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Recorded at Wessex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wessex Sound Studios

106 Highbury New Park - London 

philsbook.com

Wessex studios

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Brief History

Wessex Studios was originally situated in Old Compton Street in London’s Soho. It was founded by the Thompson family, sons Robin and Mike being the original engineering team. Wessex moved to it’s “Classic” location (behind St Augustine Church on Highbury New Park in North London) in 1966. The building, a church hall, was previously used for Boy Scout and Guide meetings and sometimes served as an extension for the school opposite.

It’s original incarnation was of one large recording room with a fairly live acoustic, but had some problems with isolation from the outside world and couldn’t really work full time. It was run at this time by the Thompson’s in association with Les Reed (British songwriter who wrote “Delilah” amongst others) and had a reputation for big orchestral sessions and recorded the cream of British variety; Des O’Connor, Tom Jones, Morecambe and Wise, Clodagh Rogers, Tommy Steele and Frankie Vaughan were all regular visitors. The principal equipment was a Neve desk with Studer tape machines.

 

The Wessex  Neve Consoles.

The first Neve mixing console installed in Wessex was one of the very early transistorised mixers produced by Rupert Neve in the mid 1960s. By 1965 Rupert Neve and his first employee, Colin Morton, had moved from Harlow in Essex to Cambridge. Rupert’s home 'Priesthaus',  an old vicarage in Little Shelford,  was where they manufactured the first transistorised mixing console for Philips.

The Wessex order for an 18 sub fitted 12 channel mixer followed in 1965/6 it required several new modules to be designed:-
1053 – Channel Amplifier
2251 – Limiter
1453 – Oscillator
1253 – Line amplifier.
The circuits for all of these were hand drawn by Rupert Neve. The mixer had 4 group outputs to feed a 4 track recorder as well as stereo and mono machines. The linear motion  faders were all made by EMT.

 

 

Wessex circa 1966 one of the first few Consoles manufactured by Rupert Neve and Co.

O/10,003 1453 Oscillator  before 20/06/1969
H/10,003 1053 Channel Amplifier prior to 11/05/1966
N/10,003 1253 Line Amplifier prior to 3/12/68
T/10,003 1653 Talkback Amplifier no dates
L/10,001 2251 Limiter   prior to 16/02/1969

Neve A88

In late 1969 a second order came from Wessex for another custom 28 channel, 24 group mixing console, this was A88. This again required new modules to be designed the most famous of these, the 1073, became perhaps the worlds most renowned Neve microphone pre-amplifier and equaliser unit. Over 40 years later this unit is still being manufactured.

Wessex engineers insisted on using bar-graph meters, these alone required the use of a separate 20amp power supply. Two more 20amp power supplier were needed to power the all class A electronics, the three large Coutant fully regulated power supplies being housed under the control room floor. Extensive Dolby remote switching formed an integral part of the multitrack monitoring system

A further feature found only on this mixer, were two ashtrays embedded in the front buffer featuring the flying “N” Neve symbol in their front grills. These were hand filed in stainless steel by Tom Taylforth!

Neve A88 console

 

Neve console desk A88

Many thanks to John Turner for these pictures and information

 

 

WESSEX EXTEND  - From Studio Sound, November 1970

'Three multitrack Ampex recorders have been delivered to Wessex Sound for their newly extended studios in Highbury, North London. Two MM-1000 16 track and an AGB-440B eight track are being employed alongside the company's existing eight track AG-440, in conjunction with a 28 channel Neve desk. The latter has 24 output groups to meet any future demand for 24 track recording, for which the MM-1000 may be adapted. Quadraphonic monitoring facilities, 20 Dolbys and four reverberation plates are accommodated, studio 'A' having air conditioning and room for 70 performers'.           

                  

A  video of Chelsea Football Club recording their 1972 hit “Blue Is the Colour” with producer Larry Page can be viewed at  Here

Amusing to see which players are singing into the U67 pointing away from them!

