ROCK LEGENDS book in the WALES ON SUNDAY newspaper
WALES ON SUNDAY NEWSPAPER
Book lifts lid on studio’s history
Aug 26 2007
by Nathan Bevan, Wales On Sunday
IT’S early morning in the sleepy Monmouthshire countryside when suddenly the peace is shattered by loud honking, followed by an ear-piercing scream: “He’s trying to bloody kill me!”
It’s Prince of Darkness Ozzy Osbourne running terrified along the banks of the river Monnow, fishing rod in one hand and an angry swan in hot pursuit.
The bird has taken an instant dislike to the Black Sabbath singer who grabs a shotgun and from his car boot and starts blasting away, drowning out his roadie yelling, “Oz, you can’t shoot the f*****g swans!”
That little rock and roll gem from Black Sabbath’s 1976 recording session at Rockfield Studios is just one of many in a brand new book by Jeff Collins which lifts the lid on the musical madness that’s happened at the world famous Welsh recording house over the years.
Rock Legends At Rockfield (out next month) tells never-heard-before tales about the megastar bands that have passed through its doors – and, indeed, thrown televisions through its windows – since it was first opened by local farmers Kingsley and Charles Ward in 1963.
“Rockfield was the spiritual home of rock music for me as a kid,” said author and freelance journalist Jeff Collins, 41, from Cardiff. “I’d buy record after record bearing the legend ‘Recorded at Rockfield Studios, Wales’, so I set out to discover how somewhere so rural, so lacking in glitz and glamour could attract so many amazing acts.”
And any animal lovers needn’t worry, the swan was unharmed, unlike Rockfield, as the following stories testify.
THE mono-browed Manchester lads caused chaos during the recording of their second album, What’s The Story (Morning Glory) in 1995.
A few too many pints of Snakebite in the town sparked fisticuffs with another band called Cable, who were recording nearby.
“Liam is playing our singer, Darius, rough mixes from the new album,” remembers Cable drummer Neil Cooper.
“After hearing a couple of songs, Darius asked him, as a joke, ‘Why do you always rip-off the Beatles?’, which obviously didn’t go down too well!
“The next thing I know, Darius ‘playfully’ grabs Liam from behind and tries to mount him like a dog!
“Liam just lost it, threw Darius out of the front door and then punched him in the face – Then all hell broke loose!”
Windows were smashed, bins overturned, plants and rubbish were strewn everywhere and the Gallaghers’ beloved Subbuteo table destroyed.
Too embarrassed to face the consequences Oasis fled, but not before Rockfield’s seen-it -all-before ‘Mr Fix-it’ Otto put things into perspective.
“This is nothing, you should have been here when Ozzy Osbourne used to raise hell,” he said.
“Now that was a mess!”
THE STONE ROSES
THE godfathers of baggy came to Rockfield in 1990 to record new material after the huge success of their debut album.
“They turned up 48 hours late, just as we were all agreeing that we might as well go home,” said producer John Leckie.
“Then the door burst open and all four of them fell in, covered from head-to-toe in blue and white paint which they got all over the carpet and the settee.
“Then they told us what they’d done – they’d just plastered their old record company offices in Wolverhampton in paint, cars in the car park too, caused thousands of pounds of damage.
“I knew the police would be on their way soon and I wasn’t going to let the session be wrecked.
“So I got them into the studio, their clothes and hair still full of paint, and got a few songs down on tape.
“Five hours later the police arrived, arrested the band and took them away back to the Midlands.”
1975 saw seminal metallers Motorhead descend on the farmhouse, with the entire West Coast Chapter of the Hells Angels in tow
“The streets were as deserted as the set of High Noon when they came looming over the hill on their Harley Davidsons,” laughed author Jeff.
“There were about 30 of them, each insisting that his bike should have the studio microphone rammed up its exhaust pipe.
“You could hear it three miles away!”
Singer Lemmy, pictured, admitted he owed a lot to Rockfield.
“Motorhead were born there,” he said.
“It was very basic back then, with huge mattresses stuck to the walls for sound proofing. It was a weird sight, man.
“Kingsley and Charles were both farmers, but also running the studio.
“They’d come into the studio during the middle of recording absolutely covered in sh*t and ask how it was going. They were great.”
It saw the debut of the band’s new drummer Phil ‘Filthy’ Taylor who, the day after arriving got up stark naked and began roaming around looking for breakfast.
“It’s Ok,” he told startled band mates, “I’m on drugs.”
THE former Led Zeppelin frontman, below, recorded his first solo album Pictures At Eleven in 1981, and called Rockfield “a turning point both personally and professionally”.
“After all that wild stuff in Zeppelin, this place was an absolute dream,” he said.
“The first place we went to for a drink was the Old Punch House where the owner endeared himself to us by asking: ‘What do you scruffy buggers want?”
“You’d have several pints of Wood’s beer before coming wobbling back up here to the studios – I was immune to pencillin by the time I left.”
He also recalled his drummer Cozy Powell’s love of fast cars and women.
“Cozy was driving this powerful Mercedes with this girl called Emma, from the local High School in the back,” recalled Plant.
“Me and Cozy covered the 15 miles to Abergavenny in about one and half minutes!
“He really had his foot down and her boyfriend, who worked for the NME, was not best pleased and was right behind us. He only had a battered, old diesel Peugeot, but we just couldn’t shake the geezer. We had a great laugh about that”
Sadly the drummer would die 15 years later in a car crash on the M4 near Bristol
AT the time, A Night At The Opera, the band’s third record, was one of the most expensive albums ever made.
It was a difficult time, with guitarist Brian May, right, laid low in bed with hepatitus having been vaccinated with an unclean needle prior to the band’s first US tour, but Freddie Mercury was determined to go the extra mile.
“To finish this record we will work until we are legless,” he said.
“I shall sing until my throat is like a vulture’s crotch.”
Not long after legend tells how the singer came up with last line to Bohemian Rhapsody – “Any way the wind blows” – whilst sitting at the piano and watching a weather vane spinning round outside his window.
While Freddie was being creative, it’s said the rest of the band were playing frisbee in the courtyard.
Rock Legends at Rockfield by Jeff Collins is published Saturday, September 15 by University of Wales Press. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon and from all good bookstores.