by Keith Andrews
At the beginning of the 70s two ex policemen, Harold Collins and Eddie Hunt, who had a security firm with offices on the Stopgate Lane industrial site set up a studio called Liverpool Sound Enterprises to promote and record local artists. It was located in a plain, concrete building in the fields of Simonswood, just outside Kirkby, a suburb on the northern edge of Liverpool. The building was a remnant of what had been built as the Royal Ordnance Factory, which was built to serve as an ammunition plant during WWII.
Amazon studios began in 1973 when Jeremy Lewis took
over the studio to use as a place to
record his own
others as a
The studio was built around a custom-made 8-track tube multitrack. The tapes for this machine were not interchangeable with other 1” 8-track facilities, as it was a converted Ampex data recorder, with eight channels of custom built valve (tube) electronics, and a non-standard head arrangement. The conversion had been carried out by a local company named ‘Coghlan and Co.’ Peter Coghlan would be technically associated with the studio for many years after this. The resulting machine was a striking shade of green and quite tall, from where it became affectionately known as “the Jolly Green Giant”. Coghlan & Co. also built the original custom console.
By 1977 the studio had became popular
amongst local artists but the
lack of compatibilty of the
with a desire to add a
with ‘more tracks’
having been a time when
expectations had grown
saw the expansion
upgrade of the
By 1977 the studio had became popular amongst local artists but the lack of compatibilty of the Ampex with other 8-track facilities, along with a desire to add a second room with ‘more tracks’ (the 1970s having been a time when track-count expectations had grown significantly) saw the expansion and upgrade of the facilities.
|A short drive away in Salford, Amek (a console company) had been growing during the 1970s, and their desire to develop and sell a comprehensive, large-frame audio recording and mixing console coincided with Amazon’s hunt for just such a beast.|
At the beginning of the1980s, Amazon was reasonably well equipped, though still serving a primarily local client base. London – still very much the centre of the British studio scene - was 200 miles to the south; far enough away to mean that Amazon was rarely considered a serious ‘player’ for most record-company-budget work.
By the mid-1980s however, a wave of British bands were enjoying success abroad, notably in the USA. This ‘second invasion’ of UK bands seemed to include a disproportionate number of northern musicians, several of whom remained stubbornly based well north of London, and a growing number of them had begun to work at Amazon. Record companies based in the capital city were often reluctant to have expensive recordings made too far away for frequent ‘visits’ to check up on progress, but Amazon’s significantly lower pricing helped make this gradually a more common occurrence.
By 1984 the original 8-track room had now grown to a 16-track 1” (using a TASCAM 85-16) and a Soundcraft 800 series 24:8:24 console. Meanwhile, SSL consoles and Total Recall were becoming de rigueur and so Amazon placed an order at the end of the year for a 40-loaded (48 frame) 4000 E-series console, purchased outright the building in which they’d grown, and in the remaining space a mix room was built, along with a small overdub area.
|The SSL 4000E Series - 1984|
The new room was pre-wired for 48-track, the multitrack was an Otari MTR 90
MkII 24-track, and a second identical machine was bought
to upgrade from the
Lyrec in the
other 24-track room.
synchronizer meant that
projects could be
accommodated by borrowing the second Otari from
room, or sometimes by
renting a third machine if
busy. The mix room was
By 1986, the SSL had drawn in so many clients that the decision was taken to buy a second 4000E series, which replaced the Amek M3000 in the original 24-track room (now known as ‘Studio 2’) and the continued success of so many Scottish and Northern-English acts assured a steady stream of demoing, recording and mixing work.
