Tales from the Parkside – how an Armley-based studio shaped Leeds music

Michelle Corns investigates the history of Parkside Recording Studio and speaks to those who knew it well.

When Parkside Studio opened in Armley, it was the first purpose-built rehearsal studio in Leeds.

Parkside was established in 1982 by entrepreneur Mick Opl. It was located in the basement of an old mill on Stanningley Road and, as the name suggests, was adjacent to Armley Park (behind the tennis courts). There were three rehearsal rooms, but later a fourth room which had recording facilities was added.

The studio has attracted bands from all over the city and surrounding areas, including the many alternative bands such as the Sisters of Mercy, March Violets, Avalanche Rose, Hi and red truck yellow truck (aka: trucks) that had emerged in the wake of the post-punk and new wave era.

They experimented with haunting melodies, soulful guitar riffs and heavy bass lines. The style and imagery, borrowed from horror culture. It would eventually be given the term “Gothic”.

Give groups a platform

Meanwhile, nightclubs like the Phonographic and the Warehousealongside Radio One presenters the late John Peel and Annie Nightingale, gave bands a platform for their music. There was even a compilation album called Parkside Shivers, featuring many Parkside bands.

Band members collaborated at Parkside, some bands broke up and new ones formed – for example, in 1986 former Sisters of Mercy members Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams went on to form the Assignment, with Wayne on vocals, as well as ex-Red Lorry, drummer of Yellow Lorry, Mick Brown and Simon Hinkler of Pulp. In 1987, the Sisters of Mercy reformed when Andrew Eldritch, joined the Shooting club Patricia Morrisson.

Global acclaim

Parkside has also attracted indie bands like To kiss and the Wedding gift, and it was after a John Peel session, recorded at Parkside, was broadcast that the wedding gift was acknowledged. It paved the way for others to follow and put Leeds-based bands in the spotlight.

Many of these bands achieved worldwide acclaim – the Sisters of Mercy and the Mission achieving chart success in the latter part of the decade.

Parkside operated for ten years until the lease expired. It was moved to Holbeck where it became the old chapel, under a new manager: Mark Hubbard (who played bass with the Lorries in the 2000s). Lots of bands like Salvation, Embrace and the Kaiser Chiefs, went with them. Mark has fond memories of Parkside:

“We were one of the first groups. I was in a band called Act Natural and we used to come from Wetherby with all the gear, change at Vicar Lane for another bus, which dropped us outside the studio.

“It was the only place in town, in fact the only place anywhere. We had been as far as York before. Eventually Mick built some lockers which was a godsend. Parkside was the first commercial studio and so there was a whole bunch of these early “gothic” types, we tried to go through them earlier. I remember the Mekons were there, Rose of Avalanche, Dorian Gray, Sisters.

And Mick was not idle while the bands rehearsed. He built custom flight cases for the instruments – which everyone loved, but there was a downside to using glue in a recording studio, as explained by Chill, a regular at Parkside (who also played battery with trucks):

“There was no ventilation because you have to keep the sound inside so everyone was fuming from the evo-stick. It was quite smelly because everyone was smoking at the time!

This, however, did not stop its popularity and even groups from elsewhere visiting the city made use of its facilities.

“Cruising with Mick”

I remember being mad at Mick,” says Mark. We were there under the Enterprise Allowance Scheme – which funded us to be there and one day Mick said we had the Waterboys (Edinburgh based rock band) auditioning for a drummer, and I was disappointed he didn’t recommend me! There were no cell phones back then, so God knows how we ended up. But it was fine, it was a good sign that it was the only place to go to audition drummers and they chose to go there.

Parkside had a close rival, however. Mark laughs as he explains:

“My audition for the Lorries took place in an old pork factory, near Parkside. We rehearsed in a basement of a commercial building. The Lorries affectionately called it Porkside, as Dave Hall, the manager, owned it, they never needed to rent a recording studio.

Mark was still a frequent visitor to Parkside and took part in many musical projects, including a collaboration with Julian Barrat Pettifer – who is best known as an actor in the Mighty Boosh.

My memories (Parkside) are pretty vague but it was just a place to meet people. You would go for a purpose but spend half your time chatting with people in the hallway. Plus, when the bands were doing well, you met people you admire and got tips and tricks.

Hanging out with people you wouldn’t otherwise have access to, everyone was there for the same purpose, which was to play, write and network. Some of them would form other groups.

“It looked quite rough, underground, carpet on the walls, probably a real fire trap, poor ventilation. The smell of glue, cigarettes and alcohol. That price sign on the wall comes from there, we have one or two pieces from there.

“I think it was just a big basement when he took it over and Mick split it up into several spaces for the bands to uh… ruin, which was a tradition I carried on (laughs). It was definitely a must have service at the time and everyone went there.

One, big, happy family?

Chill added: “The great thing about rehearsal studios is that you realize that even great, successful bands also make mistakes.

Looks like it was a big happy family. Jim Fields, studio supervisor at the Old Chapel, describes an event that left him less than satisfied, when other musicians pranked him:

“It was a Saturday night and we were doing a recording session and I ended up staying there because there was a couch. Around 7am I decided to put my head down and go to sleep for a few hours, next thing I know I’m being dragged down the hall by Pete and Simon out of the wedding present, they just dragged me off the sofa while i was still sleeping i hit my head against the wall. They barricaded themselves in the great hall because I wasn’t happy! I broke down the door. » Let’s hope he has forgiven them now!

Parkside’s Legacy

Parkside’s legacy lives on. Rose of Avalanche reformed in 2019 and are currently touring with the Mission. Fans are thrilled to see how fantastic both bands have been.

Salut was to join them, but had to withdraw due to unforeseen circumstances.

The March Violets broke up in 1984 but reformed in 2007. They last toured in 2013 but are still in contact with each other. Singer Rosie Garland is also an award-winning writer, having written short stories, novels and poems.

After it closed, the building that housed Parkside was demolished and remained a derelict lot for the next decade.

A retirement home for the elderly now stands on this spot, very different from its former occupants!

West Leeds Expedition
Sun 11 Dec 2016, 20:32 for me

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