Eric Stewart & Strawberry Studios

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).

Eric Stewart on lead vocals and lead guitar for The Mindbenders performance in the Ladies Choice scene for ‘To Sir, with love’ (1967) featuring Sidney Poitier and Judy Geeson

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.

The Times (19July 2021) – Graham Gouldman discusses working with Super K Productions

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

Football records

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:

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)!

Tony Wilson (Factory Records) and Steve Jones (Sex Pistols) in interview – April 2005

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).

Tony Wilson interviews Martin Hannett at Strawberry Studios in 1980

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“.

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“.

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.

So Strawberry Studios in Stockport was a legacy we & 10cc made available for acts well north of London to get their foot in the door too . . .

Fuck London!

‘Fuck London!’, the simplest and most prevalent manifestation of Mancunian attitude, was there amongst the disenfranchised masses at Peterloo, and in the earliest editions of the Manchester Guardian. It played its part in the creation of the Free Trade Hall, built on the site of the Peterloo massacre, and the formation of the Hallé Orchestra, who were based there for many years. It led John Dalton to form The Manchester Mechanics’ Institute, and Tony Warren to create Coronation Street.

The works of Danny Boyle have it, as does HOME, the Manchester arts centre he is patron of. And as we’ve seen, it was absolutely central to the approach of Kennedy Street Enterprises, and Harvey Lisberg in particular.

It motivated Eric Stewart to create Strawberry Studios, and was the guiding principle of Tony Wilson, Rob Gretton (it was pretty much his catchphrase) and Factory Records.

And what’s more, the connective tissue that made it possible means that the story of Manchester music is a story with a plot. Unlike many musical histories, it’s not just a litany of facts. The promoters and managers of Kennedy Street inspired and invested in Graham Gouldman, which gave him a unique opportunity to showcase Manchester music on the world stage.

They invested in Peter Tattersall and Eric Stewart, and thus made Strawberry Studios possible. Strawberry subsidised and encouraged the studio upstairs, Pluto, to flourish and become a major player in its own right. And having a world-class studio on their doorstep enabled Martin Hannett and New Order to effectively change the face of music altogether.

Strawberry’s very existence ‘lent strength to the instincts of people like Tony Wilson to […] resist the dominance of London and instead build a creative scene locally. To do for music what Granada was doing for television,’ in the words of Dave Haslam.

Images of Manchester musicians set to ‘Leave The Capital’ by Mark E Smith’s ‘The Fall’

But it wouldn’t have happened without the do-it-yourself and do-it-away-from-London legacy of Kennedy Street, The Mindbenders, Herman’s Hermits and Graham Gouldman. One of the reasons the Manchester scene of 1977 was so richly rewarding was because the protagonists were standing on the shoulders of giants.

If this Manchester attitude has been passed from generation to generation, is the ‘Manchester sound’ similarly bequeathed?

Can a Manchester sound even exist, when what we think of as Manchester music runs the gamut of emotions from ‘I’m Into Something Good’ to ‘I Remember Nothing’?

The simple answer is yes, when Morrissey can make a Graham Gouldman / Herman’s Hermits song like ‘East West‘ feel like he wrote it himself, or when the same unnamed introspection haunts both ‘I’m Not In Love’ and ‘Thieves Like Us’.

. . . extract from ‘Leave The Capital‘ by Paul Hanley

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