THE NEW LEADER
September 24, 1981
'IT'S FRENZIED, IT'S CHAOTIC, IT'S AMAZING, IT'S INTENSE:'
LONG VIEW FARM, N. BROOKFIELD
By Michael Holtzman and Larry Lewis
North Brookfield – "It's frenzied, it's chaotic, it's amazing, it's intense," says Long View Farm manager, Kathy Holden, describing what it's like to have the Rolling Stones as house guests.
"We worry that the garbage is going to be picked up, the grain delivered and here's these rock stars!" she says, still somewhat unable to reconcile the contrast after working at the farm the past eight years, during which time the biggest names in the industry have recorded there. And now the biggest.
The Stones were set to leave the world-class recording studio in North Brookfield for their upcoming, much-publicized, American tour some time this morning. The still-to-be-finalized tour will commence Friday, Sept. 25 in Philadelphia.
The only band to use Long View to rehearse, the Stones almost always began their nights of practice after midnight.
"We're used to backwards schedules of serving rock 'n' roll bands, sleeping all day and working all night. A rock 'n' roll band has its own special energy about it," says Holden. "when recording, there's a lot of pressure. You have to understand the tensions and pressures on them." Holden says she has sat in on a rehearsal only once, for a half-hour during a party situation.
She adds, without the experience of having served some of the biggest names in the recording industry, Long View would never have been prepared for the intensified atmosphere and schedule demands presented during the six weeks the Stones have been there.
"This morning I went in at 7:30 and Ron (Wood) and his wife and Ian Maclagan (touring keyboard player) were up. This was for them the end of the night. After finishing their work they're ready for a party night. Keith (Richards) and Ron don't get up till 10 p.m.
She says, "Mick's habits are very regular." He wakes up in the early afternoon, jogs, lifts weights. "He's into vitamins and good foods. A healthy sort," laughs Holden, picking up the British lingo.
"I come from the farm, (about 10 p.m. since the Stones arrived) and sit upstairs. When I hear them start up playing, then I can go to bed," says the 35-year-old Holden. "I kind of sleep to the music."
Home for Holden, her husband Kent Huff and 3-year-old son Robert is a comfortable, country home in New Braintree, conveniently, a couple of miles from the farm.
Huff, a musician himself, was one of the original founders of Long View and still works there in various capacities. Holden was a history and Latin teacher at North Brookfield High School in 1972 and began taking care of the animals, her own horses, cooking and cleaning at the 145-acre farm shortly after that. Managing Long View has simply evolved, as much out of friendship as anything else.
Believe it or not, there was a time just a few years B.M. (Before Mick) when many people had no idea that a recording studio even existed in North Brookfield. But recently, a barrage of media coverage of the Stones' stay in town has made Long View a household word. Most articles or television spots, however, have made only a passing reference to the farm before moving on to describe the latest rumor concerning the group.
Even before the arrival of the British rockers on Aug. 16, most people thought Long View was inaccessible to the general public. Owner Gil Markle wants to see that image changed.
"Lots of people think we're unapproachable," says Markle, a one-time professor at Clark University in Worcester. "I want to eliminate the myth of studio inaccessibility."
Markle, 41, hopes to see more local talent coming to Long View, either to record demos or for more elaborate projects. "We're perfectly happy to record local bands," he says, "We're looking just to cover expenses for tape and engineers."
Entering either of the two studios on the property, one sees why the farm has become so well-known and respected. The studios (one on the main floor of the farmhouse, the other in the barn) are equipped with 16- and 24-track facilities, including the capacity for a computer-controlled M.C.I. mixing consoles, huge monitors and hundreds of switches, lights and meters. Jesse Henderson, a well-known musical engineer from Boston, is responsible for the technical studio operation.
Each studio has two rooms separated by glass panes. One room houses the recording equipment; the other is filled with amps, guitars, mikes, etc., for the musicians.
"What you see here is a state-of-the-art," says Markle, who notes the necessity of having top-flight gear to attract name acts. Besides the Rolling Stones, the J. Geils Band (having recorded their Sanctuary, Love Stinks and a soon-to-be-released album here), John Belushi (Blue Brothers), Aerosmith, Arlo Guthrie, Pat Metheny and many others have brought their music to Long View.
Closer to home, a number of Worcester-area groups and artists have done work at the studio, including Joanne Barnard, Dream Flight and the popular group Zonkaraz.
One of the more unique features at Long View is its ability to house any recording entourage on site. An average of 8 to 10 persons stay at the 19thcentury farmhouse when recording and more can be accommodated if necessary.
The Stones had one major request after long-time "Sixth Stone" Ian Stewart and Alan Dunn, the group's executive administrator who has many roles in their production, visited Long View a couple of weeks before the group arrived. They wanted a rehearsal area larger than the 24 by 30 and 24 by 15 recording studios that are available.
With a three-week, around-the-clock work force of carpenters, masons, electricians and other crews, Long View fulfilled the request. In a huge three-tier hay loft, they constructed a professional 38 by 27 foot hardwood floor, exposed beam stage which is built up 5 feet from the ground level of the top floor and looks down two levels to a completely open lounge and brick fireplace.'
