|MILESAGO: Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975||Recording Studios|
From 1965 to 1974, Armstrong's Studios in South Melbourne was arguably the #1 independent recording studio in Australasia. The list of artists, producers and engineers who worked there, and the scores of hit singles and albums recorded there in its heyday, includes the cream of the Australian music industry of that era.
One of Armstrongs' first pop productions proved to be a cornerstone of the 60s beat boom in Australia -- the backing track for the Easybeats' breakthrough hit "She's So Fine", recorded by the great Roger Savage in 1965. The Armstrong's story is littered with classic after classic -- late 60s tracks like Russell Morris' "The Real Thing", '70s albums by Spectrum and many others, and on to many of the great "new wave" recordings of the late 70s and 80s by bands like Sports and The Birthday Party. If Melbourne was Australia's pop capital, Armstrong's was its "the engine room", and the closest equivalent in terms of overseas studios would probably be London's legendary Olympic Studios.
Studio owner Bill Armstrong was born in Melbourne in 1929. He started his recording career as an engineer at radio station 3UZ from 1954-56, where his work included disc cutting of radio shows and live-to-air orchestral music broadacsts. From 1956-60 Bill was manager of W&G Records. He established their disc-cutting room and in 1957 built their recording studio in West Melbourne. That year Bill also supervised the sound system for Phillips Bell at the Main Stadium at the Olympic Games in Melbourne.
From 1960-61 he was the manager of the Custom Recording Department at 3DB in Melbourne, where he recorded radio commercials and soundtracks for television advertisements. From 1961-65 he was manager of Telefil Sound Recording and Film Studios, which was at the time the largest commercial recording studio in Melbourne. Housed in a converted Melbourne cinema, it was equipped with one, two and three track Ampex recorders, and its clients included EMI, CBS and RCA.
In 1965 Bill Armstrong opened his own studio in a small terrace house in South Melbourne. Over the next few years it expanded into six adjoining properties, including four studios equipped with 4-track machines. In 1968 Armstrong's installed one of the first 8-track recorders in Australia, followed by 16 and then 24-track machines, together with state-of the-art mixing desks in the early '70s. During this time, many of Australia's most distinguished producers and engineers worked there, including Roger Savage, Ern Rose, John Sayers, John French, Ian Meldrum, Howard Gable, David McKay and Peter Dawkins.
Ian Meldrum: "I was so keen on the idea that I went into Bill Armstrong's recording studios every day, all day, while The Groop were recording. And thanks to a young engineer by the name of Roger Savage, and Bill Armstrong who owned the studios, they allowed me to spend all of my spare time in the studios, teaching me to become a panel operator"
In 1972 the company bought a large warehouse and converted it into a five-studio complex, making Armstrong's the largest in the southern hemisphere. At this time Armstrong's was responsible for 80% of the locally-recorded hit records for major labels including EMI, RCA, Mushroom and Fable. In 1974 the studios were sold to the Age Newspaper Group and the name of the company was changed to Armstrong Audio Video (AAV). In the 1990s the audio operations of AAV were acquired by a staff consortium headed by producer-engineer Ern Rose and the company's name was changed to Metropolis Audio. Metropolis was itself later acquired by another audio-visual company, but unfortunately this company got into financial difficulties and Metropolis was abruptly closed down in 2006, ending an illustrious chapter in Australian music history.
Major Recordings 1964-75:
This section is under consctruction. Our
list currently includes only a tiny fraction of the many hundreds of
pop/rock and other recordings made at Armstrong's between 1964 and 1975.
If you have more information, please contact us at [email protected]
The Hoax Is Over (Infinity LP, 1970)
Engineer: Ern Rose
References / Links
John Sayers' studio website
(Note: unfortunately John's site is currently off line, but it included a good summary of his work at Armstrong's and a list of the many famous records he has produced or engineered.)
Ian Meldrum biography