Lennon’s home studio celebrated in new book
Posted on: Tuesday 10th of April 2018
The demise of The Beatles in 1969-70 was nothing if not protracted and highly fractious, so it’s hardly surprising that the band’s four members soon sought to immerse themselves in new creative projects. For John Lennon, these took the form of multiple collaborations with his new wife, experimental musician and artist Yoko Ono, and a series of solo albums – of which 1971’s Imagine would prove to be the most enduringly popular.
It was surely integral to Lennon’s sustained rejuvenation that he now had his own studio – named Ascot Sound and located at his home, Tittenhurst Park, in Berkshire – in which to experiment at his leisure. The next few years would prove to be extremely fertile, and it’s a period that is celebrated in a lavishly illustrated new five-book series that also covers the history of the site’s buildings and gardens, as well as their subsequent ownership by fellow former Fab Ringo Starr.
Scott Cardinal is part of The Cardinals, the creative team behind the books, and he believes that Ascot Sound was a significant milestone in the early development of the professional-grade home studio. “When Lennon met with acoustician Eddie Veale, who designed the facility, he simply said, ‘Build me a studio that is a good as Apple’s,” says Cardinal.
Veale not only did that, he did it in double-quick time as Lennon – aided by co-producers Ono and Phil Spector – was keen to get to work on the 11 tracks that would ultimately make up Imagine. Released in September 1971, the album was an immediate global hit, although with several songs (‘How Do You Sleep?’ and ‘Crippled Inside’) containing apparently pointed digs at a certain P. McCartney it didn’t exactly serve to improve relations among the former Beatles.
Post-Imagine, the studio was upgraded to 16-track recording and, following the sale of the estate to Ringo Starr in late 1973, renamed Startling Studios. As well as providing a venue for Starr’s own solo work, it also became a commercially-available facility. Of the many albums recorded there in the ensuing years, Cardinal suggests that two hard rock classics – Judas Priest’s British Steel (1980) and Whitesnake’s Come and Get It (1981) – are particularly indicative of the way in which Startling developed its own raison d’être.
“Those albums helped to demonstrate how Startling could give naturally big sounds as instruments and vocals were set up all over the house,” he says. “They didn’t just stick to the studio; in fact, often no one was in the studio at all. Hence it was possible to achieve huge acoustics and terrific separation, which contributed to the good reputation of the studio.”
Reflections and anecdotes offered by many of those involved with recording at Tittenhurst are contained in the books, which feature extensive illustrations and are also available in deluxe limited editions. Full information on the volumes, including ordering details, can be found on the Campfire Network www.campfirenetwork.com website. To accompany the release, The Cardinals have also produced a series of audio documentaries that will soon be made available on www.campfirenetwork.com/audibletours
Read several excerpt from the book in our digital edition