History of Fairview
In Britain in the mid-sixties only a handful of independent studios and producers
existed outside the control of the major London record labels: RG Jones in Wimbledon,
Joe Meek in Holloway and Strawberry Studios in Manchester.
In the East Riding of Yorkshire local musician and electronics whiz kid Keith Herd
started Fairview Studios in his spare front room. Below Keith tells his story.
From Holmpton To Fairview
Looking back now it seems I was always destined to spend a lifetime
playing and recording music. Few would have guessed it on the family farm in
Holmpton, Holderness, East Yorkshire where my life began in 1936. We were
Primitive Methodists and went to Chapel twice every Sunday. Dad played the
harmonium and Mum sang. Piano lessons started at the age of five with Mrs Shires
Hearing music on the radio as a child gave me such a thrill: war time
songs like Bless Them All and You Are My Sunshine. Later at dances in
the village hall I was enchanted by the piano playing - so different
from hymns and piano lessons. I knew I had to play like that. Taking
the back off my Grandad's valve radio for the first time was just as
exciting. It started a life long fascination with electronics and sound.
When I was about twelve years old, one of the workers on the farm let
me have a go on his melodeon, and I managed to knock out a tune or two.
Then my sister's boyfriend lent me a small piano accordion and I really
got to grips with it. Dad bought me a better accordion and my first
'show business' appearance was at a concert in Holmpton School dressed
in my Sunday best. More engagements followed at Women's Institutes and
church fêtes, and in a pantomime put on by the Holmpton Amateur Dramatic
I started work on the farm after leaving school but had a strong feeling
music was my future. Not knowing any musicians I bought a cheap drum
kit, built a makeshift bass and taught a couple of village lads to play
them. We did mostly dance tunes - quick steps, and foxtrots. For our
first proper engagement I booked Holmpton Hall, made posters to put
on telegraph poles, organised refreshments and held my first successful
dance. We were called The Keith Herd Quartet.
name got around The White Thorn Ladies Duo with Olive Messenger on
piano and Alice Saunders on drums invited me to join them. We were a
big success at village dances in Holderness and had a residency at The
Queen's Hotel in Withernsea. I bought one of the first electronic synthesizers
- a Clavioline - which gave us a unique sound for the time. Remember
Telstar by The Tornadoes?
I'd kept my own group going too but music was changing fast and I wanted
to rock 'n' roll like Bill Haley and skiffle like Lonnie Donnegan. A
couple of new lads, Mike and Geoff Clark, joined the group and I built
another double bass, this time with an electric pick up made from army
surplus gear bought at Fanthorpe's in Hull. After playing for a Young
Farmers' Club barbecue at a farm near Aldborough, the group with its
new sound took off. Olive joined us and we started playing rock'n'roll
and old time and modern dance music in the Holderness village halls
to big crowds; the girls wearing their cardigans backwards and spinning
round in full circle skirts to the delight of the boys. We ran a Saturday
night dance with the local football club at Burton Pidsea Village Hall,
eventually alternating with the Grand Pavilion at Withernsea. There
was a sign there saying 'No Jitterbugging' obviously a previous attempt
at holding back the incoming tide of musical change.
The Withernsea Council Entertainments Committee offered us a full summer
season instead of their usual big band. I learned to play the organ
in the Sun Lounge (now Teddy's Club) and a girl singer called Valerie
Long joined the group which played most nights at the Pavilion; Valerie
sang the ballads, I sang the rock 'n' roll. We went back the next year
and Dave Tenney and Mike Heap from Hull joined on guitar and drums.
The equipment was getting better too: an electric bass guitar; a PA
with a Linear 30 amplifier and Goodman speakers; a Watkins Copy Cat
Echo unit. I built another echo unit by adapting a Grundig tape recorder
and we were starting to sound like the groups on the records.
In 1962 I did my first recording in the kitchen of the house in Withernsea
I'd moved to with Vicky whom I'd married in 1958. I built a four channel
mixer, plugged it into the Grundig and used the group's microphones.
We took the tape down to Dick James Music in London. They signed Dave
Tenney but not the group. However the excitement of my first recording
session never left me.
Back home money was tight as our first daughter Jackie was born in 1962.
Cornell's Music Shop on Spring Bank, Hull had opened an organ showroom
at Blandon's Department Store and Mr. Cornell offered me a job demonstrating
and selling organs. Salesmanship was not my strong point but I'd noticed
lots of broken amplifiers at the back of the shop and was taken on to
repair them. Cornell's was used by all the Hull 60's beat groups and
I started repairing and adapting their Vox AC30 amplifiers, Linear Amplifiers
and Reslo mics. Sales of electronic organs were booming and I became
the service engineer for models sold by Cornell's.