Chelsea football team -blue is the colour

 

Wessex quickly became popular with rock groups of the time, the biggest being King Crimson who recorded their first three albums there, the Moody Blues were regular visitors too. Queen started a long association with Wessex by recording part of their 1974 album “Sheer Heart Attack” at the studio.

1975  - Cadac    

In 1975 Chrysalis records purchased Wessex and made it a sister studio to AIR studios in Oxford Circus, Air Staffers Bill Price, Gary Edwards and John Walls all transferring to Wessex. A major rebuild occurred at this time, the roof was soundproofed, the control room was enlarged and fitted with a new desk and a remix room was built.

Both studios were identically equipped with Cadac mixing desks and 3M multitracks. Monitoring was by Tannoy speakers with HH, Studer and Turner amplifiers. Major albums recorded in this period were “London Calling” by the Clash and “Never Mind The Bollocks” by the Sex Pistols. Queen were also much in evidence, recording “A Day at The Races” and “News of the World”, the latter featuring the sound of a hastily gathered crowd stamping on the Wessex drum risers to provide the drum track for “We Will Rock You”.

Queen at Wessex StudiosThe Queen Video for 'Somebody to Love' filmed at Wessex in October 1976 in between sessions for the  'A Day at the Races' album.

 

 

In October 1976 the Sex Pistols entered Wessex to record demos and then with producer Chris Thomas to record the single and album version of 'Anarchy in the UK'. Sex Pistols at Wessex Studios

 

         1977 at Wessex

 

 

 

Wessex - SSL

 

By 1984 studio 1’s Cadac desk had been replaced by an SSL, the multitracks were Studer A800s and a Mitsubishi X-850 32 track digital recorder. Studio 2 retained it’s Cadac and now had Otari MTR-90 multitracks. Monitors in both rooms were UREI 815s. Studio 1’s acoustics were augmented by the addition of tuned resonators attached to the walls (these can be seen clearly on the cover of the album “in the Studio” by the Specials). 

 

By 1987 Studio 2’s Cadac was also replaced by an SSL. Although generally considered sonically excellent the Cadac desks had a steep learning curve and as the eighties saw the transition from studios having staff engineers to predominately a freelance culture the SSL was seen as more “user friendly”. To give another option for recording in studio 1 a Focusrite “sidecar” was added with 8 channels of mic pre/eqs.

        

Talk Talk

In 1987 Wessex saw the recording of another seminal album in the shape of Talk Talk’s “Spirit of Eden” produced by Wessex old boy Tim Friese-Greene. A detailed recounting of these sessions can be found in Phill Brown’s marvelous book “Are We Still Rolling?” (ISBN 978-0-9779903-1-3), which also details the recording of Talk Talk’s next album “Laughing Stock” also at Wessex.

  

 

The Studio 1 recording area features in this 1988 video by Rick Astley, the control room window is screened off and has backlit dancers silhouetted against it. The striking pillar box red staircase and control room window frames can be clearly seen. The staircase led up to the lounge above studio 1’s control room.

Video on Youtube

 

           

Matrix-Wessex

In 1993 the studio was put up for sale by Chrysalis as they decided to invest more heavily in the newly built AIR Lyndhurst complex. The studio was eventually bought by Nigel Frieda and was rebranded as Matrix-Wessex to fit in with his chain of existing studios (Matrix Little Russell Street, Matrix Struddridge Street and Maison Rouge). The studio was given a few modifications, the reception area was moved from the South end of the building to between the control rooms of studios 1 and 2, a spiral staircase was added to link this area to the “hang out” lounge upstairs. The studio remained popular, one of the last major albums being part recorded there was “Parachutes” by Coldplay.

In 2001 Sony sampled the impulse response of the live room for use in their DRE S777 sampling reverb, the attached picture of this process shows one of the “We Will Rock You” drum risers standing on it’s side on the right. In the last year of the studio’s existence it was sub-hired to producer Mike Hedges who installed his ex-Abbey Road EMI desk into studio 1 to augment the SSL.

 

 

The End

 Finally in 2003 the studio was closed for good and sold to a developer who gutted it ( photo taken by ex Wessex engineer “KK”)  and rebuilt it as a block of 8 flats called (depressingly!) ...

