“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.