Abbey Road Studios was the birthplace of the most legendary recordings of all time. The home away from home for The Beatles, the studios reserved for EMI’s top artists like Pink Floyd and the Hollies was a sacred space that presented a sort of artistic height for many who have passed through the front door.
Needless to say, it also had a physical height, as a two-story office building in the City of Westminster area of London. The roof was a favoured spot for The Beatles, initially to simply step away and get some fresh air during their hectic sessions, and later as a sport to light up when the band wanted to smoke a joint in between takes.
But the EMI rooftop became a precarious perch while the band were recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on March 21, 1967. During the sessions for ‘Getting Better’, the band had reached an impasse and decided to take a break. The day was hectic, with a visit from former recording engineer Norman Smith and his new employers, Pink Floyd, visiting the studio while Martin decided to switch gears and focus on the mixing of ‘Lovely Rita’. George Martin was adding a piano solo when John Lennon began complaining of a headache.
With the other members taking a respite, Martin assumed responsibility for Lennon and took him to the roof to get some fresh air. What Martin didn’t know was that Lennon had supposedly taken LSD instead of his standard set of uppers. Paul McCartney and George Harrison, allegedly aware of Lennon’s accidental trip, were giggling about it when Martin returned.
Asking where Lennon was, Martin nonchalantly responded that he took Lennon to the roof. Mortified about his impaired mindset and the danger that the roof presented, McCartney and Harrison rushed to the rood to retrieve their psychelecised bandmate and prevent a possible tumble. Martin later commented that although he had his suspicions about the band doing drugs in the studio, nothing was ever done in front of him, and it never impaired the band’s ability to work.
Lennon was evidently not struck with an aversion to roofs, given that the band dragged their equipment to the top of their Saville Row HQ for an impromptu performance less than three years later.