Articles, Analyses, and Commentary

In Loving Memory of Eric Tomlinson
In Loving Memory of Eric Tomlinson

8 Jan 1931 – 24 Nov 2015

I fondly remember several highly rewarding wintry days in west England during January of 2007.

Rolling green hillsides, angular ochre coastline, and exceptionally friendly people were to be found in the Devon countryside. Two such inconspicuous locals were recording engineer, Eric Tomlinson, and his radiant wife, Joy.

In an atmosphere of laughter, playful banter, and £2 bets we reminisced the days of CTS, Anvil, and Abbey Road. This was to be a remarkable epoch of film music recording in England. Ever so modest about his contribution to recorded sound—a gold record for Star Wars decorated the hallway but only at Joy's insistence—Eric was allocated the moniker of "Sir" by me and in return he labelled me "Magic." My lowly contribution was sorting a computer glitch!

We would individually take turns warbling film tunes with the other two harmonising along, trying to guess the piece. Discussions about The Quiller Memorandum (recorded by John Richards) were met with our best Matt Monro impressions as we crooned the theme. Was it "Thursday's Child" or "Wednesday's Child?" Eric and Joy were supremely confident of the former whilst I was steadfast on the latter. Google resolved the dispute in my favour and £2 was placed on the table for the taking.

Rich in tone, delivered via Maxell chromium oxide cassette tape, takes 104 and 105 of Farewell to the King provided fitting musical accompaniment as we toured Dartmouth in Eric's green Mercedes station-wagon. With 230,000 miles clocked on the odometer, the vehicle seemed to exude Eric and Joy's unperturbed temperament. A view of seagulls soaking up sunshine, with a sailing vessel meandering past, was typical of our journey through this peaceful nook of England.

Eric Arthur Tomlinson was born on 8 January 1931, the son of a chauffeur from Lancashire. A childhood adoration of aircraft led to the completion of an apprenticeship for the Fairey Aviation Company. However, it was during his daily commute through Hayes that Eric longed for the excitement of tinkering with ultra-modern broadcast and recording equipment at the neighbouring EMI Laboratories.

Abandoning his aircraft career and joining IBC Studios, Eric mixed and cut acetate discs during the renaissance of traditional jazz in England for artists including John Dankworth, Cleo Laine, and Ted Heath's band. It was a virtual proving ground for future recording luminaries including Keith Grant, Adrian Kerridge, and the eccentric Joe Meek.

Eric commenced his film music career in the late 1950s, initially executing recordings for conductor Muir Mathieson until the then new Cine-Tele Sound (CTS) studios beckoned.

From the earliest days of his career, Eric Tomlinson did not ascribe to romantic descriptions or haughty trumpeting of self-importance when it came to his profession. These were in contradiction to the congenial and self-effacing manner with which he assiduously worked and breezily entertained.

Behind the console, Eric possessed an adroit ability to rapidly obtain a balance and skilfully deliver a finished live mix. In the studio, shrewd selection of microphone and prudent placement were usually all that was needed. It was a virtuoso proficiency that led to the near total rejection of equalisation and dynamics processing electronics—standards in the audio engineer's handbook. Outside of panning, the other potentiometers and switches found on the mixing console were, ostensibly, for display-purposes only. In principle, Eric was entirely accurate when describing his control room duties, albeit modestly, as "up for loud, down for soft."

Eric Tomlinson kept an enviable résumé. Frank Sinatra's only album recorded outside of the USA ("Great Songs from Great Britain"); the "James Bond Theme" together with early OO7 scores including Goldfinger and Thunderball; blockbusters such as Ryan's DaughterStar Wars, and Superman were among frequent and prestigious projects; and he brought film scoring to Abbey Road where he captured Raiders of the Lost Ark and Brainstorm with astonishing depth, realism, and nuance.

In many respects these recordings, among many others, would serve as a young person's introduction to the orchestra. The multi-platinum double-LP soundtrack for Star Wars would be one such guide. It was through the magic of John Williams, spirited performance of the London Symphony Orchestra, and exciting engineering of Eric Tomlinson, that an entire generation studied the sounds of a symphony as they dreamt of Luke Skywalker's adventures in a galaxy far, far away.

I remember the time we were spinning the Monsignor soundtrack LP. Eric was certainly not afraid to rotate the volume knob towards its limits and the sound was indeed gigantic.

During a lull in one of Maurice Murphy's superb trumpet performances, I turned to Eric and asked "Is this how loud you'd normally monitor in the studio?" He frowned and queried "Sorry?" requiring me to restate the question. I then received a blunt retort with a single word: "No". This was followed by a pause lasting at least 30 seconds as Eric savoured John Williams commanding the London Symphony whilst supplying his own air conducting. Pointing towards the ceiling, with index fingers extended on both hands, Eric shouted "MUCH LOUDER!" following it with a smile. We both laughed heartily and soaked up the remainder of the album side—just listening together in deafening silence, so to speak.

What was most remarkable about Eric was his ability to listen to people. In many respects this is a quality assumed of someone who spent their career intently doing just that—listening. But he was so careful in his attention and so genuine in his interest. And as much as Eric's adventures of yesteryear were peppered with famous faces, spectacular scores, and amusing anecdotes, he was far more absorbed with the excitement of tomorrow and what it held—for you.

These are among the attributes that endeared him universally to those that worked alongside at a console in a control room or sat alongside at a bar in the local pub.

Eric was my mentor from afar. I'm certain he understood me better than I did, and will probably ever do. He quietly championed me, my work, and aspirations. Eric's unflustered approach to life, his gracious good-nature, and his words of wisdom are carried within me.

