Strawberry Studios

by | Feb 22, 2018 | Manchester, Music

What started life as a tiny room with egg boxes lining the walls became one of the most influential recording studios of the 1970s and 80s. Nostalgia remembers the Stockport phenomenon that was Strawberry Studios.

What do music giants 10cc, The Smiths, Neil Sedaka, Paul McCartney and The Stone Roses all have in common?

The answer is they’ve all recorded in the unlikely setting of 3, Waterloo Road, Stockport – much better known as Strawberry Studios.

And what songs they produced! Neil Sedaka recorded his Solitaire album in Stockport and 10cc produced four albums, eight Top Ten singles and two Number Ones.

From 1972 up to the early 1990s, the studio became the creative cauldron for almost every Manchester band.

Along with The Smiths and Joy Division, Strawberry played host to the Buzzcocks, Barclay James Harvest, Simply Red, Durutti Column, Happy Mondays, Crispy Ambulance and James – to name but a few!

Big bands like the Syd Lawrence Orchestra recorded there too, along with a string of sports clubs.
There was also Stockport’s own St Winifred’s School Choir, whose single There’s No One Quite Like Grandma shot to the top of the charts at Christmas 1980.

Band leader Syd Lawrence pictured at his home.

Band leader Syd Lawrence, who recorded at Strawberry Studios, in November 1969.

The Strawberry story started in 1967 when Inter-City Studios above the Nield and Hardy record shop in Stockport was bought by for £500 by Peter Tattersall.

Tattersall, who had been a road manager for Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, raised the money by working in a local bakery.

Inter-City took its first steps with Tattersall recording a few demo tapes for local groups like Herman’s Hermits and Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders.

Then musician Eric Stewart came on board.

Stewart, a member of the Mindbenders, invested a further £800 and changed the name of the studios. Inter-City became Strawberry Recording Studios, taking its name from Stewart’s favourite song at the time – Strawberry Fields Forever by the Beatles.

Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders setting off on tour, April 1965.

Unfortunately Stewart and Tattersall were turfed out of their upstairs location as the studio’s activities were judged to be a fire risk to the historic building next door.

Strawberry Studios moved to Waterloo Road and started work on upgrading its equipment. Financial help came from Stewart’s friend and fellow musician Graham Gouldman.

It was hard-going in the early days. Stewart recalled: ‘It was a very tiny studio with some stereo equipment and the walls lined with egg boxes to provide sound insulation.

‘There was a makeshift sort of control desk tied together with sellotape and string, but it was good enough for what I wanted to do – and it was the only studio near Manchester.’

In 1969, Strawberry persuaded the Kasenatz-Katz music organisation from New York to base their UK operations in Stockport.

Stewart brought in his good friends Kevin Godley and Lol Crème and released a number of tracks under various guises for the UK market. At this time Gouldman was still working for Kasenatz-Katz in the USA.

One of the singles, Neanderthal Man recorded under the band name Hot Legs, reached Number Two in the UK charts.

10cc at Cardiff Castle before their concert.

Eric Stewart, Graham Gouldman, Kevin Godley and, front, Lol Crème of 10cc in July 1975.

Gouldman returned to Stockport and the four musicians worked mainly as producers for other bands and singers, including Neil Sedaka.

They also recorded tracks for football clubs, including Everton. Our picture shows players grouped around manager Howard Kendall belting out the song For Ever Everton in October 1972.

Everton players cut a disc "For Ever Everton" at the Strawberry Studios in Stockport, Cheshire.

Everton players with manager Howard Kendall recording in Stockport, October 1972.

Eventually the four friends decided to record their own work with the support of Jonathan King’s UK Records.

The first single they made in 1972 was Donna – and the name of their group? 10cc.

Donna went to Number Two in the UK charts and 10cc had arrived. Strawberry Studios would never be the same.

As 10cc’s success grew, money was ploughed back into the studios. More sophisticated equipment was purchased and the building became very busy.

At the same time as the 10cc album Sheet Music was being recorded in 1974, Paul McCartney was producing his brother Mike McGear’s album McGear.

McGear’s group The Scaffold also recorded their album Sold Out at Strawberry in 1975. The group had some affectionate words for Stockport on the sleeve notes.

They wrote: ‘A nice town Stockport. It’s no Liverpool, but it’s A-OK. The band 10cc have studios there, on a hill, near the station and nearer a pub.

‘Good old Stockport. Thy ‘eart beats strong and thou hart more than ‘atmakers.’

Pop group The Scaffold

The Scaffold recorded their album Sold Out in Stockport in 1975.

As more groups came to Stockport, it was sometimes hard for 10cc to work in their own building! So a second Strawberry Studios was opened in a former cinema in Dorking in 1976.

The group sold their interest in the Stockport studios in the early 1980s, but returned to record the album Windows in the Jungle in 1983.

Strawberry was taken over by the neighbouring Yellow Two studios in 1986. It stopped operating as a music studio in the early 1990s to focus on film and video production.

In 2007, a plaque was mounted on the building to commemorate its unique contribution to the local music scene.If you have any memories of Strawberry Recording Studios you’d like to share, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.