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#HotDocs21 Review: Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm

April 29, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2021 Hot Docs Festival is running virtually from April 29th to May 9th, all films are available to stream for audiences across Canada

In the 1960s, brothers Kingsley and Charles Ward fulfilled their dream of becoming music producers when they turned their family farm in Wales into a recording studio. Inspired by an impromptu meeting with George Martin at EMI, where they went to try and sell their own demo tape, the Ward brothers invested in equipment and converted an old farmhouse into their own recording studio, complete with empty pig feed bags lining the walls for soundproofing.

It became the world’s first residential recording studio, and musicians from England soon started coming to live on the farm for a few months and make music, with bands like Queen, Black Sabbath, Simple Minds, The Stone Roses, Oasis and Coldplay going on to record at Rockfield, and crediting the studio with helping them develop their sounds. Musicians loved recording there because they got to eat home cooked meals and spend time in the outdoors, and the farm’s musical history is quite expansive.

After all, it’s the place where “Wonderwall” was recorded, where Chris Martin was inspired to write “Yellow,” and where Freddie Mercury put the finishing touches on “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Director Hannah Berryman explores this history in her documentary Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm. The film features interviews with both Kingsley and Charles, who appear separately, as well as a number of musicians who all share memories and fondly reflect on their time at the studio.

Ozzy Osbourne reflects upon how Black Sabbath honed their heavy metal sound at Rockfield, and Liam Gallagher of Oasis talks about the epic rows he had with his brother Noel on the farm while recording their second album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, severing their relationship. Similar to Muscle Shoals, though not quite as expansive in scope, Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm does a good job of taking us through several decades of rock music history. It’s an enjoyable and well-edited music doc that is mainly worth seeing to hear these musicians swap stories about their time at the studio.

Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm is available to watch from April 29th until May 9th. It includes a Q&A. Digital tickets and more information can be found right here.

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