Over the Wall: A Rockfield Playlist

Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” Coldplay’s “Yellow” and Ace’s “How Long” are among the iconic songs that came to life at Rockfield. Over the course of five decades, the studio has produced a diverse array of music as significant (if not as popular) as those massive hits. Here’s an introduction to that rich history.

Adam and the Ants, “Physical (You’re So)” (1980):

Grinding rhythms, breathy vocals and outrageous lyrics that teeter between seriousness and camp inform a proto-industrial march that initially was a U.K. B-side before landing on the U.S version of the band’s breakthrough sophomore album.

Bauhaus, “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything” (1982):

Understated and beautiful, haunted and depressed — Bauhaus in its element, circa ‘82. Pitched against a primarily acoustic backdrop, Peter Murphy’s desolate singing blots out the sun.

The Boo Radleys, “It’s Lulu” (1995):

“Wake up Boo!,” the joyous opener from the Boo Radleys’ “Wake Up!” LP, turned the group into Britpop stars. The album’s colorful, horn-driven “It’s Lulu” proves just as contagious.

Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, “Nothing” (1988):

The sweep and purity of Edie Brickell’s voice, combined with the airiness of the finger-picked guitars and laid-back drums, nearly overshadow the lyrical maturity of the then-22-year-old singer-songwriter in the process of making a career-defining statement.

Budgie, “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman” (1971):

The molten riffs, big-sky spaciousness and bluesy plunge on this imaginative epic demonstrate why Metallica covered several of the cult-favorite English power trio’s songs in the ‘80s.

Echo and the Bunnymen, “Over the Wall” (1981):

Ian McCulloch’s moody howl struggles to emerge from a foggy murk on a jagged dirge that provided a framework for subsequent neo-psychedelic journeys.

Flamin’ Groovies, “Shake Some Action” (1976):

The longing, the hopefulness and the menace; the ringing chords and strutting grooves; the catchy hooks and exuberant harmonies: Power-pop doesn’t come any better.

Hawkwind, “Space Is Deep” (1972):

A trip into the void — by way of oscillating Moog noises, raga-like guitar patterns, burbling bass notes and cosmic lyrics — that probes space’s nether regions with surreal calm. 

Heaven & Hell, ”Bible Black” (2009):

Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice visited Rockfield as recently as 1992 as members of Black Sabbath. The rebranded quartet’s return in 2008 yielded stronger results and a memorable LP (“The Devil You Know”) that stands as Dio’s final studio project.

M83, “We Own the Sky” (2008):

French dream-poppers M83 build a stairway to the crystal-blue heavens with layer upon layer of gauzy synthesizers, wispy vocals and ’80s-style beats. Instant summer, no matter the season.

Opeth, “The Wilde Flowers” (2016):

Culminating its transition from a black metal to a prog-rock band, Opeth masters the delicate art of accessible complexity on a 2016 track that jibes with the style’s adventurous ’70s heyday.

Robert Plant, “Pledge Pin” (1982):

Genesis drummer Phil Collins supplies the backbeat for the “Golden God” on a saxophone-spiked tune that finds the singer exploring what lies beyond the realms of Led Zeppelin.

Pogues, “Rain Street” (1990):

Making his final appearance on a Pogues studio album, singer Shane MacGowan mutters about drunkenness, disease and dreams on a jig that still manages to sound bright and optimistic.

Iggy Pop, “Play It Safe” (1980):

David Bowie, ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, former Patti Smith Group member Ivan Kral and the Simple Minds join Iggy Pop for a call-and-response blowout that has little regard for playing it safe.

Rush, “The Trees” (1978):

Maples versus oaks! Rush’s nature-inspired tale is tied together by an interlude in which drummer Neil Peart creates a mini symphony out of crotales, bells, chimes and timbales.

Spiritualized, “Lord Let It Rain on Me” (2003):

Spiritualized seeks (and gets) deliverance on a slow, weary hymn elevated by a gospel choir that takes the British space-rock veterans to church.

The Stone Roses, “I Am the Resurrection” (1989):

“I am the resurrection and I am the life,” proclaims Stone Roses vocalist Ian Brown, who leaves no room for doubt on a winding anthem that helped trigger the ‘90s Britpop movement.

Super Furry Animals, “Hangin’ with Howard Marks” (1996):

Referencing a drug smuggler who allegedly visited Rockfield at their request, Super Furry Animals cue the black lights on a psychedelic romp steeped in fuzz, reverb and mischief.

Wire, “This Time” (2017):

More than four decades into its career, Wire continues its late-stage creative burst with a streamlined reflection that balances smooth contours and edgy textures.

Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm

In the '60s, two Welsh brothers turned their dairy farm into one of the most successful recording studios of all time, producing decades of legendary music. Featuring interviews with Robert Plant and members of Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, Stone Roses and more, this is the fascinating story of Rockfield.

Amazon Prime Channels

Bob Gendron has been obsessing over music, albums and audio ever since he landed a job at an indie record store at age 13. A longtime contributor to the Chicago Tribune and the first Associate Editorial Director at The Coda Collection, he was also the longtime Music Editor at The Absolute Sound and performed the same role at TONEAudio. Gendron is the author of “Gentlemen” (Bloomsbury) and a coauthor of “Nirvana: The Complete Illustrated History” (Voyageur). His writing has also appeared in DownBeat, Rolling Stone, Revolver and other outlets.

Stories like this straight to your inbox

Exclusive video and the best music writing in the world, in your inbox every week. Subscribe today.