The Beatles for sale once more
Friday 19 February 2010
The news this week that Terra Firma, the troubled equity company and current owners of EMI Records, is trying to sell Abbey Road Studios, in St John's Wood, London, has music fans around the world justly concerned about the fate awaiting the recording facility. When John, Paul, George and Ringo named their last album after the EMI studio facility in 1969, they turned the zebra crossing into the most famous rock landmark in London and a tourist magnet. But, even before the Fab Four, the grand Georgian house that EMI bought for £100,000 in 1929, had seen its fair share of historical moments in its three studios. In November 1931, Sir Edward Elgar conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in a performance of "Land of Hope and Glory" to mark the opening of Studio One. The following year, the composer invited a 16-year-old Yehudi Menuhin to record his Violin Concerto in B Minor for EMI's HMV label. The Second World War saw the recording of government propaganda and also the last session by bandleader Glenn Miller in September 1944.
In the 1950s, George Martin produced comedy records by Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers. Fellow EMI producer Norrie Paramor oversaw the making of "Move It!", the first British rock'n'roll record and a number-two single for Cliff Richard in 1958.
The Abbey Road engineers were still wearing white coats in the Sixties as they worked on hit records by Shirley Bassey, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Hollies and Manfred Mann, and accommodated the Beatles and friends, including Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, sending their "All You Need Is Love" message from Studio Two to a worldwide audience of 350 million in 1967.
With technology moving on apace, Pink Floyd spent months building sound collages, culminating in their 1973 opus, The Dark Side of the Moon.
Then the Britpop era of the Nineties had Radiohead and Blur rubbing shoulders with Manic Street Preachers and the Spice Girls, while Oasis lived out their Fab Four fantasies.
Last year, EMI closed Olympic Studios in Barnes, where the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin made some of their best work. The writing for Abbey Road was on the wall then. Perhaps the government could use Lottery money to buy the Studios and preserve them for the world to use, enjoy and visit . Britain as a nation will be diminished if it lets this part of its heritage disappear.
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