Crispin grew up in London’s West End as a teenager, and like many he trod the boards and was stuck to guitar-shop windows. He started working at Regent Sounds in 2004 before he took over the shop six years later, and he’d become fascinated by the history of the place. Like most buildings on the street, it had a star-studded past, but perhaps no other building has quite the same significance as this former home of Regent Sound recording studio.
The studio was established in 1951, primarily as a demo studio and photographic studio for session musicians and the street’s publishing business – a requirement that prompted other studios to follow at number eight (Southern Music), nine (Central Sound), 21 (KPM, whose legendary “library music” instrumentals were recorded there), and 22 (Pan/TPA).
Regent went on to become one of London’s busiest studios. In the 60s, it was run by James Baring, who hired Bill Farley. Bill engineered the first Stones album, recorded in its entirety at Regent across a few days in early ’64, and most of the second LP there. “The first one was done all in England,” Keith Richards later told Rolling Stone magazine, “in a little demo studio in Tin Pan Alley, as it used to be called –Denmark Street in Soho. We used to think, ‘Oh, this is a recording studio, huh? This is what they’re like?’ A tiny little backroom.” The little room was good enough to conjure demos and records for everyone from Vera Lynn to Black Sabbath, from Petula Clark to Jimi Hendrix, from The Kinks to Bananarama, until it closed in the 1980s.
After that, number four became a print shop for a while, and then in 1995 it opened as the Helter Skelter music bookshop. That lasted until 2003, and in the first weeks of the following year Rick Harrison opened it as the Regent Sounds Studio guitar shop. Crispin recalls a Russian oligarch who used to come in with his daughter. “She just pointed at stuff, and he’d go: ‘We take it,’ ‘We take it,’ ‘We take it.’ And basically he bought most of the shop. Sadly, that never happened again!”