Abbey Road Studios Celebrates 90 Years
A nine-bedroom Georgian townhouse, erected in 1831, celebrated its bicentennial this year in Westminster, London, England. The modest home has witnessed the arrival of the city's first railway, the debut of the first World’s Fair, the construction of iconic British landmarks like Big Ben and Tower Bridge. It has survived bombing raids in both world wars and hosted multiple Olympics, including the 1908, 1948, and 2012 games. Even with its dynamic historical record, its status as a historical landmark did not begin until 1931.
November marks the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the iconic Abbey Road Studios. The humble townhome, already steeped in history, was purchased in 1929 by the Gramophone Company who converted it to studios and opened the doors two years later. The grand opening, recorded by French film equipment and production studio Pathé, captured Edward Elgar conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in the inaugural recording session. Later that year, the Gramophone Company merged with Columbia Graphophone Company and formed Electric and Musical Industries (EMI), and subsequently, the studio became EMI Recording Studios.
From its inception until the late 1950s, the studio was a hub for classical music recording. Then in 1958, Studio Two became the beating heart for rock and roll music when Cliff Richard and the Drifters (later known as Cliff Richards and the Shadows) recorded their hit “Move It” at the bustling studio.
Already established as a premier recording studio, EMI Studios found eternal glory as the recording site for nearly all the Beatles albums between 1962 and 1970. The list of records by the Beatles at EMI Studios includes: Please Please Me (1963), With The Beatles (1963), A Hard Day’s Night (1964), Beatles for Sale (1964), Help! (1965), Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), Magical Mystery Tour (1967), The Beatles (The White Album) (1968), Yellow Submarine (1969), and Abbey Road (1969). The fab four used the studio's four-track REDD mixing console, designed by Peter K. Burkowitze, to churn out hit after hit. Eventually, the supergroup named their final album recorded at the studio after the street that houses the studio and included cover art photographed by Iain Macmillan of the band walking through the now-iconic zebra crosswalk. Following the success of the Beatles’ Abbey Road, the studio renamed itself Abbey Road Studios.
Beyond its work with the Beatles, Abbey Road Studios has hosted notable producers like Geoff Emerick, Walter Legge, Sir George Martin, Alan Parsons, Norman “Hurricane” Smith, Ken Scott, Mike Stone, and Peter Vince, among others. The space also captured a versatile catalog of recordings throughout the years including, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Kayne West’s Late Registration (2005), The Killer’s Sam’s Town (2006), Lady Gaga’s Born This Way (2010), solo projects from John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, as well as scores for films like Apollo 13, Braveheart, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Return of the Jedi, among countless others.
Today, the studio is a destination for tourists who pay homage to the Beatles and music history by writing on the wall in front of the building. In December 2010, the zebra crosswalk at Abbey Road was granted a Grade II listed status, designating it one of England’s historic sites. In September 2012, the studio became the property of Universal Music, and the Abbey Road Institute opened in March 2015.
As part of the 90th-anniversary celebration, Abbey Road Studios will offer a rare glimpse inside the iconic Studio Two in November. Information on the tours and historic lectures is at https://abbeyroad.seetickets.com/tour/abbey-road-lectures.
For more information on Abbey Road Studios, please visit https://www.abbeyroad.com/ and be sure to visit https://www.namm.org/category/term/abbey-road-studios for NAMM’s collection of oral history interviews with some of the studio's defining contributors.