Gerry Gill was a DJ and MC who had been working both on the London underground scene at clubs like Middle Earth, as well as working over in San Francisco during 1967. Aside from his roles as DJ and MC, Gerry also was a budding songwriter. Like many songwriters at the time it was all about making the right contacts and having the right breaks.
As a teenager, he was signed up with his music partner, David Whitaker, by Ardmore and Beechwood in the early sixties and wrote several songs for them including Loved By You and Who’s There that were recorded by sister act, Jackie and Jill, on the Parlaphone label who just happened to be Gerry’s younger sisters. Michael Goodman recorded another song Gerry wrote called Did You that was released in 1964 by Pye Records. However, despite hanging around the same scene as Bowie and Hendrix, Gerry was unable to land that much coveted #1 hit and focused on building up his DJ business in London.
Meanwhile in Cornwall, Roger Brokenshire was on the look out for an experienced DJ to work at the many club nights he was running throughout the county. Bands were currently on a slight decline, crowds were starting to drop at the main venues. People no longer wanted to go to teen dances like they did in the mid-60s. Roger placed an advert in the back of Melody Maker for somebody to run a disco. At the time there were few DJ’s who did solely disco gigs, most were radio presenters who did discos as a sideline. Gerry has visited Cornwall previously and seized on the opportunity to set up his own discothèque.
Roger and Gerry signed a contract and Gerry came to Cornwall in May 1968, initially crashing with Roger in Redruth and playing one his first sets at the towns Room At The Top. He was soon playing the village halls and starting to build up a name for himself. Soon he found himself playing all the large venues in Cornwall, such as Flamingo, Winter Gardens and Blue Lagoon. Before long he was taking bookings independent of Roger and branched out on his own.
As he become more in demand he found people were starting to ask to use his deck, so began something of a training programme teaching many would be DJ’s the ropes, including Jonny Hubbard. He had soon trained up a large number of the active DJ’s throughout Cornwall. He played a large part in moving the county forward musically, introducing new Motown and psychedelic sounds. His record collection was supplied through John Oliver’s shop in Redruth who was one of the very few record shops importing American records into Cornwall. He also introduced his own light show and was playing alongside many of the visiting bands, such as Wishful Thinking and Smile. He would also DJ and MC at the famous Tregye Festival.
Gerry still had links with the music industry in London and through his contacts booked David Bowie into one of his early gigs at Princess Pavilion, as part of the Christmas 1968 festivities. The pair had shared a flat in Hampstead for eight months. Bowie would perform his mime show, with Gerry providing music.
Having built up a strong reputation in Cornwall, he ventured out into Plymouth setting up a club on Union Street. One of the earliest clubs on the street, it would help transform the area into the clubbing capitol of the city that it has become today. The club was later taken over by Pete Brown of BCD entertainment.
By 1970, Gerry had got married and started a family and he wanted to spend less time on the road. From his days as a songwriter in the early sixties, he had always had an interest in producing his own compositions and had begun recording the jingles he created for his gigs at his home studio in the Glynn Valley. At the time, Robert Hocking, who was the manager of local band Charlie and the Wide Boys, was renting a farm house in Tremodrett, Nr Roche. He wanted to move somewhere where he could indulge his passion for fishing, so Gerry arranged a house swap with his place and in early 1974 Gerry moved in Bawden’s Farm.
It was here that he could further develop his passion for recording. After purchasing some equipment with original business partner Nick Strachan, he would strip the barns and set up what would become Roche Recording Studios, which would open in early 1975. Simon Fraser, who also played with Charlie and the Wide Boys would be installed as resident producer.
Initially many wondered why he would set up a studio in such a rural location, but soon bands from Devon and Cornwall were flocking to the studio. With no neighbours around, there were never any sound issues and the open space allowed for a creative environment. Through Gerry’s industry contacts, national bands were soon making use of the studio. Roche was a friendly place that people wanted to visit. Visiting bands would stay with Gerry in the farm house, which was often full of creative individuals. He didn’t charge any bands for the use of the studio, hoping that producing a hit would secure the funding they required. The studio was paid for through Gerry’s DJ work, which he still needed to continue.
Energy IQ in the studio
Above; Plymouth Punk recorded at Roche
Peter Ord from Plymouth punk band Pop Detectives remembers his esxperience recording at Roche;
I was a very lucky young man to be in the Pop Detectives and the whole experience gave me a spark that I never had before (or had not engaged in as a shy person). When the band asked me to join them I thought they were crazy as I knew how to play was a simple rock’n’roll scale on the bass. After taking a week off college and an intensive week of rehearsals and many nervous visits to the loo, I played live with them and my own perception of myself and what I could achieve changed (cheers lads!). The visit to Roche has most definitely been one of the greatest life changing experiences I have had. I remember being so nervous for weeks before, all I knew was that we were going to a studio. As I’ve always been a huge Hawkwind fan they kept that from me as a surprise.
On arrival at Roche I emerged from the back of the van into bright daylight only to be met by Martin Griffiths. Instantly star struck I remember stuttering and stammering and began panicking about how I was going to perform in front of one of my idols! Well obviously I managed somehow but most of my memories of the day seem a very nice hazy blur. Being only 19 at the time it was overwhelming but wonderful. Thanks to everyone involved.
As I said before, this had a profound effect on me and gave me the courage to tackle life and go on many amazing musical adventures around the world. I have met some brilliant people who have enriched my life and pushed my boundaries way beyond anything I could possibly imagine. This includes musically, spiritually and my self awareness. I have been a very lucky man and the journey is most certainly not over yet. I now teach young adults with learning needs and use music as the vehicle to express themselves and gain confidence with self worth.
