From its globe-changing inception in the swinging sixties right through to the bass-driven modern era, popular music has always been at the forefront of all things fashion and culture. Responsible for bringing the darkest of subcultures to the mainstream, popular music gains its traction in cities and towns before dominating the global airwaves. Nowhere is this more true than London.
From the influence of studios in London on Beatlemania, through the anarchic punk drive of the Sex Pistols, to the modern rise of UK garage and grime, there’s never been a time where the capital’s soundtrack hasn’t dominated the charts. Here, we take a look at some of the biggest artists to come through the big smoke and the iconic London studios behind their success.
The 8 Most Iconic Recording Studios in London.
While bedroom production is well and truly on the rise, there’s nothing quite like a full-blown studio to get the most out of the UK’s best artists. And it’s been that way since the 60s. In unassuming buildings, hidden away on the capital’s sidestreets, producers, singers, bands and sound technicians are producing best seller after best seller. Want to know more? Check out our list of the most famous recording studios in London:
1. Britannia Row Studios – Wandsworth, London.
Purposefully built by British rock pioneers Pink Floyd for their chart-topping album Wish You Were Here, Britannia Row Studios quickly acquired legendary status. Playing host to the likes of disco queen Jocelyn Brown, pop sensations Westlife, and pirate-radio trailblazer Mike Skinner, this London studio’s back catalogue is second to none. Before being sadly bought out by property developers, the studio was home to a 60-channel vintage Neve mixing board and the UK’s largest mic collection.
2. Trident Studio – St Anne’s Court, London.
When most people think of the Beatles White album, they immediately think of Abbey Road Studios. But plenty of that album was recorded at the Trident Studio in London, taking advantage of the world-famed C. Bechstein concert sized piano for the iconic “Hey Jude”. That same piano can be heard on Elton John’s “Your Song” and Queen’s “Killer Queen” to name just a few. Other artists who called Trident home include the Bee Gees, Lou Reed, the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner and David Bowie.
3. RGM Sound – Holloway Road, London.
Perhaps a London recording studio you may not have heard of before, RGM Sound is the brainchild of Robert George Meek. Meek was the first ever producer to stray beyond the anonymity of the studio. Because of his innovative approach to production, he quickly became famous for his space-age sounds and experimental pop. While the charting singles that came through RGM Sound are in short supply compared to the rest of this list, the influence of the studio is undebatable. Widely considered as one of the most influential producers of all time, Meek’s RGM Sound studio played a key role in his winning of the prestigious Iver Novello award in 1962.
4. Sarm Studios – Notting Hill, London.
After taking the world by storm with his band’s song Video Killed The Radiostar, Trevor Horn made the move to production, opening Sarm Studios. After winning the BRIT award for best producer in the first year, he went on to record and produce for the likes of Band Aid, the Pet Shop Boys, Radiohead, and Stereophonics. In more recent times, this London recording studio has played home to the likes of AJ Tracey, Giggs, London Grammar, One Direction and plenty more.
5. Abbey Road Studios – Westminster, London.
The most famous of all London studios, Abbey Road is renowned as the studio behind the Beatles’ studio-titled album, Abbey Road. But there’s plenty more that’s embraced the magic of the Georgian building and its world-class studios. From ’70s masterpieces like Dark Side of the Moon to modern albums like Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, Abbey Road has always been a leader when it comes to music production. In recent years, it’s also played host to composers for film – for example, it was in the studios that John Williams and the London Symphony produced scores for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and most of the Star Wars films.
6. Olympic Sound Studios –Barnes, London.
Now home to a two-screen cinema, café and dining room, as well as a new recording studio, Olympic Sound Studios is a great place to spend the day. In its heyday, this London studio was known in the industry as the equal to Abbey Road. And it’s no surprise why – the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and Dusty Springfield all walked out of its door with a chart-topping album in their grasp. Sadly, the main studio was closed in 2009, however, a smaller studio, designed with the help of the original studio members, re-opened and continues to operate to this day.
7. Townhouse Studios – Shepherd’s Bush, London.
Built by Richard Branson in the late seventies, Townhouse Studios was located in Shepherd’s Bush and was the go-to for a wide range of musicians. From early recordings with The Jam to modern tracks from the likes of Coldplay and Jamiroquai, this was another London studio with an incredible roster of success. Most notably, Olympic Sound was widely recognised as the best place to record drums and percussion. Remember those famous drums on Phil Collin’s In The Air Tonight? Olympic Studios was chosen specifically to achieve that sound.
8. Maida Vale Studios – Maida Vale, London.
If you’re a fan of BBC radio, you’ll no doubt have heard of Maida Vale studios. This recording studio in London is home to the ever-popular Radio 1 Live Lounge and a wide range of BBC radio recordings too. The 7 studios are home incredible equipment, such as the Studer D950 digital desk and the classic analogue SSJ 9000J. Despite having hosted a wide array of artists, from The Beatles to Adele, the studio is set to close by 2022 at the latest. The BBC has announced a new East London studio which will they believe will the standard for studios in London.
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