SOUNDING LONDON: ROCK VENUES AS SITES FOR LIVE SOUND DEVELOPMENT
The involvement of WEM (Watkins Electric Music) and band roadies in the late 1960s was fundamental in the development of live sound in Britain. It is only in the early 1970s, however, that a new live sound industry emerged and, I argue, popular music venues played an important role in its development. The “implosion concerts” at the Roundhouse around 1969-1970 were probably the first attempts to have full control of the sonic aspects of rock venues in London but it’s really the opening of the Rainbow Theatre in 1971, on one hand, and the ambitious operation at the Sundown Theatres in 1972, on the other, that established rock venues as production sites. This presentation aims to provide evidence to support these claims. Thinking of music venues as production sites is not only important to reconsider live music history but it’s also essential to reformulate the ways we experience, reflect upon and talk about popular music concerts, as well as their economic and cultural value.
This research benefits from a 4-year research that was part of my PhD on the history of live sound 1967-1973. I managed to interview more than 100 informants, including those that installed sound at the Roundhouse in 1970, the production teams that migrated from the Fillmore East (New York) to The Rainbow Theatre, and members of the sound company that manufactured and installed sound equipment at the Sundown Theatres.
Sergio Pisfil recently obtained his doctorate degree from the University of Edinburgh and lectures music modules at the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC), Lima, Peru. His research interests include the history, aesthetics, and philosophy of popular music and has published in various edited collections and popular music journals (Volume! and Popular Music and Society). Together with Chris Anderton he is currently co-editing Researching Live Music: Gigs, Tours, Concerts and Festivals (Routledge, 2021) and is guest editor for the journal Arts and the Market for a Special Issue on Contemporary Issues in Live Music