'The Recording Studios'.

 

 

 

Betty Edwards

No history of Wessex studios would be complete without a mention of Betty Edwards. She worked at the studio from 1968 until 1993 after answering an advert for a cleaner/tea lady. Her own children had attended Scouts and Guides functions in the building before it became Wessex. Betty was a fund of stories about the many bands that came through the doors at Wessex, she was particularly impressed by meeting Frankie Vaughan and spoke highly of Freddie Mercury. When the Sex Pistols were in recording Betty entered into the spirit of the thing by dressing up in black bin liners and safety pins.

She always lived just a stones throw away from the studio and remained interested in news from the place even after her leaving, keeping in touch with many ex staff members.  Betty sadly died in 2007.  

 

 

 

 

 

Article © Tony Harris  2011.        Contact: tony@philsbook.com

 

 

 

Recorded at Wessex:

A1 :  MAKE IT GOOD

ADVENTURES : THE SEA OF LOVE

ALAN TEW ORCHESTRA  : LET’S FLY

ALMAMEGRETTA  : LINGO

ANDROMEDA STRAIN  : IDOL EP

ANDY BOWN  :  COME BACK ROMANCE

BARRY ADAMSON : OEDIPUS SCHMOEDIPUS

BETH ORTON : TRAILER PARK

BLACKWATER JUNCTION :  LOSING YOU SINGLE

BLESSED VIRGINS  : BLESSED VIRGINS’

BOB JOHNSON AND PETER KNIGHT  : THE KING OF ELFLAND’S DAUGHTER

BOOMTOWN RATS  : A TONIC FOR THE TROOPS

BRETT STEVENS : BEAUTIFUL WORLD

BRIAN KENNEDY :  THE GREAT WAR OF WORDS

BRONSKI BEAT :  THE AGE OF CONSENT

BRYAN CHALKER :  BRYAN CHALKER’S NEW FRONTIER

BRYAN CHALKER :  BRYAN CHALKER

CATHERINE WHEEL :  FERMENT

CENTIPEDE : SEPTOBER ENERGY

CHORDS :  TURN AWAY AGAIN

CITY BOY :  BOOK EARLY

CLASH : LONDON CALLING

CLASH : SANDINISTA

CLODAGH RODGERS : CLODAGH RODGERS

CLOVER  : UNAVAILABLE

COCTEAU TWINS : TWINLIGHTS SINGLE

COLDPLAY  : PARACHUTES"

