Stepping up to the helm as resident engineer and producer, Eric Stewart was the driving musical force behind the creation and successful establishment of Strawberry Studios in Stockport.
Eric Stewart was lead guitarist and singer of The Mindbenders and scored an international smash hit with ‘A Groovy Kind of Love‘ in 1966, later co-founding 10cc at Strawberry Studios (see below)
The facility was first named Inter-City Studios, and located above a music store in the town centre and in 1968 it was bought by Peter Tattersall, former road manager to Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas.
Tattersall invited Eric Stewart to join him as a partner later in 1968. The pair moved to larger premises at 3 Waterloo Road in October, with Stewart choosing the studio’s new name ‘Strawberry Studios’ in homage to his favourite Beatles song, “Strawberry Fields Forever“.
Graham Gouldman and my company Kennedy Street Enterprises injected further capital into Strawberry and became stakeholders.
By this time I had procured work for Graham as in-house composer to write songs for Super K Productions (Jerry Kasenetz & Jeffry Katz) requiring him to be in New York for a few months at a time.
To save unnecessary expense Super K’s songs were recorded at Strawberry in Stockport rather than in New York which brought in much needed cash and put Strawberry on the international map.
In the early ’70’s, after I had secured ‘[Is This The Way To] Amarillo‘ for Tony Christie, I convinced its composer, Neil Sedaka, to record at Strawberry with session musicians, Graham Gouldman, Lol Creme, Kevin Godley and Eric Stewart, now a first-rate engineer/producer.
Neil Sedaka recorded his comeback album Solitaire at Strawberry in 1971, returning in 1973 for ‘The Tra-La Days are Over‘ and his classic “Love Will Keep Us Together” – see Joy Division reference below.
Ramases and Selket, also recorded at Strawberry Studios using Graham Gouldman, Lol Creme, Kevin Godley and Eric Stewart as session musicians for their collectable ‘Space Hymns‘ album in 1971.
Selket interview by Paul McNulty & Sean Macreavy for The Consequences 10cc podcast
Recording of The Boys in Blue (written by Godley, Creme, Gouldman) released 16 May 1972 at Strawberry Studios in Stockport
Other soccer songs were also recorded at Strawberry Studios:
- ‘Funky City‘ (Godley, Creme, Gouldman) – B-side to Boys In Blue
- ‘Willie Morgan on the Wing‘ (Gouldman, Smith) by Tristar Airbus
- ‘Leeds United’ / ‘Leeds, Leeds, Leeds.’ – (U.K. No,10 on 29/04/72)
- ‘Up The Shakers‘ for Bury FC (with 10cc as backing musicians?)
- ‘Forever Everton‘ (Gouldman) – see: ‘The Story of the Song‘
- ‘Glory Glory Man United‘ (Renshaw) – producer P. Tattersall 1983 [I can hear Neil Sedaka’s ‘Calendar Girl‘ in the verse, can you?]
10cc is born at Strawberry Studios
Godley and Creme were designers for Pan Books when they secured a record deal as Frabjoy and Runcible Spoon and brought in Stewart and Gouldman for the 1968 single “I’m Beside Myself“, making this the first outing for all 4 members of 10cc together on vinyl.
Their next outing was1971 was a tour supporting The Moody Blues as Hotlegs who had sold over 2 million copies of “Neanderthal Man“.
Strange Fruit: Strawberry Studios and The Birth of 10cc
In 1972 Eric Stewart took a demo of “Donna” to Jonathan King at U.K. Records who signed them, calling them 10cc whose name he saw on the hoarding of the Hammersmith Odeon in a dream he had.
“Donna” hit No. 2 in the U.K. in Oct ’72, with a succession of hits like “Rubber Bullets” (No. 1 June ’73), “The Dean and I” (No. 10 Aug ’73), “Wall Street Shuffle” (No. 10 July ’74), “Silly Love” (No. 24 Nov ’74), “Life Is A Minestrone” (No.7 May ’75), “I’m Not In Love“(No.1 Jun’75), “Art For Art Sake” (No. 5 Jan ’76), “I’m Mandy Fly Me” (No.6 Apr’76).
10cc‘s albums were just as innovative and successful as their singles. “Sheet Music“, “The Original Soundtrack” and “How Dare You” were all Top 10 albums between 1973 and 1976. At this point Godley and Creme, keen to try their hand in other areas, left the band.
Expansion, Closure and Sale
Following the departure of Godley and Creme, Gouldman and Stewart opened Strawberry Studios South, a former cinema at Dorking in Surrey. The studio had been planned before the band’s split, with the Stockport studio in such demand that it was often difficult for 10cc to use it.
The first 10cc album recorded there was ‘Deceptive Bends‘ in 1977. In 1978 Strawberry Mastering opened in London, which for the first time gave the studio complete control of pre-pressing procedures.
