This week is the 48th anniversary of the release of Abbey Road
, the Beatles' final studio album that despite being made under the duress of strained relationships, substance problems, new spouses, car crashes, and legal entanglements, remains a highlight in a catalog that defies easy description. For some hardcore fans, the album's highlights far outweigh the overall feeling of loss and fragmentation heard within the grooves, a feeling the group couldn't conceal from themselves or the public in 1969. But they weren't alone. Everybody had a hard year in 1969.
Many of the songs on Abbey Road
barely get off the ground before cutting off. Others like "I Want You" and "Come Together," give off an aura of descending (though funky) darkness. The album's farewell ditty, "Her Majesty," is but a fragment featuring just voice and acoustic guitar that its composer, Paul McCartney, had instructed the Beatles engineers to throw away after a frustrating editing session. The engineers instead abided by EMI's policy of never throwing anything
away and instead, spliced the fragment of tape that held "Her Majesty" onto the end of every rough mix of the album until finally it made the final cut.
Even though Abbey Road'
s penultimate finale, "The End, " features Paul McCartney's exquisite lyric: "And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make"
(which John Lennon judged to be "Beautiful"), fans quickly grasped the four lads from Liverpool didn't seem to quite believe their own lyrics at the time. Ethan Russell's cover photograph, perhaps one of the most famous and most re-enacted covers in the entire history of rock 'n' roll, itself was an exercise in creative frustration after an exasperated Ringo Starr suggested that instead of arguing about how to fly to the top of Everest for the cover shot (in honor of engineer Geoff Emerick's favorite brand of smokes), they should instead just walk across the street, call the album Abbey Road,
and be done with it.
seemed to anticipate all the music styles that would rise up in the 70s--both the lean and the bloated. One of its most outstanding features was the sound
, which for the first time relied on a transistor mixing board and transistor microphone amplifiers which gave the overall feel of the album a softer tone. Listening to Abbey Road
today, it's hard to imagine future hits by Queen, Roxy Music, Fleetwood Mac, Big Star, the Bee Gees, Abba, and Nick Lowe sounding quite the same without songs like "Because" and "Here Comes the Sun" as a sonic model.
Until the Beatles decided to name the album after their label's studio, no one in the world (and especially outside London) ever referred to EMI as "Abbey Road" unless you worked there. Today, thanks to The Beatles, it's the world's most famous recording facility. And after struggling for years under the onslaught of home studios, digital technology, and shrinking budgets, it finally seems to have mastered (no pun intended) its destiny by balancing its storied past against the recording industry's uncertain future. If you want to make a great sounding record, you can't get more fab than Abbey Road. And now you can even send your mixes to your favorite engineer digitally for mastering.
Abbey Road recently relaunched their excellent Google interactive program
that allows fans to tour the legendary studio and even take a turn at mixing a session. The program will take you on an immersive trip through Studio 1 (where "Sgt. Pepper’s Reprise" was recorded), Studio 2 (where most of The Beatles albums were made) and the re-built Studio 3 (where most sessions for Revolver
were held). And even if you're just making music in your garage or bedroom, there are lots of handy recording tips to pick up along the way that will serve you well no matter where you're making your music.
PRO-1 classic guitar fans
will appreciate the spacious Studio 1 where most of the orchestra work for films like Star Wars
, the Harry Potter
series, and Raiders of the Lost Ark
were recorded. Studio 2 has been called one of the greatest rock and roll studios ever built. And besides The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Zombies, Paul Weller, and Oasis, Studio 2 has also seen a fair share
of jazz sessions (including Ella Fitzgerald) and was even a rehearsal space for the Motown review in the mid 60s during their first trip to London.
Check out the videos below of Paul McCartney’s star-studded "Queenie Eye" filmed in Studio 2 at Abbey Road as well as McCartney's step by step tutorial of his multi-tracking process. If you fast forward to about mid-way through the video, you'll catch a glimpse of McCartney's classic Epiphone 1964 Texan
that he used for recording "Yesterday" and "I've Just Seen A Face." Read more about the history of the Epiphone Texan here
. And be sure to check out our interview with Andy Babiuk, author of Beatles Gear
, which goes into detail about how Mr. McCartney discovered the Epiphone Casino and Texan which shipped from the Epiphone factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan to London 54 years ago.
“McCartney bought his Casino and Texan right in London," Babiuk told Epiphone. "John Mayall told me that the pubs in England would close at 11pm so if you wanted to continue drinking, you had to go to somebody's house. Mayall lived in Central London and had a great blues record collection and a lot of his musician friends would go to his flat to listen. He said McCartney was hanging out with him quite a bit in late 1964 and asking how he got all the sounds on these blues records—B.B. King and guys like that. And Mayall told him you gotta get a hollowbody electric guitar. Now at the time in late 1964, McCartney could have called The Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, and said: 'You know Brian, I want to get a hollowbody electric, can you get me a left handed one? Can you call Gibson or Epiphone in the United States and get me a lefty?' And I would have to say that both Epiphone or Gibson would have bended over backwards in getting him a lefty. But Paul didn't care—he just wanted to shop and went out and bought them.”