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Rockfield studio documentary opens wide, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Wednesday, May 12, 2021

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Avid music fans may have noticed Rockfield Studios in album credits over the years.

But even the most astute may not realize just how much music history has been made at the facility in Monmouth, Wales, during the past 55 or so years.

The new documentary "Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm," premiering On Demand on Friday, May 14, lays it all out in great detail. Director Hannah Berryman and company dig into the tale of music's first acknowledged recording studio, where the likes of Black Sabbath, Queen, Rush, Robert Plant, Oasis, Stone Roses, Coldplay and scores of others made landmark records -- including, in Queen's case, "Bohemian Rhapsody."

The film is at once a tribute to the musicians and their music, as well as to brothers Kingsley and Charles Ward and their families, who the livestock farm into a destination for music greats. It's still active today, in fact, and even if you don't make music the movie will make an Airbnb visit seem pretty attractive as well...

Berryman -- whose credits include documentaries such as "Princess Margaret: The Rebel Royal" and "Miss World 1970: Beauty Queens and Bedlam" -- says via Zoom from London that she was inspired by the 2013 "Muscle Shoals" documentary about the legendary FAME Studios in Alabama. "I wondered where the real unusual British story like that was and came across Rockfield. I had heard of it but didn't know how many people had been there recording. It's this sort of extraordinary story of this place started by farmers, and when we called up we realized it was the same people there, 50 years later. I thought it was a brilliant story."

Berryman adds that the Wards were initially hesitant to work with the filmmakers. "Me and Cat (Catryn Ramasut, producer) really had to do a sales job on them. I think they hadn't made it before because they wanted control over it. But obviously it doesn't work if you just make your own promotional video. That's not going to be a good documentary. We just kept chatting with them and got on with them, and they're fantastic people. They finally decided it was OK to go with us, and even thought it took years they didn't waver at all."

Berryman and Ramasut were able to secure many of the key artists for interviews. "It was the place that made them, and they all had so many great memories and happy memories about being there." Noticeable absent are Stone Roses, whose decision not to participate is noted in the film, and Queen. "We did actually bump into (guitarist) Brian May at a pizza place in Beverly Hills," Berryman remembers. "He said, 'Oh yeah, I think I was quite busy.' They were doing (the film) 'Bohemian Rhapsody' at the time and probably just wanted to do their own thing instead of a joint thing."

Among the many interesting anecdotes in the film is one about the band Simple Minds, then just starting out, partying and ultimately recording with Iggy Pop, who was recording there at the same time in 1979, and David Bowie, who had dropped in to visit. "They were on the B list at the time and Iggy pop was in the main studio," Berryman says. "I only knew them from when I was a kid, 'Don't You Forget About Me' and all the hats, but in fact they were plugging away for years and really needed a hit. So they went up to (Rockfield) to get that hit, and fortunately it happened. Same with Coldplay; I hadn't realized they were recording in a London studio and it just wasn't going well, so they were sent to Rockfield as kind of make or break proposition, a lot of stress."

A particularly good "get" for the filmmakers was Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher and guitarist Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs talking, together, about recording 1995's multi-platinum "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?" at Rockfield. "They were amazing," Berryman says. "They gave each other back their memories by doing it together. I felt like with Liam we were privileged to get a really genuine interview. He really relived his time there, was very thoughtful about it. People think usually think about him like that, but he was fantastic." Guitarist and chief songwriter Noel Gallagher, Liam's brother, chose not to participate, however.

"Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm" premieres on Friday, May 14, via digital and On Demand services, listed via Rockfieldfilm.com.

Web Site: www.rockfieldfilm.com

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