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Abbey Road Studios

Abbey Road Studios
Location City of Westminster, London, England
Type Recording studio
Opened 1931

Abbey Road Studios (formerly known as EMI Studios) is a recording studio located at 3 Abbey Road, St John's Wood, City of Westminster, London, England.[1] It was established in November 1931 by the Gramophone Company, a predecessor of British music company EMI, which owned it until 2012, when Universal Music took control of part of EMI.

Abbey Road Studios is most notable as being the venue in the 1960s for innovative recording techniques adopted by the Beatles, Pink Floyd, the Hollies, Badfinger, and others. One of its earliest world famous artist clients was Paul Robeson, who recorded in December 1931 and went on to record many of his best known songs there.

Towards the end of 2009, the studio came under threat of sale to property developers. However, the British Government protected the site, granting it English Heritage Grade II listed status in 2010, thereby preserving the building from any major alterations.[2]


  • History 1
  • Location 2
  • Recording and mixing consoles 3
  • Film scores 4
  • Controversy over sale 5
  • Interior 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Notes 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


Abbey Road Studios

Originally a nine-bedroom townhouse built in the 1830s on the footpath leading to Kilburn Abbey, the building was later converted to flats where the most flamboyant resident was Maundy Gregory. The premises were acquired by the Gramophone Company in 1931 and converted into studios. Pathé filmed the opening of the studios, when Sir Edward Elgar conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in recording sessions of his music.[3][4] In 1934, inventor of stereo sound, Alan Blumlein, recorded Mozart's Jupiter Symphony conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham at the studios.[5]

The neighbouring house is also owned by the studio and used to house musicians. During the mid-20th century the studio was extensively used by leading British conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent, whose house was just around the corner from the studio building.[6]

It was not until 1970 that the name Abbey Road Studios became official. The Gramophone Company amalgamated with Columbia Graphophone Company to form EMI, which took over the studios and dubbed them EMI Studios. It was under this name that in 1936 cellist Pablo Casals became the first to record Johann Sebastian Bach's Cello Suites No. 1 & 2 at the behest of EMI head Fred Gaisberg. The recordings went on to spur a revolution among Bach aficionados and cellists alike.[7]

Studio Two at Abbey Road became a centre for rock and roll music in 1958 when Cliff Richard and the Drifters (later Cliff Richard and The Shadows) recorded "Move It" there,[8] and later for pop music as well.

A grey topped white wall completely covered in handwritten messages
The graffiti-covered wall outside Abbey Road

Abbey Road Studios is most closely associated with the Beatles, who recorded almost all of their albums and singles there between 1962 and 1970 using the four-track REDD mixing console designed by Peter K. Burkowitz.[9] The Beatles named their 1969 album Abbey Road, after the street where the studio is located (the recording studio was named Abbey Road after the Beatles record in 1970). The cover photograph for that album was taken by Iain Macmillan outside the studios, with the result that the zebra crossing outside the studio has become a place of pilgrimage for Beatles fans from all over the world. It has been a long-standing tradition for visitors to pay homage to the band by writing on the wall in front of the building, although it is painted over every three months.[10] In December 2010 the zebra crossing at Abbey Road was given a Grade II listed status.[11]

Pink Floyd recorded most of their late 1960s to mid-1970s albums here, returning only in 1988 for mixing and overdubbing subsequent albums.

The Shadows named their Live at Abbey Road album after the studio, with the cover spoofing the Beatles' album.

Notable Geoff Emerick, Norman "Hurricane" Smith, Ken Scott, Mike Stone, Alan Parsons, Peter Vince, Malcolm Addey, Peter Brown, Richard Langham, Phil McDonald, John Kurlander, Richard Lush and Ken Townsend, 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.

In 1979, EMI commissioned the British jazz fusion band Morrissey-Mullen to record Britain's first digitally recorded single record at Abbey Road Studios.[12][13]

From 18 July to 11 September 1983, the public had a rare opportunity to see inside the legendary Studio Two where The Beatles made most of their records. While a new mixing console was being installed in the control room, the studio was used to host a video presentation called "The Beatles at Abbey Road". The soundtrack to the video contained a number of recordings that were not made commercially available until The Beatles Anthology project over a decade later.[14]

The Red Hot Chili Peppers included a photograph of the band walking across the zebra crossing naked, except for socks, on the front of The Abbey Road E.P., which was released in 1988.

