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Abbey Road 90th Anniversary Open House – Review by Mark Sach

todayAugust 15, 2021


Abbey Road: Home of The Beatles Pink Floyd Kate Bush Cilla Black The Zombies Oasis The Hollies

Abbey Road Studios was magnificent.
Mark Sach

What's It All About?

Running daily from 9 August to 15 August, Abbey Road: Open House is part of Abbey Road Studios’ 90th anniversary celebrations, taking guests on a specially curated journey through the Studios’ history. For the first time ever, visitors will be able to explore all three of the original recording rooms made famous by artists from Shirley Bassey, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Kate Bush to Oasis, Kanye West, Adele, Ed Sheeran and Frank Ocean and discover the stories that made Abbey Road a legend. Beyond the Studios, visitors will be able to access the control rooms and the famous Studio Two Echo Chamber – all with a rich history dating back to 1931.

Giving more access than ever before, ticketholders will be able to explore the Studios’ legacy of innovation from the patenting of stereo to the invention of numerous recording techniques still used across the globe today. The Open House will also cover the Studios’ rich history of film scoring and demonstrate how the studios have been used to record the music from some of the biggest movies ever made, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, many of the Harry Potter, Marveland Star Wars films, Black Panther, The Kings Speech, and the Oscar winning scores for Gravity and The Shape of Water.

The Review

Abbey Road Studios was magnificent yesterday. I have been on a number of occasions before, always Studio 2, but never have been allowed the amount of access as there was this time. Up the fabled entrance steps and ushered into Studio 3 control room to start with, they played us a lovely 5.1 mix of ‘Imagine’ which sounded absolutely stunning. I asked the guy what make the monitors were, as they looked liked a Bowers & Wilkins design, and they were B&W’s but, he said, these ones were unreleased and not available yet. Then we were allowed to wander around the ‘live’ room which had some stunning gear laid out as if a session was taking place. They also had a nice screen which was showing a band playing in the room, which you could hear in all its glory by slipping on a pair of headphones. Kate Bush loved Studio 3, and it’s easy to see why. It is quite a small space as a complete unit and very comfortable. Then it was out into the corridor and along to Studio 2. 

Studio 2, the most famous of them all

We entered into the control room, with the in situ mixing desk, another different set of B & W’s monitors and some lovely gear to take a look at. And there of course, is the big window which looks over the ‘live’ space. Ah, Studio 2, the most famous of them all, where the Beatles made most of their music at AR. Then it was down the hallowed 17 steps into the main space. It is amazing to think that from early 1967 four albums were made consecutively in this studio, namely ‘Sgt Pepper’, ‘The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ (PF), ‘Odessey & Oracle’ (Zombies) & ‘P.F. Sorrow’ (The Pretty Things), which define how brilliant British music was at the time. Again, there was some fantastic gear laid out, every mic, amp, compressor, etc. plus the original mixing desks used throughout the entire existence of the studio, and the original 2, 4, 8 & 16 track recording machines. At the far end, there was access into the legendary Studio 2 ‘Echo Chamber’, which has pipes, bare & tiled walls, a couple of speakers and mics to pick up the sound & the sound of the space. Magical. 

Studio Two in the 1960s
Studio Two Present Day

This space was absolutely enormous, and was laid out for a full orchestra.

Then it was out into the corridor at ground level, and into Studio 1. This space was absolutely enormous, and was laid out for a full orchestra. Again, the gear was amazing and this time there was a screen showing Burt Bacharach conducting an orchestra & recording Cilla singing ‘Alfie’. But for me, this was Steve Harley’s ‘Sebastian’ & ‘Death Trip’ as much as all the fantastic movie scores that have been recorded there, as well as ‘All You Need Is Love’ for the ‘Our World’ broadcast in 1967. Then, it was into the Studio 1 control room, where they played us some music from ‘Star Wars’ through another set of huge B & W speakers. The sound was stunning. It was also nice to spot a pair of Genelec near field monitors, the same as I use at home, on top of the desk, so at least I know my gear is in good company ! I asked the engineer how much it would cost to rent the studio for the day. He said it is around 5k plus Vat. An engineer costs more, and that is for an 8 hour day ! Anytime over the top incurs an hourly rate.
And then it was out of Studio 1 and into the toilet opposite for a quick lag, (even if you didn’t need to go, think who else has taken a lag in there !) then out into the street. The end of a magical experience. Down the side of the studio complex they now have a shop, which sold everything imaginable at silly prices.
The only disappointment of the day was that they didn’t allow any photographs to be taken, which was strange as it had never been a problem before, but then again, they are probably printing an expensive book of photos as we speak !

Edward Elgar conducts the trio of his Pomp and Circumstance March no.1 at the opening of the Abbey Road Studios, London, on November 12 1931. His words, spoken to the orchestra at the beginning of this short film clip, are as follows: Good morning gentlemen. Glad to see you all. Very light programme this morning. Please play this tune as though youve never heard it before.

With thanks to ElgarRareMovies

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