Olympic Studios

A Musical Tour of South West London; Home is Where the Music is
Musicians in South West London and why the area has been so musical.

As a long time (0-26) inhabitant of Barnes/Sheen in SW London, one of the most common reminders of the musical history of the area is a house next to the river which bares a plaque commemorating the composer Gustav Holst (The Planets), who lived in the house between 1913-34.

Holst, who was born in (place), lived at 23 & 31 Grena Rd in Richmond (near the Blackhorse pub) before moving to 10 The Terrace, Barnes (1908-13) where a plaque was unveiled on Thursday 25 April 1963. According to H Charles Hailstone (Richmond and Twickenham Times, Sat 27 April 1963) the years Holst spent in Barnes were “amongst [the] most prolific”. Hailstone suggested that it was the views over the river and into Chiswick that inspired Holst to write so much music in no 10. He composed 2 psalms for chorus and string orchestra, 2 suites for military band, more hymns from the Riga Veda [the Hindu holy book] for chorus and orchestra and a 1 act opera (Salvitri). Imogen Holst, the composer’s daughter (b …) and a musician in her own right, noted in her biography of her father (Gustav Holst, 1938, OUP) that he used to “walk over to Sheen Common in the hopes of finding a little peace”. Gustav Holst taught at St Pauls girls school in Hammersmith from 1904. He went on to write a work in homage to Hammersmith, which is also on the river.

Another, perhaps more famous, musical inhabitant of South West London is Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones who has lived/lives on Richmond Hill. Brian May in Kew?

A famous music venue in Barnes is the world famous jazz pub The Bulls Head which has hosted such musicians as Humphrey Littleton’s band. Incidentally, this is only a stones throw from The Terrace.


The Olympic Impact of a Barnes Studio

In this first 'chapter' I'd like to assess the impact of Olympic Studios in Barnes, South WEst London. It became a studio in the mid 1960s and has a long history. The sucess of a studio depends on a num,ber of factors, most importantly the staff, the equipment and the space(s). Why did they choose to record their music at Olympic Studios? Some of the studios users may have used it simply as they lived nearby; Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, both of whom then lived in nearby Barnes (?), recorded Evita there in 1976. Rice explained in 1996s that “I became very attached to Barnes, where the Olympic Studios still thrives, having first got to know SW13 in 1970, when we recorded Jesus Christ Superstar there. I now live just down the road from Olympic”(1)

Maybe Olympic’s choice of engineers has contributed to its success. Rice further explained that ‘David Hamilton Smith, the recording engineer was virtually a third producer. His prime asset is that he is a very funny man, but his impeccable work at the desk was crucial.’ (1)

'The Mix Suite has been the home of numerous top singles & albums over the last 5 years since it was opened. A joint venture between Mark ‘Spike’ Stent & Olympic, the room incorporates a 64 channel SSL 4000G Series console, extensive outboard equipment including ProTools. Views of the garden & full use of the beautifully refurbished conservatory & kitchen add to the experience. Recent clients include Madonna, Linkin Park, No Doubt and Wheatus." (olympicstudios.co.uk)


"Each studio has its own separate lounge which, together with our restaurant, garden and tennis court/5-aside football pitch, provide much required R&R"

Queen recorded parts of their album The Miracle at Olympic Studios in 1989 but they also recorded music from this album in The Townhouse Studios (London) and Mountain Studios (Montreaux, Switzerland) so perhaps the band didn’t feel that Olympic catered to all of their needs. Which parts did they record at Olympic? By the time the band came to record "Innuendo", (1991, the year Freddie died), the band apparently favoured Metropolis
Studios in London over Olympic.

Madonna used Olympic Studios for her 2005 album Confession on a Dancefloor.
Madonna recently bought a house in London

'All songs recorded by Stuart Price at Shirland Road except how high and like it or not recorded at Murlyn Studios Stockholm. All songs mixed by Mark Stent at Olympic
Studios& Record Plant: Los Angeles"

My own experiences
I studied music at Shene School (now Shene International School), Richmond Upon Thames College, Surrey University Roehampton (formerly Roehampton Institute and now Roehampton University) and Kingston University. At least 2 of my fellow students from Shene (& RUTC) are pursuing music interests; one (Chris) as a jazz singer, another (Jo) as a jazz guitarist and jazz guitar teacher as well as helping to run a jazz music agency with his wife (a singer), of which the Chris is a member. Since becoming involved with transit station (after finishing my study at Kingston) I have met other musicians who live in the area (Kingston Upon Thames).

I became aware of the Richmond Music Trust whilst working with Sheen Mount School as a pianist in 2005. The trust works with children within schools to encourage and help them with learning music.

1; Rice, T., Evita; 20th Anniversary Edition, RCA, 1996


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