The relationship between Abbey Road Studios and Bowers & Wilkins started in 1988, when the studios adopted the Matrix 801 as its reference monitor. And it continues to this day, with the 800Ds currently in residence. But the Abbey Road studios story goes a lot further back…
Built as a Georgian townhouse in 1831, the premises were acquired by The Gramophone Company in 1931 and converted into studios. The neighbouring house is also owned by the studio and used to house musicians. During the mid-1900s the studio was extensively used by leading British conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent, whose house was just around the corner from the studio.
The Gramophone Company later amalgamated with Columbia Graphophone Company to form EMI, which took over the studios. The studios were then known as EMI Studios until they changed their name to Abbey Road Studios formally in 1970. Studio Two at Abbey Road became a centre of rock music in 1958 when Cliff Richard and the Drifters (later Cliff Richard and The Shadows), recorded "Move It", arguably the first European rock and roll single. Later, it also witnessed the beginnings of a change from "rock 'n' roll" to "rock".
The Beatles also found great success in Studio Two, and during the early-to-mid-'60s, The Beatles and Cliff and The Shadows became almost like joint owners of the studio, with friendly battles for recording time. It was The Beatles who broke with tradition, changing recording techniques, and forever changing the boundaries of what was considered popular music. Innovating with flanging, backwards recording, automatic double tracking, and controlled feedback, The Beatles utilised Abbey Road studios to full effect.
In fact, Abbey Road Studios is most closely associated with The Beatles, who recorded almost all of their albums and singles there between 1962 and 1970. The Beatles named their final 1969 album, Abbey Road, after the street where the studio is located (the recording studio would only be named Abbey Road after The Beatles record in 1970). The cover photo for that album was taken by Iain MacMillan outside Abbey Road Studios, with the result that the pedestrian zebra crossing outside the studio, where the Fab Four were photographed, soon became a place of pilgrimage for Beatles fans from all over the world. Among the less desirable effects of this notoriety has been the unsightly graffiti written on the studio fence by visitors and the regular theft of road signs.
But there is more to Abbey Road than just the Beatles. Pink Floyd recorded most of their late '60s to mid-1970s albums (such as The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967), A Saucerful of Secrets (1968), Music from the Film More (1969), Ummagumma (1969), Atom Heart Mother (1970), Meddle (1971),The Dark Side of the Moon (1972 - 1973) and Wish You Were Here (1975), at the studio as well.
The band would not use Abbey Road again until the mixing sessions of the double live album Delicate Sound of Thunder (1988) and some overdubs for The Division Bell (1994). Recently, Floyd guitarist David Gilmour recorded some of the tracks for his recent solo album On an Island there. Syd Barrett also recorded The Madcap Laughs and Barrett (1970) there.
Notable producers and sound engineers who have worked at Abbey Road include Sir George Martin, Geoff Emerick, Norman "Hurricane" Smith, Ken Scott, Mike Stone, Alan Parsons, Phil McDonald, Richard Lush and Ken Townshend, who invented the groundbreaking studio effect automatic double tracking (ADT).
As well as being the birthplace of countless classic pop and pop recordings, Abbey Road Studios also saw the creation of many of the most famous movie scores. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return of the Jedi, The Last Emperor, Batman, Memphis Belle, Shining Through, City Of Joy, The Fisher King, Immortal Beloved, Interview With A Vampire, Little Women, The Madness Of King George, Apollo 13, Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring, Lord Of The Rings: Two Towers and Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King. Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets, Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone. The list is pretty much endless, and will continue to grow.
However, while it’s easy to get lost in the numbers of titles, Abbey Road Studios is about more than quantity; look closer at the albums and scores recorded here and it very quickly becomes clear that it’s also about quality. Quality of artists, and quality of sound.
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Will Gregory in conversationApril 21,2015