Whatever happened to Decca Studios?

When The Beatles couldn’t agree to visit Everest for a photo shoot for their final album which they intended to name after the mountain and instead named it after the studio in which they had recorded much of their wonderful music, they bequeathed upon Abbey Road the greatest marketing gift of all time. Abbey Road Studios is still going strong and approaching its 80th bithday in rude health.

But there was another recording monster on the block in London in the 1960’s. Decca Studios at Broadhurst Gardens was the home of many great recordings and had the equipment and a team of engineers to rival The Beatles Studio. Take a look at this picture of Decca Studio 3 which was forwarded by a former Decca engineer “to prove Abbey Road No.1 (its rival for recording orchestra’s) was nothing special”

But whilst there is much information about Abbey Road, there is little on the web about Decca Studios, other than that it was the venue for The Beatles audition with Decca in 1962 – which they failed. Its Wikipedia entry doesn’t even list opening and closing dates for the studio (the building is now rehearsal space for ENO). I believe Decca owned the studios from 1920 until 1980 which means it predates Abbey Road by 11 years. Can that be right? Does anybody out there have more information, pictures, videos of the great Decca Studios?

I did find this picture of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli recording in Decca Studio 2 in 1938:

Roger Chaput, Naguine, Django, Eugène Vées, Stéphane Grappelli, Louis Vola

Please get in touch with your memories of Decca Studios. And see here for an obituary for former Decca staffer, Kevin Daly.

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22 thoughts on “Whatever happened to Decca Studios?

  1. Decca didn’t exist as a record company until 1929, and its early studios were on the Kings Road at the Chenil Galleries, then on Lower Thames Street in the City. The Broadhurst Gardens studios came into Decca’s ownership when it took over Crystalate in 1937. I’m not sure when Crystalate started using the building, which was known originally as the Falcon Works, but I doubt it was as early as 1920. I have a picture on a record sleeve of Ted Heath recording in number 1, which I’ll send shortly.

    • Which record sleeve? My Dad was in the Heath band and I’d love to see the picture in case he’s in it. Thanks.

  2. I worked at Decca Studios from 1967 to the early 80s as an editing engineer .After the move to the Decca Recording Centre after the studios closed I got involved in the early digital recordings and digital audio for video editing until they closed in 1997. I knew all of the backroom characters as well as the balance engineers both classical and pop and .As I worked on the classical side,I worked mainly with those artists and producers,but one would bump into all sorts of other people at the famous decca tea breaks. I also would visit the cutting engineers who were always happy to see anybody – this was the days of LPs and 45s. As far as the fate of the studios, they were bought by the English National Opera and
    used as an Amin, rehearsal space ,and set contruction site (I believe the nice wooden floor
    in No 3 studio has suffered!)and probably costume making.

    • Yes the label still exists…UMG is the market leader in today’s highly competitive classical music market. The Decca Label Group is comprised of two divisions, Universal Musical Classical and Decca Label Group, and is home to such diverse artists as Clay Aiken, Andrea Bocelli, Boyz II Men, Paula Cole, Renee Fleming, and many others.

  3. It seems Crystalate Records moved into Broadhurst Gardens in 1928, from their base in City Road. Imperial and Victory records were recorded there from that time, and when they took over the Vocalion company of Hayes in 1932, they also recorded that firm’s Broadcast labels. Prior to that, Broadcast records were recorded at their new studio in Holland Park.

    • It was in December 1931 that Vocalion/Broadcast moved to a studio in “a large corner house in Holland Park Avenue” (The Gramophone Dec 1931 p294). Their studio had been in a building in Duncan Avenue off Gray’s Inn Road (quite near St Alban Holborn) since the days of Aeolian-Vocalion. The Hayes record production facility was the Universal Music Company Ltd, established by Aeolian-Vocalion pre-WW1 and then acquired by the Vocalion Gramophone Company Ltd from 1 Jan 1925.

  4. I have published a book called, ‘Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek’ (the jazz and blues club next door which ran from 1961 to 1970.
    Dick Weindling

  5. A distant relative of mine used to be a sound engineer for Decca, when I was young in the early seventies.
    All I remember is he and his family used to live above the studios and new everyone from Hendrix to the Stones.Think he’s surname was Moorecroft?
    I don’t know for sure but relatives said it was Hampstead, but Tollington Park also comes to mind.
    We used to use the studios for family parties and wedding receptions. And on two occasions visiting them had Thin Lizzys music gear there and also band called Camel.
    Be great to throw a bit more light on this as it was just seemed like a large house with a reception and then a fire door which led to the sound studio. We used to come home with ‘first pressings’ of some of the bands albums.

    • I was an engineer at Decca, joining in Aug 1968 and leaving in 1975. There was a Dick Moorecroft, who was not a sound engineer but I seem to remember was the air conditioning engineer. Dick worked originally at Broadhurst Gardens and then when Decca opened studio 4 in Tollington Park he moved there and he and his wife looked after the place. Your memory of Thin Lizzy is correct as they recorded at Tollington Park and also your memory of Camel, I recorded “The Snow Goose” with them there

      John Burns

      • Hi John.

        I’m trying to contact John Dunkley, Malcolm (Brains) Hogg and John Fellows who were Decca sound engineers in the 70s. They recorded our Middlesex Hospital Christmas Concerts for a number of years and we have the vinyl. Any contacts would be appreciated. Dr Paul Thompson (Director 1975, Tummy).

  6. My father, who had a milk and grocery shop in Mill Lane, West Hampstead, in the late 50’s and 60’s, used to deliver the milk to the studio. One of the sound engineers, who I think worked at Decca, lived opposite us, and encouraged my father to invest in a hand built stereo ( old valve system- circa 1960 ); it had a Garrard turntable deck and Wharfedale speakers. The sound was wonderful, and really set me on a lifetime interest in music.

  7. I worked under Arthur Haddy he was my boss , i converted the valves to transistor my name is Hilary Reeve but like to be called Alan.

  8. The building at Broadhurst Gardens was originally the town hall for the borough of West Hampstead. At some time in the 1930’s it was taken over by the Crystalate Company who made records under the names of Rex, Imperial and Broadcast.

    The Decca company had studios in Chelsea, of not very good acoustic quality,
    When Decca bought Crystalate in 1937 they moved into Broadhurst Gardens and stayed there until the takeover by Polygram in 1980. I used to do some work at Decca in the 1960’s and knew quite a few of the people there.

    The engineers who took Decca into the Hi-fi world ( and the major competitor to EMI ) were all Crystalate people ( Haddy, Gill Went, Kenneth Wilkinson (“Wilkie”). This is similar to the situation at EMI where the people who pushed the technical development were ex-Columbia staff rather than Gramophone Co. employees.

    Studio 1 (at Decca ) was used for general “pop” recordings, using mostly one mic, a STC 4021 “Ball and Biscuit” omni mic on a boom which was hinged on the wall. Studio 3 was used for smaller orchestral jobs ( e.g. Mantovani) but classical orchestra work was mostly at Kingsway Hall.
    At the peak there were six disc cutting rooms in use while the Decca van made a daily trip to the factory at New Malden.

    Up until 1968 all Decca Stereo records were cut at half speed because the Neumann/Teldec cutting heads could not handle the hf at full level; the SX68 was used at full speed, narrowly averting a threatened strike by the cutting engineers!

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