Olympic Studios

Olympic Studios

Olympic Studios was a renowned independent commercial recording studio located at 117 Church Road, Barnes, South West London, England. The studio is best known for the huge number of famous rock and pop recordings made there from the late 1960s onward.

The building which housed the studio was constructed in 1906 as a theatre for the Barnes Repertory Company, and later became a cinema. Guild TV purchased the building in the late 1950s and converted it into a film studio. In 1965 it was purchased by Olympic Sound Studios. The conversion from film to recording studio was undertaken by architect Robertson Grant and the acoustics were completed by Keith Grant and Russel Pettinger.[1]

Olympic's sound mixing desks were a creation of the maintenance staff and built specially for the studios. They became famous as Olympic desks[2] and were developed by Dick Swettenham, Keith Grant and later, Jim McBride in conjunction with Jim Dowler. Swettenham later started to manufacture the consoles commercially as Helios desks. The first desk of this type was commissioned by Grant as Helios one for Studio two. Olympic desks and their Helios offspring are highly regarded for their sonic qualities today.[3]

Amongst other accolades, the studios won Music Week Magazine Best Recording Studio, five times. However, after forty years of renowned recording history and a succession of owners, the studio facilities were closed down by the merged EMI and Virgin Group in 2009. Following the sale of the building, recent reports suggest it is set to be converted into an independent local cinema to incorporate reminders of the building's rich history.[4]



The original Olympic Sound Studios was established in central London in the late 1950s and was owned by Angus McKenzie who had bought Larry Lyons Olympia Studio in Fulham. McKenzie then took a lease on a derelict synagogue in London's West End.

In conjunction with Richard Swettenham, McKenzie opened Olympic's Studio One with the tube desk from Olympia. Keith Grant joined the company in 1958 from IBC Studios as music engineer. Swettenham designed the first professional transistorised desk in the world, which was installed into Studio One during 1960, along with the first Four track recorder in England. Studio One was used by many influential British groups including, The Yardbirds, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Alexis Korner and Graham Bond. The Rolling Stones[5] recorded their first single "Come On" at Olympic, a number of Dusty Springfield hits and The Troggs successful single "Wild Thing", were also the result of recording sessions at Olympic, during the forty year history of this studio. Olympic was a popular studio with Decca, EMI, Pye and Philips recording A&R staff, as well as hosting London Weekend Television's music recordings.[6]

When the lease expired in 1965, the studio was bought from McKenzie by Cliff Adams and Keith Grant and they moved it to Barnes, a year later. The Rolling Stones were among the first clients of the new Olympic Studios in Barnes, consecutively recording six of their classic albums there between 1966 and 1972.[1] The Beatles worked at the studio to record the original tracks of "All You Need Is Love" and "Baby, You're a Rich Man". Jimi Hendrix recorded for his breakthrough Are You Experienced album at Olympic, and of his legendary albums Axis: Bold as Love and Electric Ladyland, all of the former and a substantial part of the latter were recorded at the studio. The Who recorded their classic albums Who's Next and Who Are You. It was used extensively by Led Zeppelin, who recorded tracks there for all of their studio albums up to and including Physical Graffiti in 1975. In the same year Queen used the studio for their ground breaking album A Night at the Opera while David Bowie also used the studio. The studio also saw the production of great numbers of other landmark albums and singles, including by The Small Faces, Traffic, Hawkwind, The Moody Blues, Deep Purple, and Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale".[6]

Over the 1970s, Grant commissioned his father Robertson Grant to re-design Studio Two, as the now working and successful studio was causing problems with sound transmission to Studio One, who might be recording music by Elgar whilst Studio Two was running sessions with The Rolling Stones. Robertson Grant successfully innovated a completely floating space weighing seventeen tonnes, which was supported by rubber pads. The original album version of the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), many film scores and orchestral works were recorded during this period. The studio also produced film music for The Italian Job (1969), the movie version of Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was recorded in Studio two in 1975.

At this time Mick Jagger became involved with the charge of decor and furnishing and produced a contemporary design. Later, Grant added probably the first Instant acoustic change using rough sawn wooden slats, to cover or reveal absorptive panel behind, thus changing the acoustics. This made the room suitable for the recording of both rock and orchestral music, at the pull of a cord.

