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Abbey Road

Updated on January 29, 2014

I read the news today..

Monday, september 27th, 1982. It's 7a.m. & it takes me a few moments to wonder why the alarm is working overtime in it's efforts to wake me. Then with great joy I remember that today will be one to treasure because I am off to The Beatles' own private workroom-Abbey Road! My good friend & co author of an as yet unpublished book about The Beatles, Paul Tidey,had won the Beatle brain of Britain contest in front of the BBC cameras. His prize was a day at Abbey Road studios & he was kind enough to invite yours truly to enjoy the experience of a lifetime.

Having spent the train journey deep in discussion about what lies ahead we eventually get off at St John's wood underground. A brisk walk down the road & at last there it is- the zebra crossing seen on the front of 'Abbey Road', except that today it's raining very hard & there's four figures missing. Breezing in through reception we inform the palatable young lady at the desk that we have an appointment with the studio's general manager Ken Townsend. He was busy at that moment, so Abbey Road inmates Jerry Kelly & Francis Dilnut wine & dine us at EMI's expense-lager,moussaka,salad,punctuated with rum & cups of tea, & finally walnut cheese washed down by a beautiful red wine!

Down to business at last & Jerry shows us the huge number one studio where the classical recordings are made. Today it's being used by Louis clark & the Royal philharmonic orchestra who were recording their first 'Hooked on classics' album. After a brief look, the main event as we head for studio two. As the doors swing back we saw at last the place where so many classic songs were recorded. Memories came flooding back on a wave of sound as 'Help!', 'Strawberry Fields Forever' 'Hey Jude' & many others come rushing through our minds. Inside was a piano,organ,Fender Rhodes, & also the 'leslie' speaker, all of which appear in numerous pictures of The Beatles. The strangest feeling was the realization that we were in The Beatles' main workroom, walking around quite freely & yet just a few years before we wouldn't have been allowed anywhere near the place. How cool would it have been to watch & listen to them bringing a song to life....! We took several photos including the famous Abbey Road clock, the steinway piano,the Fender Rhodes electric piano, & we posed on the stairs leading up to the control booth. Once in the control room we were able to gaze out across the studio as George Martin must have done so many times. Paul took some photos of the mixing console, whilst I hastily snapped up some badges that proclaimed it was '20 years ago' since the fab four had first burst on to the scene in 1962. Jerry told us that he couldn't remember when studio 2 was last decorated, & it wasn't likely to be either as it might change the sound!

Next was number four studio, at that time EMI's pride & joy, & known as the penthouse studio. It was the smallest studio but was absolutely immaculate, the touch sensitive control desk costing £100,000 back then! Lastly we made our way to number 3 studio where George Harrison recorded 'All things must pass'. Today it was being used by Alan Parsons who was busy working on his 'Eye in the sky' album. We finished our tour with a visit to the laquer room, where the groove being cut on to a record is displayed on a small TV screen, & also the tape copying rooms for cassette & reel to reel. After a refreshing cup of tea we had a 45 minute chat with Ken Townsend. Most interesting was a project by balance engineer John Barrett. He was undergoing chemotherapy as he'd been seriously suffering with cancer, & Ken suggested that he could keep himself occupied by going through all the Beatles' tapes at Abbey Road & carefully logging them when John asked for something to keep him busy whilst undergoing treatment! We too were busy jotting down what we could for our own project about The Beatles' songs & the inspiration behind them, along with accurate recoding dates & alternate versions. There wasn't time to get all the information we needed, but Ken told us to send a list of what we needed & he'd do his best to help us. John Barrett wasn't at the studio that day as on top of his battle against cancer he had caught shingles. However, he later replied to my letter & supplied confirmation of dates & whether certain tracks existed in the Abbey Road vaults or not. He also took the trouble to phone me at home & we had an enlightening & enjoyable chat. One of life's good guys who is sorely missed. We felt privileged to see this project as it was 6 years before it was finally published as 'The complete Beatles recording sessions' by Mark Lewisohn .( The general public had a chance to enjoy previously unheard tapes when Abbey Road opened it's doors for the first time to them between July 18th 1983 & september 11th 1983. For £4.50 you got a 90 minute audio visual show which included excerpts of unreleased tracks & alternate versions, along with refreshments. Paul & I went along & thoroughly enjoyed it, although it didn't have the intimacy of our first visit. somebody recorded the show & bootlegs subsequently came onto the market.)