Gerry and the other producers were not interested in cover bands laying down their versions of the latest hits. Instead, they encouraged local bands who were writing their own material like Charlie and the Wide Boys and Coconut Grove to use the studio . During the summer of 1976, the studio played host to a number of South West bands such as Ark, Touch the Earth and Cruiser, which would culminate in the Made in Cornwall LP. The LP also features Damien and The Bellringers, Damien being Simon Fraser (backed by Cruiser). It would also record the likes of The Rats, Creepin’ Jane and Sensible Shoes for the Double Booked LP.
Cruiser recording at Roche
Gerry had connections with Hawkwind, through running their original lightshow. This helped bring in bands from out of Cornwall (such as Ark on the Made in Cornwall LP), but also brought Martin Griffin to the studio. Martin would play with the Hawklords, but at the time was between bands and helped run the studio as well, expanding the site to include new accommodations and studio space. Around 1977 Gerry would also install a window between the studio and boards so he could see the bands.
Despite bringing in big names such as ABC, Secret Affair and Doctors of Madness, as well as one of Elvis Costello’s first sessions (who was in Cornwall preparing for his first gig with the Attractions at Penzance’s Winter Gardens), the studio wasn’t making any money. It had yet to score that elusive hit record.
The only real income for the studio was through the Jingle Singles Gerry produced at the studio. These 7” singles featured around 10 different jingles that could be used by DJ’s on radio or out at gigs. They were written, recorded and produced by Gerry. Local band Cruiser also worked as sessions musians at the studio and would help Gerry out with the recordings, often knocking out 50 jingles an evening.
The records were advertised through back of papers such as Melody Maker. DJ’s would subscribe and pay their £1.50 a month for each single, which required that Gerry put together 10 tracks a month. Seven singles were produced in total, with a pressing of 1000 of each. Each single sold out and brought in some much needed income into the Roche Recording Studio.
Volume 1 was produced prior to the opening of Roche at Gerry’s home studio in Glynn Valley. Volume 4 featured the only song, Maggie by local artist Mike Starr & The Rockits. This was one of the very first sessions done at Roche. Mike wanted to record his song and the studio used this opportunity to test out their equipment. Initially there were thoughts of using the song elsewhere, perhaps a single, but when that didn’t happen Gerry included it on one of the Jingle Singles. Many years later De La Soul would come by one of the singles and used a sample on one of their hits singles. In the 90s Gerry would compile the singles along with some other tracks on the CD’s Giant Jingles Vols 1&2.
Despite some excellent music the studio continued to make a loss. By 1979 there were disagreements between the team running the studio and Gerry left.
The studio would continue for some time with Martin Griffin running things. The studio continued to bring in many bands such as Brainiac 5 and The Rage and Oven Ready Angels, both featuring Bert Biscoe, as well as The Mechanics, featuring Al Hodge. He kept things afloat by producing piped music for German supermarkets and playing for Hawkwind. After living in Bawdens farm for a number of years Martin would move to Yelverton leaving the studio behind.
The studio would fold when Martin left, with Simon moving to Sawmills in Golant. Sawmills had been set up in 1974 by Tony Coxon, a successful London based producer, who had worked with Daylight as well as arranging strings for Yes, among many others.
Roche would soon close its doors, reverting back to a farm house, which it has remained ever since. Sadly, most of the original master tapes recorded at the studio were left in the out buildings where they were subjected to the Cornish weather and would become damp and destroyed. A large amount of material produced at the studio never made it onto record and much of it sadly is now lost forever.
Gerry would continue to work in the music industry, appearing on Jean-Patrick Capdevielles recordings, made at Sawmills in 1979, which would spawn three hit records. He would later move to Spain, before returning to London to set up a studio in Brixton to teach kids from disadvantaged neighborhoods all about music production, engineering, and helping struggling musicians looking for their break record their albums at reasonable rates. Gerry received a grant for this project that he managed for over ten years. Both of his sisters who recorded his first compositions were now living in America and he took time out to visit with them.
After spending some time in America he would return to Cornwall where he was involved in the Eclipse Festival in 1999. Cornwall was the place to be for the eclipse. Unfortunately panic was spread in the media about gridlock on the roads and chaos in the county, with people being told not to travel to the county. This resulted in the festival becoming a virtual non-starter and financial disaster for all involved, many (including Gerry who had purchased thousands of commemorative Eclipse Festival T-shirts to sell to tourists) losing considerable sums of money they had invested up front.
Unlike many of his generation Gerry has embraced the changes in technology and the music industry. He became involved in the dance music scene and worked under the alias DJ Uforia. He continued to write, record and sing his own material as well as cover songs under the alias Dominic Yarns.
Sadly Gerry passed away in March 2011.
In the late 70's French native Thierry Rosse was in the UK learning English during the summer season. Familiar with the Made in Cornwall LP, he hitched around Cornwall on the look out for Roche Studios, where he knew the record had been made. Quite by chance he bumped into Nick Strachan. During his visit to the studio he took a number of fantastic photographs of the studio in use. On his return to France Nick sent Thierry 10 records which he then pushed across radio stations in France and Germany, ensuring the sounds of Roche were heard across Europe!
With huge thanks to Thierry these fantastic photographs can now be presented here;
Thierry between Martin Griffin and Nick Strachan
Exterior of the studios 1976
Gerry Gill at the desk
Martin, Simon & Nick
Did you visit this venue? If so please get in touch!