COLLAPSED LUNG  : COOLER

CONNIE FRANCIS : CONNIE FRANCIS SINGS THE SONGS OF LES REED

COOPER TEMPLE CLAUSE : KICK UP THE FIRE, AND LET THE FLAMES BREAK LOOSE

COUSTEAU : SIRENA

CRESSIDA  : CRESSIDA

DAMNED  : MACHINE GUN ETIQUETTE

DANTA  : DANTA

DAUGHTERS OF THE CROSS : GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN

DAVE BALL  : IN STRICT TEMPO

DAVID KNOPFLER  : CUT THE WIRE

DIDO : LIFE FOR RENT

DIRTY LOOKS  : DIRTY LOOKS

DOCTOR FEELGOOD : PRIVATE PRACTICE

DODGY : FREE PEACE SWEET

DOLL BY DOLL : REMEMBER

ELLEN FOLEY  : THE SPIRIT OF ST LOUIS

ELVIS COSTELLO : B-SIDES

EMF  : STIGMA

ENYA  : WATERMARK

EQUATORS : HOT

FANTASTICS : THE FANTASTIC

FARMER’S BOYS : IN THE COUNTRY SINGLE

FIRST GEAR ft LARNELL HARRIS : FIRST GEAR

FISCHER Z : WORD SALAD One Song

FREDDIE DAVIES : MR PARROT FACE

FUN BOY THREE : WAITING

FURNITURE : FOOD, SEX AND PARANOIA

GANG GREEN : CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT

GENERATION X : VALLEY OF THE DOLLS

GENTLE GIANT : CIVILIAN

GEORGE HATCHER BAND : DRY RUN

GEORGE HATCHER BAND : TALKIN’ TURKEY

GERRY MONROE : BRING BACK THE GOOD TIMES

GERRY MUNROE : GERRY MUNROE

GERRY MUNROE : SALLY-PRIDE OF OUR VALLEY

GRAHAM KENDRICK : FOOTSTEPS ON THE SEA

HANOI ROCKS : SELF DESTRUCTION BLUES

HAWKLORDS : HAWKLORDS

HELEN MCARTHUR : HELEN MCARTHUR SINGS

HERBALISER BAND  : THE SESSION 1 & 2

HORSE  : THE SAME SKY

IAN HUNTER : SHORT BACK AND SIDES

IDLEWILD : HOPE IS IMPORTANT

IZZY STRADLIN  : 117 DEGREES

JACK THE LAD  : JACKPOT

JAMESTOWN SHEIKS : LENNON AND MCCARTNEY REGGAE STYLE

JASON REBELLO  : A CLEARER VIEW

JESUS AND MARY CHAIN : DARKLANDS

JIM CAPALDI : FIERCE HEART

JIM CAPALDI : SOME COME RUNNING

JOE BREEN  : MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

JOHN COUGAR : A BIOGRAPHY

JOHN McLAUGHLIN THE PROMISE

JOOLZ LOVE IS (SWEET ROMANCE)

JUDAS PRIEST : SIN AFTER SIN

KEITH MANSFIELD ORCHESTRA : FACE ON THE WIND

KIM WILDE : CATCH AS CATCH CAN

KINESIS : HANDSHAKES FOR BULLETS

KING : BITTER SWEET

KING CRIMSON : COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING

KING CRIMSON : IN THE WAKE OF POSEIDON

KING CRIMSON : LIZARD

KISS : THAT KISS AND TELL

KULA SHAKER : K

KURSAAL FLYERS : THE GOLDEN MILE

LENE LOVICH : NO MANS LAND

LENE LOVICH : STATELESS

LENE MARLIN : ANOTHER DAY

LES REED AND HIS ORCHESTRA : THE HIT MAKING WORLD OF LES REED

LIGHTNING RAIDERS : PSYCHEDELIC MUSIK SINGLE

LURKERS : FULHAM FALLOUT

LUSH : SWEETNESS AND LIGHT SINGLE

MANDALABAND : MANDALABAND

MATCHBOX : MATCHBOX

MELANIE : CANDLES IN THE RAIN

MELANIE : BACK IN TOWN

MICHAEL SCHENKER BAND : MICHAEL SCHENKER BAND

MIKE BATT : SCHIZOPHONIA

MIKE BATT : TAROT SUITE

MIKEY DREAD : WORLD WAR III

MOODY BLUES : A QUESTION OF BALANCE

MOODY BLUES : TO OUR CHILDREN’S CHILDREN’S CHILDREN

MOTORHEAD : LOUIE, LOUIE SINGLE

MOTORS : THE MOTORS

MOTT  : SHOUTING AND POINTING

NARNIA : ASLAN IS NOT A TAME LION’

NATACHA ATLAS : GEDIDA

NEW MODEL ARMY : GHOST OF CAIN

NEW MODEL ARMY : NO REST FOR THE WICKED

NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS : MURDER BALLADS

NIK KERSHAW  15 MINUTES

NINE BELOW ZERO : THIRD DEGREE

NYMPHS : THE NYMPHS

O RING : FIELDS AND WAVES

PALAIS SCHAUMBURG : PARLEZ-VOUS SCHAUMBURG?

