Ever since The Beatles recorded the majority of their albums in the iconic recording studio, Abbey Road Studios has become somewhat of a sacred cathedral, associated with the best and most groundbreaking recordings in the history of popular music. Even prior to The Beatles making it their headquarters, great British rock ‘n’ roll was made and recorded since the 1950s in the now historic location.
The studios were officially opened in 1931 by Sir Edward Elgar who conducted the London Symphony Orchestra there. The same year, Gramophone Company merged with Colombia Gramophone Company to form Electric and Musical Industries (EMI) creating the official EMI Recording Studios, according to The Beatles Story.
“Abbey Road is the only studio I’ve ever known in the world where you have one grand piano, one super grand piano, one medium grand. Everything, just there in the studio for normal use,” Paul McCartney said.
Of course, it wasn’t just The Beatles that recorded brilliant rock ‘n’ roll music at the Abbey Road. Acts like Radiohead, Pink Floyd, The Zombies, Florence and the Machine, Fela Kuti, and Kanye West have all used the symbolic space in the past.
What some may not know is that Abbey Road Studios is the oldest recording studio in the world. The studio was renamed Abbey Road Studios in 1985.
Fatefully, as a symbolic gesture and ode to the past, The Beatles’ last recording sessions culminated in their Abbey Road album. While Let It Be was indeed the last album they released, the sessions for that album had been mostly recorded before Abbey Road. The artwork for Abbey Road is perhaps their most iconic cover; it features the four of them walking away in step from the studios.
While our list of the best albums made in Abbey Road Studios would very well be suited to be all works from The Beatles, we decided to dig a little deeper and see who exactly has recorded and worked at the longest-standing studios in the history of time.
The 10 best albums from Abbey Road Studios
Be Here Now – Oasis
Oasis’ third album was recorded at a bunch of different studios including Abbey Road Studios. The Britpop rockers were under immense pressure to continue their success following the release of Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, consequently the songs on the record were all arena anthems.
The band held back on media publicity for the album, which further added to the suspense of the record and sales. Say what you will about the album and its reception, the anthemic quality of the record is identifiably traced back to the spirit of Abbey Road Studios.
Ultra – Depeche Mode
Ultra is the ninth album by electronic synth-pop pioneers, Depeche Mode. While it was partly recorded at Abbey Road Studios, this was the first album that the band weren’t involved in within the production aspect.
The album saw Depeche Mode explore more alternative rock elements, following the departure of their fourth member, Alan Wilder. The themes of the record include struggles with drug addiction, as singer Dave Gahan’s struggles were coming to a head, resulting in near-fatal overdoses.
The Best Years of our Lives – Steve Harley and the Cockney Rebels
The Best Years of our Lives was recorded at Abbey Road Studios as well as Air Studios, as they explained: “We played it live in the studio, all sat round together. There were no overdubs, and we all wanted to get the feel of the song on record.”
While it arrived as a major moment for the band, the record also produced their only number one song, ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)’. After the band went through a transformation with some line-up changes, they reformed with the intent of having Steve Harley be the sole songwriter. “The people at my record label, EMI, were right behind me. They believed I could find new band members without too much of a problem and continue to a new level of success. They believed it wasn’t a major stumbling block,” Harley commented on this.
Ceremonials – Florence and the Machine
Following the tremendous success of their debut album Lungs, Florence and the Machine were offered by their label to go record in the States. They decided to stick with their roots and chose the historic site Abbey Road Studios instead.
Ceremonials is their sophomore release, Florence and the Machine proved to be one of the more formidable acts of the year, reaching number one in the UK albums chart in 2011. Ceremonials contain grandiose orchestrations and beautiful production quality.
The Madcap Laughs – Syd Barrett
Pink Floyd mastermind, Syd Barrett, recorded demos for his debut record at his home. David Gilmour, the fellow Pink Floyd member and the musician who essentially replaced Barrett, stepped in to help Barrett.
Gilmour, Roger Waters, Peter Jenner, and Willie Wilson, along with Barrett, took the recordings into Abbey Road Studios to complete the final album. The record, of which its album artwork shows a slightly mad Barrett kneeling in yellow sepia tones, revealed that Barrett wasn’t quite done yet with music. While it did not do commercially well at the time, it went on to find an immense cult following.
The Piper at The Gates of Dawn – Pink Floyd
Continuing with Syd Barrett, this was the only Floyd album that Syd Barrett made with Pink Floyd. During this iteration of the group, Barrett created a psychedelic soundscape which proved to only be able to exist with Barrett’s involvement.
During the time of their recording at Abbey Road Studios, Pink Floyd met The Beatles as they were in the neighbouring room, in studio two. During this time, The Beatles were doing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, another psychedelic record. 1967 was the year for it.
The Odessey and Oracle – The Zombies
Another psychedelic pop album made at Abbey Road Studios, this one was done a year later in 1968. While in a similar vein to Piper at the Gates of Dawn, The Zombies’ masterpiece of a record, wasn’t quite the kaleidoscope of a monster that Pink Floyd’s record was.
This one featured some beautiful and colourful pop gems. The Zombies broke up after they released the record since it hadn’t performed well in the beginning; The Zombies had had enough. A year later, The Zombies had reformed and were selling out venues – this one proved to be their hit. It has the classic, ‘Time of the Season’.
The White Album – The Beatles
Often considered the greatest Beatles record, the album, however, features a very fragmented fab four, with each member of the band performing vocal duties, depending on who wrote the song.
It was a difficult time for The Beatles despite the unbelievable quality of the record. Supposedly, most of the songs had been written during a transcendental meditation course with the Maharishi.