My catch ups and conversations with Eric and Joy will indelibly be recalled with great affection. We formed a close bond that has endured more than ten years and I felt the love and care of parents towards their son. They made me laugh and I was fortunate to be able to return the good medicine.

Eric Tomlinson was the most humble, charming, and engaging Gentleman I have ever had the privilege to know. Quite simply, Eric was a superb person. And he helped make me a better one. It is an absolute honour to have shared pints of beer with him.

Farewell to the King.

Photograph of Alan Snelling, Eric Tomlinson, and Chris Malone © copyright Chris Malone.

You may also be interested in the following:

Recording Engineer - Eric Tomlinson
Recording Engineer - Eric Tomlinson

A detailed profile (PDF 1.2 MB) of one of the most prolific and successful film music recording engineers of the 20th century.

In a career that spans over 40 years, Eric Tomlinson captured some of the most famous film music in history.

His recordings for scores including GoldfingerStar Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark have been forever etched into the collective consciousness of generations of people.

Tomlinson was instrumental in establishing the Cine-Tele Sound (CTS) studios, Anvil Film and Recording Group and Abbey Road Studio 1 as premiere film music recording venues in England.

Eric Tomlinson photograph © copyright Eric Tomlinson and used with permission.

Recording the Star Wars Saga
Recording the Star Wars Saga

A comprehensive 42 page chronicle (PDF 2.3 MB) of the scoring and recording of the Original and Prequel Star Wars trilogies.

Unique and never-before published comments from the engineers who recorded the scores are included to provide technical details on miking setups and recording media.

Last updated: 18 Mar. 2012.
(Before the Sequel Trilogy and other spin-offs were a thing!)

Anvil Studios of Denham
Anvil Studios of Denham

Alexander Korda opened his 165 acre Denham Studios complex, Buckinghamshire, in May 1936. Films including Goodbye Mr ChipsThe Thief of Bagdad and 49th Parallel were produced at the complex, which employed 2,000 staff, until financial difficulties brought an end to filmmaking in 1952. 1

A.W. Watkins (b 1895; d 1970) designed a small theatre for recording orchestras of about 50 players and acted as the sound supervisor on numerous recordings including Miklos Rozsa's Quo Vadis engineered by Ted Drake (b 1907) and J.B. Smith at MGM Stage 7, Borehamwood. It was in 1946 that the Denham "Stage One Music Theatre" opened. The large music stage could comfortably accommodate 120 performers and was designed by chief sound recordist and engineer Cyril Crowhurst (b 1906; d 1995). 2

Born in 1915, Ken Cameron was a kilt wearing Scotsman with a career dating to a wartime Britain. Throughout the 1940s Cameron recorded sound for numerous documentary, propaganda and short films produced by the Crown Film Unit. In 1944 the engineer journeyed to Hollywood to study the multi-microphone technique adopted in America. 3 Cameron subsequently published two books, in 1944 and 1947, considered industry bibles at the time: "Sound in Films" and "Sound and the Documentary Film." In 1950 he was awarded an OBE for his contributions to the industry.

The Anvil Film Unit was formed in 1952 and operated out of a theatre, offices and cutting rooms at the Beaconsfield Studios, Buckinghamshire. Ken Cameron, Ken Scrivener, Richard Warren and Ralph May were integral parts of a team that recorded post-synching dialog, Foley sound effects and music on a small stage with dimensions of 20 feet wide by 40 feet deep. At Beaconsfield, Cameron assumed the role of chief music engineer and recorded scores for British Transport Films, with conductor Muir Mathieson—who was also musical director at the Korda Denham Studios—and for Hammer Films, who were well-known for their horror pictures. 4

After expiration of their lease at Beaconsfield, the Anvil team relocated to the large music stage at Denham in 1966. The stage had seen sporadic activity during intervening years due to a lack of interest by co-owners Pinewood Studios and Rank Xerox. Several Bernard Herrmann film scores including Vertigo (conducted by Muir Mathieson), The 3 Worlds of Gulliver and Mysterious Island were recorded at Denham during this interim period. Before the arrival of Anvil, Pinewood staff viewed music recording as a menial job and would usually assign random technicians to the work. Cameron was eager to reinvent the large music stage as a separate commercial venture however, as he was in his 50s, sought a younger person to engineer. 5

In the first few weeks of 1966, Eric Tomlinson completed recording of Ron Goodwin's score for The Trap at the Cine-Tele Sound (CTS) studios in Bayswater. Music materials were sent to Pinewood for assimilation with the film on which Ken Cameron worked. Around the time of the film's release, Tomlinson received a phone call from Cameron who was eager to meet with him.

With no prior indication on what the meeting concerned, Tomlinson met Cameron and was immediately praised for the quality of his most recent music recording. Cameron stated that he sought an engineer to run the Denham music stage whilst he adopted an administrative role. Tomlinson was shown the venue together with an impressive selection of tube condenser microphones and Cameron's seemingly endless cupboards of whiskey. Tomlinson's initial reaction was that the stage was dirty, run-down and in desperate need of modernisation. 6

After carefully considering the offer, Tomlinson decided to pursue the opportunity as he was afforded significant creative control and a greater financial reward. Management at CTS were decidedly upset with the news, especially given that they would later lose clients to Anvil. 7 

Shortly thereafter, the Denham stage was reactivated under the business name of the Anvil Film and Recording Group Limited. Richard Warren was in charge of production, Ken Cameron the studio manager and Eric Tomlinson appointed chief engineer. Warren was born in 1922 and entered the industry in 1943 directing films for the Crown Film Unit.

