Recording, Mixing, Engineering, and More
Trident Studios was set up in 1967 by Norman Sheffield. Norman had started out as the drummer in the band The Hunters but after a number of years of constantly being on the verge of success but never quite getting there, he had opened up a successful record shop and small demo studios in London's West End. This was at the height of the sixties pop and rock era and if London was the centre of the new record industry then the West End was the centre of the music scene in London.
Norman was ambitious. In 1966 he started on his mission to set up a professional recording studio, the best studio in the UK, the best in the world. By the mid 1970s he may well have succeeded at that.
Having recorded at Abbey Road with The Hunters he found the sterile decor and men in white coats atmosphere of a studio built for classical music imposing and certainly not welcoming, relaxing or creative for young pop musicians. He wanted to create a studio that was the antithesis of Abbey Road; a studio not only with the best equipment but one that would be centered to the new youth culture that was now dominating record sales and the charts.
'We were in the right place in Soho, and we had the talent to bring out an artist's creativity.'
After scouting around various properties in the West End he came across an ex-printing works in St Anne’s Court, a small cut through which connects Wardour Street and Dean Street. The unimposing and narrow on-street frontage of 17 St Anne’s Court certainly gave little away as to the size of building behind or the events that would be taking place there over the next decade. Trident took over the first four floors of the six floor building and rented out the two top ones.
The conversion of the building from a dirty, industrial print works to a modern and plush studio complex was a “slow and painful process”.
A major part of the flooring from the ground floor level was removed creating a double height room from the basement which became the main recording room. This measured 50' x 20' x 22' high. The Control room was on the ground floor looked down onto the studio, similar to Abbey Road Studio Two and IBC Studios.
Whilst under construction the project had been known as Sheffield Studios but one day, Norman heard the roar of a plane overhead and looking up recognised it as a HawkerSiddeley HS121 - a plane more popularly known as the "Trident". And that was the inspiration for the name. So it became Trident Studios.
The first part of the building to be completed was a preview theater for film and advertising, aimed at the many film production companies in the West End.
This opened in November 1967.
The studio in the record shop had an Ampex stereo tape machine bought from IBC studios and they had been impressed with it. For the new studio they ordered an Ampex stereo 2 track, a 4-track and an as yet unseen 8 track machine.
It would be the first of its kind in Europe!
By February 1968 the rest of the building was complete The control room housed a Sound Techniques board and Ampex tape machines.
"Again we wanted the best. I had heard people praising a company called Sound Techniques, who had a studio in Old Church Street, Chelsea. They built their own desks and had recorded people like Pink Floyd, Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull. We ordered one of their A-Range desks."
In March 1968 Manfred Mann recorded the first major hit song that the studio would have with the single 'My Name's Jack'. This was the start of a period of 10 years during which Trident would establish itself as one of the top studios in the world. .
Apple Records was one of the first companies to support Trident, sending in a number of artists including Mary Hopkin, who came into the studios to record Those Were the Days in the summer of 1968 with Paul McCartney producing. They would also use the studio to record albums by James Taylor, Badfinger, Billy Preston and Ronnie Specter.
But the first Apple single would be the event that would really put Trident on the map and
You cant possibley put out a single that is that long.
At the end of July 1968, Nornal Sheffield received a call from Peter Asher, the head of A&R at Apple.
"Norman, all hell's broken loose over at Abbey Road . So the boys are going to come over to you for a few days"
The Beatles were coming into Trident to record the new Paul McCartney track, Hey Jude and would be bringing with them a thirty six piece orchestra.
"I was terrified because it was so darn long. It was seven- minutes -something seconds. No -one had ever made a single that long before, but of course, it was one of the biggest sellers of all time."
It spent two weeks at number one before being deposed by another Apple single, Mary Hopkin’s ‘Those Were The Days’,
So, in the first 9 months of operation Trident had 4 top ten hit singles.
In January 1971 Elton John recorded his second album at Trident, which included his first big hit single, Your Song. He would eventually record ... albums there.
Engineer Robin Cable.
In 1970 they installed a disc cutting suite having bought out the company London Discutting Services that had been based at Rymuse Studios in Bond Street.
In 1971, the in-house engineers built a small 6:2 desk for the tape copy room which would be the start of much bigger enterprises.
One of the first engineers to join Trident was Malcolm Toft who had started his career at CBS Studios in London. After a spell working as an engineer, which included working on David Bowie's Space Oddity, he became the studio manager responsible for the upgrade of the equipment at a time when studios were changing rapidly.
Space was a problem in the control room at Trident, with the console location being next to a lift housing. They needed a 16 track desk that would fit in a space of 1.5m but also be able to be upgraded to accommodate 24-track in the near future. After Lengthy discussions with various manufacturers including Neve, Malcolm Toft and engineer Barry Porter decided to build the console themselves. A room was set aside on the top floor of the studios and after a year of experimentation, design and building, the first desk was finished and installed.
The Trident A Range
"That sound was created through painstaking listening tests by the engineers at Trident; people like Ken Scott, Roy Thomas Baker, Barry Sheffield and myself would get together and literally change components until we got sounds we were happy with. It was something you couldn't possibly quantify technically and quite honestly if we'd been able to measure things accurately we probably would never have got these kind of results". - Malcolm Toft.
The Trident B Range
Before the installation of the first A Range, word had spread and they were asked to build a scaled down version for musician and producer John Congas in early 1972. This would become the Trident B range. When a second order came in from Chipping Norton Studios, Trident Audio Developments or TRIAD was officially formed as a manufacturing company.
The A-range and B-range use the same mic preamp, eq, buffer amps, sum-amps and line amps.circuits. The B range has fewer steps in the mic gain control and fewer selectable frequencies in the eq section.
They are very similar in the electronic structure, same mic preamp, equalizer, buffer and line amps.
Queen and Trident
In 1972 Trident signed Queen to a management and production contract and they started recording at Trident in down-time - when paying artists weren't recording- with Trident house engineer and then producer Roy Thomas Baker. The band had already recorded 5 tracks at the newly opened Music Centre (De Lane Lea) Studio which would provide the foundations for the first album.
The collaboration between the company and band would peak in success after four albums with Bohemian Rhapsody hitting the top of the charts in 1975. The success was in shape contrast to the personal relationship between the band, Trident and particulaly Norman Sheffield and would result in the Freddie Mercury writting Death on Two Legs about him. From the band's point of view, they were not seeing the financial rewards that their success and status would surgest they should have had. From the company's point of view they had surported the band financially for x number of years and that debt had to be repaid. By the standards and contracts of the day, Trident were probably only doing what was seen as normal practice. But it was