80 years of Abbey Road
When EMI said they might sell Abbey Road studios to property developers three years ago, the resulting outcry came as no surprise.
This former Georgian townhouse in St John's Wood in north London has been a recording studio for 80 years and is a British music institution. Originally used by string quartets, orchestras and jazzman Glenn Miller, in the late 1950s it became a second home for another British music institution, Cliff Richard, who visited it to record classic early rock'n'roll tracks such as Summer Holiday.
Watch Summer Holiday by Cliff Richard
The following decade, Abbey Road became synonymous with the most famous band in the history of music. Drawn by the state-of-the-art technology in the legendary Studio 2, the Beatles visited NW8 to record no less than 10 of their 1960s studio albums with producer George Martin. The Fab Four even named an album after Abbey Road and filed across the zebra crossing outside of the building for that record's iconic sleeve picture. Other seminal albums that they recorded there included Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band and Help!
The Beatles' Merseybeat compadres Gerry and the Pacemakers recorded Ferry Cross The Mersey at Abbey Road, which also played home to 60s pop bands such as the Hollies and the Zombies, but the studio also had the capability to capture way more complex music. Pink Floyd recorded a stream of elaborate, symphonic albums there, including the 1973 cosmic masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon, the second-best selling album of all time. David Gilmour's protégé Kate Bush used it for the lush Babooshka, and in 1981 a fresh-faced Duran Duran showed up at Abbey Road to make their debut album, including the instant pop classic Girls On Film.
In the mid-1990s, the iconic Abbey Road was a natural port of call as Britpop's prime movers joyously celebrated all things British. Oasis recording the overblown Be Here Now there was not the studio's finest moment, but Blur visited north London to film a video and record a gorgeous version of To The End with French chanteuse Francoise Hardy.
Radiohead were also serial visitors to St John's Wood, making use of it to record The Bends, including the magnificent Street Spirit (Fade Out).
They returned to Abbey Road while working on OK Computer and then immersed themselves in the studio to record their 2000 glitch-pop masterpiece Kid A. In the 21st century, the studio has remained a beacon for cutting-edge artists and platinum-sellers alike. Seduced by its reputation, Kanye West flew in from New York to make Late Orchestration there, while Take That chose it to be the crucible of their comeback record Progress, the fastest-selling album of this century thanks to tracks like The Flood.
In the 1960s, Abbey Road played host to the biggest artists in the world – and it is still doing so today. In 2010, when Lady Gaga was touring the globe on her Monsters' Ball extravaganza and was inspired to write Born This Way, she knew exactly where she needed to go to record it.
After the philistines at EMI tried to sell Abbey Road to property developers in 2009, the government made it a listed building to preserve it as a recording studio. Who can blame them? From Glenn Miller to the Beatles, to Elbow recently recording the BBC's official London Olympics theme in NW8, Abbey Road is a unique, illustrious feature on the British music landscape. Long may it continue…
Listen to more songs recorded at Abbey Road on Spotify.
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