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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 September 2007, 08:15 GMT 09:15 UK
Chapter opens on studio legends
Robert Plant (photo courtesy Andrew Pritchard)
Robert Plant back at Rockfield, where his career took a new path
The story of how a Welsh farm became a not-so-quiet corner of rock'n'roll has been told in a history of a Monmouthshire recording studios.

Rockfield was started by brothers Charles and Kingsley Ward in 1965.

Over four decades it has produced hits from artists such as Queen, Motorhead, Oasis, Stereophonics and the former Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant.

"I'm amazed no-one had written about it before," said the book's author, journalist Jeff Collins.

Robert Plant returned to Rockfield last year on the 25th anniversary of his first solo album and was interviewed by Collins for the book.

The 59-year-old told Collins he was "re-born both personally and professionally" at the studios after the break-up of Led Zeppelin, following the death of drummer John Bonham.

He said: "After all that wild stuff, and momentum, this was an absolute dream, because it was pastoral, funny, and it had a history, the place itself was a bit more passive than any kind I'd ever been in."

Lemmy, of Motorhead, is interviewed by Jeff Collins
Motorhead front man, Lemmy, left, is interviewed by Jeff Collins

This week it was announced Led Zeppelin are to reform - with Bonham's son playing drums - for a one-night-only charity gig at London's O2 arena.

Collins, 40, said: "When I was growing up, I couldn't believe all this fantastic music was being recorded just a few miles up the road, and in Wales.

"I'm amazed no-one had written about it before."

The Ward brothers were signed to a music label in the mid-60s and created their first studio on the family farm when they became fed up with the travelling to London for recording sessions in the days before the M4 motorway opened.

One of the first artists to raise the studios profile among aspiring musicians was Cardiff-born Dave Edmunds with his 1971 hit, I Hear You Knocking'.

Collins tracked down a number of the stars who used the studios during their career, as well as some of the producers and engineers.

Among stories told in Rock Legends At Rockfield is the recording of Queen's masterpiece A Night at the Opera, part of which was recorded at Rockfield in 1975 and is reputed to be one of the most expensive albums of all time.

Queen's operatic Bohemian Rhapsody became a rock classic

Roadie Peter Hince, known as Ratty, claims in the book that record label executives were sweating as the costs of classic tracks, including operatic Bohemian Rhapsody, mounted.

He said: "If it hadn't sold as many millions as it eventually did... EMI might have had second thoughts."

The album topped the charts in Britain and reached number four in America.

Freddie Mercury wrote his piano part for Bohemian Rhapsody in a former feed store at the farm while the rest of the band played Frisbee in a nearby field.

Mercury's six-minute epic may have gone into rock legend, but the record executives who were paying the bills needed to see a return on the investment, according to Hince.

He said: "Overall it was a pretty hectic time. There was a lot of pressure, so you got a feeling it was a real "make or break" time for the band.

"At the time, A Night At The Opera was one of the most expensive albums ever made. The cost in terms of studio time was phenomenal.

"If it hadn't sold as many millions as it eventually did...EMI might have had second thoughts after spending all that money and might have dropped Queen."

Hear the history of the studios

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