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Majestic Recording Studios

146 Clapham High Street London


Built in 1914 as the 'Majestic Theatre', and later converted to The Gaumont Cinema, by the late sixties the Majestic building had suffered a similar fate as many other grand entertainment establishments of the era - it had been converted into a bingo hall. In the early 1970s it took on a new identity when it also became the home of Majestic Recording Studios - a business that shared the building with the bingo hall.


The story of this unlikely pairing starts in the mid sixties with musician, businessman and entrepreneur, Michael Collier. He was more famously known under his stage name of Mike Morton and was the leader of a series of bands bearing his name, including the Mike Morton Sound and the Mike Morton Congregation.

Mike Collier’s father owned 3 dry cleaning shops in Croydon and when he died his son took over the business, eventually selling up to pursue his interests in the entertainment industry. One of his first investments  was the purchase of a theatre in Chertsey which he set it up as a bingo hall and a casino. 


The Mike Morton Sound was originally a live house band for the Mecca organisation - big business in the 60s and 70s - but would go on to achieve a level of commercial  success releasing albums of cover versions in a similar vein to the Top of the Pops compilations, with Mike modelling himself on German band leader James Last.

In 1965 he bought the freehold on the  Majestic Theatre in which  had stood empty for the previous 8 years and set about converting it into a bingo hall.


Many of these cover version  records were produced under licensing deals; the artist or production  would finance and record the music then license out the recording to a record label. These records would often be sold for a budget price so had to be produced cheaply. Morton was aware that recording costs in the various West End studios were high which would eat into the tight margins. 

He decided to set up a small demo studio to produce his own recordings and whilst looking for suitable premises the idea was suggested to use the circle and upper gallery of the Majestic - at that time only the stalls and stage were being used for bingo. He approached Philip Newell, a young sound engineer who he was working with in the Orchid Ballroom in Purley, to oversee the project including the acoustic design and construction, and purchase of equipment.


In 1969 work started on the studio. The balcony and  upper gallery were sealed off from the ground floor bingo area by a large partition wall. The upper seats were removed and the slopping floor was levelled to create two recording areas. The control room was built in the upper gallery looking down on the studio area through a large glass panel. By the end of the year the studio was complete 

"… its control room, much larger and more absorbent than most control rooms of the day, was not well received. Recording staff also tended to be quite conservative. Philip’s attempt to build a control room that he thought was more accurate than many other control rooms did not see much use. The owner decided that the control room should be reduced in size, brightened up acoustically."

Recording Studio Design  Philip Newell 


There were some differences of opinion about Newells acoustic design and choice of equipment  so engineer David Hadfield from Maximum Sound studios was brought in as a consultant. He convinced Collier to abandon Philip Newell's ides and that he should basically start again with the studio. Eddie Veale was commissioned to sort out the acoustics; Hadfield contacted Clive Green who had just set up the Cadac company about the possibility of supplying a console. Clive Green was about to deliver a new console to Morgan Studios to replace their original Cadac, one of the very first desks built by Clive Green. 
So when the studio finally opened commercially it was equipped with the Cadac 16:8 (with 3 built in Pye compressors) and an 8-track  Ampex tape machine.

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Philip Newell was went on to become a  successful independent acoustics consultant, designing many  sound control rooms and performance spaces over the following years and writing ten books on the subject of recording systems, acoustics and electro-acoustics.  In 1973 he became the technical director of the Virgin Records recording studios division. 

He was able to buy back the desk that had originally been installed at Majestic and this was then set up in the newly built Manor Studios.


 The reworked Majestic opened again in January 71 with Roger Wilkinson moving from from Maximum Sound to become the chief engineer and David Hadfield remaining in close contact with the studio and particularly with Mike Morton.

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The layout off the new studio


Gonna Make You an Offer

Morton would record numerous compilation album at the studio over the following years but the first big chart success for Majestic came in February 1973 with the single. 'Gonna make you an offer' by Jimmy Helms which reached number 8 in the national charts. Over the next few years Helms recorded prolifically for the Cube label, largely due to the success of this song. Although a further solo hit eluded him he did find chart success in both the UK and US as part of the band Londonbeat in 1990s.


Trident B

In April 1973 Majestic went 16 track installing a Trident B desk.

 "Majestic studios in Clapham had a Trident B Range desk. It was one of the earliest B Ranges ( John Kongos had the first one in his studio in Mortlake, Saturn Sound in Worthing had the second one ( clad in blue formica..) My friend Dougal and I wired the console frame (for Majestic). When I went down there to do some sort of mod shortly after it was installed, the engineer was Roger Wilkinson - and he played me the 2-track of Jimmy Helms "I'm Gonna Make You an Offer You Can't Refuse" which had recently been recorded there, so that would make it 1973".    Gwyn Mathias.