The studio had dimensions of approximately 65 feet wide by 80 feet deep with a 50 foot ceiling. The total recording space equalled some 500,000 cubic feet. 8 

The generous 24 by 18 foot control room was approximately 4,000 cubic feet in volume and equipped with a Westrex tube-powered optical console. Inherited from the Korda era, the mixer had some 15 inputs with rotary switches for left, centre or right channel output grouping. No panning or signal splitting was possible with the rudimentary console. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was recorded utilising the Westrex equipment before new technology was ordered.

By May of 1968 a new custom built Rupert Neve console was under manufacture for Anvil. Designed with 24 inputs and 8 grouped outputs, the console utilised German-made EMT linear faders and 45mm channel amplifier modules. A special module, designated number 1875, was specifically designed by Rupert Neve himself for Anvil's needs. This additional electronic unit enabled the balanced microphone inputs to be routed to any combination of the 8 output groups. 9

The microphone cabinet was stocked with Neumann, Telefunken, AKG, Beyer and RCA mikes—many of which were part of the Korda Studios legacy. EMT echo plates and an electro-acoustic echo chamber supplied reverberation whilst a separate double-glazed room provided isolation for vocalists, chorus and soloists. Four Tannoy control room speakers were operated by individual 100 watt Radford amplifiers.

Recording was nominally four-track (three channels of music plus sync pulse) to ½" and 1" Studer tape recorders. 35mm magnetic film was offered in four or three-track configurations to RCA and Rank-Kalee machines. Dolby A-type noise reduction was made available on tape and film recording media. 10

A 34 foot projection screen was mounted on the far wall directly opposite the conductor's podium, which in turn was located ahead of the control room. This enabled persons in the control room to view the conductor and film projected.

Installation of the Neve console and associated equipment was completed by July 1969. At this time Anvil boasted an impressive array of technology and (quite rightly) touted itself as the most technologically advanced recording studio in Europe. 11

A separate re-recording suite augmented the facility and was fitted with an RCA console supporting 17 inputs and 4 outputs. Ken Scrivener, Ken Somerville, Doug Hurring, and Pat Jeffries were employed as re-recording mixers. Peter Gray was the "sound camera" operator, the technician who operated the vertical magnetic film recorders.

Studio operating hours were between 8:30am and 5:30pm Monday to Friday. Overtime was charged nominally at one-and-a-half time or double-time.

In 1970 Anvil recorded Maurice Jarre's score for Ryan's Daughter to 35mm magnetic film employing Dolby A-type noise reduction. As a test of the relatively new noise reduction technology, the Pinewood Studios re-recording department was especially equipped to properly handle the music recordings and, in addition, much of the dubbing process incorporated the use of Dolby A. 12 The resultant 6-track magnetic soundtrack was BAFTA and Academy Award nominated. 13

Also in 1970, John Williams recorded his exquisite and delicate music score for Jane Eyre at Anvil. The TV film was submitted as an industry test case for the benefits of Dolby A, which was utilised during preparation of the optical print master. 14

1" 8-track tape recording was available by 1972 however progress to machines with greater numbers of tracks and larger tape stocks was rapid. In June 1972, Anvil offered 8-track, four-track, and two-track recording to Studer machines and two-track recording to Ampex units. The hourly studio rate had increased to £30 per hour and the facility boasted around the clock operating hours.

In around 1974 a 16-track 2" Studer A80 tape machine was introduced and later superseded by an MCI 24-track 2" machine. Both machines were augmented with an array of Dolby A encoders and decoders. The MCI was installed in April 1978 and first used on Francis Lai's International Velvet score. 15 The Neve console consequently saw upgrades to the output section to accommodate the new tape formats. 

Superman commenced recording in July 1978 and premiered as the first Dolby Stereo split-surround sound film later that year. 16 Music remixes were made to 6-track magnetic film in Tomlinson's customary left, centre, and right configuration concurrently with an ambient pickup courtesy of left, centre, and right spaced overheads. 17

Ken Cameron retired in 1975, the same year that Alan Snelling joined Anvil as Eric Tomlinson's assistant. Snelling would work through an incredibly industrious era of film music recording in the UK. Award winning and celebrated scores including Star WarsJesus of NazarethAlien, and The Empire Strikes Back were performed on the Denham stage during this period.

In 1980 the Anvil group were forced to relocate after a developer purchased the Korda studio complex with intentions to demolish it. "June 1980 was the last month in the life of Anvil's beloved music stage. Six months prior to this demolition work had started at the other end of the Denham site," related Alan Snelling. The last bastion of the golden age of British cinema, together with one of its best music scoring venues, was being destroyed and in its place warehouses were under construction.

In the meantime, Tomlinson and Snelling completed work on Howard Blake's Flash Gordon score. "A week after the studio had been vacated I was driving past but quickly pulled up to witness the death of our scoring stage," recalled Snelling with regret. "The walls had been burst open and the inside was on fire. I could still see the wonderful wooden sound baffles and the large projection screen that had reflected so many historic images. It was a very sad moment and one that I will never forget." 

By mid-1980 the Korda complex was fully razed and the precious music recordings stored in Anvil's tape vault perished. 18

Eric Tomlinson attempted to rescue as much as possible however it seems that only the Battle of Britain recordings survived—a minor miracle in itself. Unfortunately, Tomlinson doubts that other music—such as the three-track stereo magnetic film for 2001 A Space Odyssey —would have been available irrespective of the destruction of Anvil. 19 Allegedly, Ken Cameron constantly sought ways to save money and would bulk-erase long runs of magnetic film to sell to his next client.

