Memories of EMI – Brian Kehew at Abbey Road Studios

Thanks again to the lovely folks from the EMI Archive Trust for sharing another great piece. They recently met up with the legend Brian Kehew (Co-Author of the Recording the Beatles book) for their Memories of EMI Campaign.

In this short video he shares how they found one of the key pieces of technology used on many Beatles recordings and the software model that followed that discovery.

If you are interested in taking part in this campaign you can contact the EMI Archive Trust: info@emiarchivetrust.org.

Music: “Everybody’s trying to be my baby” by Carl Perkins

Photo credits:
Abbey Road Studios and Equipment. Photographer: A.C.K Ware Ltd, 1930s – 40s. Copyright: EMI Music Ltd
Altec Compressor and “Recording the Beatles” book cover with permission from Brian Kehew and Kevin Ryan

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday Mystery Object #6 answer

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Friday Mystery Object  #6 answer

To those who got it right, well done!

This is an experimental Digital Desk from around 1980. This is the work surface and there were also 3 full sized racks of machinery to do all the processing. It was built by EMI’s Central Research Laboratories. Read this extract from the Audio Engineering Society to find out more.

Joe Batten’s Book: The Story of Sound Recording

SOTH would like to thank our latest contributor Michael Lloyd-Davies for his insightful review on the memoirs of Joe Batten – pioneer recording manager.   

By Michael Lloyd-Davies

 

 In his foreward to Joe Batten’s memoirs, Joe is described by Sir Compton McKenzie as “that other great recorder” bracketed with Freddy Gaisberg. Joe Batten’s story is perhaps wider in its horizons. The core of the book is the excitement of pioneer recording from wax-cylinder to L.P., in which mechanical hazards and progress are described as an explorer could write of his adventures.

The period before the First World War saw sound recording grow from being a novelty toy to become an industry full of innovation and eventually accepted as a serious medium and art form by both artists and the public.

Joe was one of the pioneers who began as a pianist accompanying vocalists in recording rooms as early studios were known, to become the artistic manager for Edison Bell, and later, the Columbia Graphophone Company which merged in 1931 with The Gramophone Company to form Electric and Musical Industries Ltd (EMI).

At EMI he formed the Special Recording Department which was located at new studios at Abbey Road. This venture began making sponsored shows for the Commercial Radio companies which were springing up in the mid 1930’s. The department was almost immediately shut down at the outset of the Second World War but re-opened to make recordings for the troops through ENSA up to 1945.

In the last five years of his 50 year career in the music industry, Joe made some notable recordings including two historical events, the silver wedding of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the wedding of H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Inevitably Joe Batten amassed a vast number of friends and memories in the musical concert and light opera fields and it is fitting that the book (out of print since the first edition in 1956) should close with select memories of the life and times at The Savage Club, London’s last bohemian rendezvous where Joe Batten concluded his life as he began it – accompanist to those spontaneous musical evenings which from the West End to the East were once such a feature of London Life.

Joe retired in 1950 but died five years later before his memoirs were published.

Joe Batten’s Book: The Story of Sound Recording is now available via Kindle Book Store: www. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007Q1U4RA

From Outside, In: Discovering the EMI Archive at Hayes – part 1

 

SOTH is delighted to welcome our latest contributor Brian Kehew who join’s our ever growing list of esteemed contributors.   Brian is a LA based musician and music producer. He is a member of The Moog Cookbook and co-author of the Recording The Beatles book, an in-depth look at the Beatles’ studio approach. Kehew is also currently the Archives Historian for the Bob Moog Foundation.  Enjoy!!

By Brian Kehew

Kevin Ryan and I spent about 15 years researching how the Beatles made their records – the technical and procedural side of things. Even with Abbey Road studios still in existence, the records and information there were incredible, but limited. We canvassed the rest of the world, seeking out anything that might illuminate the picture of that 1962-70 era. In our travels, we sometimes came across mention of “Hayes” or “CRL”, as in “They took that down to Hayes”, or “That was done at Hayes/CRL”. Both terms came up enough that we realised this Hayes-thing must be something to uncover. Whether it was a building, a town, or a company – we didn’t know at first.

Eventually, the concept became clearer, and quite a promising treasure itself. Hayes was indeed a town, an industrial suburb West of London. At the time we learned of it, Hayes was simply the location of what was called The EMI Archive – a group of buildings housing EMI’s own company history in a well-protected archive. The famous studios at Abbey Road had long connected with “Hayes”, or rather – the other way around: Abbey Road Studios was originally just a small subset of the gigantic EMI company, most of which was based in Hayes. Hayes was literally a small city of EMI holdings and development. There were many buildings, offices, plants, testing areas, factories, and more. The research lab there (CRL – Central Research Laboratories) was a ‘research and development” wing of EMI; CRL designed everything from microphones to radar, medical CAT-scan machines, guided missiles, computers, television apparatus, and some things not-so-ponderous: the classic home furniture cabinet (then called “radiograms”) containing turntable, radio, amplifier, and speaker that were found in almost every family’s main room. With EMI’s genesis and focus being recorded sound, the area was home to some of the world’s most innovative and influential audio work. (This spilled over, of course, into EMI’s worldwide studios, including the now-famous address at 3 Abbey Road…)

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.

Absolutely not the last about the King’s Speech….

I’ve been meaning to post a link to an interview with Abbey Road’s Peter Cobbin and Lester Smith on Absolute Radio. Pete recorded the soundtrack and used the EMI Archive Trust microphones to do so. Lester is guardian of the microphones at Abbey Road and looks after the Trust mics as well.

Here is what they had to say from the 45 minute mark on this podcast.