The Morgan Cadac desk was put up for sale and bought by Tony McPhee of The Groundhogs for his home studio.


Here Comes the Warm Jets - September 1973

There are always certain recordings that put studios on the historical map and these are seldom 

Whilst we may like to think of Eno studying various equipment lists and checking out acoustic designs in choosing a recording venue for his first solo album there was one particular feature of Majestic that stood out and swung the deal... cost. Majestic was one of the cheapest 16 track studios in London whilst always offering some of the best studio kit available at the time. 

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Here Comes the Warm Jets was recorded over a period of 13 days.

'Up in Studio 2, surrounded by such diverse tacky objets d'art as a saw hung on the wall beside a speaker and a number of fake potted palm trees, Eno is leaping around like a dervish setting up the tracks for a song called either Blank Frank or Friend Of The Massive Massimo or Blank Frank, Friend Of The Massive Massimo, aided and abetted by Simon King, drummer of Hawkwind, Bill MacCormick, bass player of Matching Mole, and two engineers'

New Musical Express OCTOBER 13, 1973 - by Nick Kent.


Guitarist Spedding played on the album and would return to the studio in 1976 with the Sex Pistols to record their first demos. 

"The reason I did the Sex Pistols was that I think I was about the only musician that Malcolm McLaren knew. I knew him because he used make clothes for me. And a lot of people were putting the Sex Pistols down because as being not very talented, and not very good, and I've heard them and they were good. I thought, if I produced a demo for them then people would be able to hear them. So that's what I did. I think it got them the deal - it certainly got them the producer Chris Thomas because I sent him the demo."


1974 - Whilst  Brian Eno would give the studio  lasting artistic kudos,  maybe it's  biggest commercial success was with something that the critics may have seen as being the antithesis of 'Warm Jets'. Paper Lace  reached the number one spot in June 1974 with "Billy Don't be a Hero . It's follow-up The Night Chicago Died would chart at number 3 in the UK but reach number 1 in the Billboard Charts in America.

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In 1975 the band Jigsaw had a hit with 'Sky High' and also recorded 'Who do you think you are' at Majestic. The later would be re-vocalled and provide a hit for the band Candlewick Green.


In May 1976, Chris Spedding brought in the Sex Pistols to produce their first Demo.


On Jan 27th 1979 the studio was damaged by fire. The control room escaped largely untouched by the flames but the desk did have some smoke damage so was replaced although it had been decided to replace the desk before this. The studio was forced to close for 8 months for refurbishment.
On re-opening it was re-equipped with a Trident TSM and Lyrec 24 track.


At the beginning of the 80s Mike Morton's next business idea was to produce a music based television series for the UK market. In partnership with David Hadfield they formed the company Hadmor Productions Ltd, derived from their two names. 

They raised  £410,000, using it to buy professional standard broadcast equipment which was set up in Cinatras nightclub in Croyden. The idea was to produce a series of 'live' music programes each lasting half-an-hour featuring popular musicians of the 1950s and 1960s. They called the series "Unforgettable" and the concept was successfully sold to Channel 4 who 13 episodes

After a couple of Christmas and New Year specials with The Barron Knights the first series proper ran from 6th January 1981 to 24th February 1981 and broadcast by Thames. 
However, the show ran into trouble almost immediately as Hadmor allegedly breached the ACTT (Association of Cinematography, Television and Allied Technicians) union closed shop agreement.

Despite all the problems encountered they did produce what was a successful TV series.


By the mid 80s Majestic was mainly being used to record the artists for the TV series.

The End of Majestic Studios

In 1981 Shakatak used the studio for the album 'Drivin Hard' and the sleeve would feature a number of photographs taken in the studio.


Bingo use ceased in around 1983 and it was converted into Cinatra’s nightclub in 1985.

In 1985, Majestic Studios disappears off the radar maybe due to finanicial difficulties brought on by the TV production company.

 Cinatra’s nightclub is now Infernos.


So...What happened to the studio area

'Karaoke room for hire
Sounds like music to the ears? Well book yourself a booth and you can sing like you’re in the best shower, like no one is watching, like it’s the X Factor final.

What more can we say, Infernos is one of a kind, and needs to e experienced to be believed. Definitely an experience you won’t forget, unless you have a massive hangover.. :)'

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