Appropriately ambitious biography of the recording studio that gave the world the Beatles’ eponymous swan song—but also, lest it be forgotten, the works of Helen Shapiro and Vanessa-Mae.
Helen and Vanessa who? It helps to be a music geek, if not of a certain age, to appreciate the depths of BBC music critic Lawrence’s history of Abbey Road studios, which has been online for nearly nine decades now. For those who are not such geeks, then the basic bits of essential knowledge, all to be found in his pages, are these: The studio was built in the heart of St. John’s Wood, “London’s first garden suburb,” in a refitted Georgian mansion, and in those august surroundings, was inaugurated under the baton of none other than Edward Elgar, he of “Pomp and Circumstance” fame. It was also a sonic laboratory, a place to test not only gear to help King George VI work through his stutter (the stuff of the hit movie The King’s Speech), but also the stereophonic, aurally deceptive goodies that would be put to use in the psychedelic era under the tutelage of good Sir George Martin. Before all that, though, Abbey Road had to make the transition from stuffy classical facility to pop wonderland. If you knew that the first pop hit to emerge from Abbey Road was “Cowpuncher’s Cantata” in 1952, then you will not need or profit from Lawrence’s considerable labors, but if you did not—or did not know that Pink Floyd, Radiohead and even Mel Gibson recorded here—then this book is certainly worthy of time and exploration. One might quibble with some of his assessments (Was Jeff Beck’s Truth really a forerunner of metal? Were the Hollies really just another cover band?), but Lawrence makes up for it with plenty of fine factual writing, especially on the technological side.
Lucid and lavishly illustrated—a fine gift for pop and music history buffs.