Windmill Lane studios: a musical timeline from 1978 to now

Acts such as U2, Van Morrison and Kate Bush brought international fame to a small corner of Dublin’s docklands

Windmill Lane studios, where U2 recorded their debut album has been demolished. The sale of the one-acre Windmill Lane site last year spelled the beginning of the end for the old venue.

 

The demolition of the original Windmill Lane studios in Dublin’s docklands proved an emotional occasion for many U2 fans, whose musical heros were synonymous with the southside venue.

All that remains now is a graffitied wall created by fans, and nostalgic memories of a seminal period in Irish musical history.

However, it isn’t all about the famous foursome. The studios played host to a number of revered acts including the Rolling Stones, Tom Jones and Van Morrison, so we thought it apt to take a look back at some of the key points in Windmill Lane’s history.

Foundation: 1978

When owners Brian Masterson and James Morris opened the recording venue on Hanover Quay in 1978, it proved an almost immediate hit with domestic acts including Clannad, The Chieftains and Christy Moore.

Morris cultivated a prolific career in the media industry and was a key driving force behind the establishment of TV3 in the 1990s, before taking up the position of Irish Film Board chairman.

Masterson would go on to produce albums by artists including Elvis Costello, Mark Knopfler and U2, a brand which brought international recognition to the nascent enterprise.

U2 - Boy: 1980

The debut album from the multi-platinum rock group, it set Bono and co on a trajectory which would inevitably lead to fame, fortune and international stardom. They would go on to record War (1983) and The Joshua Tree (1987)- which topped charts in 20 different countries and sold some 25 million copies- on site.

Kate Bush- Hounds of Love: 1985

Possibly her best-known and most successful album, the English eccentric saw fit to visit her talents on Windmill Lane where it was partly recorded.

The Waterboys- Fisherman’s Blues: 1988

One of the last widely-acclaimed works to be recorded at the Hanover Quay site, the Scots-Irish outfit burst into global consciousness due largely to the broad appeal of the album’s title track.

Move to Ringsend: 1989/90

Despite a compelling sentimental attachment to the original building, the growing reputation of the studios necessitated a move to a bigger and more modern location in nearby Ringsend. The music may have stopped, but the premises was home to a number of other media and post-production companies over the next two decades.

Attempted redevelopment: 2008

The site wasn’t immune to the advances of property developers during the twilight years of the Celtic Tiger, and the original building was spared the bulldozers after a local residents’ group successfully appealed plans for a seven-story office development with a ground floor café in 2008. It would prove a temporary reprieve.

Site sale: May 2014

The sale of the one-acre Windmill Lane site last year spelled the beginning of the end for the old venue. It went for €7.5 million, and buyers Hibernia REIT also paid over €20 million for an adjoining site.

Demolition: April 2015

The building remained an essential stop on U2 fans’ pilgrimages to Dublin right up until the very end. However, given its new owners’ aspirations it was only a matter of time before the ageing structure would succumb to the wrecking ball, which arrived over the Easter weekend.

Gone are the hallowed halls where haunting vocals were captured and perfected, to be replaced by residential, office and retail units. Part of the graffiti walls remain upright, and they will be maintained by the company which has promised to take the site’s history into account during future development.

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