A new documentary, “Rockfield: The Studio on The Farm,” now on VOD, aims to illuminate the history of a place that helped create the sound of heavy metal, gave the world Queen’s signature tune when the band mastered the final section of “Bohemian Rhapsody” there in the summer of 1975, and inspired Chris Martin to write “Yellow” and Oasis to record “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”
“It’s like the ‘Big Brother’ house with tunes,” says Liam Gallagher. “You go there and don’t leave until the album is done.”
The walls of the storied studio don’t have to talk, they have owners Kingsley and Charles Ward. The brothers began as farmers and wannabe musicians, but soon realized there was more money in offering a place for bands to get away from the hustle and bustle of London’s music scene than there was in raising pigs.
“Once we got rid of the pigs,” says Kingsley, the quirkier of the two, “we got into the music business. So, it was more and less the same, except the usage had changed.”
The Ward brothers provide a great deal of the film’s charm. From helping Lemmy find a place to store his drug stash in the band’s living quarters to Kingsley’s colorfully understated way of telling a story. They provide the doc’s backbone. The stories are fleshed out by the musicians who called the place home at one time or another.
“We started as a rock band dabbling in drugs,” Ozzy Osbourne says of Black Sabbath, who rehearsed their breakthrough album “Paranoid” at Rockfield, “and ended up a drug band dabbling in rock.”
Gallagher talks about trying to record after spending the day… and night… at one of the local pubs. “You’d have a go,” he says, “but you’d end up sounding like The Pogues.”
Robert Plant says he was “already a cliché” by the time he hit Rockfield to record his first solo album and seems to have genuine affection for the place and Kingsley. Like so many others before him, he used “this arboreal green and pleasant land” as a place of reinvention.
Rockfield is still a recording studio and a working farm, and that mix and match of pastoral and musical is key to the magic of the place. Chris Martin of Coldplay calls it a “musical Hogwarts,” where bands went to live, create and find their sound. “We were sent away to figure it out,” he says.
“Rockfield: The Studio on The Farm” is an exercise in nostalgia, but it’s an entertaining one. A look back at rock ‘n roll’s first residential studio, it’s a guided tour through several generations of British rock’s guitar.