Abbey Road Studios, created in November of 1931 by EMI in London, is best known as the legendary recording studio used by the rock bands The Beatles, Cliff Richard, Pink Floyd and The Shadows. The studios are located in Abbey Road, in St John's Wood in the City of Westminster.
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.
Abbey Road as it looks today.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 the 1970s.
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 'n' roll single. 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.
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 1969 album, Abbey Road, after the street where the studio is located (the recording studio, formerly called EMI Studios, 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 notoreity has been the unsightly graffiti written on the studio fence by visitors and the regular theft of road signs. Pink Floyd recorded most of their late '60s to mid-1970s albums (like The Dark Side of the Moon, Atom Heart Mother and Wish You Were Here) at the studio as well. Elliott Smith also recorded "In the Lost and Found" from his "Figure 8" album at the studio.
The Shadows named their Live At Abbey Road album after the studio, with the cover spoofing The Beatles' album. Studio Two was also used by the Hollies, Manfred Mann, the Seekers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Martin Briley and others.
Notable producers and 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 known as automatic double tracking (ADT). The chief mastering engineer at Abbey Road was Chris "Vinyl" Blair, who started his career early on as a tape deck operator. He worked his way up the ranks to get to the top. A highlight of Chris's career was receiving an award for Radiohead's Kid A. Chris died on November 7, 2005.
Kanye West had a live concert in the Abbey Road Studios in late 2005, following the release of the live-album version of Late Registration. Featured on the cover is his mascot ,Drop Out Bear, on Abbey Road street (imitation of The Beatles cover).
Abbey Road Studios got its start in the film scoring business in 1980, when Anvil Post Production formed a partnership with the studio, called Anvil-Abbey Road Screen Sound. The partnership started when Anvil was left without a scoring stage when Korda Studios were demolished. It ended in 1984, when EMI merged with Thorn to become Thorn EMI.
Abbey Road's success in the scoring business continued after the partnership ended. Films whose scores were recorded at the studios include:
- 1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark
- 1982 Greystoke - The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes
- 1983 Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi
- 1984 Ladyhawke
- 1985 Brazil, A Room with a View
- 1986 The Jewel of the Nile, Shanghai Surprise, Aliens
- 1987 Madame Sousatzka, The Last Emperor
- 1988 A Man for All Seasons, Shirley Valentine, Willow
- 1990 Memphis Belle, Shining Through
- 1991 City of Joy, The Fisher King
- 1992 The Endangered
- 1993 The Man Without a Face, M. Butterfly, The Innocent
- 1994 Immortal Beloved, Interview with the Vampire, Little Women, The Madness of King George
- 1995 Apollo 13, Brassed Off, Braveheart, Talk of Angels
- 1996 Carla’s Song, The Crucible, G.I. Jane
- 1997 Deep Impact, Desperate Measures, Event Horizon, Lost in Space, Titanic Town, Virus, Wilde
- 1998 Hilary and Jackie, Jakob the Liar, Practical Magic, The Prince of Egypt, What Dreams May Come
- 1999 Bicentennial Man, Chocolat, Dogma, Eyes Wide Shut, I Dreamed of Africa, Message in a Bottle, Notting Hill, Rules of Engagement, Sleepy Hollow, Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, The Talented Mr. Ripley
- 2000 Thirteen Days, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Chicken Run, Hollow Man, Rugrats in Paris: The Movie, Shrek
- 2001 From Hell, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, We Were Soldiers
- 2002 The Four Feathers, Gangs of New York, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones, The Hours, The Life of David Gale, Thunderpants, Punch-Drunk Love
- 2003 Bon Voyage, Johnny English, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, Veronica Guerin
- 2004 Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, Around the World in 80 Days, Cold Mountain, Beyond the Sea, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Mona Lisa Smile, Sylvia, The Phantom of the Opera, Birth, King Arthur, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Alfie, The Edge of Reason, The Little Prince - A Magical Opera
- 2005 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Proof, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
Abbey Road Film Festival
In March/April 2005 Abbey Road Studios held a film festival. It included a tour of Studio One and Studio Two (excluding control rooms). They displayed several films in Studio One associated with the studio and a photographic exhibition in Studio Two. Also on display were several microphones, two upright pianos and a Hammond Organ.