The group got residencies at the Gondola Club Hull, the Beverley Regal
and Cave Castle, South Cave. For a short while Keith Kelly, who'd had
a top ten single with Tease Me, joined us; at our first appearance with
Keith at the Regal the girls screamed!
mid sixties I was questioning if I really wanted to be a pop star!
However the desire to start my own studio and become successful that
way was becoming ever stronger. The only proper studios in those days
were in London, full of very expensive equipment and engineers in white
coats. There were very few facilities in the provinces, little affordable
equipment and good results required a great deal of expertise.
Our second daughter Lisa came along in 1965 and we moved to Willerby
near Hull to a house called Fairview. The house had two front rooms
which meant I could use one as a studio. As the plans formed in my head
I met Basil Kirchin when I went round to repair his Farfisa organ. Basil's
dad was the leader of the Ivor Kirchen Big Band who were the first resident
band at the Mecca Locarno Ballroom in Hull. Basil had twice been voted
NME jazz drummer of the year. I was a bit star struck but Basil, always
on the look out for new collaborators, suggested we did some recording
together. Basil used to bring round his Revox stereo tape recorder to
demo his avant-garde music that would later be used in films such as
The Abominable Dr Phibes. We became close friends and he ended up lodging
with us for quite long periods while he worked on his album Worlds Within
Worlds. I learned a lot from Basil.
By 1966 the spare front room was equipped with a stereo Tandberg tape
recorder, which allowed me to 'bounce' tracks and the usual egg boxes
stuck on the wall. I built an eight channel mixer, a reverb echo plate
and adapted a second hand tape recorder for repeat echo. Later on, a
control room and drum booth were added. The first group to use the studio
was The Strollers and I was thrilled with the results. Soon there was
a steady stream of local groups paying £2 per hour to record a demo
to send down to London.
In1967 two local songwriters, Rick Kemp and Barry Paterson, suggested
we get together and demo their songs at Fairview in the hope of getting
a deal. Eventually Fairview Musical Services was set up as a song writing,
production and management team; a 'one stop shop' for local groups -
we could even fix their vans!
A publishing deal was secured with Shampan Music in London who had an
arrangement with CBS Records. The first release was Out Of The Blue\Life's
A Gamble by Hull group Roger Bloom's Hammer. We had to go down to London
to re-record the tracks in a 'proper' studio. When the record came out
it got lots of airtime on pirate radio stations like Caroline and 270.
The follow up, Polly Pan\15 Temperature Rise, did a little bit better
reaching number 35 in the Radio London charts and got played on the
BBC Light programme. Fortune Teller's Friend with Jerry Page was also
re-recorded in London and got a few radio plays.
Fairview Musical Services eventually fizzled out but Rick Kemp joined
the group on bass and the front room studio lasted for seven years and
hundreds of sessions. A few stand out: Mandy and the Girlfriends - Hull's
first all girl group; Michael Chapman; The Mandrakes who had a singer
called (Robert) Allan Palmer; Michelle's Musketeers; The Hammer with
Rod Temperton on keyboards who later wrote Thriller for Michael Jackson;
Gerry Widd; The Rats with Mick Ronson on guitar who went on to become
one of David Bowie's Spiders from Mars; Marty Wilde who recorded an
entry for the Eurovision Song Contest; Dave Greaves and Steve Halliwell.
Meanwhile the group carried on and in 1968 singer Johnny Small and guitarist
Steve Trice joined. We became Johnny Small & The Little People and went
full time 'pro' playing night clubs all over the country. The highlight
was going on ITV's Opportunity Knocks - we came third. After eighteen
months, life on the road was losing its attraction and I put The Keith
Herd Group back together to make some money. I finally called it a day
in 1973 to concentrate on the studio full time.
The studio equipment basically stayed the same over the seven years
and as groups got louder and more complicated, it reached the limit
of its capabilities. Since 1970 I'd been planning a new studio in a
converted barn in the back garden. I built a sixteen channel mixing
desk and bought a second hand three track Ampex tape machine. In 1973,
in partnership with Pete Green who was in the band at the time, the
new studio opened its doors and Basil Kirchin came over from Switzerland
to produce the first album…
Keith Herd, Spring 2008