In 1987, Virgin Music bought the studios. After consulting with Sam Toyoshima, a Japanese studio builder, who declared the studio ' Unfit to record music in'...the property was refitted to a different practical and acoustic specification.[5] Barbara Jefferies, then Studio manager for Virgin Music at Olympic Studios,[7] instructed that the master tapes of the studio's vast, historic library of recording sessions be discarded.[8] The disposal of these tapes was unsecured as they were put into skips outside the building, and left for days ; they were subsequently pillaged by hordes of freeloaders, and some are thought to have been sold for large sums of money as bootlegs.

In December 2008, rumours began to circulate that the studios would be closed and the VirginEMI group announced that the Studios would be closed.[9][10] In February 2009, the Olympic Studios website stated that the studios were closed for business[3] and later the site only displayed allied services.[11]


Olympic became well recognised for the quality of the recordings which were produced in the studios. It was also a training ground for many successful producers, technicians and engineers, such as:

  • Gus Dudgeon, who started as a tea boy and became producer for Elton John[6]
  • Glyn Johns and his brother Andy Johns, best known for their association with The Rolling Stones[6]
  • Jimmy Miller, producer of albums and singles by Family, Traffic and The Rolling Stones
  • Roger Savage who recorded the first Rolling Stones hit "Come On", before moving to Australia, where he became a highly successful engineer, before moving into post production sound recording with his own three studios, Sound Firm,in Melbourne, Sidney, and Bejiing .
  • Toby Alington who now has award winning Richmond Studios as his organisation
  • David Treahearn, Assistant Engineer, now Songwriter, Mixer & Producer with DNR and half of Electro duo, The Slips
  • Chris Kimsey, best known for his work with The Rolling Stones as producer.
  • Gerry O'Riordan, best known for his recording and editing skills.
  • David Hamilton-Smith, best known for his association with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
  • George Chkiantz, who is usually credited with inventing the technique of tape flanging first used on The Small Faces' "Itchycoo Park"
  • Eddie Kramer, Olympic staff engineer who recorded Jimi Hendrix and is still involved with the post production of his work.
  • Terry and Phil Brown
  • Paul PDub Walton best known for work with Bjork and Madonna.
  • Richard Swettenham, best known for the Olympic Console design.
  • Roger Mayer, best known for his guitar pedals.
  • Doug Bennett, best known for his work with the Stranglers
  • Phil Chapman
  • Laurence Burrage
  • Alan O'Duffy, best known for his work with the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton & Rod Stewart.

Artist roster, 1966-2009, includes


  1. ^ a b Scott, Andy (October 2009). "Zani-Save Olympic Studios". zani.co.uk. http://www.zani.co.uk/reviews.aspx?id=107. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  2. ^ Nick Coleman (2009-02-01). "Olympic Studios". independent.co.uk. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/legendary-olympic-recording-studio-to-burn-out-1220725.html. Retrieved 2009-04-13. 
  3. ^ a b "Olympic Studios closes: A sad day for music". realmusicforum.com. http://www.realmusicforum.com/history/a-sad-day-for-music/20090326182/. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ a b "The very best of British recording studios". scenta.co.uk. http://www.scenta.co.uk/music/cit/828718/the-very-best-of-british-recording-studios.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  6. ^ a b c d Nick Coleman (2009-02-01). "Olympic Studios". Independent.co.uk. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/legendary-olympic-recording-studio-to-burn-out-1220725.html. Retrieved 2009-04-13. 
  7. ^ Second Wave. "The Smoothside Organisation". smoothside.com. http://www.smoothside.com/about.html. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  8. ^ "Some Stuffs: London’s legendary Olympic Recording Studio to close". thisisbooksmusic.com. 2008-12-15. http://www.thisisbooksmusic.com/2008/12/15/. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  9. ^ Pro Sound News (2008-12-12). "Olympic Studios". Pro Sound News Europe.com. http://prosoundnewseurope.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1036. Retrieved 2009-04-13. 
  10. ^ Music Week (2008-12-12). "Olympic Studios". Music Week.com. http://www.musicweek.com/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=1036448&c=1. Retrieved 2009-04-13. 
  11. ^ "Olympic Studios website address". olympicstudios.co.uk. http://www.olympicstudios.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 

External links

Complete articles

Coordinates: 51°28′31″N 0°14′27″W / 51.4752°N 0.2407°W / 51.4752; -0.2407

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