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John and Yoko - Imagine video

 

 

The last Beatles photo session took place at Tittenhurst Park on 22 August 1969, and the photos were used for the front and back covers of their Hey Jude album (a collection of single sides) early in 1970.

 

 

Cadac desk

 

 

 

Startling Studios

 

Startling Studios - MCI desk

 

 

 

 

Startling Studios

 

RECORDED AT ASCOT & STARTLING

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascot Studios - Startling Studios  

Tittenhurst Park  Ascot  Berkshire.

philsbook.com   

 John Lennon house- Tittenhurst Park 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Situated a couple of miles from Ascot in Berkshire, Tittenhurst Park consists of a Georgian mansion set in 72 acres of parkland. The gardens themselves date back to 1763 and had been open to the public for many years until the late 60s. The park contained the largest private tree collection in England at the time, including many rare examples. The original building in the park was destroyed by fire in the early part of the 19th century and the present building erected in 1820.

In May 1969 John Lennon bought the estate for £145,000.

He and Yoko Ono moved in the following  August  and lived and worked there for just over two years. They set about renovating the interior of the house and parts of the gardens to their own style.

The original layout of the house consisted of a number of small rooms so walls were taken out  and much of the ground floor  was converted to a single large room and decorated in white. This is the room  featured in the 'Imagine' video.

Outside, the original cricket pitch was excavated and a man-made guitar shaped lake built - without planning permission. The old cricket pavilion was kept on an island in the middle of the lake. The new lake was then stocked with 2000 golden carp.

 

Tittenhurst Park - Ascot Studios

Throughout 1970 two of the smaller rooms at the back of the house were converted into a  recording studio by studio designer Eddie Veale. Dubbed Ascot Sound Studios, Lennon and Ono recorded their next series of albums here including the 'Imagine' album. 

The desk was a custom build 20:8 put together by Dave Dearden (who went on to form 'Audient') using Cadac modules. 

The tape machine was a 3M-56  1" 8 track. Mastering was on to a Studer B62 stereo with 706 varispeed unit,

Outboard included two  EMT 140S stereo  plates.

Phil Spector at Ascot studios


Microphones included Neumann U87s, U47 fets, and KM84is.

The first works to be recorded in the new studios were the twin Plastic Ono Band albums released simultaneously in December 1970.

The following year was spent recording Lennon's 'Imagine', with Phil Spector as co-producer and Yoko Ono's album 'Fly', the two projects running in tandem. The film 'Gimme Some Truth' documents the recording of this album, and it features several scenes in the studio.

In August 1971, after making a number of trips to America throughout 1970/71 the couple finally decided  to stay long-term in New York largely  to escape the mayhem of the Beatles era and for John to focus on his family and private life. There may also have been tax reasons behind the decision. The house lay empty for a period of time and was then sold to his former band mate Ringo Starr, who purchased the property in September 1973.

 

Ringo renamed the studios

"Startling Studios"

Ringo introduced some Interesting features to the place during his initial time there, including adding a seventy foot tall tyrannosaurus rex built out of fibre glass in the front garden together with a plastic rhino -  a gift from Keith Moon.

Mike O'Donnell, who had previously been at Apple Studios  was brought in as studio manager and engineer.

Startling studios

'Barbara, my wife worked for the Beatles from 1964 and when they split she went to work for Ringo. When he acquired Tittenhurst  Barb and I moved there and lived in one of the cottages. I was already at Apple Studios from 1971 and when Ringo decided to remodel the studio at Tittenhurst he asked me to manage it..

 

Pretty much all the gear was left behind including John’s desk, screens, mics the lot  ...  

 

Apple Studios

Mike O'Donnell and George Peckham

I remember they had misspelt the word echo as “ehco” it would have cost so  much to buy all new strips they decided to leave it (the desk) as it was. Although we used it for a few years it was a bit dated, no automation etc. and when Ringo moved abroad it was decided to turn Startling into a “state of the art”  residential studio so it had to go.

Ringo bought Tittenhurst in 1973, and it was used more or less as his private studio up until 1975 when he moved out of the country for a while. It was then run as a residential studio until he came back in 1980.

Sadly that was the end of it as a business, he moved back into the house with his wife Barbara and it reverted to being a private studio until he sold the house in 1985. I then bought the MCI console and all the gear and set my own studio up within Shepperton Film Studios'.                                                     Mike O'Donnell - 2012

Ringo moved into Tittenhurst in 1974 with plans to turn the studio into a 16 track for use by him and his musician friends.  The original gear had been left by John and  was stored until Eddie Veale had rebuilt the studio.  At that time John’s desk was converted to a 16 track and a Studer 16 track machine added. The old 3M 8-track was also still there.