In August 1980 Eric Tomlinson and Alan Snelling formed Anvil-Abbey Road Screen Sound, commencing the next chapter of Anvil at London's most famous recording studio.

Ken Cameron passed away in 2000 and Ken Scrivener, the last surviving founder member of the Anvil Film Unit, passed in 2006.

Thank you to Eric Tomlinson and Alan Snelling, John Turner and David Lenehan from AMS Neve for their contributions.

Anvil photograph © copyright Eric Tomlinson and used with permission.

References and Footnotes

  1. "Denham Studios." Screenonline. 2007. Martin Stockham. 29 Jan. 2007.
  2. Huntley, John. British Film Music. Great Britain: Arno Press Inc, 1972.
  3. Huntley, John. British Film Music. Great Britain: Arno Press Inc, 1972."
  4. Music for a Documentary Film Unit - 1950-1980." British Transport Films. 1993. John Legard. 29 Jan. 2007.
  5. Malone, Chris. Interview with Eric Tomlinson. 18 Jan. 2007.
  6. Malone, Chris. Interview with Eric Tomlinson. 18 Jan. 2007.
  7. Malone, Chris. Interview with Eric Tomlinson. 18 Jan. 2007.
  8. Dimensions provided by Alan Snelling 29 May. 2005 however The Sound of Anvil brochure states a 500,000 cubic feet volume.
  9. Malone, Chris. Interview with AMS Neve staff John Turner and David Lenehan. 29 Jan. 2007.
  10. Unknown. "Specifications." The Sound of Anvil. Brochure. Circa 1969.
  11. Unknown. "Specifications." The Sound of Anvil. Brochure. Circa 1969.
  12. Allen, Ioan. "The Production of Wide-Range, Low Distortion Optical Soundtracks Utilizing the Dolby Noise Reduction System."
    Volume 84. Journal of the SMPTE. Sep. 1975: 721.
  13. "Awards for Ryan's Daughter." The Internet Movie Database. 2007. 29 Jan. 2007.
  14. Allen, Ioan. "The Production of Wide-Range, Low Distortion Optical Soundtracks Utilizing the Dolby Noise Reduction System."
    Volume 84. Journal of the SMPTE. Sep. 1975: 721.
  15. Malone, Chris. Interview with Alan Snelling. 12 Apr. 2008.
  16. "Cinema Sound Before the 1990s." Elmer's Guide to Motion Picture Sound Formats. 2001. 29 Jan. 2007.
  17. Malone, Chris. Interview with Alan Snelling. 12 Apr. 2008.
  18. Malone, Chris. Interview with Alan Snelling. 12 Apr. 2008.
  19. Malone, Chris. Interview with Eric Tomlinson. 18 Jan. 2007.
The Cine-Tele Sound (CTS) Studios
The Cine-Tele Sound (CTS) Studios

"After scoring four films at CTS, I feel qualified to highly recommend the facilities. They combine the commercial recording sound with the requisites of film scoring - a great combination not too often found." -- Henry Mancini circa 1969.

Cine-Tele Sound Studios Ltd was originally located at 49-53 Kensington Gardens Square in London's fashionable Bayswater district.

Inaugurated in 1956 by a consortium that included Johnny Johnston, Peter Kay and John Elliott, CTS offered music recording using modern technology in a convenient location.

The primary music studio was housed in a converted banqueting hall previously owned by the Whiteley's Gentleman's Dining Club. With an ornate moulded ceiling, the venue had also doubled as a parade room to show off the latest fashions from Europe. The internal dimensions of this studio were 40 feet across, 85 feet deep and 26 feet high. The room had a natural reverberation of 0.8 seconds and seated about 65 musicians.

Peter Kay was the managing director since incorporation of the company and was later succeeded by technical manager John Elliott. Eric Tomlinson joined the studio in 1959 and was the chief recording engineer.

John Richards joined in 1962 after technical training at Granville Television Studios. Initially working as a tape operator, editor and assistant to Eric Tomlinson, Richards earned himself a balance engineer role in 1966 following his mentor's departure to commercialise the Denham scoring stage. Finding his feet with TV work, Richards remembers The Quiller Memorandum as the first film that he recorded for frequent client, John Barry, in October 1966.

Jack Clegg (born John Philip Clegg) joined CTS in 1963 having previously worked at Decca for three years and initially at the International Broadcasting Company (IBC) studios with Tomlinson, Joe Meek and Keith Grant. It was Clegg who recorded one of the most revered audiophile soundtrack albums: Casino Royale for Burt Bacharach in 1967. John Richards was Clegg's tape operator for the sessions. The titular tune was performed by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass with Alpert adding his trumpet part at A&M Studios in Los Angeles. By mid-1970 Clegg departed CTS to work at George Martin's newly opened AIR studios. "It's not so much what you've got, as what you do with it," said Clegg of audio. 1

Paul Carr joined the team in 1969 and mainly worked as a re-recording engineer in the dubbing suite. Carr left CTS after three years and was appointed Head of Sound at Roger Cherrill's where he continued his successful career. Peter Harris was the chief maintenance engineer and Sydney Davies the chief projectionist. Elaine Dyer was the bookings manager and Peter Wilson the sound camera operator.

By the end of the 1960s, CTS had successfully recorded music for many English and visiting American composers including: John Barry; Ron Goodwin; Frank Cordell; Henry Mancini; and Burt Bacharach. John Barry proved to be a prominent client during this period with scores for most of his projects, including the James Bond series. Recording artists including: Frank Sinatra; Sammy Davis Jr; and Shirley Bassey added to its reputation as a world-premiere facility.