Whilst we were speaking to Ken, Francis Dilnut popped into the office to say that EMI wanted a John Lennon collection put together, including the tracks he recorded for Geffen records. This was later released on vinyl as'The John Lennon collection'. Ken told us that 5 days earlier on the 22nd there had been a party to launch the 'Guinness book of 500 number 1 singles' at no.2 studio. Paul McCartney was there & afterwards he'd stopped to sign autographs in the car park, joking that he'd been the gate man at Abbey Road for 20 years!

Thanking Ken profusely for letting us loose in Abbey Road & eating them out of house & home, we finally left after 5 magical hours laden down with T shirts, badges & other goodies, & huge smiles on our faces, having seen where so many wonderful songs were made. Before we headed for the station there was just one more thing to do- stop the traffic whilst we took photos on that famous crossing in Abbey Road!

Beatles cds to enjoy

A day at Abbey Road

The Abbey Road clock
The Abbey Road clock
The stairs leading to the studio two control room
The stairs leading to the studio two control room
Paul & I sitting at the steinway
Paul & I sitting at the steinway
me having a play of the fender rhodes electric piano
me having a play of the fender rhodes electric piano
Me about to enter Abbey Road, 1982
Me about to enter Abbey Road, 1982
The control room at the top of the stairs, studio two
The control room at the top of the stairs, studio two
The laquer room. we were glad to be inside as it was by now chucking it down with rain, which of course made those outside 'run & hide their heads'!
The laquer room. we were glad to be inside as it was by now chucking it down with rain, which of course made those outside 'run & hide their heads'!
paul stopping the traffic as he strides over the famous Abbey road crossing! In the background you can see the Royal philharmonic orchestra's lorry. They were busy recording the first of their 'Hooked on classics' albums
paul stopping the traffic as he strides over the famous Abbey road crossing! In the background you can see the Royal philharmonic orchestra's lorry. They were busy recording the first of their 'Hooked on classics' albums
Paul & I standing, not in the dock at southampton but the doorway of studio two!
Paul & I standing, not in the dock at southampton but the doorway of studio two!

Abbey Road's Here comes the sun live at the concert for Bangla Desh

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    • wilbury steve profile image
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      Steve Webb 6 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      Hi phil! I have looked through the rest of my photos from Abbey Road, but none of them relate to the recoding session. sorry. If the picture of the RPO lorry is any good to include in your project,please feel free to use it. All the best, Steve

    • wilbury steve profile image
      Author

      Steve Webb 6 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      Hi Phil! I didnt get to take any pictures of the recording unfortunately. There is the photo of the lorry amongst those i posted to this article. I did take some pictures of the studios, so I will check for you to see if there is one of the orchestra equipment. I am pleased to hear about the upcoming tour and wish everyone involved a succesful reunion!

    • profile image

      Phil from Hooked On Classics 6 years ago

      Hi. I'm part of the team bringing Hooked on Classics back to the live concert scene. We're playing the Bournemouth BIC on Dec 22 2011 followed by a UK tour in 2012. Do you have any photos of that Abbey Road recording session by any chance? Thanks.

    • wilbury steve profile image
      Author

      Steve Webb 6 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      Many thanks shai77 ! It was a great day out & wonderful experience

    • shai77 profile image

      Chen 6 years ago

      Hi :-)

      Loved your hub!

      Thumb up my friend :-)

    • wilbury steve profile image
      Author

      Steve Webb 6 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      many thanks for your kind commentssam9999! got a few hubs in the pipeline, must get back in the groove! :>)

    • Sam9999 profile image

      Sam9999 6 years ago

      Super hub. I enjoyed it very much. Looking forward to future hubs from you.

