Rockfield: A history of British rock in the Welsh countryside

MAKING A HIT: A collage of some of the many artists who created classic albums at Rockfield Studios in Wales. Below: Chris Martin of Coldplay describes the creation of the song Yellow in the Rockfield documentary.

MAKING A HIT: A collage of some of the many artists who created classic albums at Rockfield Studios in Wales. Below: Chris Martin of Coldplay describes the creation of the song Yellow in the Rockfield documentary.

By JIM KELLAR

Sixty years is a long time in business for anybody. For a music recording studio, located in the rural countryside of Wales, staying in business for 60 years and earning an international reputation means you really must be doing something right.

The documentary Rockfield, now showing on DocPlay, captures many of the eccentric personalities who have contributed to Rockfield Studios success, from the brothers Kingsley and Charles Ward, who began the business in the attic of their parents farmhouse, to rock stars like Robert Plant, Liam Gallagher, Jim Kerr, Iggy Pop, Ozzy Osbourne and Chris Martin.

Billed as the first residential music studio, the quiet farm and its studio appealed to the sensibilities of many bands and producers seeking isolation from distractions to push their creative boundaries.

Of course, in lengthy takes from an interview with Liam Gallagher and Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs of Oasis, they mention the added enjoyment of being able to drink liberally at pubs in the closest village (Monmouth).

Rockfield Studios is still a family business after all these years, with family member Lisa Ward, who is an active thread in the doco, recounting her first days answering the business phone at age five, now running the business. Kingsley and Charles appear clever, and dry as country men can be, in front of the camera.

It's worth giving pause and thought to all the bands who recorded albums at Rockfield, among them Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, Ace, Motorhead, Adam and the Ants, Queen, Stone Roses, Oasis, Rush, Iggy Pop, Simple Minds, Coldplay, The Charlatans, The Boo Radleys, The Waterboys, Kasabian, Annie Lennox, Super Furry Animals, Big Country, The Darkness, Supergrass, Hot House Flowers and The Pixies.

The best anecdotes in the documentary for my money are about two songs that were born at Rockfield and recorded into rock 'n' roll history.

Liam Gallagher and Bonehead detail much about Liam's feud with his brother Noel, and the recording of Wonderwall during the sessions for the band's (What's The Story) Morning Glory? album.

Chris Martin describes coming up with the music and lyrics for Yellow at Rockfield, inspired by the band taking a night-time break with producer Ken Nelson to look at the stars outside.

Hannah Berryman, director of Rockfield, takes a contemporary approach to a contemporary subject, using animation to re-create some story lines, allows interview questions to be fed off-camera to the interview subjects, and threads a fast-moving story with many voices often describing the same events. The musical interludes are just enough to whet the appetite.

And there is no dressing up the aging studios in the Welsh countryside. While they brag about recording equipment, the quarters are clearly nothing fancy. The charm is in the countryside.

Among the others who feature with generous commentary in the documentary is Jim Kerr from Simple Minds, recounting how the band spent time there before they were famous, and kept coming back later. Ozzy Osbourne is also deadly honest about his time there - way back before Black Sabbath was known to anyone.

/And there was tragedy too - Rob Collins, keyboard player for the Charlatans, died in a car accident near Rockfield while the band was recording an album at the studio in 1996.

Rockfield

Now screening on Docplay