The best recording studios in Melbourne's history
Updated: Jun 25, 2021
The music industry in Melbourne has seen recording studios come and go. From the early 1950's recording studios started to appear in Melbourne and then they supported the industry's growth to create music history. Let's look at some of the most iconic studios in Melbourne recording history and some of the music that came out of them.
TCS Studios Melbourne
TCS or Television City Sound Studios were based in the back streets of Richmond and started producing some great rock music in the early 70's. They had bands such as Little River Band, Billy Green, Skyhooks, The Hawking Brothers, Sherbert and Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons record some of their best albums there. It was set up by Colin Stephenson of Television Channel Nine as a multitrack studio to handle the popular TV variety show "In Melbourne Tonight" John French and John Sayers were the two engineers who ran the studio, mainly for television duties and started recording bands in the gaps.
SING SING STUDIOS MELBOURNE
Sing Sing was established in 1975 under the name of Dahlstrom Recording Studio. Kaj Dahlstrom was the owner and operator of it back then but soon it morphed into K.A.J Recording and then in 1983 it became Sing Sing Recording Studios. The list of local and international recording artists that made music at Sing Sing is very impressive and represents a major part of the music that came out of Melbourne and in fact Australia in the 80's and 90's. These included Paul Kelly, Nick Cave and The Badseeds, INXS, Missy Higgins, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Temper Trap, British India, Crowded House, Powder Finger, The Living End, Dead Letter Circus, Shihad, Renee Geyer, Kiss, Lady Gaga, Elvis Costello, Mark Ronson and The Mars Volta, Boom Crash Opera, Cosmic Psychos, Custard, The Living End and The Black Sorrows, Jay Z & Kanye West, Jimmy Eat World, Common and more.
Unfortunately the studios were sold for $4.55 million in 2016 taking with is 33 years of music history.
ARMSTRONGS STUDIOS MELBOURNE
In 1965, Bill Armstrong opened his own studio in a small house in Albert Rd, South Melbourne. One of the first well known recordings to come out of Armstrong studios was the backing track for The Easybeats' 1965 breakthrough hit "She's So Fine". Roger Savage, had recently arrived from the UK and engineered the song. Savage ended up being a major part of the music to come out of that studio and was a very important part of early Australian pop music.
Soon it expanded into six adjoining buildings, including four studios equipped with 4-track machines which was very hi-tech back then. In 1968 Armstrong installed one of the first 8-track recorders in Australia, and then 8 and 16 track recorders along with some of the first large scale recording consoles in Australia. During this time, many of Australia's most distinguished producers and engineers worked there and it soon became the most sort after facility in Australia - even more so than EMI in Sydney. Some of the most infulential recordings of the 1960's to 1980's were made there including songs from The Masters Apprentices, The Twilights, The Groove, The Groop, Zoot, The Aztecs, Russell Morris, Brian Cadd, Daddy Cool, Franciscus Henri, Hans Poulsen, Spectrum, John Farnham, Skyhooks, Little River Band, The Sports, Models and many others. Many famous overseas artists also recorded there while visiting Australia, including Earl Hines, Cleo Laine and John Dankworth, and Stephane Grapelli.
In 1972 the company bought a former butter factory in Bank St, South Melbourne, and converted it into a five-studio complex, making the complex the largest commercial studio in the southern hemisphere!
The domination of the studio continued over the 1980's with John Farnham's Whispering Ja being recorded there as well as other world class acts such as U2, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Bob Dylan, Split Enz, Crowded House and Australian Crawl.
When I started my recording studio in Melbourne, there were big studios everywhere. These days there are much less due to the nature to the changing recording industry. It's great to look back at these Melbourne icons though and see where it all started in this great city.