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Olympic Studios
Background information

117 Church Road, Barnes, London (UK)

Building constructed 1906
Studio ceased operations 2009
recording studios

Olympic Studios was an independent commercial recording studio located at 117 Church Road, Barnes, London (UK). The studio was best known for the many famous rock and pop music recordings made there in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The building which housed the studio was constructed in 1906 as a theatre for the Barnes Repertory Company. Guild TV purchased it in the late 1950s and converted it into a film studio. In 1965 it was purchased by Olympic Sound Studios. The conversion from film to recording studio was undertaken by architect Robertson Grant and the acoustics were done by Keith Grant and Russel Pettinger.

The studio ceased operations in 2009.


The original Olympic Sound Studios was established in central London in the late 1950s. It was owned by Angus McKenzie who had bought Larry Lyons' 'Olympia Studio' in Fulham. McKenzie then took a lease on a derelict synagogue in Carlton Place, in London's West End.

Studio One[]

In conjunction with Richard Swettenham, McKenzie opened Olympic's Studio One with the tube desk from Olympia. Keith Grant joined the company in 1958 from IBC studios as music engineer. Swettenham designed the first professional transistorised desk in the world and it was duly installed into Studio One around 1960, along with the first 4-track recorder in England. Studio One was used by many important British groups including The Yardbirds, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Alexis Korner, and Graham Bond. The Rolling Stones' first single "Come On", many Dusty Springfield hits, and "Wild Thing" by The Troggs, were among hundreds of records made there. It was a popular studio with Decca, EMI, Pye and Philips recording A&R staff, as well as hosting London Weekend Television's music recordings.

Move to Barnes[]

When the lease expired in 1965 the studio was bought from McKenzie by Cliff Adams and Keith Grant in 1965 and moved to its present location in Barnes in 1966.

LP,Singles and Film Music[]

The Rolling Stones were among the first clients of the new Olympic Studios in Barnes, recording six consecutive LPs there between 1966 and 1972. The Beatles worked at the studio to record the original tracks of "All You Need Is Love" and "Baby You're a Rich Man" . The Who recorded their classic albums Who's Next and Who Are You. It was used extensively by Led Zeppelin, who recorded tracks there for all of their studio albums up to and including Physical Graffiti in 1975. Also in 1975 Queen used the studio for their groundbreaking album A Night at the Opera. The studio saw the production of many other landmark albums and singles by artists such as The Small Faces, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Traffic, Hawkwind and Procol Harum, including the latter's megahit "A Whiter Shade of Pale". It was the venue for the recording of the original album version of the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970, and many film scores and orchestral pieces including The Italian Job (1969) and the movie version of Jesus Christ Superstar (1973).'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' was recorded in Studio 2 in 1975.

New design[]

In the 1970s Grant commissioned his father Robertson Grant to re-design Studio Two, as the now working and successful studio was causing problems with sound transmission to Studio One, who might be recording Elgar whilst Studio Two was running the Stones. Robertson Grant successfully innovated a completely floating space weighing 17 Tonnes all supported on rubber pads.

Mick Jagger became involved with the charge of decor and furnishing and produced a contemporary design.

Later, Grant added probably the first Instant acoustic change using rough sawn wooden slats, as in a venetian blind, to cover or reveal absorptive panel behind, thus changing the acoustics. This made the room suitable for both rock and orchestral at the pull of a cord.

acoustics. This made the room suitable for both rock and orchestral at the pull of a cord.

Virgin and closure[]

In 1987, Virgin bought the property and its goodwill, changing the design after consulting with a Japanese studio builder, Sam Toyoshima, who declared the famous Studio 1 'An unfit acoustic for recording music. The Studio manager for Virgin, Barbera Jefferies, had all the master tapes from the vast library put in skips outside the studios for the public to help themselves. This resulted in huge bootleg trade and artistes having to buy back their tapes at exorbitant prices The whole building was gutted just leaving the outside walls and a total rebuild was commenced. Many artists and engineers who had worked in both think that the original soul of the building was put in those skips outside.

In February 2009, the Olympic Studios website displayed that it was closed for business.

Associated Personnel[]

Glyn Johns[]

One of the many attractions of Olympic was that it was the 'home' of British premier freelance engineer–producer Glyn Johns and his brother Andy Johns. Also notable were the Olympic mixing desks, a creation of the maintenance staff custom-built in-house for the studios as 'Olympic' desks by Dick Swettenham, Keith Grant, and, later, Jim McBride in conjunction with Jim Dowler, now of ADT. Swettenham later started to manufacture the consoles commercially as Helios desks around 1970. The first desk was commissioned by Grant as 'Helios 1' for Studio 2. Olympic desks and their Helios offspring are highly regarded today for their sonic qualities. It is known that Grant still retains a large amount of the original studio equipment thought to in use in his private studio in Surrey.

Other associations[]

The studio was a training ground for many successful producers, technicians and engineers, such as:

  • Gus Dudgeon, producer of Elton John and others
  • Glyn Johns and his brother Andy Johns, best known for their association with The Rolling Stones
  • Jimmy Miller, producer of albums and singles by Family, Traffic and The Rolling Stones
  • Roger Savage who recorded the first Rolling Stones hit "Come on" in the 1960s before moving to Australia, where he became a highly successful engineer, before moving into post production sound recording with his own three studios, Sound Firm,in Melbourne, Sidney, and Bejiing .
  • Toby Alington who now has award winning Richmond Studios as his organisation
  • Chris Kimsey, best known for his work with The Rolling Stones as producer.
  • Gerry O'Riordan, best known for his recording and editing skills.
  • David Hamilton-Smith, best known for his association with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
  • George Chkiantz, who is usually credited with inventing the technique of tape flanging first used on The Small Faces' "Itchycoo Park"
  • Eddie Kramer, Olympic staff engineer who recorded Jimi Hendrix and is still involved with the post production of his work.
  • Terry and Phil Brown
  • Paul PDub Walton best known for work with Bjork and Madonna.
  • Richard Swettenham, best known for the Olympic Console design.
  • Roger Mayer, best known for his guitar pedals.
  • Doug Bennett, best known for his work with the Stranglers
  • Phil Chapman
  • Laurence Burrage