New BBC documentary lifts the lid on recording at legendary studio on the farm
It was where Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody, the place Black Sabbath invented heavy metal and the studio where Coldplay wrote the song that sent them stratospheric.
Just to go from Birmingham to Monmouth was an adventure. You don’t understand, we’d never been in a studio, we’d never been on a farm!
Nestled away in the Welsh countryside, Rockfield was the world's first independent residential studio and home to everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Robert Plant, Queen to The Stone Roses, Bowie and Iggy Pop to Oasis. Now for the first time, a new documentary lifts the lid on this iconic rock destination.
The world premiere broadcast of the film - Rockfield: The Studio On The Farm - will take place on Saturday 18 July at 9pm on BBC Two Wales and on BBC Four across the UK.
Directed by Hannah Berryman, produced by Catryn Ramasut of ie ie productions, in association with BBC Wales and Ffilm Cymru Wales, the documentary tells the story of how brothers Kingsley and Charles Ward turned their family dairy farm into not only the first ever independent residential studio, but one of the most famous studios in the world. It features exclusive interviews with some of the legendary musicians that have spent time at Rockfield over the years, including Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne, Robert Plant, Coldplay's Chris Martin, Liam Gallagher and ex-Oasis bandmate Bonehead, Simple Minds, Manic Street Preachers and The Charlatans.
The film also features the Ward family themselves, who for the first time open up and give an insight into what life was like living and working with some of the best-known talent in the world.
It also details the Ward family’s fight to keep their business going in the face of an ever-changing music industry. Rockfield may have been there at the birth of some of the biggest bands in rock history, but time and new tastes took its toll on the studio. With advancing technology and a stronger focus on electronic music, the latter half of the 80s provided some difficult times. After the recession, the music industry was struggling but one band helped change the lives of the Ward family and Rockfield - The Stone Roses.
Lisa Ward, Studio Manager says, “I think they booked in, officially, for a couple of weeks. But they stayed. I think it was 13 months in the end that they were here. And that saved us. The Stone Roses saved Rockfield.”
Liam Gallagher and Bonehead recall first visiting the Stone Roses at Rockfield by driving a combine harvester from nearby Monnow Valley Studio, where Oasis were recording at the time, to see what their fellow Mancunians were up to. They also talk about the eventful time recording their own multi-platinum album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? there.
Liam Gallagher says, “You lived there and you didn’t leave the studio until you had your album finished. It’s like the Big Brother house, innit, but with tunes.”
Grammy Award-winning band Coldplay discuss being sent to Rockfield to record their debut album Parachutes, shortly after being signed, under pressure to come up with the goods. Chris Martin says of the experience, “It was very much like some sort of musical Hogwarts - we were sent away to figure it out.” He recounts how a late-night session under the stars led to the creation of the band's breakthrough hit ‘Yellow’.
Ozzy Osbourne reflects: “Rockfield will always be a part of me because we started Black Sabbath there. I started my solo career there. I can go and live in Beverly Hills, but for some reason, I end up back in Rockfield. It’s magic!”