The control room was approximately 30 feet by 20 feet in size. The 12 input grey Telefunken console had, initially, one speaker placed above it until stereo came in and two large speakers adorned the wall. The console had three sets of EQ on rotary potentiometers. Outputs could be grouped to left, centre, right or "spare". Agfa tape was the stock of choice and Philips tape machines captured audio signals.

In the bustling days of the early 1960s perhaps as much as 90% of film work was recorded direct to mono or three-track in groupings that would permit rebalance during dubbing. The three-track recordings were generally aggregated as follows: strings, woodwinds and harp on track 1; rhythm, percussion and keyboards on track 2; brass and horns on track 3.

Information from circa 1964 lists the following equipment:
Music Studio Equipment - 12 way mixing console with EQ, limiting and echo. Neumann and AKG microphones
Tape Recording Equipment - MonoStereo three-track and two-track. 7½, 15 and 30 IPS on Philips tape machines
Film Recording Equipment - 35mm magnetic RCA triple and single track. 35mm optical RCA channel
Rerecording - Provision for 10 tracks
Projection - 2 x Westar projectors with clover-leaf facilities

A pricing schedule dated circa 1964 lists the following rates:
Engineering Activity - Chargeable Rate - 
Mono recording  - £14 per hour
Two-track recording - £18 per hour
Three-track recording - £22 per hour
Editing - £6 per hour
Editing with console - £14 per hour
Tape to tape recording - £5 per hour
Playback - £3 per hour
Tape and film transfer
(Magnetic or optical) - £10 per hour
3" and 5" spools - 5/- each
7" spools - 7/6 each

CTS operated from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm Monday to Friday.

By 1968, CTS had successfully recorded many films and artists. Equipment had been steadily augmented and the mixing console upgraded to 17 channels.

Whilst the first custom-made Neve console went to Anvil in Denham, CTS had taken delivery of their 26 input Neve in 1969. By this time recording was nominally offered in 8-track 1" format to Ampex machines.

Dick Lewzey joined the team 1970. Following a career at the BBC, Lewzey recalled that on the day of his job interview Leslie Bricusse was scoring his Scrooge musical.

Technological progress was rapid and by June 1972, 16-track recording was offered and the mixing console suitably upgraded. It was in the last quarter of 1972 that CTS faced a dilemma. The beginnings of the property boom led two young entrepreneurs to purchase the Bayswater site with intentions of repurposing it. Peter Harris, the then studio manager, and CTS staff members weighed up their options. One thought was to finance and build a new studio however it was estimated that at least 18 months would be required before an environment was suitably configured and new equipment installed.

Jacques De Lane Lea's company rented the famous Kingsway Hall, a venue celebrated for producing many high quality recordings including those conducted by Charles Gerhardt and engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson. At some point in the late 1960s De Lane Lea were forced to relinquish the hall and consequently sought new premises for music recording.

Land was acquired adjacent to Wembley Stadium and a new studio complex purpose built, opening in 1971. The building, located on Engineers Way (HA9 ODR), housed three studios of decreasing size. Studio 1 had a high ceiling and could accommodate approximately 80 players. Internal dimensions were 56 feet across, 80 feet deep with a 30 foot ceiling. An isolation booth was located at one end of the studio and to its side was a small vocal booth. Studio 2 could accommodate about 35 and Studio 3 around 20.

Technical manager and studio director, Dave Siddle, conceived a workspace utilising custom technology and the latest design concepts. Despite the smell of fresh red paint on the diffuser panels still permeating the air, and a stack of new untried technology, De Lane Lea Wembley seldom received significant business.

And so a fortuitous negotiation was made between CTS Studios Ltd and De Lane Lea Music Ltd. Consequently, CTS relocated to Wembley in late 1972 and commenced trading as The Music Centre. It was clear that, whilst De Lane Lea had studio space and equipment, the company had little reputation for film work.

The three studios, in particular Studio 1, exhibited a markedly different acoustic from Bayswater. The design created a space that did not breathe as carpeted floors together with extensive baffles and absorbent surfaces deadened the sound. The control room was located 22 steps above the studio—the projection booth to one side. This design meant that engineers would view the projection screen out of their window rather than musicians. In order to see the orchestra, a remote Sony camera was installed and operated from controls adjacent to the mixing console.

The computerised console was custom made by Sound Techniques, the tape machines by Scully and monitoring was through Lockwood-Tannoy speakers. The microphone cabinet contained AKG and Neumann makes. Dave Siddle's vision also involved a patch-less control room 20 years prior to the time when such a means would become reality.

John Richards and his colleague, engineer Dick Lewzey, grappled with the suffocating acoustic and futuristic equipment. Management was eventually persuaded to invest in new Neve console and Studer tape decks to alleviate the burden.

The sound emanating from CTS aka The Music Centre, once appropriate equipment had been installed, became well recognised during the 1970s however it had only come about through necessity. Whereas violins at the Bayswater venue may have demanded two mikes, at a distance whereby section bloom was appropriately captured, Wembley necessitated a considerably greater mike count and exceptionally close placement.

This miking technique rapidly utilised every input in the mixing console of the day requiring doubling and tripling feeds to inputs. And as close miking often radically alters the timbre of instruments, equalisation and extensive artificial reverberation were tools used to create a more appealing sound with a sense of space. The trademark CTS Wembley slap-back echo was created by an array of EMT echo plates coupled with a delay—of around 167 ms—achieved via the physical gap between the record and reproduce heads on spare analog machines running at 15 IPS.

