The Abbey Road Story
Abbey Road Studios is a global icon that for the last 90 years has been the musical home to The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Shirley Bassey, Cilla Black, Yehudi Menuhin, Jaqueline du Pre, Ella Fitzgerald, Fela Kuti, Kate Bush, Oasis and Radiohead to Sam Smith, Florence + The Machine, Ed Sheeran, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Frank Ocean, Amy Winehouse, Brockhampton and Adele.
The World's First Recording Studio
The story of Abbey Road Studios is the story of recorded music. In 1929, when recordings were still being made acoustically through a large wooden horn and a wax disc, the Gramophone Company were looking for a location to dedicate to this new industry. They found a nine-bedroom house with a large garden for sale in St John’s Wood, North West London, and bought it for £16,500 before spending two years building the world’s first purpose-built recording studio.
By the time the studios opened in 1931, the Gramophone Company had merged with Columbia to become Electrical and Musical Industries (EMI). EMI’s recording facility had three studios of different sizes, which all remain in place today. Studio Three, the smaller room, is the only one to have undergone major changes, even having a mirrored drum room in the late 1980s. It wasn’t until 1980 when Abbey Road built its next studio, the Penthouse, and in 2017 two new smaller studios, the Gatehouse and the Front Room.
Abbey Road was officially opened with a seminal performance of Sir Edward Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory on 12 November 1931. It was a suitably grand opening for a studio that would go on to host legends of the classical and orchestral world including Sir Thomas Beecham, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Maria Callas, Geoff Love and Daniel Barenboim to name a few, as well as Paul Robeson and Fats Waller.
Home to the Artists that Defined Recorded Music
Within its first decades, Abbey Road had become the centre of popular music. Dance and jazz artists including The Joe Loss Orchestra and Glenn Miller made their mark on the studio floors from the 1940s, and when the pop charts began in the 1950s, the music made at Abbey Road dominated record sales – from Ruby Murray, Shirley Bassey and Adam Faith to Cliff Richard and the Shadows.
The 1960s was a rich period for pop music with numerous hits being recorded here by artists including The Hollies, Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer & the Dakotas, Cliff Richard, Ravi Shankar, The Zombies, Little Richard, Mary Hopkin and Billy Preston.
We, of course, can’t underplay the importance of The Beatles and their influence on Abbey Road. They recorded 190 of their 210 songs here between 1962-1970, working with EMI Parlophone producer George Martin. Before naming their last album after the street they’d spent the better part of the decade at, the Beatles changed the studios and its culture forever. The strict three-hour session times turned into all-nighters, the engineers’ formal white coats disappeared, and both the engineers and artists pushed experimentation and creativity to the limits.
90 Years of Sonic Innovation and Creativity
Indeed, as the birthplace of stereo, technological innovation has always been at the heart of the Abbey Road. Alan Blumlein, a master inventor who worked for EMI, patented ‘binaural’ (literally meaning ‘relating to two ears’) in 1931, though it took until the 1950s for stereo to be fully explored. The Record Engineering Development Department (REDD) was created by EMI engineer Len Page in 1955 to respond to the needs of the artists and producers using the rooms, developing the first mixing desks.
Abbey Road engineers themselves were constantly pushing technological boundaries - our own Ken Townsend is credited with inventing studio techniques such as Artificial Double Tracking (ADT). The pioneering spirit of the REDD department’s innovations from the 1950s continues today with Abbey Road Red – Europe’s first music-focused technology incubator.
A Legacy that Continues to Inspire
Mastering has long been part of the expertise of the Abbey Road engineers, and the studios house a number of specialist mastering suites, combining an unrivalled selection of classic analogue and modern digital gear. Recent mastering projects through our doors include music from The Beatles, Sam Smith, Sade, ABBA, The Big Moon, Paul McCartney, Black Midi, Olafur Arnalds, Fontaines D.C., Goat Girl, Johnny Marr, Krept & Konan, Roxy Music, New Order, Frank Turner, Queen, Brian Eno, The Rolling Stones and Mogwai.
Legendary and ground-breaking records have always been made within the walls of Abbey Road. The 1970s and ‘80s saw George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, Kate Bush’s Never for Ever, Fela Kuti’s Afrodisiac and Live! And more recent history has seen artists from Blur, Travis, Massive Attack, Oasis, Radiohead, Nick Cave, Kanye West, The Spice Girls, Take That and Lady Gaga choose to record here.
Scoring the Greatest Cinematic Storytelling
For the last 40 years, Abbey Road has become one of the world’s premier destinations for film scoring, with projects including Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, many of the Star Wars and Harry Potter series, Black Panther, 1917, Avengers: Endgame and Oscar-winners such as Gravity and The Shape of Water. With the addition of a Dolby Atmos Premier accredited Mix Stage, built in 2017, Abbey Road is now the only facility in the UK to offer both scoring and film sound post-production.