Myths About Cargo

Several myths have surrounded Cargo so now would be a good time to sort them out.

Myth: The Birdy Song was recorded at Cargo

Foz from the Salford punk band “The Change” wrote;
……….there has been some good stuff recorded at Cargo but at the time we were in there (1979) recording a demo the engineer was proud to tell us that the “Birdy Song” had been done there, which didn’t exactly fill us with hope.

John wrote back;
It was after hearing the Birdy Song that Factory sent Joy Division into Cargo with producer Martin Hannett believing that only Hannett could give JD that true “Birdy” feel, you can hear it on “Atmosphere” but more famously on Durrutti Column “Sketch for Summer”. Mark E Smith and the Fall recorded in Cargo, Mark was adamant that I gave him the full Birdy sound treatment and I think I achieved that for him.

Seriously the Birdy Song wasn’t recorded at Cargo and if it had been I think I would have kept very quiet about it

Foz wrote back;
Ha..ha nice one John you had me going for a second there..I was starting to hear mark e smith in my head going” I’m only a poor little sparrow” in his own dulcet tones…glad to be proved wrong, glad you have a sense of humour, and glad you would have kept it quiet…awful song.

So where was the Birdy Song recorded… answers on a post card…….

Myth: John Peel had a hand in setting up Cargo

A recent TV programme claimed that John Peel and one of his groups “ Tractor” had a hand in setting up Cargo Studios but neither John nor Tractor had anything whatsoever to do with Cargo, other than the studio building was leased from Chris Hewitt, Tractors manager. The programme makers didn’t even bother to contact John Brierley despite most of the programme being about his studio.

The original concept and the financing of the studio was John Brierley’s and he single handed constructed the studio, and ran it successfully for 6 years, so he gets a little miffed when someone else tries to take the credit.

Myth: Cargo Studios was sold to Pete Hook from New Order

Cargo Studios wasn’t sold to Pete Hook. When Cargo Studios closed down, a company called Quobeat bought the majority of the equipment, Quobeat was partly owned by Pete Hook. The Cadey 16 track eventually went to a guy in London, the building was leased. Quobeat set up what was in effect a new studio in the same building calling it Suite 16. The name and business of Cargo Studios still belongs to John Brierley and is now part of Cargo Broadcast Ltd providing facilities for filming TV programmes.

Myth: There was a secret stash of Martin Hannett tapes left in the studio when it closed.

Any tapes left, and there weren’t many, were returned to the band or record company.
Or maybe, just maybe, there is a cassette somewhere in the old building with Ian Curtis out-takes, produced by Martin Hannett!

Myth: Everyone recorded at Cargo for the rates not the sound

If you go to go to “biography” and then “old friends” you’ll come across an interesting interview with CP Lee about his mate Martin Hannett. But I would like to query a statement made about Cargo in which CP was asked;

Q: why did he (martin hannett) work at strawberry and cargo so often when one assumes there must have been equally good studios in central manchester? what was so special about their sound?

A: “there was only one other studio in manchester, arrow. strawberry had a particularly ‘good’ sound. it was a westlake system imported from the states. cargo was the cheap alternative to strawberry. everybody did stuff there because of the rates not the sound.”

“NOT THE SOUND” Yea right, can’t let that go!
You have to remember that Cargo wasn’t cheap it was inexpensive so that new bands like Joy Division, OMD, the Fall and many more hundreds of bands, just starting out, could actually afford to record.

Martin didn’t pay the bills so he could have chosen anywhere. There were other studios in the Manchester area charging the same as Cargo, such as Smile and Pennine. Revolution and Arrow were also available as was Amazon and Pink studios out at Liverpool.
Martin actually chose Cargo deliberately for its sound. CP Lee only once came into the studio (as far as I remember) so how he was any authority on the sound there I don’t know. Martin liked the fact that he could experiment without running up a huge bill, and in an interview with him he spoke about his sound and attributed much of it to being able to push the sound onto tape as much as possible, this is something he could easily do at Cargo because of our Cadey multitrack having a valve record side which lead to a very powerful distortion free sound. He also seemed to have a liking for the live sound at Cargo.

As far as Martin could he seemed to “get on” with me, as he did with Chris Nagle at Strawberry and the guys down at Britannia Row.
He could have gone anywhere and he had the choice where he recorded and he chose Cargo to record Joy Division, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Section 25, Tunnel Vision, Stockholm Monsters, A Certain Ratio, Durutti Column, Vini Reilly, Crispy Ambulance, and Nico.

And you have to remember over its six years existence Cargo became the main studio in the UK for independent record companies and indie bands, so we must have been doing something right and somewhere along the way we must have had the right sound.
So CP I think maybe you were a little rash with your statement!