When he left the BBC, Sandy Brown founded two professional practices,
Sandy Brown Associates in 1969, who started life as architects and acoustic consultants,
and in 1972, Sandy Brown Associates MSU, building services consultants (who are no longer trading).
His partner in these practices was David Binns who writes more about the background to the businesses and Sandy's activities:
Sandy and David
Prior to founding Sandy Brown Associates, Sandy was chief acoustic architect at the BBC for 14 years. During his years with BBC he was involved with all the major BBC radio and television studio projects throughout the UK. His empirical and musical approach to the design of studios led to a series of innovative collaborations with the BBC Research Department amongst these being the first modular acoustic absorbers and a mobile, stacking acoustic screen that became standard furniture for all BBC and commercial recording studios, and the innovative use of refrigerator magnetic seals in acoustic doors.
Sandy Brown Associates was founded in 1969 by Sandy Brown and David Binns. In his six years of independent practice Sandy Brown raised the acoustic design of commercial sound recording studios to an internationally known product and built studios in London for Pye, Chappells, Trident, Recorded Sound, Audio International and Maison Rouge for Ian Anderson; around the UK, Strawberry Studios in Manchester for Eric Stewart of 10CC, The Rolling Stones mobile studio for Mick Jagger, and Hurtwood Edge studio in Surrey for Eric Clapton. Overseas studios included: Arc Studios in Lagos for Ginger Baker, Hansa Tonstudio in Berlin for the Meisel Brothers and Musicland Studios in Munich for Giorgio Moroder.
Sandy was asked back to his home town of Edinburgh in 1972 to act as acoustic consultant for the Edinburgh Opera House project and used, for the first time outside the BBC, an 1/8th scale physical acoustic model. This was the first use of this technique, developed by his colleagues (and later partners) at the BBC Research Department, in the design of an auditorium.
The practice has acted as acoustic consultant for many music performance spaces including St David’s Concert Hall in Cardiff, rated as one of the top eight in the world and, The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and The Waterfont Hall in Belfast.
Sandy Brown Associates was the first major UK buildings acoustics consultancy practice. Sandy's work, and that of the practice that survives him, has had a major influence on the development of building acoustics both in the UK and throughout the world. They have worked in over 50 countries over the last 45 years.
The partnership now works out of three offices in London, Edinburgh and Manchester.
There are those who will not know, or who might have forgotten, that apart from being a clarinettist and bandleader, Sandy Brown was also a top acoustic architect. Initially working at the BBC, he went on to set up Sandy Brown Associates with his business partner, David Binns. The company is still in business although David has now retired.
David has now written a book, Homes Of The Hits, that looks back over the sound recording studios that Sandy Brown Associates set up or were involved with between the years of 1965 to 2004. It contains some fascinating information that would be of interest to people who are involved in the recording industry as well as anecdotes about musicians who were involved in the projects. Those who know about Helios desks, Ampex recorders and JBL 4350s will find things for them. For others stories are told of setting up studios for Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones mobile studio and the Sheffield Brothers' Trident studios, although there are other tales and the studio project for Ginger Baker in Lagos takes some beating.
Freddie Mercury and Brian May in Trident Studios
Ginger Baker did not seem bothered by the cost. The desk and studio electronics were built in England and shipped out to Africa. ''My first visit was with Ginger and was my first 1st Class flight to Lagos,' writes David Binns. 'I arrived early at Heathrow and waited in the First Class Lounge: waited and waited, long after the flight was called. If Ginger was going to miss the flight I thought that I should go, sat down and strapped in. At the very last moment, just as the doors were shutting, there was a commotion and Ginger arrived and sat down next to me, stony faced ... It transpired that Ginger had been visited at home the previous day by the drug squad. Fela Ransome Kuti, a friend of Ginger's ... had sent a young American with a drum packed with hash to sell in London. He was stopped at the airport and arrested. When asked who he had come to see he panicked and said Ginger Baker.' The story continues to recount the difficulties setting up a studio in a corrupt Africa, Ginger's contacts with Fela Kuti and the surprise that Paul and Linda McCartney had when they arrived to record there with their band Wings. 'Paul and Linda didn't know that Nigeria was run by a gun-happy military government, the result of a coup several years earlier, or that many parts of the capital city had open sewers and lepers walking the streets.'