By the late 80s the Neve V-series was beginning to be accepted as an ‘alternative’ to the SSL, and since Neve still did not build a console with recall, the second SSL was replaced with a Neve V3 in 1988. To Amazon’s consternation Neve announced the upcoming VR console (with recall) directly after the V3 order was placed.
|Installing the Neve V3 Console|
|Geoff Higgins, Keith Andrews and Pete Coleman|
Parr Street studios
By the beginning of the 1990s the isolated location among the fields north of Kirkby (and almost complete lack of ‘anything to do’ for any band members who aren’t needed for a while) finally drove the studios to relocate to the city centre. A building known as ‘The Royal Institution’ at the junction of Colquitt Street and Parr Street was planned as the site to which the studios would move, as it seemed to be perfect. It was built in 1814 as a location to promote Literature, Science and the arts, and already had a full theatre where bands usually commented favourably on the sound, as well as plenty of high-ceiling rooms for other studios.
Eventually the plans to acquire the Royal Institution fell though and Amazon ended up purchasing the building almost directly next door, in Parr Street.
|The newer building was a four-storey mid-20th Century manufacturing building, which had been in use as a hardware factory. The studio construction in the new location began while Amazon continued operations in the original building in Simonswood, with a fourth small ‘programming studio’ built into some spare space in the water cistern tower on the roof (!)|
Both Studio 3 and Studio 4 were home to AHB ‘Saber’ consoles at
In 1991 the studio equipment was transferred –one room at a time- to the newer location. The first clients in Studio 2 (the first studio to relocate) recorded while construction on the rest of the facility continued, but eventually the whole operation was relocated to the city centre.
a face lift after Amazon
had moved out,
with a new brick
facing and hipped
roof added and
converted into a
It ran for a number of
once again the isolated
became an issue and it
closed. In 2012 the
was empty and back on the
In addition to the four studios, the new site boasted a floor of twelve residential ‘hotel’-style rooms, a licensed bar and cafeteria, and another separate floor of office suites which were rented out to locally-based companies associated with the music business. Examples included radio promotions, band management, session musician management and record companies.
|Andrea Wright and Mike Hunter in Studio 1 - 1993|
RECORDED AT AMAZON/ PARR STREET (PS)
BADLY DRAWN BOY “THE HOUR OF BEWILDERBEAST" PS
BARRON "I'VE LOST MY SENSE OF HUMOR...ETC"
BENNY PROFANE "TRAPDOOR SWING"
CARCASS "HEARTWORK" PS
COLDPLAY "PARACHUTES" PS
COLDPLAY "A RUSH OF BLOOD TO THE HEAD" PS
DISCHARGE "GRAVE NEW WORLD"
DOCTOR PHIBES AND THE HOUSE OF WAX EQUATIONS "HYPNOTWISTER"
DOVES "THE LAST BROADCAST" PS
ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN "OCEAN RAIN"
ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN "ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN"
ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN "WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE?" PS
ELIXIR "LETHAL POTION"
ENCHANT "A BLUEPRINT OF THE WORLD"
FICTION FACTORY "ANOTHER STORY"
ICICLE WORKS "IF YOU WANT TO DEFEAT YOUR ENEMY, SING HIS SONG"
IAN McNABB "MERSEYBEAST" PS
ICICLE WORKS "BLIND"
ICICLE WORKS "PERMANENT DAMAGE"
INSPIRAL CARPETS "REVENGE OF THE GOLDFISH"
MARTIN STEPHENSON & THE DAINTEES "BOAT TO BOLIVIA"
NEW ORDER "BROTHERHOOD"
OMD "THE PACIFIC AGE"
PINK MILITARY "DO ANIMALS BELIEVE IN GOD?"
PURESSENCE "PURESSENCE" PS
SMITHS "MEAT IS MURDER"
SPACE "SPIDERS" PS
STEREOPHONICS "WORD GETS ROUND"
SUPER FURRY ANIMALS "RADIATOR" PS
SUPER FURRY ANIMALS "OUT SPACED" PS
TRIFFIDS "BORN SANDY DEVOTIONAL"
VEILS "THE RUNAWAY FOUND" PS
WALL OF VOODOO "SEVEN DAYS IN SAMMYSTOWN"
The 8-track Control Room - 1981
The 24 track Control Room - 1981
The Amek M3000 - 1984
The ex Amazon Studios building in Simonswood, now empty 2012
Parr Street Studios
RECORDED AT AMAZON/ PARR STREET