced by the studio space itself… the potential and shortcomings of the equipment and technology housed in the cubicles… and the ability and ‘vision’ of the engineers and producers operating it all to find the new sound that makes the recordings sound different and fresh.

In the final programme of the series Paul Morley ventures to West London and one of the last major studio complexes to be built in the heyday of the music industry. But without an exalted musical history to fall back on and decades of experience to help run it, how do you go about creating a world-class facility frequented by the likes of Amy Winehouse, Mick Jagger and Rihanna… and how do you keep it going when all around you are closing their doors?

Producer: Paul Kobrak.

Listen to the programme here

Abbey Road Studios

Cultural commentator Paul Morley explores a history of popular music through some of the iconic recording studios in which classic albums were created.

Without them music as we know it would simply not exist. There’d be no technology to capture the sounds envisaged by the musicians and created and enhanced by the engineers and producers… and there’d be no music for the record companies to market and distribute. But more than that, the studios actually played a crucial part in the structure and fabric of the music recorded there – the sounds enhanced by the studio space itself… the potential and shortcomings of the equipment and technology housed in the cubicles… and the ability and ‘vision’ of the engineers and producers operating it all to find the new sound that makes the recordings sound different and fresh.

Today he visits the world’s first purpose built recording studio, and possibly the most famous: the one at No 3, Abbey Road, a stone’s throw from a much photographed zebra crossing in London’s St John’s Wood. Opened by Sir Edward Elgar conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in a recording of “Land Of Hope And Glory”, the studios went on to record everyone from Adam Ant, The Bolshoi and Nick Cave… to XTC, Diana Yakawa and the Zombies – to say nothing of Pink Floyd and the Beatles.

But that’s not what’s drawn Paul Morley to these historic recording rooms – it’s the continuing work in capturing the sound of orchestras that is put under the spotlight in this programme. With the help of engineers and producers, composers and those that keep the studios running on a day to day basis, Paul explores how the relationship classical music has with the recording studio differs from the one that pop music enjoys.

Producer: Paul Kobrak.

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 programme here

Rockfield Studios

“The era of the great recording studio being central to the production of great albums hit its peak around the time the Stone Roses released their debut album. By the end of the 1990s a combination of increasingly sophisticated home recording and the Internet era assault on traditional record companies with their big recording budgets was threatening the very future of the studio. Studios started to close taking their history and artistic and scientific knowledge with them and even though there was a greater mainstream appetite for pop music, the astonishing complicated machines responsible for the history of pop were becoming as antiquated as steam trains, as irrelevant and obsolescent as stately homes.” Morley, 2012.

Cultural commentator Paul Morley explores a history of popular music through some of the iconic recording studios in which classic albums were created. In future programmes he revisits some of the classical masterpieces recorded in the 80 year old Abbey Road Studios and cutting edge pop in Metropolis, the studio complex built when the music industry was at its most bloated peak. But he begins in the rural heart of Monmouthshire – at a studio that grew out of a farm and gave birth to some of rock music’s finest recordings – everything from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the Stone Roses’ eponymous debut album, from Dr. Feelgood’s “Down By The Jetty” to Oasis’ “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory”, even from the Waterboys’ “Fisherman’s Blues” to Adam Ant’s “Kings Of THe Wild Frontier”. Those trying to explain what part the studio played in creating such musical magic include performers (the veteran Dave Edmunds and the newcomers Iko), technicians (John Leckie and Sean Genockey) and the people who (in some cases, quite literally) built the studio and the business (father and daughter, Kingley and Lisa Ward, and Terry Matthews). As the money flowing through the music industry continues to dry up – Paul also asks what future there may be or the historic recording studios that helped build the industry in the first place?

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 programme here

Producer: Paul Kobrak.

ICE T, on Rap, Hip Hop and a new Documentary

In a nutshell- history of Rap, Hip hop & Break Dancing

This explanation caught my ear. Rapper Ice T was talking about his new documentary Something from nothing, about how when the New York state school system was being cut back, and there were no musical instruments available in schools, kids took the record player and turned it into an instrument, how using the breaks in the tracks became popular with MC’s on the decks, which in turn led to Break Dancing. The MC’s then started working with Rappers and so the story continued.

Listen to this extract of Ice T from BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, where he very succinctly explains the origins of hip-hop.
 

American musician and performer Ice-T has directed a cinema documentary Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap in which he talks to leading performers including Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre and Eminem about the culture of hip-hop. Ice-T discusses the origins of the music, and its continuing influence.

The Storyline is as follows

SOMETHING FROM NOTHING: THE ART OF RAP is a feature length performance documentary about the runaway juggernaut that is Rap music. At the wheel of this unstoppable beast is the film’s director and interviewer Ice-T. Taking us on a deeply personal journey Ice-T uncovers how this music of the street has grown to dominate the world. Along the way Ice-T meets a whole spectrum of Hip-Hop talent, from founders, to new faces, to the global superstars like Eminem, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg and Kanye West. He exposes the roots and history of Rap and then, through meeting many of its most famous protagonists, studies the living mechanism of the music to reveal ‘The Art Of Rap’. This extraordinary film features unique performances from the entire cast, without resorting to archive material, to build a fresh and surprising take on the phenomenon that is Rap.

see a BBC video about the documentary here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17853254

You can Follow Something from Nothing – The Art of Rap on Facebook

and on IMdB here http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2062996/

Ralf Hutter and Kraftwerk

Chris Bowlby profiles Ralf Hutter, the only founding member left of the German electronic band Kraftwerk. Coming from an obscure industrial background, Kraftwerk first formed in 1970, and are now credited with being hugely influential on a host of musicians and on music of diverse types, including electronic, hip hop, house and drum and bass.
Notoriously uncommunicative with the outside world, Kraftwerk used to only have a fax machine as a point of contact at their studio though Ralf Hutter says even that has now gone.
Krafwerk have just completed a major series of concerts in New York and are promising that they will be releasing a new album “very soon” – the first in nearly a decade.

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 programme here

Producer:
John Murphy.

Jonny Greenwood and Krzysztof Penderecki

Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and experimental composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s work appears side by side on a new Nonesuch recording. In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Front Row programme, the two composers discuss music for film (Penderecki’s music is used in The Shining and The Exorcist, Greenwood scored There Will Be Blood) and creating sounds and textures not normally associated with the orchestra. Greenwood also discusses the limitations of recorded music: “Recordings just aren’t good enough…the concert hall provides far richer and more complex sound than listening to loudspeakers in a room.”

Listen to the interview here

The 12 Inch Single

From the mid-1970s the humble 7 inch vinyl single was joined by a much grander relative – the 12 inch single. It reached its peak in 1983 with Blue Monday by New Order, probably the biggest selling 12 inch single of all time.

Music Journalist and co-founder of ZTT Records, Paul Morley visits the Factory Club in Manchester to talk to Peter Hook of New Order about how Blue Monday was written and to designer Peter Saville about the famous sleeve.

Paul explores the origins of the 12 inch single as a potentially higher quality format than the 7 inch single and visits Abbey Road studios to watch an engineer cutting a 12 inch single; does it really sound better?

And he meets music producer Trevor Horn at Sarm Studios, home of ZTT records, to discuss the Frankie Goes to Hollywood 12 inch singles. ZTT released so many different versions of Two Tribes on 12 inch that the chart rules were changed – so was the record buyer getting value for money? And what does the 12 inch single tell us about 1980s excesses?

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 programme here:

Paul Morley on the 12 inch single