Norman Sheffield

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Norman Sheffield in 2013

Norman Sheffield (25 September 1939 - 20 June 2014)[1] was a music and advertising industry figure, most noted for his music industry recording and management roles, ownership of the former Trident Studios, and being the original manager of the rock band Queen.

Early life[edit]

Sheffield was born in Enfield, the son of Walter Sheffield, a panel beater. He was educated at Albany Boys School.

Music life[edit]

He enjoyed moderate chart success as a drummer in The Hunters, as well as starring as the drummer with Cliff Richard in a television performance at the London Palladium in 1958. More recently, one of The Hunters' biggest hits, "Teen Scene", featured on the soundtrack to the 2009 movie An Education.

Sheffield later started a record shop with his wife, in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, converting the upstairs into a recording studio which proved popular with local musicians wanting to record their own music. When the shop was sold while he searched for larger premises in London, much of the original equipment was purchased by the future founder of Island Records.

Trident Studios[edit]

Sheffield went on to launch Trident Studios in 1968 with his brother Barry, turning a disused engraving works in St Anne's Court, in the Soho area of London, into one of the leading recording studios in the world. A number of the best-known artists of the time used it, and recordings made there include the Beatles' "Hey Jude", David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and Elton John's "Candle in the Wind".[2]


Between 1972 and 1975, Sheffield, under one of his companies within the Trident Group, was the manager of British rock group Queen, as well as other acts. Trident invested heavily in the band, formerly known as Smile, when its members were still students, and played a major role in breaking them into the mainstream, eventually finding them a recording contract with EMI Records.

It has often been claimed that Sheffield treated the band unfairly, but he has fiercely denied that in interviews[3] and in his memoirs. The band paid £100,000 to get out of their contract with Trident,[3] and the song "Death on Two Legs" was written by Freddie Mercury about the band's fall out with Sheffield. Although it has never been officially stated, an out-of-court financial settlement was made with him.[citation needed]

Shortly after Sheffield's death in June 2014, Brian May posted a tribute to him on his personal blog.[4]

"Bohemian Rhapsody"[edit]

Even after the split with Queen, one of Sheffield's other companies within the group, Trilion Video, was contracted by the band in 1975 to produce the music video for Queen's song "Bohemian Rhapsody", which has been regarded as the first modern music video.[5][6]

Life on Two Legs[edit]

In 2013, Sheffield released his personal memoirs titled Life on Two Legs: Set The Record Straight,[7] with his inside story of the beginnings and growth of Trident Studios, and its role in recording the music that made it famous worldwide. It also details how Queen were "discovered" and managed by Trident, and the lead-up to Freddie Mercury writing "Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to...)" (The "dedicated to..." being him) about the acrimonious split with Sheffield and Trident.

The press release and website[8] promised exclusive photos and untold stories about the artists who recorded at Trident, as well as copies of the original Queen management contracts from 1974. The book has a foreword by Sir Paul McCartney.

Other business[edit]

With the growth of electronic music and home studios in the 1980s, the music industry began to change and Sheffield sold the studio. He founded one of the first Apple Computer dealerships in the UK, importing early Apple computers from the United States in 1986, complete with step-down transformers which enabled the machines to operate on UK voltage. The company also opened specially designed offices, known as a bureaus, to allow Apple and PC computer users to scan, print and use the Apple computers on a per-hour basis.

Together with his sons he founded the advertising agency Tableau, using his knowledge of the entertainment industry and experience from early desktop publishing. The agency was responsible for the early EasyJet airline advertising campaigns and EasyJet's first online booking system, and held other notable advertising accounts and went on to gain awards within the industry for its work.


Sheffield died in Cornwall, UK on 20 June 2014 aged 75. He had suffered from throat cancer.[9]


  1. ^ "Drummer and former Queen manager, Waltham Cross-born Norman Sheffield, dies : Cheshunt & Waltham News". Retrieved 2014-07-03. 
  2. ^ "Trident Studios". Facebook. Retrieved 2014-07-03. 
  3. ^ a b "Freddie's Millions (BBC Liquid Assets) - Part 3 (3/7)". BBC. Retrieved 2016-09-04. 
  4. ^ "Brian May's SoapBox Tribute". Retrieved 2014-09-12. 
  5. ^ Medium cool: music videos from soundies to cellphones p.157. Duke University Press, 2007. Retrieved 23 January 2011
  6. ^ "Queen Band History". Queen Online. Archived from the original on 27 June 2009. The video, directed by Bruce Gowers, is credited with being the first genuine promotional video. 
  7. ^ "Life on Two Legs: Norman Sheffield, Paul McCartney: Books". Retrieved 2014-07-03. 
  8. ^ "Life on Two Legs - Norman Sheffield". Facebook. Retrieved 2014-07-03. 
  9. ^ Robinson, Dave (2014-06-26). "Trident Studios founder Norman Sheffield dies". PSNEurope. Newbay Media Ltd. Retrieved 2016-09-04.