PAT TRAVERS : MAKIN MAGIC

PEARL HARBOUR : DON'T FOLLOW ME I'M LOST TOO

PERE UBU : WORLDS IN COLLISION

PETE TOWNSHEND : ALL THE BEST COWBOYS HAVE CHINESE EYES

PETE TOWNSHEND : EMPTY GLASS

PETER STRAKER : CHANGELING

PHILIP GOODHAND-TAIT : PHILIP GOODHAND-TAIT

POPES : HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD

PRETENDERS : PRETENDERS 2

PRETENDERS : PRETENDERS

PROFESSIONALS : THE PROFESSIONALS

PUBLIC IMAGE : PUBLIC IMAGE

PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY : ENGINE OF EXCESS SINGLE

QUEEN : NEWS OF THE WORLD

QUEEN : A DAY AT THE RACES

QUEEN : SHEER HEART ATTACK

RACING CARS : DOWNTOWN TONIGHT

RECORDS : THE RECORDS

REGULAR FRIES : FREE THE REGULAR FRIES E.P.

RICH KIDS : GHOSTS OF PRINCES IN TOWERS

RICKY BEAUMONT :  HOW SMALL WE ARE, HOW LITTLE WE KNOW

RIVER CITY PEOPLE : THIS IS THE WORLD ONE SONG

RORY GALLAGHER : AGAINST THE GRAIN

RPLA : FULL METAL HIJACK

RUMOUR : FROGS, SPROUTS, CLOGS AND KRAUTS

RUMOUR : MAX

SAINTS : PREHISTORIC SOUNDS

SAINTS : ETERNALLY YOURS

SAMURAI : SAMURAI

SANDY NELSON : LET THE GOOD TIMES ROCK

SANNE SALOMONSEN : INGEN ENGEL

SCRITTI POLITTI : CUPID AND PSYCHE 85

SEX PISTOLS : NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS’

SHANE MACGOWAN AND THE POPES : THE CROCK OF GOLD

SHIRTS : THE SHIRTS

SHOWADDYWADDY : RED STAR

SINCEROS : THE SOUND OF SUNBATHING

SINEWAVE : STARS AND GUITARS

SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES : THE RAPTURE

SLINGBACKS : ALL POP, NO STAR

SOFT CELL : THIS LAST NIGHT IN SODOM

SOFT MACHINE : CENTIPEDE" 16-19 JUNE 1971

SOUTH : FROM HERE ON IN

SPECIAL AKA : IN THE STUDIO WITH SLEEVE PHOTO

SPECIALS : MORE SPECIALS

STAN CAMPBELL : STAN CAMPBELL

STEELEYE SPAN : ALL AROUND MY HAT

STEELEYE SPAN : LOVE AT LAST

STEVE HACKETT : DEFECTOR

SWANS WAY : THE FUGITIVE KIND

TALK TALK : SPIRIT OF EDEN

TALK TALK : LAUGHING STOCK

TALK TALK : THE COLOUR OF SPRING

TANTRA : TANTRA II

TEA SET : KEEP ON RUNNNG SINGLE

THEATRE OF HATE : TEN YEARS AFTER

THREE DEGREES : NEW DIMENSIONS

TINA TURNER :PRIVATE DANCER

TINA TURNER : FOREIGN AFFAIR

TOM ROBINSON BAND : POWER IN THE DARKNESS

TOPPER HEADON : LEAVE IT TO LUCK SINGLE

TREVOR RABIN : TREVOR RABIN

TUCKY BUZZARD : ALLRIGHT ON THE NIGHT

TWELFTH NIGHT  : XII

TYCOON : TYCOON

UFO   : FORCE IT

UFO   : THE WILD, THE WILLING AND THE INNOCENT

WALL STREET CRASH : EUROPEAN AFFAIR

WATERBOYS : DREAM HARDER

WEB : I SPIDER

WEDDING PRESENT : PEEL SESSIONS

WILDHEARTS : EARTH VERSUS

WOMBLES  : KEEP ON WOMBLING

WOMBLES : REMEMBER YOU'RE A WOMBLE

WOMBLES : WOMBLING SONGS

WOMBLES : SUPER WOMBLING

XENTRIX : GHOSTBUSTERS SINGLE

XTC : THIS IS POP

ZONES : UNDER INFLUENCE

ZUBOP : HIPTODISIAC

FILM SOUNDTRACKS : THE COURIER

 

DISCOGRAPHY BY TONY HARRIS, 2011