Grammy for Central Sound
Getting a Grammy award is about the highest accolade this business can bestow on an engineer and a studio, when the production that earned the award has also been a number one in the U.S. charts, the satisfaction is more than doubled.
Simaen Skofield, chief engineer at Central Sound Studios in London Denmark Street got the award for the best engineered single 1974/75 for a track of Olivia Newton John's he recorded at Central at the beginning of last year. The track was "I Honestly Love You" and Olivia recorded the track (and the album it came from) with Simaen engineering and John Farrar producing.
"The album was incredibly hard work," admits Simaen "Olivia is easy to record but I remember the album took an incredible amount of hours to record."
"That particular track wasn't intended for a single especially, we just laid enough tracks for an album and let the American record company choose which track they wanted wanted to release as a single."
The award — officially titled Awarded by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences — reflects heavily on all those involved with the track honoured.
Central Sound has been hitmaking for over 17 years. The studio opened its door as one of the first independent studios in London and business — strictly mono then, of course — was brisk. In the early days the business revolved around Freddie Packham who was engineer — and head cook and bottle washer. At one time he had three hits in the top ten at the same time, by the Honeybus, Easybeats and Bee Gees. Today Freddie and his partner Matt Geddes look after the studio at director level, as well as looking after the Master Room cutting studio with Brian Hewson.
Central Sound went 16 track three years ago — the Machine is an Ampex MM100 — and it was on this machine that the Grammy award winner was recorded. For years before the studio had been doing great business as a four track studio and then, after a brief eight track spell, the studio completely re-modernised itself and brought up the 16 track.
The album by Olivia came to Central almost by chance. "It was started at EMI," said Simaen, "and for some reason they were unhappy there and came to us. The recording took a lot of time because John Farrar played a lot of the instruments himself."
During the time that Simaen has been with Central he's been responsible for making several hits. Apart from Olivia's hits, Simaen had top ten entries with a Polly Brown single and "Honey, Honey" by Sweet Dreams.
Today Central Sound divides its time between recording usual pop singles, recording a lot of soul music and some M.O.R. Recent artists using the studio include the Seekers who have recorded their new album there, Scot English, Barry Blue, Sweet Dreams, Polly Brown, Gerry Shurry and GTO Records.
Big things are now ahead for Central. Harry Hyams has recently been trying to pull Denmark Street down that has made many operators in the area think about moving elsewhere. It now looks like Harry Hyams has lost the battle but Central have decided their search for premises shouldn't be wasted, so they have decided to open a second studio in addition to Central Sound which will stay at the old address.
The new studio will be 24 track and will obviously be as modern as tomorrow. What name it will operate under is not yet decided but they will most certainly open up new avenue for the group.
Back to the Grammy man: Which track he's recorded at Central Sound has given him most satisfaction.
"I suppose it is another track that we did during the Olivia Newton-John sessions, "God Only Knows". I'm a Beach Boys' freak anyway, but her version was particularly good and I'm really proud to have recorded those tracks."