I saw this picture on the web thanks to Mr Google images; it was from an old newspaper article discussing John Lennon and his home studio.
What intrigued me were the old analogue tape recorders in the background. Now I knew of course from reading articles about The Beatles and I am an avid fan of their recording process, that John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison (not sure about Ringo Starr) dabbled in experimental music (we’re thinking here about Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s “Two Virgins”, “Life with the Lions” and “The Wedding Album”) and this obviously was a picture of his studio.
The studio was set up in an attic in a house that Lennon owned called Kenwood, at Weybridge in Surrey.
More research led to more pictures, not many though, there seems to be hardly any taken of the studio and thanks to modern technology namely the internet we have them easily accessible for all of us. These are the photographs I could find.
A great deal of Lennon’s song writing was done in his attic and apparently the capability to overdub from recorder to recorder happened after Paul McCartney set up the recorders for him to do this (and started writing Eleanor Rigby), a productive time.
This then led to the electronic recordings that he undertook on his own, with Yoko Ono and other collaborators.
Getting back to the Brenell tape recorders Lennon appears to have four in the picture, my research leads me to think they are the following models.
The two on the left appear to be a Brenell Mk5M as seen here:
And the two on the right look awfully like the Brenell Standard Mk5:
These machines (the Ferrograph being used more in studios) were at the time for musicians who could afford to set up a home studio, the recorders of choice and all the Beatles were known to have them.
There are numerous bootleg copies of the tapes that John Lennon made on the Brenells between 1966 and 1969 and now they are no doubt some of the most historic home recordings you could have.
Other musical equipment in Lennon’s attic included a mellotron, a piano, an organ (Farfisa) and of course his guitars.
Through the use of tape loops and overdubbing Lennon produced many of what could only be described, as avant garde recordings along with the beginnings and ideas that were later to become many of the Beatles marvellous psychedelic Sgt Pepper era recordings.
For those of you who would like the specs of the Brenells what better than a peek at the manual.
Let’s finish with an old analogue studio from the BBC’s Playhouse theatre in Manchester, what fun you could have with these, if analogue is your thing.
For more information on Brenell tape recorders and their history you could do worse than go to these sites.
BBC Playhouse theatre studio shots.
Fascinating information on John Lennon and his days at Kenwood.