If Abbey Road’s Walls Could Talk… (Part 2 of 5)


NOTE: A version of this piece ran on Yahoo! Music this week, heavily edited by myself — the original was waaaaay too long. So I’m running the full text here, in five parts stretched over the next few days. This is Part 2; read Part 1 HERE.


EMI purchased the property at 3 Abbey Road in St. John’s Wood for ₤100,000 in 1929. Originally a posh home with 16 rooms, it was transformed over the next two years into a state-of-the-art recording studio and opened on November 12, 1931, with Sir Edward Elgar conducting an orchestra through “Land of Hope and Glory” in the spacious Studio One.

For the last seven decades, it’s hosted scores of prestigious artists from all eras and genres. Cliff Richard and The Shadows cut tons of sides there, together and apart, over a 20-year period. On June 6, 1962, a gaggle of lads from Liverpool strode through the doors to record a commercial test for in-house producer Ken Townshend. It would prove to be very commercial indeed: The Beatles would record most of their output there and put the location on music-fan lips with the Abbey Road LP and its now-iconic shot of the Fabs padding down the familiar zebra crossing near the studio.

The site boasts three main rooms for recording. The first is described rather proudly on the studio’s official Web site as the “world’s largest purpose-built recording studio,” spacious enough to comfortably hold a “110-piece orchestra and 100-piece choir simultaneously.” Ambitious bands can jam nearly 55 musicians into Studio Two and dine on the same ambiance that drove The Beatles. The smaller Studio Three still echoes with the magic of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. Abbey Road also features a penthouse mixing facility and restaurant/bar called The Crossing, where artists may restore their flow over a menu while admiring an adjacent garden. Meanwhile, a live cam monitors the crossing itself 24 hours a day.

This week the Wrazz wrevisits five must-have slabs birthed behind its doors. Today we pose the questions: “What’s your name? Who’s your daddy? Is he rich like me?”

THE ZOMBIES, ODESSEY & ORACLE (1968)

The announcement ran in the March 30, 1968, issue of The Disc & Music Echo. It was a strange way to promote your upcoming LP, but The Zombies, quite frankly, had packed it in. “We felt we were becoming stale,” bandleader Rod Argent said. “We didn’t think we were progressing musically as a group.”

Unfortunately, Odessey & Oracle proved him an awful liar. Critics warmly welcomed it and Al Kooper, who had recently joined the CBS label as an A&R staff producer, was moved to lobby for its U.S. release after being bowled over by its beauty on a trip to England. His support not only resulted in its stateside distribution, but a #3 single as well: “Time of the Season,” which charted a good year after The Zombies had dissolved, a good two years after they’d initially entered Abbey Road as a unit for the last time, to record, as was becoming the fashion, a cohesive musical statement.

Argent and bandmate Chris White were determined to produce the record themselves, weaving Odessey over a four-month odyssey beginning in June 1967. All but three tracks were waxed at Abbey Road, making The Zombies, recently signed to CBS, one of the first non-EMI acts to record at the address.

“The whole thing was that The Zombies were going to be an album act, anyway, and they were looked upon that way,” said Derek Everett, then the head of A&R Head for CBS in Great Britain, in a late-’90s interview with Alec Palao. “Albums were beginning to sell in their own right, not just because they were packaged around singles. I think the concept came together as they were working on it, and the songs sort of fitted together in one specific way rather than just being 12 different songs.”

Although the individual Zombies each scattered to the winds, never again to spice the Age of Aquarius, Argent and bandmate Colin Blunstone have kept the name active for various projects. In 2008, the four surviving members (guitarist Paul Atkinson, who ditched a post-group career in computers to become a successful A&R man [I had the honor of working with him at Rhino], had died in 2004) to do what patient fans had waited 40 years to experience firsthand: perform the songs of Odessey & Oracle and prove that the time of the season is always and forever.

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