Stories about Cargo

And this from Paul Finn from the band Swinging Santas

Hello John

It seems appropriate as we are approaching this festive time of year that I would like to nominate the ‘Swinging Santas’ to be added to the list of bands who graced the walls and provided the haunting echoes within Cargo Studios in Rochdale. It started with Regattta De Blanc by the Police in 1979. It started more precisely with a group of 18 year olds singing the title track ‘Regatta De Blanc’ in the back of a transit van on the way back from a night out.The ‘We-ooh-we-ooh-we-ayyy-ohs’ must have sounded so good (the audio equivalent of ‘beer goggles’ I believe) that someone suggested the idea of going into a recording studio.

So roll forward to Summer 1980, the ideal time to contemplate Christmas songs.  Phil, one of the ‘singers’ worked at the Halifax Building Society in the centre of Rochdale with a colleague who played keyboards, who knew a bassist, who knew a drummer so all we needed to complete the band were 14 singers. Why bother with one.

We took it reasonably serious, we actually rehearsed several times.

So at sometime one Saturday night in June or July 1980 (I never had a diary then, I was a student) we booked Cargo Studios to record the Twelve Days of Christmas, White Christmas and Good King Wenceslas. I remember myself and several members of the band lubricating their vocal chords in Yates Wine Lodge before hand. In those days you could buy bottles of beer and take them ‘off licence’ with caps intact and we made use of this facility.

So onwards to Cargo Studios to create our acoustic Mona Lisa, probably about 10pm. I remember little about what went on but I did remember that I was on the only one with a bottle opener!

We started off by recording the keyboard, drums and bass, then we had three sets of mics with 3 ladies on one mic, 5 blokes on one and 6 blokes on another. For whatever reason, either we couldn’t get it to sound right or the recording engineers couldn’t get us to sound right, I couldn’t possibly comment on which of the two is actually true. After a fraught few hours, someone in the control room had a great idea:- Why not get the band to play along with all 14 singers in a circle singing, all at the same time, into one central microphone, obviously a big microphone. Well this was break through and not long afterwards our three track masterpiece rose like a phoenix from the flame.

I remember leaving the studios in the wee or not so wee hours in the morning and getting back to Middleton, just a mere 7 miles away, just as the sun was rising for a new day. I was tired and needed my bed and didn’t really thing about all those recording engineers who were still in the studios busy sweeping up and clearing up discarded beer bottles from every corner of the studio.

Happy Days.

Thanks to these modern new-fangled things called computers, I have been able to digitise the cassette produced by the studios and I have attached our version of White Christmas which may either bring back to you a nice warm feeling of a job well done or maybe questioned why you were doing the job in the first place. My two hopes are that we helped to add to your knowledge as profession recording engineers and secondly we put a smile on your face.


Paul Finn on behalf of the band ‘The Swinging Santas’


Alex Gajowskyj from Learn to Fly

Hi John,

Came across your marvelous Cargo Studios site recently.

I was the drummer for a young Mcr. band, ‘Learn To Fly’.

We recorded a demo cassette there in August 1980.

Didn’t see name on the list so thought I’d reach out & see if you might add it.

Still have the TDK C-60 cassette with Cargo Recording Studios sleeve wrap & featuring 8 original tracks we recorded. My first ever recording studio visit as a 21 year old & still remember much of the session.

In fact, still own the kit I used that day too.

Also recall Cargo being really welcoming / supportive of new, young bands & we much appreciated.

Went on to find my calling with a satisfying career in Industrial Design…..but still joyfully pound the skins a bit in my ‘middle age’.

Was very lucky to emigrate to the US just a few years after the recording session, where I still live with my family on the west coast.

Grew up in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, played in a band with Steve Garvey before he joined Buzzcocks (he lives on US east coast & we still chat) & used to rub shoulders with guys from The Drones, ocassionaly Mark E. Smith & all sorts of characters who used to hang at ‘Rafters’ in Mcr. on Oxford Rd.

Anyway, great memories!…..thanks again for doing what you did at Cargo to help all of us try & realize some dreams.

Best regards,

Alex Gajowskyj



John at the Soundcraft Desk

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