Recording studios and music scenes

Photograph of entrance doors with a sign reading Parr Street Studios

© National Museums Liverpool

Recording studios are central to popular music scenes and act as a meeting place for musicians. Even today when much recording is done on home studios or 'Digital Audio Workstations', musicians still enjoy the sensation of spending time together in studios.

Studios can also connect local scenes to the wider music industry, with the local scene gaining strength from this connection. Recording personnel such as engineers and producers often have connections to record companies and managers and may recommend up and coming acts, giving them a step up the music industry career ladder.

An example of this can be found in Liverpool's Parr Street Studios which operates both as a hub within the local music scene and as a high-specification facility used by professional national and international musicians. In one national newspaper, for example, Parr Street Studios was described as helping to create the so-called 'Britpop' music scene of the 1990s because some of the bands associated with that scene had recorded there, such as Coldplay, Pulp, the Stereophonics and the Charlatans (The Times, 27.12.05). Meanwhile local newspaper articles have described Parr Street as part of Liverpool's 'music heritage' and as having the support of the city's music scene.

Parr Street Studios was originally known as Amazon Studios and was based just outside Liverpool in Kirkby. The studio was housed at a centre used to give MOT tests to cars so recording always began in the evening and carried on into the night. During the early 1980s Amazon became a central site for the local post-punk music scene, responsible for early recordings by bands such as Echo and the Bunnymen.

Through the formation of Inevitable Records, Amazon was able to record and release tracks by some of these bands, notably Dead or Alive, Wah and China Crisis. As some of the Amazon/Inevitable bands went onto success, the cost of recording at the studio became too great for many unsigned acts so new, cheaper studios opened to fill this gap. Amongst these, SOS, Pink Museum and Pinball offered recording facilities to musicians of the late 1980s and 1990s. Pink Museum continues to fulfil the connective role between the local scene and the wider recording industry. As well as continuing to record demo material for local musicians the studio also has been used by hit acts such as the Arctic Monkeys.

During the 1950s and 60s, however, local recording studios were rare. The cost of recording consoles (mixing desks), speakers and tape machines, as well as the acoustic design of the recording space itself, were beyond the means of most small businesses. In Liverpool, Percy Phillips built his own studio in the front room of his house in 1955 to record local country and western singers. Gradually, as skiffle and rock and roll emerged, Phillips recorded, amongst many others, the Quarrymen and Ron Wycherly [Billy Fury]. It was not until the late 1960s, though, that local recording studios began to appear.