It is a clear sign of the enduring power of the Beatles that in daylight hours it is rare to find London’s Abbey Road Studios not besieged by camera-wielding pilgrims. The building itself – a short walk from St. John’s Wood tube station - is underwhelming. Its owners EMI have put the studio up for sale to ease the parent company’s massive debt burden. No new owner will want to sever the connection with the Beatles.
Fans come from all over the world to pay homage and to test the patience of motorists by getting photographed on the pedestrian crossing outside of the studios. It has been moved slightly from the position on the cover of the Beatles 1969 album ‘Abbey Road’ – almost all their music was recorded at the studios between 1962 and 1970 – but remains one of the most commanding sites in popular music.
Abbey Road continues as a working studio and is not open to the general public. Beatles fans pay their respects by leaving messages on its outside wall in such numbers it has to be re-painted many times in a year. The crossing can be viewed on the studio’s 24-hour webcam.
Given the wealth of songs produced by the members of the group – both before and since its split – to my mind ‘Abbey Road’, the album is a lesser work. The best songs ‘Something’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun’ were written by George Harrison and not the more prolific writing duo John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
Abbey Road Studios has a colourful history in addition to its association with the Beatles. Pink Floyd, for example, was among the other groups to record there. No examination of the studios’ place in British popular music should fail to mention that Cliff Richard and the Drifters (later the Shadows) recorded ‘Move It’ there in 1958.
The song is a rare example of genuine home grown Brit rock and roll.