The Abbey Road Studios in London’s Westminster district are most likely the most famous recording studio in the world. In addition to the recording rooms, which became world-famous not least because of the albums by the Beatles or Pink Floyd that were created there, today the studio also includes far-reaching ancillary activities. For example, increasingly well-known rock and pop albums are being released on vinyl, remastered and sound-engineered at Abbey Road. Software for home recording studios and an academy for sound engineers are also part of the Abbey Road brand.
The history of Abbey Road Studios
In 1929, the Gramophone Company Ltd. bought a residential building built in 1830 in the Gregorian architectural style and converted it into a recording studio. The work took almost two full years. By the time it opened in 1931, the Gramophone Company had already merged with the Columbia Gramophone Company to form EMI. No one spoke of “Abbey Road Studios” at the time. They were simply the recording studios of EMI with the address 3 Abbey Road, St. Johns Wood, London NW8 9AY.
Studio 1 is still considered the largest recording room in the world. In it, a 110-person orchestra can record simultaneously with a 100-person choir. No wonder EMI used it for the production of countless symphonic works. Violinist Yehudi Menuhin is said to have recorded nearly 250 works there. Studio 2 has a capacity for 55 people – so it’s huge too.
The Beatles in Abbey Road Studios
The studios became known to the general public primarily through the Beatles, who recorded the majority of their songs there from 1962. The Beatles’ last joint recordings also took place there and resulted in the album Abbey Road (the album Let It Be was released later, but recorded beforehand). On the cover of the album, the four Beatles walk single file across the zebra crossing not far from the studio entrance. The back cover shows the street sign on the wall of the studio enclosure. Since then, the studio has been a place of pilgrimage for Beatles fans from all over the world. The studio was renamed Abbey Road Studios after the Beatles album’s rise to fame.
Who were the most famous employees of Abbey Road Studios?
George Martin, the legendary Beatles producer, began recording for the Parlophone label at Abbey Road in 1950. The team that recorded the Beatles usually included Norman Smith and Chris Neal as first and second engineer. Norman Newell and Norrie Paramor produced untold UK hits as hired house producers. Alan Parsons, Geoff Emerick or Glyn Johns also shaped their careers with recordings at Abbey Road Studios.
Why were Abbey Road Studios almost closed?
In 1992, the EMI Group bought Virgin Records and with it not only the record label of the same name but also the renowned but loss-making Olympic Sound Studio. The Abbey Road Studios were also struggling economically in the 1990s. When it was leaked that EMI was planning to sell the studios, there was great public protest. EMI therefore sold only a minority share and reinvested in the studios, which were thus able to expand their current market position in several business areas. In February 2010, Abbey Road Studios was declared a historic building and listed.
Abbey Road Remastered
A number of remastered vinyl reissues of rock classics have come out of the mastering studios at Abbey Road in recent years. The sound engineer Miles Showell and his colleagues create new pressing matrices from (mostly) the original analogue master tapes. They use half-speed mastering, which already has sonic advantages over real-time cutting.
These albums were remastered at Abbey Road Studios and reviewed by uebervinyl.de (selection)
- Bob Marley & The Wailers – Live!
- Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
- Rolling Stones – Goats Head Soup
- Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms
- Mark Knopfler – Local Hero
- Genesis – Seconds Out
- The Police – Regatta De Blanc
These Beatles albums were recorded in whole or in part at Abbey Road (selection)
- Please Please Me
- Beatles For Sale
- Rubber Soul
- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
- Magical Mystery Tour
- The Beatles (Weißes Album)
- Abbey Road
Other Abbey Road Studios activities
Abbey Road Studios is now much more than a recording studio, although that business continues to expand too. Just recently, two new recording facilities, the Gatehouse and The Front Room, opened in the venerable complex. In addition to recording, the mixing, mastering and remastering of music and film recordings is an important line of business for the Londoners. Today, musicians no longer even have to go to St. Johns Wood to do this. Many services can now also be used online. In addition, there is an education and training programme called Abbey Road Institute and an incubator for young tech companies called Abbey Road Red. Start-ups and young software talents are promoted there. And for those who just want to see the place where rock history was made, the doors of the hallowed halls open for guided tours on some days of the year. Dates can be found on the website.
So time does not stand still at Abbey Road. Or to stay in the musician’s language. The studios would be rerecorded, remixed and remastered again and again.