Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Abbey Road Studios up for sale: Beatles history down the pan

For years whenever I've driven or taken the bus into town down Abbey Road in north London, I've been amused by the tourists playing with the traffic on the famous crossing outside the EMI studios, re-enacting the cover shot from The Beatles' Abbey Road album (1969).

The graffiti builds up on the white walls under the railings with love-lorn messages they probably think are there for posterity, only for it to be whitewashed every few weeks and the whole process starting over.

Pop groups, rock bands and classical orchestras have recorded here for decades, making use of one of the biggest and best equipped recording studios in Europe, dating back to 1931.

And now, beaten by the technology that means we can produce our own albums on Garageband in our bedrooms plus a massive debt of £3.3bn, EMI are putting it up for sale. However, the question does remain of how big orchestras are going to record. Yet another example of a society's culture imploding under the limitations of capitalism, the superstructure collapsing into the economic base like a cake left out in the rain.

EMI is just the latest and best-loved studio going the same way as the iconic Routemaster bus and the red telephone boxes. Bollards to this. (Has anyone noticed those disgusting dinky 2-dimensional yellow flaps replacing our beautiful solid white bollards in certain London councils?)

When the block is turned into the inevitable luxury flats, I trust the fans will carry on graffitiing. I may very well join them.


VenerableSage said...

The impending demise of Abbey Road isn't a tragedy -- I reserve that term for wars, earthquakes and catastrophes both 'natural' and 'man-made' -- but it's an extremely depressing signpost to a narrower, shallower, greyer cultural future.

It also follows a number of major historic recording studios in London, New York and Los Angeles closing their doors for very similar reasons. I'm keeping all available fingers and toes crossed for survival of the Electric Lady studio in some very desirable Greenwich Village real-estate, built by Jimi Hendrix and also used over the years by Curtis Mayfield, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Muse, Arctic Monkeys, John Lennon, Sinéad O'Connor, Billy Joel, Billy Idol, The Clash, Nas, The Mars Volta, Frank Zappa, The Rolling Stones, John McLaughlin, Chic, Steve Earle and Al Green.

I'd hate to see THAT turned into bijou urban dwelleries for rich folk.

Gwei Mui said...

Tragedy - or depression - either way it's not a positive. Just one more piece of history that is being defaced and deleted. I find this especially sad as I was very, very lucky and privileged to have recorded a radio show at Abbey Road Studios in the late '70s. Found memories

Brendan Montague said...

Thought you might be interested - the former Labour party HQ in Southwark is also on the market. The place where Neil Kinnock faced the cameras after losing. The place they named after John Smith. The place they abandoned when they went all Millbank: http://is.gd/8vJSS

Madam Miaow said...

Gwei Mui, tell us about the radio show. Intrigued.

Brendan, I remember when they moved into Monstrosity Tower. It was highly symbolic of their move away from their Labour roots. Perhaps Blair should buy the old HQ for posterity with his ill-gotten gains.

Venerable, no, not the Hendrix studio as well. All our yesterdays going up in smoke.

Gwei Mui said...

Not much to tell really - The Pink Medicine Show (I think long time ago now) Staring Nicholas Grace - that much I remember! As a student I was given the opp to be part of the recording never really thought about it that much, just a chance to be involved with a live radio show that was also being recorded.

Madam Miaow said...

Lucky you. I've never been inside the hallowed walls of that revered institution. Looks like I never will. Sigh!

Isn't EMI part of Thorn (or vice versa)? How come all that war moolah has left them so broke?

VenerableSage said...

As it 'appens ...

EMI Music was hived off from the parent corporation and sold as a separate company, and it's the current owners who are in *cough* financial difficulties *cough* necessitating this undignified scrabble for cash.

Apparently Sir Paul was interviewed on Newsnight on Tuesday night and expressed an interest in being part of a project to rescue the studio. so let's keep all available digits crossed.

Chris said...

MacCartney is apparently trying to put together a consortium to buy it. You'd think he could raise the needful himself from petty cash.

VenerableSage said...

According to this morning's Cardigan ... 'Sale? What sale? We want to keerp Abbey Road open and raise money to improve it, that's all ...'


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