By the mid 1970s, CTS was equipped with 16-track Dolby A recording facilities and a (now classic) Neve 8038 console with 1073 EQ modules. 24-track analog recording was introduced sometime in late 1977.

By the end of 1980, Swedish-based Marcus Music had reconstructed the Bayswater site. Equipped with the latest Harrison computerised mixing console and Studer analog tape machines, the reinvigorated facility boasted 24 hour operation. Marcus Music focused on TV rather than film work with a preference for recording popular artists such as Leo Sayer and Gary Numan. The Bayswater site was later redeveloped and is now a fashionable block of flats.

It was in 1984 that Richards accepted an offer to work for Evergreen Recording Studios in Burbank, California. Evergreen sought an experienced engineer to record film music and build their client base. At the time John Richards departed for the USA in May 1984, the acoustic at Wembley was undergoing modification. The carpet was being torn up and parquet flooring laid down. By March 1985 the revamped studio was running a Neve DSP console and a Sony 3324 multi-track digital recorder as part of $700,000 control room renovations.

Dick Lewzey immediately assumed the senior recording engineer role following Richards' farewell and achieved significant success with the new acoustic, creating a sound that was live and transparent. Lewzey made some excellent recordings during the late 1980s including The Mission and The Living Daylights.

Veteran engineer and producer Adrian Kerridge owned Lansdowne Studios and acquired CTS Wembley in 1987. However on 24 June 2000 the complex closed having been sold by Kerridge to make way for the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium and its surrounding area.

In the days prior to closure, equipment—including the Neve 72-channel VRP console—was auctioned. At the time Kerridge made the following comments. "It is with sadness that we have been forced to move from our site, which we have occupied since 1972. We have been left with no choice but to close the studios. There is no way that we can continue recording once the building work commences, so we are taking positive action now."

The CTS team, including engineer Dick Lewzey, relocated to the Watford Colosseum in 2000 and shortly thereafter Lewzey went freelance.

Phoenix Sound briefly reactivated the Wembley site in 2002 however it was finally demolished in mid 2004.

Thank you to John Richards and Eric Tomlinson for their contributions.

CTS Bayswater photograph © copyright Eric Tomlinson and used with permission.

References and Footnotes

  1. "Making Your Own Audio Package." Teaching & Learning: Instruction-Audio Conference. 1999. 24 Jan 2007.
Vinyl Hedonists: You're Just Too Highly Involved
Vinyl Hedonists: You're Just Too Highly Involved

In the world of consumer electronics, it's hard to think of a technology that has created more of a polarising effect than the vinyl recording medium.

Its steady yet unswerving resurgence has led to reactions ranging from despair to delight—often opined most stridently from ghettoes of the ever expanding Internet, in the relative anonymity of a banal screen name.

For simplicity, let's use the term "vinyl” to represent the commercially available microgroove long-play record format—often abbreviated to "LP” and also known as the phonograph record or gramophone record—that was standardised by manufacturers in the 1950s.

If you find that simplistic generalisation morally repugnant, please discontinue your facile interest in this article and unearth some other pustule of the Internet to squeeze.

This article does not wish to scatter bytes of scientific or non-scientific data to the wind—even if distilled to colourful charts, wiggly waveforms, and spectacular spectrograms—in an attempt to supply yet another supposedly definitive answer on whether vinyl really sounds better than insert something else here.

Instead, I want to understand why vinyl has experienced a resurrection into mainstream public consciousness and why some of us think it is better.

The answer must lie in involvement.

If we contribute to something, we are more likely to value it. If we contribute to something pleasurable, we are likely to value it even more. In consumer behaviour theory, involvement is the importance of a product to the consumer.

If you own vinyl, I expect that you can vividly remember the first album you bought. Where it was, when it was, how you felt. That sort of thing.

This is because the purchasing transaction differs from every other home audio format that has come since. We engage our sight by pulling the record from its jacket, squinting in pursuit of scratches. Our olfactory sense is stimulated by the intoxicating amalgam of polyvinyl chloride and cardboard sleeve. We trawl our brain for answers to the codes scrawled or stamped into the dead-wax. We feel the quality of the jacket and the smoothness of the artwork. We might even audition a second-hand disc—not for the music itself but to critique it relative to our own grading standards.

The acquisition of vinyl is ritualistic and it creates pleasurable memories through involvement of the senses.

Put simply, purchasing vinyl is a high-involvement and emotional decision.

To maximise the sonic enjoyment of vinyl, we setup our turntable (adjust and align our cartridge), clean our stylus, clean the surface of our record, place it on the platter, start the turntable, and gently lower the tonearm to the surface. At last, we can savour what we've worked for.

But not for too long as we must flip the record to the other side after some 20 minutes or so and repeat that process, also a ritualistic one.

Whilst some would declare the aforementioned steps unnecessary, grossly overstated, riotously incorrect, or something, it cannot be denied that the ritual to vinyl hedonism requires significantly more effort than playing the same music from a CD—you know, the Compact Disc—or digital files, or a streaming service.

That's my point.

The reason why vinyl is so revered is because it involves us more completely in the process of obtaining music from it. We've invested energy and relish the reward more. It's a mathematical equation: enjoyment equals effort. We therefore actively listen to vinyl. We rarely put on a record in the background whilst performing household chores, for example.

Put simply, playing vinyl is a high-involvement and emotional process.

