Rock gazetteer David Roberts puts prog on the map.
When brothers Kingsley and Charles Ward set up what came to be called Rockfield Studios in the 1960s, their aim was to create a recording facility big on what Kingsley called “natural acoustics”. The arrival of Canadian prog rock trio Rush took that concept to a completely new level when they set about recording their fifth album, A Farewell To Kings, there in June 1977. When Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart created the album’s 11-minute-plus odyssey Xanadu they built the opening acoustic preamble around the most natural sounds imaginable: birdsong. The rural Welsh studio’s courtyard was rigged up to catch the dawn chorus of warbling and at little inconvenience to the band members who would regularly rise in the late afternoon, before recording until daybreak. Bass guitarist and lead vocalist Geddy Lee has suggested that the Rockfield experience might have been one long bacchanalian haze of marijuana and alcohol consumption but the Monmouthshire isolation certainly had the desired effect. Complete with its blackbird accompaniment, A Farewell To Kings would deliver Rush their first UK hit album and lead to a hugely successful sequence of seven UK Top 10 albums over the following 10 years.** ****
**Rockfield Studios is location No.683 in the new edition of Rock Atlas UK & Ireland, published by Ovolo Books/Red Planet, price: £19.95.