Corridor of Sound

Logo for Corridor of Sound

To celebrate Maida Vale Studios reaching the grand old age of 75 Cerys Matthews takes a historical tour through one of the music industry's most well loved buildings. Since its time as an roller skating rink and national insurance offices, Maida Vale has gone on to become a launch pad to stardom for young aspiring musicians and actors. Not only have the studios been instrumental in the careers of many successful artists they were also a key player at the beginning of Radio 2's life when, thanks to restrictions on the amount of recorded music that could be played, the BBC had to make its own live music. Lead a musician along the main corridor of Maida Vale studios for the first time and you can almost feel the excitement and trepidation bubbling up inside them; the recognition of the great sounds that have been created inside the studios weighing heavily on their shoulders. Arguably more artists have walked through Maida Vale's Art Deco front door than even the legendary Abbey Road. Its historic roster covers the breadth of the entertainment industry; from Led Zepplin and the Pink Floyd to Harry Connick Jr. and Robbie Williams. History permeates through the building: Vera Lynn entertained the locals through the war with the help of the BBC Dance Band; Bing Crosby, made his last ever recording in the Studio 3; and the Beatles strayed from Abbey Road to make their BBC radio programme Pop Goes The Beatles. And hidden away, in what was once known as Room 13, were those lesser known geniuses of the Radiophonic Workshop who busily created the wacky world of sound effects for The Goon Show and the iconic Doctor Who theme. Cerys meets the history makers past and present. As well as encountering soon-to-be-famous performers, she bumps into regular visitors of the studio Johnny Marr, Rick Wakeman and Jools Holland. She introduces the talented people who help make the dreams come true - the sound engineers. These unsung heroes, not only mix the session, but have been known on occasion to give the odd band member a quick singing lesson or an emergency guide to tuning guitars. As Cerys wanders around this well loved but ramshackle building, she immerses herself in a typical day at Maida Vale. In Studio 1, home of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, she meets the people who've played a key role in the orchestra's history before finding out what really happen in the legendary Radiophonic Workshop. After that she descends into the heart of the building to the lower corridor where she has a brief lesson in playing the old John Compton organ, before finding Studio 3. This room was instrumental to the success of Radio 2 in the early days. It was the home of all the live music that was created especially for shows like Gloria Hunniford, Jimmy Young and Music While You Work. While there, Cerys interrupts the BBC Big Band and joins them in a rendition of a classic tune. Just along the corridor is Studio 4 most famous for its rock sessions. Here Cerys reminisces about the sessions that helped change her fortunes, meets a new band that are at MV for the first time and talks to the engineers and producers that make it all happen. However it's not just dramatic musical performances that fill the corridors with sound. Hidden away at the back of the building is the drama studio and a cupboard full of bicycles, ironing boards and other bric-a-brac that all help to make a radio play come alive, as Cerys finds out when she takes on the role as a spot effects person for a mini drama.