Abbey Road is the oldest and easily the most famous recording facility in the world. Opened by the composer Sir Edward Elgar in the ‘30s and frequented by some band from Liverpool throughout the ‘60s, over the years Abbey Road has played host to innumerable legendary bands, major classical recordings and some of the most high-profile film scores in Hollywood history.
At the centre of the complex, which is housed in a converted Georgian townhouse in North-West London, is the legendary Studio Two. The room is best known for being the space in which the Beatles recorded almost all of their releases, but has also been used by the likes of Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Oasis and Kate Bush.
Following a high-profile campaign last year to prevent the studios’ sale by parent company EMI, Abbey Road has started 2011 by refurbishing Studio Two’s control room, adding a new desk in the process.
Studio Two today
Last week MusicRadar paid a visit to take a look around the new control room and chat to Director Of Engineers Peter Cobbin and recording engineer Jonathan Allen:
“It’s obviously an iconic rock and roll band studio, but we’ve also been quietly using it for a lot of film scores for years,” Peter explains. “The quality of the live rooms is just fantastic, and while we’re lucky to have a facility like Studio One, which lends itself to large scale film scores, a lot of composers like the drier more intimate sound that you can achieve in Studio Two.
“We’re capable of having 50 or 60 musicians in here. Personally, if someone said to me that they want a really intimate string recording, then this room is unbelievable.
A room with character
“The live room itself hasn’t changed since it opened, which highlights how flexible it is,” Peter continues. “These studios are the oldest purpose built studios in the world, and when they were built, the technology really wasn’t up here [in the control room], it was down there - in the design of the rooms themselves.
“Studio One’s technical specification is an acoustic recording hall but this [Studio Two] was really designed for the big band era. There are stereo recordings that exist from 1932 of big bands performing in here.
“Come 1962, this band with four guys comes into the room to do their demos, then hog the studio for the next eight years. Obviously we do refer to it as The Beatles’ room, because it’s become iconic in everyone’s minds because of the history of the place. But the fact is, it was a versatile recording studio 30 years before The Beatles existed.”
“You don’t want to change characters,” Jonathan adds. “Anyone can treat an acoustic to make it different, but if you’ve got a friend who’s a great character you wouldn’t want to change them, that’s just who they are. And this is a similar idea.”
Studio Two control room in pictures: The desk