Abbey Road Studios turns 80 and opens to the public
In the summer of 1969, The Beatles were mulling over the name of their 11th studio album. Everest was the first leader, after the brand of cigarettes their musical engineer smoked. But in the end, the Fab Four opted for something a little more familiar, naming the album after the address of the recording studio they had spent countless hours in throughout the 1960s.
This album, of course, was Abbey route – the band’s latest recording effort and some say it’s the best – and it has propelled the recording studio onto the map of public consciousness. Every afternoon in North London, a group of Beatles fans stand outside the historic landmark studio, posing for photos or mimicking the famous album cover art.
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A recent Saturday was no exception, as crowds of fans lined the sidewalk of the otherwise quiet residential street. The level of excitement, however, was considerably higher than usual as fans demanded not only to take photos of the outdoors, but to join the select few who have already stepped inside. of the building.
To celebrate their 80th anniversary, Abbey Road Studios has decided to let the public in for one of the few times in history, giving fans a chance to see the famous Studio 2 and attend a lecture on the story. from the studio. (Tours started on March 9 and are scheduled throughout the month – although thanks to the massive response, more dates could be added.) The studio doors like kids who found the golden ticket and who are about to enter Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. A middle-aged couple waited with their arms wrapped around each other in a dizzying embrace. Two excited American fathers quizzed their teenage sons about Beatles trivia. Almost everyone in the crowd of around 100 was taking pictures and looking at their watches.
(PICTURES: A Brief History of Abbey Road Studios)
The duo tasked with sharing Abbey Road’s story with fans, Brian Kehew and Kevin Ryan, are the authors of the book. Beatles recording and have spent years researching the studio. They understood the anticipation on the outside. Longtime sound engineers and Beatles fans, they said they remembered the wonder they felt the first time they entered the legendary building, and that they weren’t surprised people lined up, after traveling the world, to get a glimpse of the studio where some of history’s most famous tracks were recorded. After all, Ryan pointed out, while Abbey Road is best known for its connection to The Beatles, “there is so much more to the story.”
EMI, then known as the Gramophone Company, purchased the residential building at 3 Abbey Road in 1929 with the intention of turning it into a major recording operation. By the time the studio officially opened on November 12, 1931, an addition had been built to create a huge studio complex. Many fans have found the street view terribly misleading: the exterior of the building appears to be a large London house. “Unless you really explore the building, you don’t really know how many there is here,” Kehew said. Studio 1, which is often used for recording orchestras, is over 4,800 square feet (445 square meters), and although Studio 2 is about half that size, its dimensions are still so large that it could not have fit in the original building. Studio 3 is a smaller room, more suitable for recording solo acts.
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The Beatles weren’t the only famous musicians walking the halls of Abbey Road Studios. Prior to the Fab Four, talents such as Edward Elgar, Peter Sellers, and Cliff Richards and the Shadows performed some of their best-known works at the studio. After The Beatles, the studio captured recordings from Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Oasis, Florence and the Machine, and Amy Winehouse. Music from renowned films for the Star wars, Harry potter and the Lord of the Rings films have also been recorded there.
In addition to pioneering records, Abbey Road was also home to pioneering innovations. During the 1930s, an electronic engineer named Alan Blumlein developed stereo sound in the studio. Although he was trying to improve movies, Blumlein eventually managed to patent stereo recordings and surround sound. And in the 1960s, engineer Ken Townsend’s experimentation with the multitrack led to the creation of an 8, then 16 and 24 track recording.
After the tour, as they took photos and examined pianos and microphones, more than a few fans said they equated the visit with a religious experience. Kehew and Ryan both said they understood the fear. “If you take The Beatles out, it’s probably still the best-known studio in the world,” Kehew said. “And then with the Beatles on top, it’s just untouchable.”
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