'Sandy decided that even the beer and ice were suspect and stuck to large scotches with sealed bottle water - until one glass turned black as the waiter filled it. From then on he forced down straight scotch accompanied by sharp intakes of breath and coughing fits.'
Sandy Brown and David Binns
Homes Of The Hits is a 99-page softcover book that talks about twenty-one studios that the company were involved in setting up and six that 'got away' including studios for The Beatles and Richard Branson. Some chapters are quite short, others longer with more anecdotes and the text is accompanied by many photographs of musicians from the time as well as pictures and diagrams of the studios and equipment. Some of the studios included are those of Denis Preston and Lansdowne Studios; Bob Auger and Pye Studios; Eric Stewart and Strawberry Studios; Giorgio Moroder and Musicland Studios and George Martin and Air Studios, Lyndhurst.
Only 150 copies of the book have been printed and unfortunately it appears that a un-proofed copy went to the printers, so there are a number of 'typos' in the text. Despite this, it is an interesting account. It is only available direct from David Binns at £11.00 (including postage and packing) email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Former producer Donald MacLean sends us this extract from his blog The Life Of Me:
In the 1950s, three colleagues and I sit at a table in my office at Aeolian Hall in Bond Street. Together we're responsible for the BBC's burgeoning output of popular music. Jimmy, Geoff and Ted are "Chief Producers" - respectively covering 'Pop', 'Middle-of-the-road' and 'Light Music'. Each of them leads a team of Producers responsible for a total of around 30 music sessions a week - some pre-recorded, many 'live' - equal to several hundred '78s' - a much greater output than the whole record industry of the time. Together with our meagre ration of records ('needletime'), this represents about 45 hours of the BBC's domestic and overseas networks (and a high proportion of the audience ratings).
The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, had a secret office above an Asian
airline in a side-street behind Aeolian Hall. He called me one morning late
in 1964 saying he had to make a very important but difficult decision - I
could help him, if I'd be so kind, by just listening as he talked it
through. An hour later I collected him and we walked the two blocks to my
club (the Arts) in Dover Street. He ate very little of his lunch. The
Beatles were, by this stage, so popular that public appearances had to be
treated like royal occasions - with some police forces demanding that they
stay away.Their status in the US was now breaking all records ... he was
besieged with requests that they tour the States. The money offered was
becoming astronomical, but he was concerned for safety - of members of the
public as well as the boys. I wrote in my diary "B.E., usually quiet, talked
non-stop. They'll probably do a couple of weeks Stateside next year."
During the last two weeks of August '65 The Beatles played 10 concerts in America and one in Canada. Every one was headline news worldwide. The Shea Stadium in New York held 55,000 people and there seemed to be at least as many more outside trying to see their idols - the group were flown in by helicopter and then into the centre of the arena in a Wells Fargo armoured truck. Promoter Syd Bernstein hired 2,000 security guards - and banked $304,000 - "the greatest gross from a single event ever". In the 1960s the BBC decided to complement the Proms with a series of pop concerts at the Royal Albert Hall - in those days a notion bordering on sacrilege!
I persuaded Brian Epstein to include the Beatles, and got a tentative OK from the Rolling Stones, but then the management of the hall flatly rejected the booking, fearing that over 10,000 feet stomping in sync would set-up dangerous vibrations in the old structure.
My architect friend Sandy Brown had broadcast for me in Scotland and had recently followed me to London. One day after a Jazz Club broadcast (and a dram or two) he agreed to come with me to confront Christopher Hopper the R.A.H. Manager. It was touch and go but at the last moment Mr Hopper agreed. The ground-breaking events were all sell-outs ... and a world-famous Acoustics Consultancy was born.
Sandy Brown Associates LLP
55 Charterhouse Street, London EC1M 6HA
Telephone: (+44) 020 7549 3500.