Rock LEGENDS AT ROCKFIELD - Extracts from chapter 6 - Queen
ROCK LEGENDS AT ROCKFIELD -- NEW BOOK.
Latest Rockfield extract from the new book due out on September 15th.
I've included here three extracts from Chapter Six which focuses on Queen and Paul Carrack's band Ace. They both had massive hit singles in 1975 with Rockfield songs --- Bohemian Rhapsody and How Long.
About from Rockfield Queen also recorded parts at six other studios. In the first extract Roadie Paul Hince talks about the chaos this caused. In the second producer Roy Thomas Baker looks at the creation of Bohemian Rhapsody. And the the third members of Tigertailz and The Darkness talk about being inspired by Queen during their times at Rockfield.
EXTRACTS FROM CHAPTER SIX
Given the chaotic recording arrangements, Queen roadie Peter Hince spent a good deal of time traveling between studios and would probably have been better off being paid by the mile than the hour! As such his time at Rockfield was limited.
‘I only spent a brief time in Wales. I remember driving a van up to Rockfield to pick stuff up and drop equipment off. It was a nightmare because of all the different things going on. I remember there was a pub down the road that everyone used to go to after recording and I recall that the food at Rockfield wasn’t very good. I spent more time in London in the studios at Sarm, Scorpio and The Roundhouse. It was a hugely chaotic period. Some of the band would be in one studio, while the rest would be in another. All the while us guys on the crew would be moving equipment back and forward. If that wasn’t bad enough, at the same time, we were building this complex new stage show up at Elstree studios. Overall it was a pretty hectic time. The band made it quite difficult for themselves. I don’t know why they did it. There was a lot of pressure, so you got a feeling it was a real “make or break” time for the band. They had just left their old management company and signed up with John Reid. He used his clout as Elton John’s manager to persuade EMI to stick a lot of money behind Queen. At the time, A Night At The Opera was one of the most expensive albums ever made. The cost in terms of studio time was phenomenal. I think that if it hadn’t sold as many millions as it eventually did, there was this feeling that EMI might have had second thoughts after spending all that money and might have dropped Queen. Of course that didn’t happen.’
A Night At The Opera would be a huge hit reaching number 1 in Britain and number 4 in the States. It’s crowning achievement would be the smash hit single Bohemian Rhapsody. It was released on October 31st 1975 to huge acclaim and massive worldwide sales. The six minute epic swept through gentle ballad into operatic drama and a fiery riff-filled rock-out before another transition into its beautiful conclusion. With one broad sweep, the song sealed Queen's future in the Premier Division of rock performers.
Recording had begun on it at Rockfield Studios on August 24, 1975, after a 3 week rehearsal period in Herefordshire. At the time, guitarist Brian May referred to the track's parent album, A Night At The Opera, as "our Sgt Pepper".
At Rockfield, the first draft of Bohemian Rhapsody was just Freddy on a piano. Over the next few weeks, the singer’s skeleton framework for the song would change many times. Roy Thomas Baker recalls ‘the rough vocals were done at Rockfield, but they were rerecorded in London. There was a room at Rockfield full of saddle bags. It was one of the many rooms we used to hide ourselves away in individually to get away from the studio - to clear our heads and re-energise our batteries. So if people wanted to hide away, there were loads of these little rooms full of saddle bags and farm type things. I remember Freddy playing me Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time on his piano at his place in London. Then later at Rockfield, with the basics mapped out, he focussed on pinning down what was right. He played me the beginning part and said, “Right, now this is where the Opera section comes in” and he’d leave a gap and I’d have to imagine this dramatic opera style segment. And it just kept changing all the time in Rockfield. It took 3 weeks to record on a 16 track tape machine and we used 180 overdubs, which was very, very unusual for back then.’
**********************************************************************The legacy of Queen’s time at Rockfield is immense. Many bands have been inspired to record there to follow in the footsteps of Queen and try to capture some of the sound and magic of Bohemian Rhapsody. Welsh glam-rock band Tigertailz - best known for their 80’s hit single Love Bomb - arrived at Rockfield in the early 90’s to record their album Wazbones.
‘We were there for three months’ says singer Kim Hooker. ‘I went into the studios really late one day and our producer said “Here’s the tape machine that Queen used to make A Night At The Opera”, and I thought, “We’ve got to use that same machine, because then we can sound like Queen.” But, of course, we didn’t! I was talking to some of the studio staff and they remembered Queen. They were telling me how the band got richer which each album they did there. Roger Taylor for the first album drove a mini cooper. Then for the next one, it was an MG, but by the end of Night At The Opera it was a Ferrari. The money was now rolling in.’ When in January 2005, The Darkness arrived at Rockfield to record with Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker, one of the group, bassist Richie Edwards, was in seventh heaven!
‘I’m probably the biggest Queen fan that I know. When I found out that Roy was going to be working on this album One Way Ticket To Hell And Back, and it was going to be at Rockfield - probably the most famous residential studio in the world - I was like a kid in a sweet shop. Just walking in there, I really did feel something. It sounds silly, but I could feel that history. And, as you know, Rockfield is not the most palatial studio in the world. It’s tatty and you get the impression that its not been decorated since Queen did Sheer Heart Attack.
Extracts from ROCK LEGENDS AT ROCKFIELD. The book is published on September 15th 2007 on University of Wales press. It's now available for pre-order on Amazon and all good book shops (inc waterstones, Walmart, WHSmith etc )