By the end of 1975, Ringo had officially moved to Monte Carlo for tax purposes. It was decided that the studio would be upgraded  for full commercial use and the house turned into a residential studio. An MCI desk was bought and the Studer converted for 24 track  with the extra 8 track electronics located under the transport deck and  Dolbys on the top of the machine.

Mike O'Donnell was then joined by David Tickle who came on board as house engineer. He had previously been working at Zodiac and Indigo Studios.

" Those rooms had beautiful oak panelled walls and banisters, but it had all been painted white. Ringo wanted all the paint taken off, so my first week was spent sanding down all of that"                                                                                         David Tickle

 

The very nature of the property could also offer numerous special features for their musician clients. As well as having the usual EMT plates, a semi-derelict folly in the garden called the 'Dutch House'  was set up for live echo. This became popular for drum sounds and also housed a church organ at some point.

Other various rooms in the house were also employed as recording spaces as the house itself was no longer a main residency. Accommodation for the musicians and supporting cast was in the house's seven double and two single rooms. The facilities also offered the heated swimming pool, a TV lounge, a panelled games room and two berth Sauna.

The studio ran as a successful commercial facility until 1980.  After John Lennon's murder, Ringo no longer felt safe in the US and returned home to England to live at Tittenhurst. The studio was duly closed to the public and once again reverted to his own private facility.

  Dave Tickle - 1978 with the MCI desk

In early 1982, Ringo started work on 'Old Wave' at Startling, his ninth solo album being produced by Joe Walsh. To celebrate the end of the sessions, John Entwistle, Eric Clapton, and Ray Cooper joined Ringo and Joe for a jam session at the studios. During that session the mostly instrumental “Everybody’s In A Hurry But Me” was born.  These were among the last sessions to be recorded at the studio.

By the mid 80s Ringo was spending very little time at Tittenhurst and the buildings and grounds started to fall into disrepair. The local authority actually took Ringo to court to gain access to the property to check on its condition.

In 1988, the property was sold for £5 million to HRH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi. The Sheikh had the entire property renovated, and every room in the house including the recording studio was gutted and rebuilt.

The Lennon desk was sold at auction by Sotheby's of London in December 1983 and was bought by Radio City in Liverpool for their 'Beatle City' museum.

 

RECORDED AT ASCOT & STARTLING

AVIATOR "AVIATOR"

AXIS POINT "BOAST OF THE TOWN"

BARRACUDAS "MEAN TIME"

BRAND X "PRODUCT"

BRAND X "IS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT?"

BRAND X "DO THEY HURT?"

BREAKFAST BAND "DOLPHIN RIDE"

DAVID HENTSCHEL "STARTLING MUSIC"

DEF LEPPARD "ON THROUGH THE NIGHT"

GOWAN "STRANGE ANIMAL"

GRAHAM BONNET "NO BAD HABITS"

HUDSON-FORD "WORLD'S COLLIDE"

JOHN LENNON "IMAGINE"

JOHNNY WARMAN "HOUR GLASS"

JUDAS PRIEST "BRITISH STEEL"

JUDAS PRIEST "POINT OF ENTRY"

JUDAS PRIEST "UNLEASHED IN THE EAST"

KAI OLSSON "ONCE IN A WHILE"

MAGGIE BELL "SUICIDE SAL"

MARMALADE "HEAVENS ABOVE"

MICHAEL CHAPMAN "LIFE ON THE CEILING"

MIDNIGHT FLYER "MIDNIGHT FLYER"

PAUL BRADY "HARD STATION"

RAB NOAKES "RESTLESS"

RANDOM HOLD "THE VIEW FROM HERE"

RED RIDER "NERUDA"

RED RIDER "BREAKING CURFEW"

RINGO STARR "OLD WAVE"

ROGER CHAPMAN "CHAPPO"

SHAM 69 "THAT'S LIFE"

SNOWY WHITE "WHITE FLAMES"

SPLIT ENZ "I SEE RED" SINGLE

STORMER "STORMER"

STRAWBS "HEARTBREAK HILL"

TOURISTS "LUMINOUS BASEMENT"

WHITESNAKE "COME AND GET IT"

YOKO ONO "FLY"

 

Many thanks to Mike O'Donnell for his help.

Mike's site can be found here       http://www.modmusic.co.uk/pages/biog.html