10cc used Strawberry South for ‘Bloody Tourists‘, ‘Look Hear‘ and ‘Ten Out Of Ten‘ and returned in 1983 for ‘Windows In The Jungle‘, and then closed both Strawberry Mastering and Strawberry South.
In 1986, Yellow Two recording studio took over Strawberry North in Stockport and it ceased operation as a music studio in 1993 being converted instead for use in film and video production.
Until the mid-70’s Eric, Graham, Kev and Lol all lived near the Studio in Stockport, so 10cc wasn’t bound by the normal ‘time-is-money’ cost constraints of typical commercial studio sessions in London. Instead, self-contained, they experimented freely behind closed doors in their own Strawberry Studios with no outside interference.
THE STRAWBERRY LEGACY
10cc imploded in the summer of 1976 and split into two camps. Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman continued on as 10cc, while Lol Creme and Kevin Godley worked on more experimental music and became ‘go-to’ pioneers in the emerging music video industry.
Contemporaneously, on 4th June 1976, while 10cc members were in the throes of their divorce, the Sex Pistols headlined at the Lesser Free Trade Hall and inspired a few young Mancunian lost souls in the audience to forge their own music careers – after all, if the Sex Pistols did it anyone could (see: 24 Party Hour People trailer)!
I Swear That I Was There , , , Sex Pistols gig: the truth
In attendance at that gig was Morrissey (who formed The Smiths), Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook (who co-founded Joy Division), Mark E Smith (of The Fall), Mick Hucknall (of Simply Red), the organisers themselves, Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto (who became Buzzcocks and Magazine), Paul Morley (journalist and co-founder of ZTT Records) and perhaps Martin Hannett and Tony Wilson (who were both integral to Factory Records).
All of these Manchester lads had an epiphany that night to commit themselves to create music in and from Manchester thereby assuring the future of Strawberry Studios whose proximity and up-to-date equipment was also an integral part of their ultimate success.
Strawberry Studios delivered a progression of Manchester bands for the World Stage for almost three decades as the fashion moved from punk to post-punk to Madchester to Britpop.
For example . . .
Brian & Michael of “Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs” fame, (3 weeks at #1 in U.K. in 1978) also recorded “Me and 10cc“:
St. Winifred’s School Choir did BV’s on Lowry’s tribute & recorded “There’s No One Quite Like Grandma” (Xmas No.1) at Strawberry.
Other notable artistes who recorded at Strawberry Studios are:
The Syd Lawrence Orchestra recorded a lot of albums there mostly produced by the late Ric Dixon who also co-managed 10cc with me.
Joy Division, the cult Mancunian band recorded Unknown Pleasures there, and subverted Sedaka’s title in their “Love Will Tear Us Apart“.
New Order recorded their debut album “Movement” at Strawberry after Ian Curtis passed away and original recordings of ‘Ceremony‘.
Paul McCartney, recorded with his brother Peter ‘Mike’ McCartney, known professionally as Mike McGear on his album, “Woman” in ’72.
Buzzcocks recorded “Boredom” (’77) there and “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” written by frontman Pete Shelley in 1979.
Sad Café recorded their 3rd album “Facades” in 1979 produced by Eric Stewart which yielded their U.K. No.3 hit “Every Day Hurts“.
Barclay James Harvest did many albums here and re-worked gaps in their concert on the steps of the Reichstag in Berlin on 30 Aug 1980 to 250,000 people, a landmark precursor to the wall falling in 1989. “Berlin (A Concert For The People)” featured the anthemic “Hymn“.
Ramones (so named after a pseudonym Paul McCartney used when checking into hotels) recorded “Pleasant Dreams” in 1981 produced by Graham Gouldman featuring “The KKK took my baby away“.
Gilbert O’Sullivan hired Graham Gouldman as producer for his 1982 album Life & Rhymes featuring songs such as “You Don’t Own Me” recorded mostly in Dublin but also at Strawberry Studios North.
The Stone Roses recorded the 1st single on Thin Line at Strawberry in session with Martin Hannett and also a raw “I Wanna Be Adored“.
James recorded their debut E.P. ‘Jimone‘ at Strawberry featuring “What’s The World” which was later covered by The Smiths.
The Smiths recorded their first single “Hand in Glove” at Strawberry Studios, which was released on the Rough Trade label in May 1983.
Happy Mondays tried Martin Hannett for a demo of “Wrote For Luck” at Strawberry where the album “Bummed” was recorded.
World Of Twist recorded their debut E.P. “The Storm” there in 1990. Their single “Sons of The Stage” was later covered by Liam Gallagher.
The Mock Turtles recorded their album “Turtle Soup” in 1990 at Strawberry Studios featuring their biggest hit “Can You Dig It?“
Bay City Rollers recorded often at Strawberry with Peter Tattersall and “Give A Little Love” was U.K. No.1 for three weeks in July 1975.