(Reuters) - One of EMI’s most famous properties is not a musician or a band but the Abbey Road recording studios, immortalized by the 1969 Beatles album of the same name. Last February, sources said that EMI might sell the studios and that property developers were eyeing it for luxury apartments.
A campaign to keep Abbey Road as a working studio began and the government declared the building a historic site, to protect it from all but minor alterations.
Originally called the EMI Studios, Abbey Road has hosted many of the most important moments in recent British musical history. A few highlights:
* THE EARLY DAYS:
-- A 19th century town house at 3 Abbey Road, St John’s Wood, was purchased by EMI in 1929 with a view to transforming it into the world’s first custom-built recording studios.
-- British classical music composer Sir Edward Elgar, opened the studios in a ceremony on November 12, 1931. Elgar can be seen in a film of the event, conducting the all-male orchestra in his “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1.”
-- The inaugural recording made at the studios, again conducted by the composer, was of his “Falstaff” symphonic study.
-- In 1932, a 16 year-old child prodigy by the name of Yehudi Menuhin was invited by Elgar to record his own Violin Concerto, thus beginning Menuhin’s lifelong association with Abbey Road.
-- Regular visitors to Abbey Road during the pre-war period included Ray Noble, Joe Loss, Flanagan and Allen, Paul Robeson, Gertrude Lawrence, Fats Waller and Fred Astaire.
* WORLD WAR TWO AND AFTER:
-- During World War Two, Abbey Road’s second studio was used for propaganda recordings and BBC broadcasts. Glenn Miller, recorded with Dinah Shore in studio one on September 16 1944, the last recordings he made. Famous Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli returned to Britain after the war and made most of his recordings at the studio.
* THE BEATLES:
-- The first British artist to record a No.1 hit single in Abbey Road was trumpeter Eddie Calvert whose “Oh Mein Papa” topped the charts for nine weeks in 1954.
-- In 1962, producer George Martin, who had arrived at Abbey Road in 1950, was introduced to the Beatles and began producing their songs. “Love Me Do,” the band’s first single, was released on October 5 and peaked in the UK at number 17.
-- In 1969, the Beatles’ recorded “Abbey Road,” their first album entirely in stereo. Traffic outside the studio was stopped for the iconic cover photo of the group walking over a pedestrian crossing.
-- The final mix of “Abbey Road” on August 20 was the last day all four members were together in a recording studio. It was released on September 26 and went on to sell more than 10 million copies.
* THE LAST FORTY YEARS:
-- During the 1970s and ‘80s Abbey Road recorded a virtual rock festival of bands and musicians including Spandau Ballet, Simple Minds, Kiki Dee, XTC, Mike Oldfield, Jeff Beck, Tom Robinson and Kirsty MacColl.
-- Following the success of films such as “Star Wars” and “Superman,” the studio became the industry’s first choice for recording film scores outside the United States.
-- In 1996, EMI Music and Apple (the computer company, not the Beatles’ label) developed Abbey Road Interactive to produce works combining music, video, graphics, animation, text and speech.
-- In 2007 a television music series “Live From Abbey Road,” consisting of 12 hour-long sessions each featuring three major acts, aired in more than 120 countries.
-- In early 2010, rumors that EMI was looking to sell Abbey Road triggered a campaign to save the studios and a heritage listing.
Writing by David Cutler; London Editorial Reference Unit
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