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Detail of Maida Vale Studios - geograph.org.uk - 962915

Exterior of Maida Vale Studios

Maida Vale Studios is a complex of seven BBC sound studios, of which five are in regular use, in Delaware Road, Maida Vale, London. It has been used to record thousands of classical music, popular music and drama sessions for BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 6 Music from 1946 to the present. On 30 October 2009, BBC Radio 1 celebrated 75 Years of Maida Vale by exclusively playing 75 tracks recorded at the studios over the years. Snow Patrol played a live set from the studio with Fearne Cotton to celebrate 75 years of live music. On 5 June 2018, the BBC announced the closure of the studios and that its live music base would relocate to Stratford.

Links To Peel

From 1967 to 2004, the John Peel Sessions were recorded in studio MV4. At first a number of other venues around London were also used, such as the Playhouse Theatre in Charing Cross, but as these were let go by the BBC the sessions increasingly centred on Maida Vale 4.

For many decades, music sessions were a mainstay of BBC Radio programming. Until 1988, limits on the amount of commercially recorded music that could be aired, known as needle-time restrictions, forced the BBC to book musicians to record exclusively for broadcast on its networks. Often these sessions were of classical or middle-of-the-road music - the Maida Vale studios were built to host large orchestras - but in the 1960s the BBC began to record sessions by pop groups such as The Beatles there, in order to attract a young audience and compete with offshore pirate stations such as Radio London.

A number of engineers and producers, notably Bernie Andrews, encouraged this development, allowing musicians and groups to try out new material, play covers they would not include on their albums, and experiment with different sounds and guest musicians.. With the birth of BBC Radio One in 1967, programmes such as Top Gear, produced by Andrews, embraced the concept, One of Top Gear's presenters, John Peel, soon became sole presenter of the programme, which featured sessions from such stars-in-waiting as David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Ashley Hutchings of Fairport Convention describes what it was like to record at Maida Vale in the late 1960s:

Nowadays we continually find ourselves in small, compact, purpose-built studios; in those days radio sessions were recorded in massive old spaces, dripping with history. They were often concert halls converted into recording studios. The Playhouse in Northumberland Avenue, Aeolian Hall in Bond Street, Maida Vale Studios in Delaware Road - great old places......The daddy of them all was Maida Vale. It was the biggest but was nevertheless quite a low building. This perhaps contributed to its elusiveness. No matter how many times you visited it you found it hard to locate the next time you had a session, camouflaged as it was amid the identical mesh of roads with those tall, elegant Edwardian houses that are so prevalent in Maida Vale. How incongrous it must have looked unloading our van of its contents outside this majestic building.[1]

In the Top Gear era Peel and his producers Bernie Andrews and John Walters would record sessions by artists who had already released records, or had established reputations through live gigging, but this policy changed over the years. After 1976, many of the session artists on the John Peel Show were relatively unknown even to Peel's listeners: he and his producer (often Walters) would often invite bands on the strength of a rough demo tape or gig to hear what they could do, and for many of the bands a Maida Vale session was their first experience of a professional recording studio, not to mention a much-needed boost to their finances. The format became standardised as a single session in the studio with a staff producer and engineer (or more latterly a producer-engineer and assistant), during which the artists would record four songs, but there were also some sessions which were either live to air, or pre-recorded as live with an audience. From the mid-1990s, Peel's shows came to feature increasing amounts of live session material from Maida Vale..The last band to record a Peel session was Skimmer, at Maida Vale Studios on 21 October 2004.

Maida Vale was also used to record sessions for other Radio 1 shows, from Brian Matthew's Saturday Club in the '60s to the Sounds of the Seventies series from 1970-1975, often with the same engineers and producers (Jeff Griffin, Pete Ritzema, Tony Wilson) as the Peel sessions. Later, other Radio 1 programmes and DJ's adopted a similar system of Maida Vale sessions, such as Janice Long, Andy Kershaw, and The Evening Session, whose previous host Zane Lowe nicknamed the studio 'Maida Vegas'; as well as the more direct inheritors of the Peel Sessions tradition Huw Stephens, Rob Da Bank and Mike Davies.

See Also

External Links

References

  1. From the notes to Fairport Convention, Heyday - The BBC Sessions 1968-69, Island IMCD 290/586 542-2.