    • wilbury steve profile image
      Author

      Steve Webb 6 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      Hi vocalcoach! many thanks for your lovely comments. I appreciated so much visiting The Beatles' very own workroom, & I'm glad that you feel like you've been there too. Hold on to your dreams & one day you can write about your visit there!

      Hope you enjoy a healthy & peaceful 2011, all the best

      steve

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 6 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      wilbury steve - So thrilled that you wrote this hub! Abbey Road is a place I dream about visiting and now I feel as though I have to some extent. How lucky you are and how good of you to share the experience with all of us. Loved this!!

    • wilbury steve profile image
      Author

      Steve Webb 6 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      many thanks RunAbstract! It was great to look over the studios & soak up the atmosphere, knowing that so many wonderful songs had 'come together' all around us 'all those years ago' ! It remains a very happy memory for me

    • RunAbstract profile image

      RunAbstract 6 years ago from USA

      Fantastic! What an adventure! A dream come true! Being a forever Beatles fan, I can only swoon in wonder that you were really there. Good for you!

      Great article!

    • wilbury steve profile image
      Author

      Steve Webb 7 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      Cheers James,glad you enjoyed it & many thanks for your comments. That must have been a wonderful experience for you to record at the motown studios too. I'm impressed!! :-)

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you for this report on such a fabulous experience. My band recorded its 4th album in the old Motown Studios, and that is a treasured memory for me. I enjoyed this journey today.

    • wilbury steve profile image
      Author

      Steve Webb 7 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      Cheers music messenger. It was a truly amazing day. Wish I could go back & do it again!

    • music messenger profile image

      music messenger 7 years ago

      Wow! Amazing stuff. I have Beatles music reviews and other music info on my hubs. Take a look and let me know what you think? You are a lucky guy!

    • wilbury steve profile image
      Author

      Steve Webb 7 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      cheers RunAbstract! It was a great day & a wonderful experience that I'll never forget :)

    • RunAbstract profile image

      RunAbstract 7 years ago from USA

      Wonderful. What an experience! Great article.

    • wilbury steve profile image
      Author

      Steve Webb 7 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      cheers agvulpes, glad you enjoyed it. It truly was a great experience, just a shame they couldn't be there working on a song! wasn't that a massive crowd in melbourne? That also must have been an amazing experience for you too!

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 7 years ago from Australia

      wilbury steve, I was in the crowd that greeted the Beatles here in Melbourne on their first tour. You lucky devil you must have felt like you were in heaven. Great Hub :-)

    • wilbury steve profile image
      Author

      Steve Webb 7 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      Thanks poetlorraine! it was a great day & one of those experiences that will live with me forever

    • profile image

      poetlorraine 7 years ago

      sounds like a great time was had by all... lovely hub

    • wilbury steve profile image
      Author

      Steve Webb 7 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      Cheers Tony! glad you enjoyed it. I hope it works out well for your friend recording at Abbey Road :-)

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      What a super Hub! IU really enjoyed it. A musician friend of mine has often been recorded at Abbey Road, though I've not been there myself.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • wilbury steve profile image
      Author

      Steve Webb 7 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      Glad to share it with you Dream on, it was a wonderful day that will always stay with me!

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 7 years ago

      You had the time of your life and those treasures are priceless.Thanks for sharing a timeless memory.Now I can say I know someone who actually seen where the Beatles recorded.I will enjoy telling your story over and over again.

    • wilbury steve profile image
      Author

      Steve Webb 7 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      cheers paul,glad you enjoyed it. All you need is love!

    • profile image

      Paul 7 years ago

      another excellent article - looking forward to the next one Steve :-)

    • wilbury steve profile image
      Author

      Steve Webb 7 years ago from Great Wakering, England

      Thanks Darlene. It's one of those days that will always stay with me & I felt very privileged to see where those magical songs were made!

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 7 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      OMG, you are so lucky, what an awesome story. And, I love Alan Parsons to boot...however, the things that we experiance in our life is so hard to share, but we write and share it that way to keep it alive in our hearts and minds. Oh, whay a lucky guy you are my friend.