you visit Chipping Norton village in Oxfordshire in
search of the
old studio, one things stands out about its location that at
first seems odd. For
such a small village, it must have been strange to suddenly
have this major studio complex open on the main road, right
in its heart, for all to see. And yet talking to the locals
about days gone by you get the idea of an integration and acceptance,
as if the studio was just another friendly local pub or shop that
was part and parcel of the village life. You can sense
a pride but also a bemusment at what all the fuss was about,
as if most rural villages had a major studio, with the
coming and going of many of the biggest names in pop and rock,
as part of its community.
normal daily life went on by in the village , themes from
a wider field were being immortalized on tape. Gerry Rafferty sang
about Baker Street,
The Proclaimers walked
500 miles and Thom Yorke told us that he was
a 'Creep', all from within the confines of the studio
Taking its name from its village location, Chipping Norton Studios was set up in an old school house (circa 1853) by brothers Mike and Richard Vernon and Dave Grinsted as the in-house studio for the Blue Horizon record label. Mike and Dave Grinstead where originally in-house producer/ engineers for Decca and the brothers owned a blues specialist record shop in Camden. In 1968 the Blue Horizon label had a massive hit with Mike Vernon producing Fleetwood Macs timeless instrumental 'Albatross'. The proceeds from this would be used to build their own recording studio.
The original idea was to open a studio in London, at first in
the backrooms of the shop but space was limited. They looked
elsewhere in London but the cost of premises was prohibitive
so they began looking to a wider field. Having traveled
to Wales to view a potential location, the return journey took
them through the Cotswolds and the small and picturesque
market town of Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire. One
of the main roads through the village passes the old school
house, a grade 2 listed building which had closed
in 1966 and was now empty and up for sale. With its thick
stone walls, spacious rooms and high ceilings, the premises
where ideal. It was purchased at a reasonable cost.
studio was constructed on the ground floor with the old school
hall partitioned up to become the playing area and control room.
There was also space to build a lounge, large kitchen,
office,showers and six bedrooms.
Dave Grinstead was friends with producer and engineer Roy Thomas Baker who had been talking about the new console being built at Trident Studios, London by in house engineers Malcom Toft and Barry Sheffield .They approached Malcom Toft from Trident to see if he would build a similar console for them. Toft had already been approached by musician and producer John Congos with a similar request, so with two potential orders, Trident Audio Developments was set up as a console manufacturing firm.
The desk delivered to Chipping Norton was the second Trident B series to be produced, an 18 into 8 feeding an MCI 16 track tape machine .
The first session was in 1972 for Dutch band 'The Livin Blues' who recorded their album 'Rocking the Tweed Mill' . The Vernon brothers and Dave Grinstead were also joined that same year by engineer Barry Hammond to complete the staffing line up.
-- saw the upgrade to 24 track with an MCI JH-100
tape machine and the introduction of a Trident 'A' range
desk (which cost £35,000 at the time). It also saw the
studio having a massive no.1 hit with the Bay City Rollers song,
'Bye Bye Baby.' Maybe not quite what
the blues purist Vernon brothers had anticipated when starting
the studio but great for business. Not sure what the locals
would have made of the hoards of screaming girls gathered outside
when word got out.
In 1980 the Trident A was put up for sale and replaced by a Trident TSM 32:24. The Trident A eventually ended up at Waterfront Studios in New Jersey.
the first half of the 80s the studio entered what could be called
its New Romantic phase, recording albums and singles for Duran
Duran, Talk Talk , Dexy's Midnight Runners and had another
number one hit with Kajagoogoo and 'Too Shy'. As the studios
grew, a series of cottages next door were added as accommodation.
Between November 1985 and March 1986 the studio closed
for a complete refurbishment which saw the enlargement of the
control room and a live room added.
In 1993 they installed a Trident 90 series.
times change and the nineties was a tough era for all major
studios, as recording budgets tightened and home programming
became fashionable for many pop acts.
On October 31 1999, Tony Iommi completed the last session before its closure and the sad end of a great and very successful studio. Planning consent was given for it to be converted into homes but now the major part of the building is a dental practice.
Recordings Made at Chipping Norton
thanks to Dave Nobbs at the Chipping Norton Museum
for his help with this page. http://www.chippingnorton.net/Visitors/museum.htm
Phil Burns 2011.