We were always planning on building a stage," says Holden.
When Keith Richards came a week after Stewart and Dunn visited, Markle told him, "Why don't we build it (the stage) for you." Although it was still uncertain whether the Stones were coming – "you never know a group is coming until you see them in the flesh" (Holden) – Markle says he thought the offer to build the stage, equipped with 32 mike lines, "tipped it."
The Long View owner said the engineering and design of the stage will enable bands to record in a "concert format." I don't know of any other place you can record in a concert format," he adds.
Markle and friends, including Huff, John Farrell and Geoff Myers, who are still working at Long View, spent two years gutting and renovating the farmhouse and barn after Markle purchased the original property for $125,000 in 1973.
"We didn't realize what we were getting into. Had we realized what we were getting into, a rational man wouldn't have done it," says Markle, not really answering whether he would have.
As an antidote, Holden recalls Markle asking Farrell and Myers, who have done yeomen's work in reconstructing Long View Farm, if they wanted to "turn my dining room into a little recording studio." That was more than eight years ago.
Pointing to a section of the kitchen, Markle says, "There's George Hanson's barn." Markle and the group had helped dismantle the former selectman's barn for its wood, adding a beautifully rustic effect. Indeed, the house contains a startling combination of styles. Several rooms were left in a rustic appearance, in contrast to the recording area, which reminds one, at first glance, of the bridge of Star Trek's "Enterprise."
Markle, the holder of Ph.D.'s from the Sorbonne in Paris and Yale, also operates a very profitable overseas student travel agency. Based at Worcester Airport, it is known as the American Leadership Study Group. After deciding to get more seriously into his recording hobby, he purchased the former Stoddard Farm north of town. It comprises 145 acres and has always been known for its idyllic setting.
"Sure, the remoteness of the place is a marketing hook," Markle admits. "It has a mystique to groups who come here from all over." His investment in the farm pays off in part because it allows a visiting act to virtually have the studio at its disposal 24 hours a day. Groups can set their own schedule, as has been the case with the Rolling Stones. Uncharacteristically, the entire farm, including both studios, were shut down to any other musicians during the Stones' rehearsals.
Speaking from her home, Holden said she didn't know exactly how the Stones learned about Long View, but she said it might have been through Peter Wolf of J. Geils or through Belushi. She recalls that Jane Rose, Mick Jagger's secretary called in July and requested rehearsal rates for the band "based in New York, getting itself together." Rose was told Long View generally leases its studios, equipment and residential facilities for approximately $1,000 a day for 8 to 10 persons. Additional guests are extra. Rose was also asked, "Do you think it's too much for you?"
Holden said she remembers there was an "energy over the phone" that was unusual for that simple, procedural conversation. When Rose called back and identified her interest for the Rolling Stones, the people at Long View went about arranging an informational exchange, including for the visits by Stewart, Dunn and Richards.
According to Paul Wasserman, press agent for the Stones and the only non-Britisher with the band, "They immediately knew this would be the place."
In most of their tours in the last six years, the Stones have chosen remote, picturesque settings for their rehearsals, said Wasserman: Montauk, N.Y. in 1975, Devin, England in 1976, Woodstock, N.Y. in 1978; an exception was the 1976 European tour when the group stayed in a swank, Frankfort hotel under an assumed name and rehearsed near an isolated airport to keep their music audibly invisible.
Their coming to Long View Farm in North Brookfield, which has sumptuous lounges and recreational area, a sauna and Jacuzzi, riding horses and complete privacy for group members, as explained in its advertising literature, was in keeping with the stones' style and needs. According to Holden, while other studios in the East and West have comparable and better studios, equipment-wise, she says there is no recording studio she knows of in the country offering as complete a recording lifestyle as Long View.
There is another facet to the Long View operation. Besides creating a recorded product, the studio has set up arrangements to distribute its own label through a company located in Switzerland then into most of Europe.
"So we're in the record business as well as studio leasing on a daily rental basis," says Markle. "They go well together."
Another harmonious relationship exists between Long View and the town of North Brookfield. Markle feels that the studio has a high profile within at least the immediate area, in the personal sense. Several hundred local people have been employed there over the last eight years, covering a wide range of mostly part-time jobs.
As an example, two young North Brookfield men, Reed Desplaines and Mark Robbins, who have worked at Long View for about a year, took care of the Stones' needs after "business hours" and any immediate problems that occurred between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. They also did much of the upkeep.
Says Markle, "We buy all our materials in town, except for tape and recording equipment. So that's been good. We've had no problems with neighbors and have been treated with respect.
"We're very glad to be here."
As to the effect the Rolling Stones will have on Long View Farm itself, Markle gave two conclusions, one practical, the other reminiscent of his years as a philosophy professor. "It's bound to increase our visibility and level of business," he said, first.
"But more importantly, the arrival of the Rolling Stones constitutes the end of a chapter for us. It's been almost a decade that we've been trying to bring bigger and better bands to Long View Farm. That compulsion has now ended. In that sense, the arrival of the Rolling Stones has set us free."
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.