Mojo, July 1999

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UK & Ireland magazines


Pathway Studios

Max Décharné

Max Décharné discovers the home of punk in a fascist printshop.

Most of the great recording studios have either been demolished (Stax), turned into museums (Sun, Motown) or so thoroughly overhauled that they bear minimal resemblance to their glory days (Abbey Road). However, Pathway Studios, the 8-track birthplace of English punk, is still pretty much as it was when it opened in 1970: same 8-track desk, same acoustic tiles, same wiring, and same owner, Mike Finesilver.

Pathway was built in 1969 by Mike and his original partner Peter Kerr with their share of the songwriting royalties from Arthur Brown's Number 1 hit "Fire." The Highbury building had previously done time as a print shop, a paint store and a very cramped weightlifting club. Mike remembers John Lennon dropping in some time in 1970 in to watch his drummer Alan White; a year or so later Shane Fenton began recording here as Alvin Stardust under the direction of Magnet Records' A&R man, a certain Pete Waterman.

Dave Edmunds and Mike had both worked on the second Love Sculpture album, and Dave spent the summer of 1976 at Pathway recording the tracks that became 1977's Get It, with his version of Nick Lowe's "I Knew The Bride." When Stiff Records opened for business in 1976, Pathway became the label's second home. "New Rose" and "Neat, Neat, Neat" by The Damned followed, as did singles by Wreckless Eric, The Adverts and Ian Dury, mostly produced by Lowe or Larry Wallis. In the summer of '77 they hit the big time with Elvis Costello's album debut, My Aim Is True, featuring "Less Than Zero"'s tirade of abuse directed at "Mister Oswald with the swastika tattoo." Ironically the very building in which they were recording had contained a printing press for Mosley's British Union of Fascists back in the '30s.

The Police made their debut single "Fall Out" here, and in 1978 the newly-signed Siouxsie And The Banshees kicked off their career with "Hong Kong Garden." Later hits included "Airport" by The Motors, "Lucky Number" by Lene Lovich and "My Girl" by Madness. In 1978 a pub rock band came to make a single using "a couple of hundred quid from an aunt who died." It was called "Sultans Of Swing." Dire Straits then moved to more extravagant recording budgets.

Since then the Psychedelic Furs, Spandau Ballet, Link Wray, John Cleese, Dollar, and Ewan MacColl with Peggy Seeger have recorded there. When medium Doris Stokes did a spoken word album she said, "Someone has died in this room" as soon as she walked in.

In 1993 Elvis Costello returned to record with Wendy James. "I actually liked recording there again," he told Billboard, "with the tiny room, the 8-track machine, the old perforated acoustic panels on the wall and the special drum sound." As Sam Phillips said of his Sun days: "I didn't go for overdubbing. Still don't. I like things where somebody feels 'I can do it. It might take one take, or four, but I can do it myself, right here and now.'" Or, as Nick Lowe used to say his Pathway charges, "Bash it down and we'll tart it up later."

Tags: Pathway StudiosNick LoweDave EdmundsI Knew The BrideStiff RecordsMy Aim Is TrueLess Than ZeroOswald MosleyNeat Neat NeatThe DamnedLarry WallisIan DuryWreckless EricStaxMotownJohn LennonThe PoliceMadnessDire StraitsPsychedelic FursJohn CleeseEwan MacCollWendy JamesSam Phillips

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Mojo, No. 68, July 1999

Max Décharné profiles Pathway Studios.


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