The magic of the world-famous Abbey Road recording studios
- Credit: Stephen Foster
It’s always been a big thrill to visit famous recording studios. I’ve ticked off several in my time including the best known of them all - Abbey Road in London.
While it will forever be associated with The Beatles, the studio complex in St John’s Wood was an important recording complex decades before the Fab Four set foot in the place. It opened in 1931 which means it’s celebrating its 90th birthday this year.
I was certainly celebrating in 1995 when I took a call at BBC Radio Suffolk from Chris Fenwick, manager of my favourite band Dr Feelgood. I’d known Chris for several years and had last seen him at his best friend Lee Brilleaux’s funeral in the Spring of 1994. Lee was a founder member of Dr Feelgood and had been at the helm for well over 20 years. I’d enjoyed both men’s company on numerous occasions and was devastated when I heard Lee had lost his battle with lymphoma.
Chris had phoned to ask me if I’d like to do some work for EMI putting together and writing the sleeve notes for a five CD box set paying tribute to Lee’s remarkable reign as lead singer and guiding light of Dr Feelgood. You could have knocked me down with a feather as Chris told me he’d recommended me to EMI as I knew much more about Dr Feelgood than the group themselves!
It was a dream assignment and over the next few weeks I spent all my spare time compiling the track listing and interviewing group members past and present for the sleeve notes. The icing on the cake was spending three days with engineer Peter Mew at Abbey Road overseeing the production of the master tapes. I got to know the building well and had to pinch myself as I popped into the massive Studio One, the scene of so many classic recordings down the decades.
I was hoping to have a look round Studio Two as well but couldn’t as it was being used for a session by Paul Carrack at the time. Little did J know I’d have to wait another 20 years before I set foot in there. That room really is the holy grail for Beatles fans with a lots of the equipment used by them and their producer Sir George Martin still in place.
My second trip to Abbey Road was to interview singer Chris Rea about the deluxe reissue of his 1996 album La Passione. The booklet with that lavish box set features some of Chris’s impressive paintings which were on display in Studio Two, a favourite haunt of his. As recording locations go it doesn’t get any better than that particular place and as I chatted to Chris I was like a child in a sweet shop.
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It’s hard to put into words how much my visits to Abbey Road meant to me. The experience is on a par with my three trips to Sun Studio in Memphis.
I still have a few more recording studios on my bucket list. They include the homes of Chess Records in Chicago and the Tamla Motown label in Detroit.
Here in Suffolk we have plenty of great recording studios of our own and in the not too distant future I’ll be focusing on some of my visits to those. Next week though I’ll be looking back at my long association with one of the county’s most popular events - Ipswich Music Day.