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Grosvenor Road Studios
Happy 100th Birthday to John Taylor – 

Looking back at his life and the history of Grosvenor Road Studios

In celebration of GRS’s founder John Taylor’s 100th birthday, we join Richard Loftus in conversation with Jez Collins, founder of Birmingham Music Archives and John Taylor’s son, Richard Taylor, who grew up living in Grosvenor Road Studios, as they celebrate the legacy of this iconic place.

Grosvenor Road Studios, formerly the renowned Hollick & Taylor Studios, has been Birmingham’s best keep secret for over sixty years. During that period, many firsts have been recorded here including: All the original sound effects for Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds Are Go, the fabulous brass band rendition of Brighouse and Ratrick’s Floral Dance, The first Brum Beat album, Jasper Carrott’s Funky Moped.

Grosvenor Road Studios, was acquired by Black Voices in 2003 with the support of Arts Council England. The studios are managed by a voluntary board which brings diverse skills and knowledge of the music industry and community development.

Tune in below to the interview:

The fabric of the original house dates to 1872. At this time Handsworth was part of Staffordshire, but in 1911, with a population of 70,000, Handsworth became a major suburb of Birmingham.

The Taylors bought the house in 1945 and converted part of the house into a recording studio soon afterwards. It became known as Hollick & Taylor studios when John Taylor teamed up with Charles Hollick, a technical engineer with whom he had previously worked.

The studio has been changed and refurbished several times over the past sixty years, adapting to suit the demands of the music industry and accommodating new changes in technology.

Following the death of Charles Hollick, the studio changed its name to Grosvenor Recording Studio Complex and continued producing high quality recordings until the beginning of the 21st Century.

Grosvenor Road Studios, was acquired by Black Voices in 2003 with the support of Arts Council England. The studios are managed by a voluntary board which brings diverse skills and knowledge of the music industry and community development.

We spoke to Jez Collins, founder of Birmingham Music Archives and Richard Taylor, former resident of the studios and son of Hollick and Taylor’s John Taylor about the legendary studios.

What was it like to live at Birmingham’s very own Abbey Road, Grosvenor Road Studios?

Richard Taylor: Both my brother, Chris and I both kind of feel now “I wish we’d done more in there as children.” I think if I was there now, I’d just sleep in there and be in there all the time. It was an amazing thing to be part of it and I’m just so proud of it. It’s great now that it’s becoming a piece of history.

There’s been a huge number of artists to go through and music to come out of the studios, what are some of the highlights?

Jez Collins: It’s played host to people from John Bonham, of Led Zeppelin, was first ever recorded at Grosvenor Road Studios. That in itself is a massive piece of music, global music history. Noddy Holder, when he was with Steve Brett and The Mavericks – first song recorded at Grosvenor Road Studios – and obviously Noddy would go on to be fronting Slade. That in itself is a huge piece of music history. All the Brum Beat bands who were there, who recorded there: The Move, Spencer Davies Group, The Moody Blues. Into the 70s, you’d have the reggae bands like Steel Pulse who would come and rehearse and record there.

For me, one of the most interesting parts is Jean Taylor who also worked at the studio. For me, she’s a bit of a forgotten woman of Electronica. At Grosvenor Road Studios they did the sound effects for Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds and, for me, Jean is our Delia Derbyshire. Really important and very unusual to see women in recording studios anyway, and even more so working the machines, recording the sound effects and putting things on to tape. It’s such an important place and space, Grosvenor Road Studios and the Taylors – as a family, all of them – are an incredibly important piece of Birmingham music history and their contribution to our music culture.

Richard: There was always odd celebrities coming through. Like The Krankies. I remember meeting The Krankies. I don’t know how old I would have been. Gordon Jackson, from The Professionals, that was a big thing when he came through.
And I can remember when we did the launch for Cliff Richard. He did an album launch there for the “I’m Nearly Famous” album. And I can remember being thrown out of there many times with Mum saying “Would you stay out of there, Richard!” I just wanted to go in there and see what was going on!

How did growing up at the studios impact your life?

Richard: When Dad was thinking about retiring, both Chris and I didn’t want to be stuck in the studio. We concentrated more on a career as live musicians. The studio side of things, of course, is always there and plays a part in my work every day as a live musician. I’ve carried on doing writing and production as well as being a live musician.

Grosvenor Road Studios, was acquired by Black Voices in 2003 with the support of Arts Council England. Why do you think these studios are so important to the music community of Birmingham and beyond?

Jez: They’re the life blood because it gives us places and spaces to identify ourselves, to express ourselves, to learn, to educate, to come together and have experiences. They play much more of a part than just being a building that you pay £10 an hour to rehearse or record in, they give us so much. Perhaps now is a moment in time where we can articulate better the cultural value, rather than the economic value, of music and the people that work in the music business/industry/sector. They’re such important places.

What did the acquisition mean to you and your family, knowing that the legacy of music in the building would continue?

Richard: Amazing! Particularly for Mum and Dad. Dad would have moved and retired a lot earlier, but he blatantly refused. He didn’t want that building to be turned into a block of flats. It was hugely important to him. And also because it still says GRS and that’s what it’s been called now…I spoke to Mum about this the other day and she said it’s amazing because every record that was made on the Grosvenor label, the catalogue number was always GRS. It’s amazing that its been kept going. I can’t wait to go back again now.

So for people reading this, or that have watched the longer video interview, what one recording from the studios would you encourage them to go and listen to?

Jez: I would probably say The Senators and that’s the band that John Bonham was on. I think you get a sense of Bonham and his drumming. I think it’s available on YouTube. Get a sense of what it must have been like to be in that studio at that time and unleashing the beast that would become John Bonham – that would go on to be in one of the world’s biggest ever bands. And imagine being John Taylor in the studio control room, who probably didn’t bat an eyelid. Probably thought it was just another band. But to be part of that moment in history. I would suggest that.

Richard: I was going to say The Floral Dance. That goes back to my memories of when I started wanting to use the studio and Dad would never let me go near multi-track until I’d learnt the art of recording a band and getting it right going down to stereo left and right on quarter inch. Until I got that right, he would not let me go anywhere near multi-track. And that Floral Dance was done on multi-track very, very early-on. A lot of the balancing was already done before it went down on to multi-track. There aren’t many people around still today that would be able to record that in that way and get that sound.

 

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