Rockers striving to “bring their heads together in the country” have been one of the great clichés in popular music since the late 1960s. As “Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm,” a pleasant new documentary directed by Hannah Berryman, extensively testifies, “The Land” was just as likely a place where rockers could lose their heads.
As reported by brothers Kingsley Ward and Charles Ward, their parents’ large pig and dairy farm in Wales was a dubious legacy. “No money in agriculture,” one of them shrugs his shoulders. Avid rock fans had been making music on tape together since the mid-1950s and heading north to try and sell them. Your first stop was a plate press plant. (They have a “label” address on the back of an LP.)
Various farm buildings had attractive acoustic properties, so the wards began cleaning and sealing them and building a residential studio. Black Sabbath rehearsed there; The space rockers Hawkwind recorded there. After leaving Led Zeppelin, singer Robert Plant found a place in Rockfield to experiment, an environment where he was “free to fail”.
The stories get picaresque when New Wave and Britpop bands check in and act like New Wave and Britpop bands. Simple Minds sing backup vocals for an at times sober Iggy Pop and so on. The studio’s biggest boom comes when the Stone Roses stay for over a year. And then there is Oasis. His former singer, Liam Gallagher, remembers the fights with his bandleader brother Noel (of course he does) and rushes to the village pub.
This stuff is best appreciated by Rock Mavens. Many of the other bands that told their stories (including the Boo Radleys and the Charlatans) weren’t very influential in the US, so Anglophilia helps too.
Rockfield: The studio on the farm
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. Watch virtual cinemas.