It is no secret that Regent Sounds has long boasted decades of rich musical heritage, and has witnessed the birth of some of the greatest and most influential records ever made. Seldom does a space the size of our beloved guitar shop have such an impact and influence on the world of music. As many of our customers and readers will know, Regent Sounds was once a world-famous recording studio, that spawned and witnessed many pivotal moments in popular music culture, weaving itself firmly into the tapestry of the British music scene’s most fertile eras. Today’s piece sets out to commemorate one of those many great moments, heralding back to 1964, when an unassuming, debut record by a then up-and-coming British rhythm and blues band was recorded across 5 days’ worth of sessions, at our beloved No. 4 Denmark Street. While sources conflict regarding the birth of Regent Sounds, it has been widely accepted that the studio first came into operation in 1948; yet there remains evidence of the facility being active as early as 1934. By the ‘60s however, the studio had been well-established as a facility boasting a number of rehearsal and recording studios, and it is this incarnation of Regent Sounds that we will flash back to, today.
London, January 1964. The band was the Rolling Stones, and the collective of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts – together with the help of three guest musicians – laid down a seminal album, famed for tracks such as ‘Route 66’ and ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’ among many others. To be released on Decca Records later that year (and subsequently London Records in the US), the album’s writings, nostalgic sound and feel, would go on to change the course of popular music, forever. The band was then-managed by Andrew Loog Oldham and Eric Easton, both of whom take production credits, while writing credits remain more varied. Until 1978, Keith Richard opted to drop the last letter of his name as a professional pseudonym, and is credited alongside Mick Jagger for contributing one composition to the record’s final 12 tracks. The album’s liner notes also reference compositions made by the band between ’63 and ’65: credited to ‘Nanker Phelge’ – their writing pseudonym – while other songwriting credits were given to Phil Spector and Gene Pitney, among others.
Unusually for records of the time, the album cover featured a photograph of the band, taken by Nicholas Wright, with nothing more than Decca’s name printed on the front. Conceptualised by Oldham, the cover was no doubt intended to incite the curiosity of new listeners, and leave a stronger visual impact, relative to the styling of almost all other album covers of the era.
At the peak of their fertility, January 1964 also saw the Stones record their first big hit – ‘Not Fade Away’ – which was released separately as the A-side of their first US single; independent of the album, itself. Interestingly, during this era, Denmark Street had long been home to many of London’s music publishing companies, often employing the services of established writers, musicians and lyricists, to flesh out their wealthy catalogues of material that could then subsequently be licensed out to artists for their records. The ‘60s brought a lot of change for these companies, leaving them wrought with fear, as the success of groups such as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, saw record after record of self-penned music, where bands relied minimally on these established catalogues of music. It was during this period that forward-thinking member of the Barings banking family, James Baring, took ownership of Regent Sounds, encouraging emerging bands to use the studio to record and write their own material.
Fast-forwarding to the release and subsequent massive commercial success of the Stones’ debut, Regent Sounds’ client list grew rapidly, as scores of young musicians and bands sought to record at the famous studio that launched the Rolling Stones into the spotlight. Being a fledgling studio to the world of rock’n’roll, Regent Sounds was often an attractive proposition, due to its economical rates, that allowed bands who were just starting their careers to afford the facility and record their demos. It is even rumoured that the Stones never actually paid for their time at Regent, and that a gentleman’s handshake settled the whole ordeal.
So, the next time you walk into our Denmark Street store, you might like to take the time to reflect upon the fact that you will be standing and walking on the very same floors that recorded some of music’s greatest moments. We will continue to delve further into Regent’s rich history across future posts, and subsequently commemorate the studio’s ties with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Tom Jones and many, many more. Stay tuned…