Walking down Grove End Road in St John’s Wood, London, there’s excitement in the air. My friend Robbie and I merge into the crowds of people with the same destination. As we come to the junction and see the famous zebra crossing, we are enveloped by hundreds of people here to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of the album cover that made the road, the crossing and studios famous, Abbey Road. As people try to imitate the boys crossing the road, taxis, cars, buses and trucks wait patiently and not so patiently. But our visit is something more. Of course, we used the crossing, me secretly wishing I was shoeless or in double denim, as I followed behind Robbie. But this was not crossing for crossings sake, we had to get to the other side, because we were going in! Yes, we had special V.I.P. tickets to enter, explore and listen to a lecture in Studio Two in Abbey Road Studios. Growing up in New Jersey I often imagined what it was like in that room with Paul bashing out the piano bit from “Golden Slumbers”, George working on the guitar solo for “The End”, John re-writing the lyrics to “Across the Universe” and Ringo having a cuppa tea. I’ve seen the photos many times, and in my mind, I had a clear picture of the lay out with the guys in the far corner on oriental rugs, above them the sound absorbing panels on the walls and the echo chamber through the doors behind them. But tonight, I was going into the actual space, goose bumps abound! We came to hear a lecture about the history of the studios, but I know most were there for the same reason I was, I take in the atmosphere, breathe in the same air, walk on the same floorboards as our musical heroes, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, Radiohead, The Beatles, Oasis, The Beatles, Shirley Bassey, The Beatles, Amy Winehouse, The Beatles, Muse, The Beatles, Kate Bush and so many more.
The lecture was very interesting, Musician and music producer Brian Kehew and Kevin Ryan told us all about the studios’ legacy of innovation from the patenting of stereo to the invention of numerous recording techniques used across the globe today. They also discussed and demonstrated some of the instruments used by bands such as Mrs Mills piano, used in by The Beatles in “Penny Lane” and “Lady Madonna” and the Schiedmayer Celeste which produced the haunting bell-like tones heard in the intro to “Time” from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. All in all, the lecture was great, but I just kept looking around, taking it all in. I realised we were sitting very close to where the boys were playing in those old photos I still kept in my mind. I’m not embarrassed to say it was an emotional experience. After the lecture we roamed the huge space and read all about the various displays of recording equipment, musical instruments and photographs. We then ascended those famous set of stairs to the control booth, again goose bumps appear. As the room was packed with people waiting in the queue to sit at the control console I noticed that the door to the storage room in the back was open. I slipped through the crowd and found myself alone in the room where The Beatles recorded “Yer Blues” from The White Album. Back then in 1968, there were limitations on recording so using this small space gave the song just the vibe John was looking for. In a bit I took my place at the huge console for the obligatory photos. This impressive console is in use now but it was not in the 60’s and 70’s, those older machines were displayed around the room. Talking to one of the current engineers, we discovered that these days applications are used to produce the sounds and effects that years ago could only be produced with these state-of-the-art machines. Yes, times have changed. But as I stood at the window of the control booth, looking down into the studio, I could still see the bands of the past, I could still hear their music that would change the lives of so many people, boy, was I lucky to be here! My daydream was interrupted by Robbie telling me it was time to go. We were ushered through the halls where so many talented artists had walked before and then out the famous entrance where I had to stop a moment at the exact spot where each of The Beatles were filmed being interviewed towards the end of their time together. As we again walked the famous crossing, leaving Abbey Road Studios behind us, I glanced over my shoulder for one last look. In a darkened window, high above the street, I saw what looked to me like the shadow of John Lennon, and in the wind, I swear I heard, “there are places I’ll remember, all my life”. Walking away, I knew he was right, I would always remember Abbey Road Studios.