Right about now you're primed to pontificate another reason—vinyl reproduction captivates us because it simply sounds better. To tell me it tickles our ears because—ever since the time the Earth cooled and dinosaurs came—life, as we know it, is built analog not digital.

I told you already, I don't care!

Ponder what I'm saying about involvement.

Vinyl also possesses a property that makes it unique amongst the mainstream commercial audio formats—at home it cannot be copied any faster than real-time (or 1.35 times faster for the mathematical geniuses suggesting that a 33.33 RPM disc could be played back at 45 but how does that help?).

If you want to "rip” a CD, you can do so in a fraction of the total playing time. Downloading a digital album takes minutes. Transferring a digital file to a mobile device can be done before you've thought about the next song you want to load on. We even had "high-speed dubbing” tape-to-tape decks for those that remember Compact Cassette. Even the replication of vinyl to another medium at home requires involvement.

The humble CD has become the forsaken middle child of the consumer audio hardware/software revolution that took us from physical/analog to physical/digital and, more recently, to virtual/digital.

As the child that wholly embraced the taboo word "digital” head on, CD is now in its mid-30s and has now been largely marginalised for its considerable achievements and contributions to the world of home music listening.

It now seems that if we want connection with our music, we use the old-new format of vinyl. If we want convenience, we use downloads or streaming.

Sure, but isn't vinyl the best consumer audio format? You're just too highly involved to hear otherwise!

Photograph by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay.

Remembering You Only Live Twice 50th Anniversary - The Title Song
Remembering You Only Live Twice
50th Anniversary - The Title Song

It was 50 years ago this year that 1967's summer Bond blockbuster, You Only Live Twice, premiered. 1

As the fifth James Bond film from the EON Productions stable, You Only Live Twice pushed the franchise further in the direction of outlandish fantasy and OO7 himself towards that of an indestructible super-man.

Yet for many, including this writer, You Only Live Twice remains a perennial personal favourite, etched indelibly as a primordial memory of cinematic James Bond. It was the stuff of pure imagination to a young mind: the exotic Japanese locale; an authentic sumo wrestling contest; American and Soviet space capsules being ‘gobbled up'; the archetypal baddie (with facial scar for added menace); and his gigantic lair concealed within an extinct volcano.

Behind the scenes, breathtaking sun-drenched photography and a new director steered us towards a different type of Bond adventure. In support were set designer Ken Adam, editor Peter Hunt, title maker Maurice Binder, and composer John Barry, now all considered indispensable members of the filmmaking family.

The You Only Live Twice title song is quite unlike any preceding it. In many ways it is the antipodean response call to Goldfinger (1964). Instead of a brassy, brazen, and blaring declaration that slams the senses with the thrust of a freight train, a delicate and mysterious opening lures and entices. With a deep note, underpinned by gong, the strings ascend from the lowest ebbs of the bass clef to the upper reaches of the treble. It's a brave contrast to the propulsive incendiary launches made during the opening titles of the previous four James Bond films.

One can imagine this introductory prelude as scoring the dawning of a new day. The coldest remnants of night swept away as shards of warm, golden-syrupy sunlight pierce the horizon—the sudden activation of life that heralds a new beginning. Similarly, we can consider the very final moments of the song to accompany the sun setting – its rich hue seemingly extinguishing itself in a distant ocean. That ever-so-slightly lingering bass chord at the very end almost signifying a switch being flicked off plunging a dreamy day instantly into the inky-black of a moonless night.

John Barry's arrangement of "You Only Live Twice" tacets trumpets and instead wraps the rhythm section with celestial layers of silky strings rounded out with French horns on top, tuba at the bottom, and harp glissandos in between. In many respects, this romantic setting pre-figures the John Barry sound that would emerge some ten years later and reach its zenith in Oscar winning scores Out of Africa (1985) and Dances with Wolves (1990). The carefully crafted rhythm section includes acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electric bass (beating like a heart), guiro, brushed snare drum, gong, and marimba. The latter adds a soupçon of Japanese flavour, just enough to place the song within the geography of its film.

The "You Only Live Twice" song reunited composer John Barry with lyricist Leslie Bricusse. The pair had previously collaborated on "Goldfinger" (with Anthony Newley), "Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" for Thunderball (1965), and an unused version of "You Only Live Twice" recorded by Julie Rogers. 1 The melody and lyrics for this first version was revised further by both Barry and Bricusse once filming completed. Bricusse's final lyrics are poignant and perceptive – there is an essence of melancholy and yearning.

"And love is a stranger who'll beckon you on..."

Whereas "Goldfinger" is famous for the formidable voice of Shirley Bassey, "You Only Live Twice" deferred to the softer and more intimate timbre of Nancy Sinatra.

It was actually perfect casting.

Following recording of the underscore during April and the first two days of May 1967, composer Barry, lyricist Bricusse, engineer John Richards, the Bond film producers, and an overabundance of reporters crammed into the control room of the Cine-Tele Sound Studios (CTS), in Bayswater, London. 2 3

It was the evening of Tuesday, 2 May 1967, and Nancy Sinatra found herself ensconced in the vocal booth, the same room that her father recorded Great Songs from Great Britain in June 1962. This was Nancy Sinatra's second visit to London and, on this occasion, she travelled with her sister Tina to enjoy some of the city's tourist attractions. a 2

But for Nancy Sinatra, the pressure of recording for Bond, especially under the watchful eye of the media, proved an intense experience for the 26 year old performer. Having delivered a few takes with the orchestra, Barry elected to record his accompaniment separately in order to perfect his singer's performance. 4 5

