I knew I had found Abbey Road Studios when I saw a number of people standing in line across a zebra crossing, waiting to be photographed. This being the quiet London district of St John’s Wood, there weren’t many irate drivers honking away in frustration.
The Beatles’ eleventh album Abbey Road was the band’s tribute to the iconic studio. The cover photo features (left to right) George Harrison, a barefoot Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and John Lennon crossing the street in front of the building. It has become one of the world’s most recognisable images. Here is a postage stamp replica of the album cover.
So, I presumed locals had long grown used to the unusual sight. I was there for the same seemingly inane reason: I wanted to write my name on the outer wall, and leave a message for four Englishmen named John, Paul, George and Ringo.
From a Georgian townhouse built in the 1830s, this building was converted into flats and then acquired by the Gramophone Company (later renamed EMI) a 100 years later, before it was converted into a studio.
British recording artist Sting rehearses with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios on May 19, 2010. Besides being a favourite with The Beatles, Fred Astaire, Pink Floyd, Yehudi Menuhin, Cliff Richard, Queen, the Spice Girls and Radiohead recorded here. Pics/AFP
It was then used by many world famous musicians, but what made the place so special was the fact that it was where The Beatles recorded almost all their albums between 1962 and 1970. They also named their 11th album — after their final recording sessions as a band — after the studio, and then shot the cover photograph outside, turning it into a pilgrimage spot almost overnight.
The Beatles (from left to right), Paul McCartney (bass), George Harrison (guitar), Ringo Starr (drums) and John Lennon (guitar) perform on stage during a concert on July 25, 1965, in London. The band named their 11th studio album after the recording studio after which it began to find fame across the globe.
The Beatles’ fans from around the world have, since the 1970s, paid tribute to the band by writing out messages on the wall in front. It is painted over every three months, apparently, but that hasn’t dissuaded anyone.
Among other big names associated with Abbey Road are The Alan Parsons Project, Badfinger, Blur, Plácido Domingo, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Jackson and U2. Yehudi Menuhin recorded a violin concerto by Edward Elgar here in 1932, with the composer himself conducting it.
Fibreglass penguin caricatures of the Beatles in their famous Abbey Road crosswalk pose, stand on the pier head in Liverpool, located in North-west England on November 23, 2009. The Beatles’ penguins are part of a public art exhibition called Go Penguins, which saw 235 fibreglass penguins decorated by artists, celebrities and community groups as a finale to Liverpool’s year of the environment.
Cliff Richard and The Shadows recorded The Young Ones in 1961. Pink Floyd recorded The Piper at the Gates of Dawn here in 1967 as well as The Dark Side of the Moon in 1973. Radiohead recorded the string sections for their album OK Computer in 1997, while Sting recorded the album Symphonicities in 2010.
The Beatles gold record award for Abbey Road is displayed during the Fest for Beatles Fans 2007 at the Mirage Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, Nevada
This is the only studio in the world with its own trademarked trivia game, which lets you start at the zebra crossing, roll the dice and make your way through the studios.
A couple of years ago, with the takeover of EMI, Abbey Road Studios became the property of Universal Music. In December 2010, the zebra crossing was given a Grade II listed status. Sometime in 2011, standing outside and hoping for the miraculous appearance of a Beatle, I added my name to the hundreds of others etched into the wall.
Fans left flowers and pictures outside the Abbey Road Studios in memory of Beatle George Harrison who died on November 30, 2001. The studios put speakers at its entrance, and played George Harrison music.
I was alone, so I simply watched groups of people attempt to replicate that iconic album cover while posing for photographs, they would probably post on Facebook. For some strange reason, I could do nothing but smile.
At: 3 Abbey Road, London, NW8 9AY, UK.
Log on to: www.abbeyroad.com
Did you know?
>> Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Harry Potter series were recorded at Studio One inside the studios.
>> The world's largest purpose-built recording studio, Studio One can accommodate a 110-piece orchestra and 100-person choir simultaneously.
>> The Beatles and the Studios made history in 1967, when the group performed All You Need is Love, live for a worldwide satellite television link-up called Our World. The first ever satellite uplink performance, the broadcast was heard by an estimated 350 million.
The writing is on the wall
Fans of The Beatles ensure a visit to the Abbey Road Studios is on their itinerary, and etch graffiti outside the iconic landmark.
90 The percentage of recordings made by The Beatles at Abbey Road Studios