In June 2011, South Korean boy band Shinee performed at the studio as part of its Japanese debut showcase in partnership with EMI and the group's local record label SM Entertainment, becoming the first-ever Asian artist to perform in the studio.[15] In November of the same year, Australian recording artist Kylie Minogue recorded some of her most famous songs with a full orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. The album called The Abbey Road Sessions was released in October 2012.

In September 2012, with the takeover of EMI, the studio became the property of Universal Music. It was not one of the entities that was sold to Warner Music as part of Parlophone.


Abbey Road has become a London tourist attraction.

Abbey Road Studios is a five- to ten-minute walk away from St. John's Wood tube station. From central London, it is accessible using the Jubilee line. When exiting the station, the visitor faces south at the junction of A41 (Finchley Road/Wellington Road) and Acacia Road (to the left)/Grove End Road (to the right). The studio is along Grove End Road, passing Waverley Place and Loudon Street on the right; addresses decrease in number along the way. As Grove End Road veers sharply to the left, Abbey Road is to the immediate right. The first pedestrian crossing is the crossing featured on the album. The studio, at 3 Abbey Road, is the unaddressed white building across the street between Hill Road and Garden Road.

Recording and mixing consoles

Film scores

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 Electrical Industries to become Thorn EMI.

Abbey Road's success in the scoring business continued after the partnership ended.

John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra used the studios to record the scores of four films from the Star Wars franchise beginning with Return of the Jedi in 1983.

All three film scores for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King), composed by Howard Shore and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, were mixed at Abbey Road Studios, although the recordings themselves were done by CTS-Lansdowne Studios at their permanent studios in the old Watford Town Hall. The engineer was John Kurlander. All technical support by CTS engineers. All recordings up to 96 tracks were in the digital domain.

James Horner had also frequently used Abbey Road Studios as his recording base when recording scores in the UK. Abbey Road sound engineer Simon Rhodes had for over a decade served as his scoring mixer, both when recording in Britain and in the U.S.

Apple's iMovie 11's soundtracks of its trailers were recorded at the studio in early 2010.

Controversy over sale

On 17 February 2010 it was reported that the studio's owners EMI had put the world-famous studios up for sale because of increasing debts. There was reported interest by property developers in redeveloping the site into luxury flats.[16] It had also been reported that there was a possibility that the studios could be purchased by the National Trust[17] in an effort to preserve what was in effect a historical building. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber was reported to have put in a bid of £30 million to purchase the studios but was turned down by EMI.[18] A Save Abbey Road Studios campaign was mounted that attempted to ensure that the premises remained a working studios and did not become a museum.[19] On 21 February, EMI released a statement that said that it planned to keep the studio under its ownership and was actually looking for an investor to help with a "revitalisation" project.[20][21] Meanwhile, the British government declared Abbey Road Studios a Grade II listed building, as it is a historic site, which protected the site from major alteration.[21][22] The following December the pedestrian crossing at Abbey Road was also listed on the National Heritage List.[23]

Paul McCartney, speaking to BBC Newsnight on 16 February 2010, said that there had been efforts to save Abbey Road by "a few people who have been associated with the studio for a long time", although he did not name those people or include himself among them. "I have so many memories there with the Beatles," he added. "It still is a great studio. So it would be lovely for someone to get a thing together to save it."[24]


Studio Two, Abbey Road Studios
Pianos used by many recording artists over the years in Studio Two of Abbey Road Studios.

The interior of Abbey Road contains many different works of art; in 2011 a piece of art, by Birmingham-based artist Annemarie Wright, was added which featured a handwritten list of all the artists that had recorded at the historic venue.[25] Google has created an interactive virtual tour web app of the Abbey Road Studios.[26]

See also



  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Recording the Star Wars Saga" Retrieved 2012-08-04.
  4. ^ Sir Edward Elgar, 1931 "Land of hope & glory" THE MASTER OF THE KING'S MUSIC
  5. ^ "Early stereo recordings restored". BBC. Retrieved 9 January 2015
  6. ^ Discography in Sir Malcolm Sargent: a Tribute.
  7. ^ Grove edition (2011) at GoogleBooks
  8. ^
  9. ^ Peter Karl Burkowitz 1920-2012 Obituary by the AES
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ AUDIO NEWS: "EMI digital recording" July 1979Gramophone. Retrieved 19 August 2010. Archived 2 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "EMI Enters Digital Race with System", 26 May 1979 Billboard. At Google Books. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  14. ^ The Beatles Book July & August 1983.
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^

Further reading

External links

  • Abbey Road Studios — official site
  • Google presents Inside Abbey Road
  • Abbey Road Institute

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