John Richards balanced the orchestra and rhythm section on the studio's stalwart 12-channel Telefunken console and delivered a live stereo mix, in a three-track configuration, to a Philips tape machine running pink Agfa half-inch tape. Once the recording was captured to Barry's satisfaction, the composer dismissed the orchestra and turned his attention to working with Sinatra. 4 5

Coaxing many takes through calm and assured feedback via the talkback mike, Barry secured material for subsequent editing leading to a beautiful, beguiling, and bewitching way to spend two minutes and 44 seconds. 4 5

You Only Live Twice premiered in the UK on 12 June 1967. This left about 40 days for Gordon McCallum and the Pinewood Sound Department to dub (re-record) music into the film, Maurice Binder to finalise his evocative title sequence, and prints to be struck for distribution. Furthermore, work on the soundtrack album was hastily completed to be available in stores. The LP (UAL 4155/UAS 5155) is said to have been available from July 1967 however it was briefly reviewed in Record World magazine's 3 June 1967 issue, as well as Billboard Magazine on 10 June 1967, indicating that it was available prior to release of the film. 6 7 8

"Make one dream come true, you only live twice..."

Some fifty years later, what can we say of the recordings of "You Only Live Twice" available on CD?

It seems that Sinatra's vocal was mixed entirely dry and without the plate echo frequently applied to vocal performances emanating from CTS (and other studios) during this era. There are reasons to speculate for this. Chiefly, it may have always been Barry's intention that the song present a more proximate sound than that of, say, Shirley Bassey. If a deliberate choice, it was certainly a decision that enhanced the intimacy of the production.

It may also be the result of how the raw material was assembled. When synchronising the song with the original monaural film soundtrack (from the first M-G-M DVD edition and accounting for speed differences), the vocal timing is very slightly different over the duration of the entire song. This suggests that the spliced vocal takes were assembled on a separate reel that was then synchronised to the orchestral backing for final mix down.

Regrettably, commercially available recordings almost universally exhibit drop-outs, vocal sibilance, and high frequency linearity issues.

Liberty Records' ubiquitous blue covered LP, titled 13 Original Themes, saw more than one CD release during dawn of the format in 1983. The Japanese issue (CP32-5046), sporting different artwork, is restricted in dynamics and often brittle in tone. This is a digital clone of the American release (CDP 7 46079 2) prepared by Ron McMaster. Not an enjoyable listen.

In some territories, EMI also issued a collection of themes on CD, titled James Bond Greatest Hits (796478-2). The content was derived from the red covered LP of the same name first issued in 1982. This version presents a less aggressive tone with a mostly stable stereo image.

1988 saw the original soundtrack issued on CD for the first time. Original artwork was reproduced, albeit significantly reduced in size to accommodate a jewel case. Naturally, this disc included the title song that bookended the LP issued in the USA. This edition exhibits many of the issues of its predecessors.

A 2CD set prepared to celebrate the 30th anniversary of James Bond in 1992, titled The Best of James Bond, was compiled by Ron Furmanek and mastered by Bob Norberg. Issued by EMI records (0777-7-98560-2 2), this release collated all the title songs up to Licence to Kill (1989) and premiered other previously unreleased material on disc two. A single disc version (0777-7-98413-2 5) gathered the songs, changed up the sequencing, but used the same mastering. Unfortunately, this version of "You Only Live Twice" makes significant use of noise reduction tools and techniques, stereo widening (that contrarily actually narrows the image), and emphasis in the region ranging from 6 to 8 KHz, a particular band where the sibilance needs taming.

Capitol Records released the complete score in 2003 (72435-41418-2-9). Album producer Lukas Kendall elected to replace the opening 20 seconds from the three-track orchestral backing tape. This commendable effort resolved several fidelity issues during the opening bars however it is unfortunate that the entire song, with vocal, was not available this format. In reality, most of this hybrid version was lifted from the 1992 The Best of James Bond CD master and possesses practically all of its traits.

Subsequent Anniversary edition compilations generally seem to use the 1992 mastering with additional dynamics processing in an attempt to modernise the sound. Not recommended.

Where does that leave us in 2017?

Firstly, with a wonderful title song revealing an intimate performance by Nancy Sinatra. Secondly, without a good sounding digital copy. It is possible to eliminate all of the technical limitations of the aforementioned CD releases. But a newly minted issue that carefully marries the first generation three-track orchestral backing with Sinatra's vocal would be even better.

Indeed, for this writer at least, it would make one dream come true.


  1. There is some debate whether the vocal performance was recorded on May 1, 2, or 5 1967. Photography by the Daily Express newspaper is dated 1 May. Photography by Otto Bettmann is dated 5 May. It is possible that more than one session was held but this does not account for Nancy Sinatra wearing the same clothing, make-up, and hairstyle in both the 1 May and 5 May photographs, if these dates can be taken as accurate. Nancy Sinatra's own web site ( defers to the 2 May 1967 date.


  1. IMDb,. (2017). "You Only Live Twice". Retrieved 14 May 2017, from
  2. Melody Maker newspaper. 13 May 1967.
  3. Wikipedia,. (2017). "You Only Live Twice (song)". Retrieved 14 May 2017, from
  4. Malone, Chris. Interview with Eric Tomlinson 18 Jan 2007.
  5. Malone, Chris. Interview with John Richards. 28 Mar 2007.
  6. Wikipedia,. (2017). "You Only Live Twice (soundtrack)". Retrieved 14 May 2017, from
  7. Record World magazine. 3 Jun 1967.
  8. Billboard magazine. 10 Jun 1967.

Last updated: 12 Jun. 2017.